“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s not the easiest discussion to have and yet a few days ago, when a friend posted THIS article, I felt compelled to begin a conversation and explore what it means to rightfully stand for a Pro-Life agenda while not compromising a Christ like mindedness and nonviolent mission. I do agree and understand standing for pro life values. Yet, the judgmental exploitation of graphic images can cause greater harm to those who have been through abortional issues. I ask the question; is this how Christ would respond to the “woman at the well“? (John 4:1-26) My hope is that as Christ’s followers we can learn to respond to these issues with more a Spirit of love!
The Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform has for several years protested against the practice of abortion for several years here in Calgary by posting graphic images to bill boards, and protest signs openly on street corners and in front of clinic buildings. Any unsuspecting passer by from the age of 50 down to 5 would be instantly subjected to the violence of aborted fetuses and gruesome death. Is this really how we should protest against the tragic loss of life due to these issues? Must we force everyone from senior citizens to children to be visually aware of this grotesque misrepresentation of choice?
It is argued that if the sexually explicit images of naked bodies and such could be used to promote sexuality in media, television, and promotional ads; then these graphic images to which the CCBR are using could also be used in the protest against abortion issues. It is true that our culture and society are deeply affected by sexual immorality and we cannot ignore the misuse of such advertising and should likewise protest against such images. Yet, sin is not graded nor quantified. You cannot compare graphics from abortions to sexuality. Nor do I think the acceptance or use of one cancels out or excuses the use of the other.
We as followers of Jesus need to embody a message of protest which lovingly takes the discussion of abortion into the public with a practice of grace and not judgement. But, we must be willing to ask how and who does this also. Statistics may advocate for a faster more immediate response but are always a poor base for Christian social activism otherwise, one man’s death would count for nothing! With regards to who… Perhaps only one percent of those who struggle with the contemplation of abortion are reached by the Crises Pregnancy Center but, who’s fault is that? We need to have a community which not only embraces the truth but builds a community of openness and interdependence upon one another. One which builds relationships in the practices of grace! Proper Christian activism spends less reliance upon the movement of para-church organization and instead takes the message of truth directly to the heart of the formation of community and church.
“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Several years ago I remember reading a book by Philip Yancey where he described an art exhibit called something like the Cadaver Museum. In it you would find everything from the preserved lungs of a smoker, the heart of an obese man, bodies riddled with cancer, and even aborted fetuses. It was meant to promote an awareness to the many health issues and effects they have on the human body. A small portion of it I believe came through the Glenbow Museum here in Calgary maybe a year or so ago. The city was shocked and in an uproar as to the ethical issues this placed on them and yet the display was not public nor visible unless you actually went into the exhibit yourself.
Do I think graphic and violent images can be shared in the Spirit of love? the short answer is yes, but not in the way the CCBR chooses to do so under their understanding of love. Yes, the CCBR does have the freedom to protest and yet true freedom is not the ability to do what you want to do. Freedom is not the ability, the right, to do what I want to do. Freedom is the power to do what we should do. I do not protest the CCBR’s RIGHT to protest; I protest the WAY they choose to protest!
It is true that many war memorials and Holocaust Museums have horrible graphic images as to the atrocities the Jews and others have been through. Yet, these images are not paraded and displayed on the street corners for any and all to see. They are shared in places and environments which build bridges of relationship and foster healing and not deconstructive separations between absolute rights and wrongs.
King David had committed a horrible sin; he had committed adultery and after it was discovered he would be exposed, he then committed murder to cover it up. The prophet Nathan rather then convicting him the the public courtyards then took him aside, and he told him a story of a a rich man who stole a poor man’s lamb. David was enraged by this sin and it was only after this that Nathan told him that it was him and David repented remorsefully for he knew that God was the one speaking to him. (2 Sam. 12:1-15)
I ponder whether the outcome of this story would have been different should Nathan had forcibly convicted David in the public eye. If we have learned anything as followers of Jesus, it’s that we should not scare at the images of violence in this world. Were it not so then the cross would have no meaning. Jesus promised us, “In this world you will have tribulation.” Yet we cannot allow those images to be used outside of a Christ like manner. We cannot dismiss that it is not us who will overcome but the amazing graces of Jesus who has “overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
“Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” – John 21:20-22
Not so long ago I had posted an article my friend Michael Coghlin wrote titled ‘Have you Heard the Good News?‘ It had mostly stirred the emotions in me regarding the challenges of evangelism and yet, my friend Don brought up a good point in a comment following the post; “I think that if we try too hard to concentrate on the ‘good news’ then we end up watering it down. It may seem like we’re building bridges but we may be doing very little to touch people’s lives with the real importance of the Good News.” I think he is right; we cannot simply focus on finding righteousness and salvation at the absence of not recognizing our own brokenness and need for repentance. But what exactly is it that we are repenting of?
For most of my life I have heard it said, “To error is human.” “To fail is natural.” But is this really true? Philosophically I can argue that to know failure you must first comprehend perfection. Yet perfection is solely measured in the personal sense. What I consider beautiful you may yet consider absolutely appalling! The same, I suppose, could be said of sin. What I consider to be nefarious in nature may not be to you. Sin in and of itself is undefinable to the exhaustive sense of comprehending its entire meaning.
“Sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold. Sin is a hard heart and stiff neck. Sin is blindness and deafness. It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it – both transgression and shortcoming. Sin is a beast crouching at the door. In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling. These and other images suggest deviance; even when it is familiar, sin is never normal…Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God.”
I think that is the actual problem we have with sin; we live with the expectation of trying to neatly define it to the letter of the law so that we can quantify its structure. To be blunt, we want the easy way of rationalizing the rule book of life so that we can find judgement within it. We want salvation and redemption within the life we have here and now today. It seems ironic to consider this when judgement itself cannot be completely ratified entirely until our life in this world comes to an end.
Perhaps the nature of sin is instead outside of the measurements of dogmatic law and is more than just a set of rules. Perhaps sin is very much like we identified earlier; relational in nature. If this is true, then sin itself must be more of an entity unto itself. Sin has character for the sack of personhood, existence for the sake of personal meaning, malevolence for the sake of self depravity. Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul meant in saying, “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” (Romans 7:8-9)
Let’s wake up people. Let’s free ourselves from this prison of sin which calls itself natural and seek out redemption. This kind of relationship with sin is parasitic and in essence leeches off the perfected natures we as human beings were created for. Let’s put on our new selves and begin building on a relationship with life and not death.
Sin does exist in the objective sense a part from us yet I think the reality of our relationship too it is not to follow its lead but rather follow the lead of righteousness. In teaching his disciples Jesus says; “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:24-27)
Jesus’ leadership is in two forms; the first is that we alone cannot give anything or work to find freedom from our relationship to sin. That freedom can only come from the self sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. For that reason he models to us that we must rely of his Lordship, his ownership over our lives, and in acknowledging that authority we will find freedom through his grace and not our own personal efforts.
Secondly, by finding our allegiances in his Lordship we can begin in works which are inline with the very perfected natures God created us in and thus be filled with true purpose and meaning to our lives. Failure will no longer be a word with any meaning to us and freedom will become an expression which fills our heart with excitement and passion for the next opportunity to see the realities of Christ’s Kingdom manifest itself within us through creative, unique, diverse, and dynamic ways!
Sin no longer lives or reigns in this earth. Sin no longer is a problem; for it is dead. We are forever alive in the truth, the life, and the way through the power of redemption and freedom of Christ.
My good friend Michael Coghlin and pastor to Connections Christian Church wrote an article not to long ago looking at Good News and the way many of us might struggle with the word “Evangelism”. Take a read and maybe weigh yourself into the conversation… What stops you from sharing the good news?
“Evangelism” can be a scary word. For me, it immediately conjures images of obnoxious street preachers shouting hellfire and brimstone, or door knockers handing out tracts to convince me I have an invisible problem and then (conveniently) giving me a when-I-die solution to that problem. Ask me to evangelize a stranger, and I get a knot in my stomach, my palms start to sweat, and I’ll find any excuse to disappear. But ask me about my iPad, and I turn into an Apple evangelist!
“So,” I ask myself, “What gives? Why am I an eager tech-talker, but a hesitant faith-talker?” Here’s a few reasons:
- The message of Jesus is exclusive, and bound to be an unpopular message in a tolerant-of-anything-but-intolerance culture;
- Canadians are private, and what drives my life is reserved for discussion with my closest friends or psychologist, if anyone at all;
- I’m ashamed of the things others have done in the name of Jesus (residential schools in SK, bombing abortion clinics, picketing with signs like “God hates fags”);
- I fail to live completely into the Christian faith, and I fear that if I share it (the talk) I’ll be found out as a fraud (the walk);
- I haven’t been taught to share my faith, and I hate doing jobs I’ve not been given the tools for.
Accurate though these reasons may be, they only address outside issues. They don’t press me to question, “Do I experience Jesus as good news? Do I believe Jesus is good news for my neighbours? Do I believe Jesus’ good news is worth giving anything and everything for (riches, career, family, reputation)?” We need to ask these questions.
But, if “evangelism,” “sweaty palms,” and “running away” are three sides of the same coin, then how we think of “evangelism” also needs a serious overhaul. Jesus proclaimed the “good news [Greek: evangelion] of the kingdom” as he healed many people (Matt 4:23). What we lose in translation is that Jesus’ speech and actions were evangelism!
If we are to redeem the language of evangelism, here’s a few thoughts. First, let us start thinking, saying, and believing “good news” when we hear “evangelism.” Second, let us scour the gospels to see what was “good” about the good news Jesus proclaimed and lived. Third, let us give ourselves to “good newsing” our communities—as good parents, good friends, good neighbours, good coworkers.
In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception.
DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a specialized spy or corporate espionage thief. His work consists of secretly extracting valuable commercial information from the unconscious mind of his targets while they are asleep and dreaming. Unable to visit his children, Cobb is offered a chance to regain his old life in exchange for an almost impossible task: “inception”, the planting of an idea into a target’s subconscious.
Inception – an act, process or instance of beginning which is often shaped by our encounters with a dream and vision to our future hopes and desires in our lives. Dreams are powerful in nature and we would be wrong to ignore their significance and meanings. In some cases our dreams may very well be God’s spoken guidance into the fabric of our being and purpose here in the world. Elihu, Job’s friend and wisdom imparter reminds him saying, “For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; he keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” (Job 33:13-18)
Yet there is a danger also in the conceptualization of our dreams; if we choose to box their meaning in, stifle their implications, and bring our own singular interpretations to them, then to often these dreams can become ideological and lead us head long into the paralysis of idolatry. The writer of Ecclesiastes warns us, “For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity, but God is the one you must fear.” (Ecc. 5:7)
Join the Expressions Community this Saturday for God at the Movies when we will watch the film ‘Inception’ and explore the themes of Dreams & Ideologies. We will have snacks and drinks available as we look forward to seeing you here. If you and a friend are able to join us please email email@example.com to ensure seating availability.
I starred blankly at the news screen as they described the story of a stranger who was listening and after hearing the faint cries of a baby, leapt into a garbage bin. After peeling away the layers of garbage they took off their shirt and wrapped it around a new born boy who with its umbilical cord still attached was rescued from the clutches of death. It wasn’t until later that the stranger would find out that he was not a stranger at all but the unexpecting father of the child.
Let’s face it; it’s a story we have all heard so many times before. We cry out in frustration, “What’s wrong with that person!” “How can they just not know…?”
A Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces is arrested and charged with sexual deviance, rape, murder, and other horrific charges. Teenagers are found gang raping teenagers in the school yard. And prostitution is legalized in certain states and provinces. It all seems so wrong, so decayed, so grotesque, so… Broken.
I was four years old when I was exposed to the realities of a broken world. My mother worked long days and would leave me at a day home behind our condo in SW Calgary. I remember the lady running the home would keep us locked in the basement all day exclaiming, “That’s where children belong.” Usually with a few “F” words in the mix.
It was here that the eldest daughter of the lady who ran the home began taking me with her to the darker corners of the basement. I don’t remember much, but I remember that I spent most of my childhood trying to hide it and make sure no one ever found out. Most importantly, I tried to make myself forget it ever happened because I thought it was my fault. I was Broken.
I was broken and because I was broken the world will never look the same to me again. The world has become a place of overt violence with battlefields in every marketing advertisement plastered on the billboards and storefronts in shopping malls and road ways; in snippets of film, movies, television, and commercials as they provocatively exploit the psyche of human relational conjecture; in the one liner jokes we so innocently speak to one another with; and in the headlines of news media leading to social judgements based upon the bias of social and personal exclusion from the stories context.
My Brokenness has caused me to become angry. Why can we not see the exploitation of human sexuality and relational identity as the violence which it truly is? Why has it become normal to treat human sexuality as a consumer product and individual right rather then a relational identity and spousal gift? I suppose the reality to which I found is that I am broken, just as everyone is has been broken. The world is Broken.
Jesus’ brother James gives us something we can use in our brokenness. He wrote and called us to, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” and promised us that, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16-17)
I don’t have all the solutions to the broken realities of our world but I do believe James is right. We need to first recognize our own Brokenness; and once we’ve accepted that we need to expose it, confess it to those around us, and talk about it. When we can be open and real with one another about the struggles we have, the challenges and fears that are a part of our lives; we can be honest in the midst of communal grace and truly seek to transform those realities. Then we can see the real beauty, the real gifts God has placed in our lives.
Secondly, we need to pray for one another as well as ourselves. Speaking to God about our need for healing and openly asking for his hand in our broken reality brings an internal connectivity which reaches to the very depth of our created being as it was meant to be. In Jeremiah God speaks to us saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Lastly, we must live with grace for one another; accepting that we are all Broken in a reality to which none of us can ever fully understand, experience, or comprehend. Forgiveness is not always easy to work out but, judgment is never ours to make lest our own judgments come upon our own brokenness.
This world will never be the same to me as it will never be the same for you. I will pray for you though just as I pray for the Broken people which I wrote of in the beginning of this post. I hope you would do the same for me.
My friend Aaron made a post titled Wisdom Required not long ago and I felt led to leave a comment. These thoughts are still resonating in my heart and mind so I thought I would share them here also as they connect with the magic of Christmas.
I’ve been thinking about your friend and praying for him since we last talked over coffee Aaron. I realized I might have touched on something deeper when I said I wondered if there was something in behind his struggle of faith. Namely the painful struggle of questioning insignificance.
I ask this as I too myself struggle with this question of identity. Why should God care for me? Why should he care for the little insignificant actions I take in life whether they are good or bad? But then I think of the reverse; why should I care for God? Perhaps God thinks that what we consider to be insignificant he sees more as the greater significances. Perhaps what we see as ordinarily unimportant he sees as extraordinarily miraculous!
Have you ever heard of the “Chaos Theory”? (See Here) It is this idea that when a butterfly flaps its wings in South America, the wind created by these motions has the potential of becoming a Hurricane out in the ocean which in turn makes North American land fall. Perhaps this is how God sees us; not only in the physical sense but in the spiritual as well. Why should God care and love each one of us? Because each and every one of us has the potential of creating and experiencing great historical and eternal events, moments, and changes to His Kingdom!
Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree in Luke 21:29-33 that just as we witness the blooming of its leaves on its branches, we also can know that the Kingdom of God is near. God is not far off and he is deeply connected and close to all that we do. The question to choose then is, “What kind of hurricane do you want to create?”
In a sense I suppose that is the message of Christmas. From the insignificance of a baby born in Bethlehem came the Savior for all man kind. In another paraphrase by an unknown author, “The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is bound to the invisible spiritual world.”
Not long ago I was outside of my work waiting for a bus to pick me up. A friend and coworker walked by and noticed I was reading a book titled ‘The Tangible Kingdom’ and questioned me why I would read such a book. After explaining to him that I was a pastor he jumped with enthusiasm saying, “Really?! I never took you as being a particularly religious person!”
And then came the questions; “So you believe in God then?”
“Yes I do.” I responded.
“Do you believe in Jesus?” he asked.
“Yes.” I answered with a little bit of hesitation and internal wondering where he was going to take this conversation. Before I could question him on his own intentions he quickly threw out his next question… “Do you believe in Aliens?”
I must admit to being a little thrown back by the question. It’s not exactly your normal everyday conversations which make you contemplate faith and the vastness of space. I quickly hashed my thoughts in my brain in that moment. If I say no then I will be deemed a fundamental creationist, judged irrational with no liberal freedom, and banished from any sense of acknowledgement to intelligent dialogue. If I say yes then I am just a kooky, science fictional “Star Trek” lover, who probably leads some whacked out cult!
I must admit to contemplating the realities in which we treat the idea and existence of Truth in our culture. Is it objective or subjective? And how does it relate to religion and science? It seems that in the mind set of my friend religion or faith is based on a creed, doctrine, or traditionalism set out by a denomination or organizational affiliation which is stated to be a fact or truth. Perhaps he is right in some cases of fundamental ideology but that is not what faith is; at least that is not what faith is to me. Faith is a holistic approach to our relationship to Truth as it encounters culture, context, tradition, and the crux of what it means to be human. This is something which encompasses not just the beliefs and formation or religious ecclesiology but also transfigures the practices and foci of science.
I often think of truth in the image of a prism. Truth is a white light fragmented into a million different colors, shapes, and sizes. Each color being a conception whether it is religion, science, or philosophy which resembles some part of the original whole. It is when we are willing to look beyond our own rigid borders and ideologies that we might recognize a relationship we have with not just each other in experiential subjective truth but, the source we embody or resemble in the white light of objective Truth. We can leave the conversation of whom or what the prism is for another time.
As for my friend who wondered if I believed in aliens I simply said, “I don’t know if there are aliens or not. But, if there are I believe God loves them just as he does the rest of his creation.”
I might also ask the question though; if evolution is about a truth that constant change is always plausible then is it not logical to assume that scientific fact has the plausibility of changing?
I found this in connection to a post on Beyond Relevance and thought it had some interesting ups and downs.
It is difficult knowing where to start when describing the impacts which the Body, Soul, & Spirit Expo have had in mine and others faith. Were we called to do this out of bringing Jesus to those who sought after him most? Or, where we there to witness the impacts and expressions of Jesus which would affect those who came seeking and that of ourselves in following his lead? Sitting and listening to the many stories and the many moments of expression coming from those who went to the Expo, I could not help but recognize the depth to which Jesus worked; not just in the hearts and minds of seeking attendees but also in the core of his followers.
There are many stories which I would like to share with you but perhaps for the moment I will share just one. It was the later part of Friday afternoon and we had pretty well just finished setting our area up for people to come in and speak with us. A gentleman named Scott, who was just passing by, quickly noticed our open relaxed format and promptly walked right in a sat next to my friend Justin while asking, “So, what is this all about? Who are you guy’s?”
In truth, we were a little taken back by his upfront approach but we easily explained our affiliation with two local churches and intent to offer a place of hospitality and rest to those who might be down here at the Expo. “That’s cool!” he said. I asked him what brought him down to the Expo and he explained that he had come down for a “Quantum Energy Treatment”. I didn’t really understand what he meant but through conversation I could really sense his need to find a social setting of acceptance and to find a community which would not be judgmental by worldly expectations.
That was what was so cool about being in conversation with Scott. We went from talking about worldly judgments and values to the possibility of a different world’s values and then; the possibility of another Kingdom’s values and judgments!
It was in the midst of this conversation that Justin and I extended our hands out to Scott’s shoulders and we asked if we could pray for him. After asking how, he graciously accepted and following praying for him he asks with a large smile, “Is that it?”
I couldn’t help but sense the simplicity of Jesus’ gospel within these many moments at the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo. Jesus made it clear, “The Kingdom of God is near!” (Luke 10:9) In the acceptance of that truth, “come follow me.” (Luke 9:23). Is that not what a true disciple is?
I have found so much encouragement out of this experience and can see the great things Jesus has done and is doing through our presence at the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo. It is with the greatest hope that we return to these people as we share a gospel of love, hope, and faith (1 Cor. 13:13) and remain in their home (Luke 10:7).
Thoughts for the future…
Greater and more Radical Discipleship
We need to plan for Invitations of follow up and places for seeking people to go and encounter more about Jesus as we encounter them at the Expo. Whether it is gathering around ‘Alpha’, ‘The Secret Message of Jesus’, or something else.
Planning for Generosity
We offered free Bibles and donated materials. It is just a thought but, if we could plan for a rather more structured generosity “package” such as a connected Bible, Book (i.e. ‘Purpose Driven Life’, ‘The Secret Message of Jesus’, ect.), and a Daily Bread; I wonder if it might find a greater response.
More Space and Planning of Format
It seemed our 8’ X 8’ booth was quit cramped at times and difficult for inclusive and hospitable practices/values. If we had the opportunity to expand our area as well as the availability to use an electrical outlet we could work towards communicating a Third Place space and the values of Authentic Community in greater fashion. Hospitality can also be improved with better coffee, tea, and atmosphere.
Perhaps one of my favorite stories in Acts is of when Paul and Silas visit Athens and the home of the Olympics. Surrounded by their art, there architecture, culture, and the people who were in desperate need to seek a god to which was unknown to them; Paul brings a message of truth, of love, of acceptance, and makes an unknown god become a known God.
Even today his opening statement to the philosophers and teachers seems to reach through the fabric of time and speak to the people of Calgary and even the world as we know it.
“People of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed your many objects of worship, I found also an alter with this inscription, ‘To An Unknown God’.” – Acts 17:22-23
This coming Friday September 19th, 2008 through Sunday September 21st, 2008 the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo will be coming to Calgary. As I picture the many people walking up and down the rows of different objects of worship and “temples to unknown gods” I cannot help but sense the calling of Jesus to follow in his footsteps as Paul did and live out the gospel message in the midst of these people.
That is why I would like to invite you to join us as we ‘Relax, Sit, & Pray’ with those who will be at the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo that weekend. Come out with us as together we can Encounter, Experience, and find Expressions of Jesus in the midst of those who are seeking him most. Together we can bring the Way, the Truth, the Life, and a Light into a place where there once was darkness!!
“What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” – Acts 17:23
My friend Janet at church this past Sunday shared an amazing video before describing her future trip to Africa and here hopes and dreams in children’s ministry. The intent was for how these principles apply to the children and youth dynamic. I however, could not help but pick up on the values these principles have with regards to missional focus, regardless of dynamics (or maybe it’s just the childish nature within me ).
Quit simply it seems instinctively connected to that thought “We must lower the bar on professionalizing Church and raise the bar on Discipleship.”
Typically we to often tend to measure the success of a church by the membership numbers which it sustains. Success becomes more of an over inflated under used corporate ego then it does a living out of the gospel’s missional focus to be Jesus within all contexts, cultures, and communal dynamics.
Thinking smaller means recognizing that it is the smaller acts of fulfilling needs which becomes an embodiment of the gospel message. Professionalism in the clerical sense is not a mandate but, the incarnational practices of the smaller groupings and individuals are what really allow the Holy Spirit to communicate that “the Kingdom of God is near”.
Ideological principles of what the church is and what it should be have robbed the creative expressions to which the Holy Spirit has meant the Church to be. “Ecclesia” was never meant to be a franchised McChurch environment and was rather intended as a living expression to the embodiment and entity of Jesus being ever present both as Lord and communal sustainer.
Like most living organisms the church is rich with diversity and uniqueness in gifts, talents, and abilities. It breaths, moves, and grows within the different cultures, contexts, and communal dynamics to which it is introduced. By Giving Up the mandates of ideological principles and structures which do not hold the gospels truth at heart, we can embrace “new” ways which can effectively cross all barriers and articulate the Lordship of Jesus to all people.
Go Have a Cup of Coffee
This was perhaps a bias point in the video clip for me. I love being able to meet up with a friend or just someone new for a cup of coffee at a local shop! I think scripturally of Jesus’ call of the disciples as he collaborated with them where they were at. He went fishing, he went to their house parties, their dinner parties, and he walked and talked with them along the roads and market places.
Discipleship was a relational act of living with people not an initiation of rights and dogmatics. Go Have a Cup of Coffee is about relationally living with one another and engaging in a dialogue which constructively encountered the truth as a living entity.
Well anyways, here is the video:
Norm, the Lead Pastor at McKenzie Towne Church had an incredible message this past Sunday morning centered on what it means to be sent as workers into the harvest. Speaking from the passage in Luke 10 it carried a heavy call to what it means to be missional in our community. Here it is for you to listen to and I would “enjoy” hearing your responses and comments!
Rising up from a childhood in a dysfunctional family, armed with a talent for public speaking and a winning personality, the young man makes his way to a Northwestern college, confident that he will ace his try-out for his idol Dr. Ben Padrow (Hector Elizondo), the coach of the winningest team in the history of the College Bowl.
But Dr. Padrow shatters his dream when he rejects him. Richard’s immediate reaction is to enlist in the army for a tour of duty in Vietnam. During combat, the young recruit loses his hearing to a bomb blast, and has to deal with this newfound disability on his return to civilian life in Oregon.
Richard discovers that his disability and the struggle to transcend it is a defining moment in his fight for what he believes in. When he tries to help his friends, vets like himself and others with disabilities, to get work in an environment that treats them with pity at best and disdain as a matter of course, he realizes that he can make a difference. The friends who make up his close-knit clique are: Art Honneyman (Michael Sheen), a student wheel chair user with cerebral palsy who uses his rapier wit to deflect the prejudice that greets his disturbing appearance; Mike Stoltz (Yul Vázquez), a fellow veteran with a lot of rage and nowhere to put it; and then there is Christine (Melissa George), the passionate libertine who strokes Richard’s ego and initiates him into the world of free love.
Together, the friends experience the currents of those turbulent times, and the wild, joyful energy of winning through confrontation and humor. Without his hearing Richard is all the more prepared to listen to the message deep within himself, and to carry that message to the thousands of people whose lives are improved by the movement he helps to organize.
Expressions will be hosting a screening of the movie ‘Music Within’ upon invitation due to the limited amount of space. Thank you for your interest.
When: Saturday, May 31st, 2008
Time: 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
For more information on the movie please visit: http://www.musicwithinmovie.com/
I must first confess myself that I have felt a great deal of emotional stress and fear in trying to complete the business plan for Expressions over the past few weeks. I have heard the still, small whispers behind my ear questioning if I know what I am doing and am I adequate for the calling? Does this dream and do I really make a difference in the calling of Christ? I suppose in some ways I am still struggling with these emotions.
Anyways, I have had little time for my pursuits and passions for creative writing which is why I have not posted anything of significance (to me anyways) for some time. Despite this, I read an interesting confession from Craig Evans in my book ‘The Case for the Real Jesus’ this past evening. Actually it was more like 3 am or something like that. Time has been a bit of a blur lately!
I thought I would share it as it has been relating to some similar material to which I have been reading elsewhere:
I intended to wrap up our interview by asking Evans to expand upon his own personal convictions. I anticipated that he would further elaborate on the divinity of Jesus – and yet our discussion ended with an unexpected turn.
“How have your decades of research into the Old and New Testaments affected your own view of Jesus?” I asked.
“Well, it’s much more nuanced, but at the end of the day it’s a more realistic Jesus. Personally, I think a lot of Christians – even conservative, Bible believing Christians – are semi-docetic.
That took me off guard. “What do you mean?”
“In other words,” he said, “they half way believe – without ever giving it any serious thought – what the Docetic Gnostics believed, which was that Jesus actually wasn’t real. ‘Oh, yes of course, he’s real,’ they’ll say. But they’re not entirely sure how far to go with the incarnation. How human was Jesus? For a lot of them, the human side of Jesus is superficial.
“It’s almost as though a lot of Christians think of Jesus as God wearing a human mask. He’s sort of faking it, pretending to be human. He pretends to perspire; his stomach only appears to gurgle because, of course, he’s not really hungry. In fact, he doesn’t really need to eat. So Jesus is the bionic Son of God who isn’t really human. This is thought to be an exalted Christology, but it’s not. Orthodox Christology also embraces fully the humanity of Jesus.
“What I’m saying is that the divine nature of Jesus should never militate against is full humanity. When that part gets lost, you end up with a pretty superficial understanding of Christology. For example, could Jesus read? ‘Of course he could read! He’s the Son of God!’ That’s not a good answer. At the age of three days, was Jesus fluent in Hebrew? Could he do quantum physics? Well, then, why does the book of Hebrews talk about him learning and so forth?”
I was listening intently. “So we miss his humanity,” I said, half to myself and half to Evans.
“Yeah, we do,” he said. “We find ourselves fussing and fuming over the divinity, but we miss the humanity. And from the historic point of view of the early church, that’s just as serious an error as, say, the Ebionite direction, which was to deny the divinity.”
Wanting him to explain further, I asked, “What is it we miss about his humanity?”
“Well, a big part of the atonement. He dies in our place as a human being who dies in our place. God didn’t send an angel,” he replied. “And, of course, there’s the identification factor. We can identify with him: he was tempted as we are. How was he tempted if he was just God wearing a mask – faking it and pretending to be human? Again, that’s Docetic Gnosticism – Jesus only appeared to be incarnate, only appeared to be human – and a lot of evangelical Christians come pretty close to that.”
“Is there something about his human nature you’d want to emphasize?”
Evans reflected for a moment, then replied. “Yes, Jesus’ own faith,” he said. “He tells his disciples to have faith. Jesus has a huge amount of credibility if we see him as fully human and he actually, as a human, has faith in God. Otherwise, well, that’s easy for him to say! Good grief – he’s been in heaven, and now he’s walking around telling me to have faith? But I take the teaching of Jesus’ humanness, which is taught clearly in scripture, very seriously.”
“Taking everything into consideration,” I said, wrapping up our discussion, “when you think about the identity of the real Jesus, where do you come down as an individual?”
“I come down on the side of the church,” he said. “Doggone it, bless their bones, I think they figured it out. They avoided errors and pitfalls to the left and to the right. I think the church got it right. Even if you only consider the Synoptics, you find that Jesus saw himself in a relationship with God that is unique. The Son of God is the way that’s understood. And then he goes further and demonstrates that he was speaking accurately. If you have any doubts, the Easter event should remove them.
“That’s where you always wind up: the Easter event. Otherwise, you have a Moses-like or Elijah-like figure who’s able to do astonishing miracles – but so what? Yet the resurrection confirmed who he was. And the resurrection is, of course, very powerfully attested, because you have all classes, men and women, believers, skeptics, and opponents, who encounter the risen Christ and believe in him.”
He looked me straight in the eyes. “As do I.”
My friend Steve posted this video a few weeks ago after he and a friend took an adventure to downtown Calgary. It is amazing that we can find Jesus all around us if we are just willing to open our eyes to his presence!
Expressions is projected to be a missional endeavor into the S.E. corner of Calgary, Alberta. Its intention is to create a community where people can explore self expression in creative, dynamic, and constructive ways; embody a holistic identity; empower one another in their dreams, passions, and gifts/talents; and engage the world by seeking to make a difference within local transformational endeavors.
It is not meant to be a church by traditional understanding but is hoped to be the simpler, more intended picture of what the church was meant to be in a biblical perspective. Plainly stated, it is a gathering of people; a diverse and socially inclusive community which develops a kinship through the shared experiences and expressions of acceptance, purpose, patience, generosity, advocacy, accountability, hospitality, culture, civility, spirituality, and proximity with one another.
The community of Expressions then becomes a missionally directed entity which seeks to develop Passionate Spirituality, Holistic Incarnational Living, Intentional Community, Transformational Discipleship, and Radical Stewardship. Much of this missional perspective can be expected to come from the creative and imaginative expressions to which the community itself brings into existence. Expressions simply provides a centralized space to which each member can use as a launching pad of sorts for their own missional expressions of the above values.
The purpose and power behind allowing creativity and imagination to shape these values is probably best articulated by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost in their book ‘The Shaping of Things to Come’; “This failure to make space for active creativity is a problem of organizational culture long before it is a problem of fact. Therefore it is a failure of leadership when imagination as a vital resource for mission and ministry is not truly valued… we need to cultivate imagination and creativity afresh in order to communicate meaningfully into the emergent cultural paradigm in the west.”
In essence this is what we hope for the average Expressions Community Member:
After seeing our sign on the side of the street one afternoon, he/she enters the Expressions atmosphere with the intent of finding a place to sit and enjoy a cup of espresso. He/She is greeted warmly by the staff and served promptly with great politeness at the serving counter.
After finding a comfortable chair and table he/she begins to take in the environment of Expressions. There is upbeat music playing softly in the background with the sweet smell of fresh coffee and perhaps a hint of incense in the air. There is a small open stage with sound equipment and a mounted flat screen T.V. on the side of it with video playing of natural scenery and wild animals. Beside the stage flickers a lighted fire place which was blowing warm air into the room.
To the left is a brightly colored wall with the words at the top saying “The use of the Mission Statement is dead and the Mantra has taken its place. The Mantra being Expressions of…” Then all around the wall were words such as Needs, Hope, Kindness, Hospitality, Friendship, Music, Talent, Environmentalism, Faith, Epiphany, and Health. Around these words were lots of pictures and posters articulating different groups which meet in Expressions and were socially active throughout the local community and the city of Calgary. There was contact info and in some cases, places to leave your name and information if you were interested in joining up with any of these groups.
It was also noticeable that the rest of the walls were filled with different art pieces with write ups beside them where local artists were selling pictures, art, and talents to those who entered Expressions. There was also book racks and book shelves with gift baskets, coffee mugs, cd’s, and books under all sorts of topics.
After a few minutes of sitting there sipping the hot espresso, he/she is approached by Erik or someone else who was in the shop and greeted with an introduction. Over the course of the next few minutes (maybe longer depending on the connection), a friendly relational conversation was shaped talking about what the Expressions Community was about and getting to know one another. Before leaving Erik (or whoever the other person is) hands him/her his card and invites the individual to return either for one of the evening events that was going on or for just another espresso and visit.
Over time it is hoped to build that relationship in the exploration and hope of that persons “expressions” becoming part of the community itself whether it was joining an existing group, or starting one of there own, or simply participating in the local events and presentations that happen in and with Expressions Coffee & Tea House.
Expressions of Courage
“How many lives can be saved in a fight against indifference when your only weapon is the courage to stand alone.”
You are not alone in the search for global justice! Tonight is a time to gather and find inspiration as we watch the film ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’; a true story about the Canadian Lieutenant General Romeo A. Dallaire and his experiences in Rwanda, Africa. Following the film will be a short presentation from Ricot Leon regarding his ‘Heart for Home’ and the dream he has to bring hope to the nation of Haiti. Popcorn and refreshments will be provided.
There is no official cost however; we ask that you might make a donation of any amount to ‘Heart for Home’ in the effort of supporting there work in building the hopes and dreams of the Haitian people. Together we can all find courage, strength, hope, and the ability to take a stand and make a difference in the world today!
Place: Oak Park Church – #11263 Oakfield Drive S.W. Calgary, Alberta
Day & Time: Saturday, March 8th, 2008 @ 6:30 pm – 10 pm
For more about the film visit: www.shakehandswiththedevilthemovie.com/.
For more about Ricot Leon and ‘Heart for Home’ visit: www.heartforhome.wordpress.com/
Thank you for your interest and support. If you would like any more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proximity. In the greatest sense proximity is a word we use to describe and measure the closeness or distance between us and someone else; the space between two groups or objects; the liberty or time between two naturally existing identities. In Aikido we call it maai which is often used to describe the proper distance between the uke and the nage or the first and second mover. The practice of maai is however far deeper then that and considered a philosophy which encompasses not only the physical acts we commit but the thought patterns and spiritual constructs to which we engage in.
John Minford articulates a case for proximity which has really engaged my thoughts over the passed few days after I was reading his commentary on Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ at the outrages hour of 3 am one night after being unable to find sleep. He writes:
This fragile equilibrium between action and nonaction, between sensitivity to the signs of what is and the will to engage it, expresses a fundamental dichotomy that underlies so much of early Chinese thinking about the management of human affairs in general, be they military, civil, or personal, be the philosophical standpoint Taoist, Confucian, or some other “nondenominational” strand in Chinese philosophy. It finds its earliest expression in that monumental repository of early Chinese thought ‘The Book of Changes’, whose entire premise is that it is possible to see into potential changes before they occur, to grasp the subtle configurations of Yin and Yang and thus attune oneself to the energy at work in the world around us…
Marcel Granet adds, “They lived in a state of constant revolutionary expectancy. They were preparing themselves to occupy the seat of the Son of Heaven, that is to say, to impose a new order on a civilization. And so the slightest change could mean total change; and seizing the slightest sign of change was tantamount to seizing the opportunity of bringing about total change.”
John Minford – Potential Energy in ‘The Art of War’ 2003 (Page 161)
It seems to me then that the perfection of proximity is not so much in the quantifiable facts of its existence but rather in the acknowledgement and practice of the potentiality of movement within each and every moment or instance in which we find ourselves in proximity or relationship to that of another identity or perception. How close or how far we find ourselves from any one person, place, or time is not as important as how we engage the possibility of movement towards or further away from them.
What does this say then about the proximity in which we find ourselves engaged with God’s voice in our life? How do we treat the potentiality of movement between us and his presence within the daily time frames? Is our proximity to spirituality gravitating towards the following and lordship of Jesus Christ? Do we find our potentiality in movement becoming closer and more personal to the nature and likeness of the Jesus we claim to be following?
Last night my friends Myles, Doug, George, and myself piled into my van as we headed north to the small City of Airdrie. We were going to hear Rik Emmett and Dave Dunlop play live at the Bert Church Theater. In honesty, I first thought it was going to be a church but in actuality it was a small little amphitheater seating 100 people at most. It was diminutive, intimate, and created an atmosphere which fostered a closeness to everyone that was there. This proximity in the moment electrified the air, charging it with such energy that the music became more then just simple talent. It was transformative and introduced a kinship of appeal which the four of us could share in. In essence it was a proximity to spirituality to which each of us was a part of and experienced.
In Luke 5:27-32 there is a story of when Jesus called the tax collector Levi (or Mathew if you prefer) to be his disciple. Jesus walked over to a small tax booth, looked Levi in the eyes and said, “Follow me.” This was a personal call that Jesus had for Levi and he meant it within an intimate context. It was a context which generated an electrifying atmosphere which compelled Levi to move and transform his whole life; to reconstitute and bring a new order to his understanding of civilization and existence. It wasn’t Mathew’s character that drew Jesus to him. It wasn’t anything about who he was then in that moment; his physical or social stature; his mental thoughts, beliefs, or philosophies; or even how righteous or spiritually holy he considered himself to be. It was the potentiality for movement that brought his proximity to Jesus!
Where do you find yourself in proximity to Jesus? What potentialities exist in your life which can bring you closer intimacy and personal connection with his existence in reality? How do you express and communicate movement towards your spirituality?
O.K. O.K. I know at first it seems like an oxymoron. How can entrepreneurial endeavors have anything to do with evangelistic practices? Perhaps it is from a “secular” framework but I think we could learn a lot from some of the ideas Guy Kawasaki talks about in his book ‘The Art of the Start’! What do you think?
Here is a great video of Guy talking about some of the things he has learned over the past decade in business. Mac users BEWARE!!! Ha, ha!
Over the last month my friend Chris and I have been carrying on a dialogue regarding a number of issues related to group and social constructs within the Kingdom of God through the use of the Shapevine Community. It has been particularly in lightning for myself as I have been trying to picture these thought process in my own life and that of the Expressions Community.
Recently I have had the hope of continuing this dialogue here in Just Wondering… so that we might begin sharing this conversation with others who might like to join in and contribute to some of the thought patterns. Over the past few weeks I have found Chris to be full of wisdom and although I at times struggle to connect my own thoughts to the social processes we have discussed, I hope we have developed a friendship to which we each can learn from one another as we explore each others characters and passion to serve the community and Kingdom of God.
Bridging from the last post Chris left on Shapevine this is our continued conversation:
Here’s my best attempt at putting these things on paper. I teach this stuff, but always face-to-face, relying on body language to tell me when something I’m saying isn’t making sense. So, I’ll do my best here, and you can let me know if you have any questions.
What I’m hoping to share with you is a paradigm shift that I believe is fundamental to the “power-with” social structures presented in my writings on missional community and which I contrast to “power-over” social structures. These concepts may seem minor and ineffectual to you at first, and that’s okay. It took me 10 years from the first time I heard this stuff, until it completely “clicked” and when it did, let me tell you, my life has been turned upside down in the most wonderful ways that I could only explain as key to the work of incarnational ministry. I’m honored that you would allow me the space to offer this gift to you. It will take a lot of words for me to get it out there, so I understand if it takes you a while to respond and I once again thank you for bearing with me with this long-winded explanation. I hope you find it engaging!
One of my very wise friends once said to me that everywhere you go in the world, you will see people playing one of two games: The first game is called “Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?” It’s a game that we all know. And as we all know- it’s a game that never ends well. The game is based on the idea that if you want to instill change in another person, for your benefit or theirs, you use tactics of punishment, reward, shame, duty, coercion, judgement, manipulation, and guilt to get the other person to think like you and submit to your wishes. We all know that’s not a very fun game. This game is also called the “power-over” game, because the person that overpowers the other is the winner.
The second game is also a game of power. But in the second game, the power distribution is cooperative/collaborative rather than competitive. It’s called “How Can We Enrich One Another’s Lives?” This game is based on the idea that it’s much more enjoyable and authentic to give and receive freely rather than from coercion. It’s also based on the idea that if we are able to collaborate in the midst of conflicts and get to the root of what we are needing in that moment, we can come up with ways to enrich everyone’s life without anyone getting the short straw.
To understand these two games, it’s necessary to understand three basic components that are at the core of our humanity:
• strategies (to meet needs), and
• emotions (which indicate needs).
I think that we can both agree that, as humans, God created us with some basic needs:
Physical needs such as:
air, food, movement/exercise, rest/sleep, sexual expression, safety, shelter, touch, and water.
Needs for meaning such as:
awareness, celebration of life, challenge, clarity, competence, consciousness, contribution, creativity, discovery, efficacy, effectiveness, growth, hope, learning, mourning, participation, purpose, self-expression, stimulation, to matter, understanding, honesty, authenticity, integrity, presence, play, joy, humor, peace, beauty, communion, ease, equality, harmony, inspiration, and order.
Needs for autonomy such as:
choice, freedom, independence, space, and spontaneity.
Interdependence needs such as:
connection, acceptance, affection, appreciation, belonging, cooperation, communication, closeness, community, companionship, compassion, consideration, consistency, empathy, inclusion, intimacy, love, mutuality, nurturing, respect/self-respect, safety, security, stability, support, to know and be known, to see and be seen, to understand and be understood, trust, and warmth.
And finally, our spiritual needs-
to be in relationship with God, and to contribute to other’s relationship with God.
Quite simply- when our needs are being met, we are thriving as human beings, fulfilling our basic nature as God created us. When our needs are not being met, we wither away and die.
Everything we do in every moment of our lives, is an attempt to meet a need within us or another person. Think about it, what have you ever done that wasn’t in some way trying to meet a need? Even in our most unproductive moments, we are often trying to meet a need for rest, relief, or safety.
The way that God created us is elegant and beautiful. Since he gave us needs, he designed our bodies with a technology that tells us the state of our needs at any given moment. And that technology is our emotions. Emotions are like the dashboard lights on a car that say “check engine.” They indicate the state of our need’s metness and unmetness and move us to respond.
There are a whole series of emotions that come up when our needs ARE met, such as:
affectionate, amazed, amused, blissful, calm, cheerful, contented, elated, enthusiastic, exhilarated, free, friendly, glad, grateful, happy, hopeful, inspired, interested, joyous, loving, moved, optimistic, peaceful, refreshed, relaxed, satisfied, serene, thankful, thrilled, warm, wonderful, etc… just to name a few.
There are another series of emotions that come up when our needs are NOT being met, such as:
afraid, aggravated, agitated, angry, annoyed, anxious, bored, broken, concerned, confused, depressed, detached, disappointed, discouraged, exhausted, fearful, frustrated, gloomy, heavy, horrible, hurt, jealous, lazy, lonely, mournful, panicky, passive, sleepy, uncomfortable, uneasy, upset, withdrawn, worried, etc… again- just to name a few.
The problem is that our emotions are vague at best, and we may decide to take actions that don’t meet the needs that are causing the emotion. For example, we feel lonely, because we have a need for connection, so we decide to turn on the TV and it seems to pacify the lonely feeling. Success! (or so we think) We then develop a habit of going to the TV whenever we feel lonely, only to wonder why we are more and more unfulfilled with each passing day and that lonely feeling becomes a constant, dull hum in the back of our minds which we can never entirely escape.
The key is to realize the difference between needs and strategies. Spending time with our best friend is not a need, but a strategy to meet the needs for connection, acceptance, affection, appreciation, etc… Smoking cigarettes is not a need, but a strategy that meets the need for comfort, while sacrificing the need for health. How we dress, how we talk, what friends we choose, what job we work at, what kind of car we drive, our political opinions, the books we read, lifestyle covenants, how we choose to invest our time and money, these are all strategies we come up with to meet needs. The power of distinguishing the two is that once we start to see our needs, and the needs of others, we can begin to find strategies that are purposely attempting to meet them, rather than arbitrarily pacifying emotions, or doing things because it’s “the right thing to do” or because we “have to” or “should” do something based on the demands or expectations of other people.
The realizations that I have made with needs, emotions, and strategies is significant in and of itself when it comes to being able to consciously thrive in the world, but there are further implications of this as well. When we realize that most of the world relates on a strategy-level, we might begin to realize that this results in not only our own unmet needs, but it is the cause of nearly all relational conflict. We approach people often by evaluating their strategies and determining if they are right or wrong. Then we face the decision of whether to confront their “wrongness” with our own “right” strategies. At that point, they have the choice to either submit or rebel. To submit, they would acknowledge that they are wrong and that you are right. To rebel, they would refuse to align with your strategies in favor of their own.
(As an illustration- Ask yourself if you really want your wife to do the dishes because it’s “the right thing to do”, and therefore do them out of obligation, or because she sees it as an opportunity to enrich your life and hers, and therefore does them with joy?)
Some additional thoughts to chew on:
Hearing a “please” or a “thank you” in every difficult message
Everything people say and do to another person can always be boiled down to a “please” or a “thank you.” Those pleases and thank yous are always connected to a need, and if we have the eyes to see it, we can connect to any action or word and see it as an opportunity given to us to enrich a life, or an appreciation for an opportunity taken that did enrich life. That is a world of a difference from the right/wrong game that approaches every word and deed as a chance to manipulate through reward and punishment.
Selfishness / Selflessness / Self-FULL-ness
One of the big misunderstandings of “needs consciousness” is that it is selfish. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Strategy consciousness is in fact the paradigm where we find the dualism of selfishness and self-lessness. Selfishness is the attempt for a win/lose situation and it is the same as rebelling. Self-lessness is also attempting for a win/lose situation and it is the same as submitting. In both selfishness and self-fullness, the goal is win/lose, but the outcome is always lose/lose because it sets up a “my needs vs your needs” schema, which denies the “winner” of the opportunity to enrich the “loser’s” life.
The alternative is “self-FULLness.” Self-fullness is to attempt a win/win and it is the same as humility. Not the self-deprecating type of humility that is promoted in many churches today, but true, biblical humility, which is simply a full acknowledgement of what we are: human. Not God, but human. No less, and no more. Needs are one of the most powerful characteristics of humanity, because every one of us has the same needs, and no matter how different our strategies all might be, at the root of it all is a human with human needs. Needs are cross-cultural, cross-gender, the same for children as for adults. The only people that don’t have needs are dead people.
The difference between us humans in regards to needs, are the metness or unmetness, and aliveness or dormancy of those needs. A child, for instance, still has a need for sexual expression, but that need is dormant within them. Someone who is struggling for survival, lost in the wilderness, has a need for play just like the rest of us, but at that moment, it is not what’s most alive for them. For some people, the need for a relationship with God is dormant, but it is still there, and sooner or later will rise to the surface.
With regards to truth
Another misunderstanding of needs-consciousness is that it is relativistic in regards to the truth. This also, could not be farther from reality. Both the right/wrongers and the needs-conscious people believe in truth. The right/wrong thinkers attempt to over-simplify truth into two broad categories of right/wrong, good/bad, etc… The need-conscious people want to know what needs were met or not met in a particular situation. They recognize that most things deemed “good” have negative consequences and most things deemed “bad” have at least some positive consequences, and they want to have full information, and not an over-simplified generalization of the truth.
My definition of power is “the ability to unleash resources to meet needs.” The more money we have, the more resources we have to meet needs for shelter, food, and certain forms of play and comfort. In this way, money is power. The more friends we have, the more resources we have for support, comfort, empathy, connection, etc… In this way, having friends is power. The more education we have, the more resources we have for understanding, empathy, contribution to others, etc…. In this way, education is power. Money, friends, education,…. these are all resources to meet needs. When people fix their eyes on one particular way of making money, and don’t see the vast world of opportunity, they don’t have much power. When people put all their relational needs on one person, they are limiting their relational resources and therefore, don’t have much power. The way to empower people is to simply help them become aware of the needs they are trying to meet. When they take their eyes off of those limited number of strategies and resources, and become aware of needs, they can then see that the world is full of vast resources to meet their needs, which then opens up worlds of opportunity that can make creative, win/win strategies more possible, thus giving us peace on earth (or at least that’s the idea).
When we ask ourselves what’s wrong with a situation (like some of the situations you have described to me), we might rely on our gut to tell us, we might rely on the WWJD question or Bible verses taken out of context, we might rely on what will best avoid conflict with our spouse or friends, we might rely on what feels best in the moment, we might rely on what will make us most popular, the list goes on and on of ways that we come to know what to do with a wrong situation. And very seldom do all these voices ever agree, so be prepared for confusion.
When we ask ourselves what needs are and aren’t being met in a situation, all we need to do is get in touch with our needs, the needs of other people, and the needs of God and ask ourselves what needs are most alive for us all in the present moment, and if we can think of a better way to meet them if they’re not being met, and celebrate if they are!
So, whenever anything is troubling us, we can ask ourselves what’s wrong and how to make it right (if we want to be confused) or we can ask ourselves what needs aren’t being met (if we want to have the clarity to live authentically, effectively, and intimately with ourselves, others, and God.)
Well…. as much of a mouthful as that was, that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I tell you- I could write a book about this stuff. There really is a lot more. But I’m gonna stop there so I don’t overwhelm you with more than you can chew on.
Let me know what you think and if this resonates with you or not, and if you have any questions I’d be blessed to hear them!
I just want to point out in my own experience and the way I grew up, I have seen too many Christians, including pastors who have miss-interrupt Luke 10:11 and have said something which does much harm than good. They have an attitude to think they are superior to the non-believer. That way they try to spread the Gospel and can only make people reject them more because of their own pride. They do not have enough understanding of the Gospel and they have no respect to people with other religion or people who ask questions.
When being asked about questions they do not understand and can not answer, they have a tendency to use hell to scare people or blame people of not having enough faith or make up some answer which can only fool little kids. Only in very little exceptional cases they are being honest to tell the truth that they do not totally understand the Gospel. When I look at these verses I can see the approach should be different.
1) The 72 people who are appointed are the people who know what they are doing. They not only know but they take action to give up their own personal interests to follow Jesus. They are the ones which are given power to perform miracles. And they are the ones who go without turning back. (They are not the “Christians” who use pride to cover up themselves, like to talk much but fail to have compassion and fail to have basic respect to non-believers.
I started to wonder why senior pastors like to hide in the church and talk but you never see them serve the people in need, like serving in seniors homes, muster seed, involved in cleaning the church building, reaching out to non-believers, Etc… When is the last time you were involved in those activities and seen any senior pastors from your church? Like you always see those Mormon young guys going door to door but you never see the pastors doing that…Same case in christen churches.
2) When the 72 entered the town, they don’t just talk their talk. They have compassion for people there. They help the people in need and perform miracle healings. They don’t just stay in the temple or church and do their talk. People are more likely to believe them because of their actions. They also take what ever people donate and live in what ever condition provided instead of lecturing people to give them their 10% and ask for money to build a big and fancy church building.
3) I found those words they said in verse 11 very unconstructive.
I also wonder if the 72 people are only allowed to say those things in verse 11 AFTER they perform those miracle healings. Honestly speaking, will you let 2 strangers stay in you home and provide them with food and hear some teaching which is new to you?
For me, following Jesus’ foot steps means trying to obey his teaching and do good works. It is about applying those teachings in everyday activities. Following those teachings when I have to make decisions. Asking myself what would Jesus want me to do in different cases rather than what should I do to maximize my personal gain. There are times which we don’t have to give anything up but there are also times we will have to give up our personal interests and put his interests first.
How can we make a difference in the world without first making a difference in ourselves first? Perhaps I should start with making a difference in improving myself and trying to serve people around me more. I don’t have a goal or agenda to change the world. I believe understanding and following Jesus’ teachings and being responsible for the things he put me in charge of is a life long assignment.
Recently I was reading a post on my friend Alan Hirsch’s blog ‘The Forgotten Ways’ titled ‘Consumption as Spirituality’. A fellow reader named Penny made a moving comment with regards to her friend in the hospital. I won’t share much of the comment however, I feel the pain that I think we humans all feel with the perplexities and paradoxical understandings we have with regards to the issue of death.
I must admit to being reminded of a sermon I did in regards to the practices of euthanasia several years ago called ‘The Million Dollar Message’. It was a sermon I wrote after Bonnie and I had blindly rented and watched Clint Eastwood’s film ‘The Million Dollar Baby’. For those of you that know me… this was deeply a personal attack and I felt overly compelled to respond. That said, I realize that the doorway we see as “death” is shrouded in things we don’t necessarily understand. Things that I don’t understand. Looking back… maybe… I was wrong. Then again… maybe not.
The Million Dollar Message!
How many of you have seen the movie “Million Dollar Baby”?
Well that’s great because today I want to share with you the “Million Dollar Message”! And to begin I am going to use a quote that Eddy “Scrap Iron” Dupris said in the film.
He said “If there is any magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys, and detached retina’s. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”
What battles do you face in life? What struggle is it that you find that keeps getting right up there in front of your face and seems to make life just impossible? And after you’ve got it there, what are you supposed to do with it?
Jesus too faced these questions and he addresses them in the passage that I want to explore with you. Turn back to today’s reading in Mark 8:31.
“GET BEHIND ME…”
This is a passage where Jesus is spending some time with his disciples, probably in the evening while sitting around the fire, and Jesus is telling them about the coming events that would be happening soon.
As he explains that these events will be a hard time and he himself would be facing great suffering and pain, Peter quickly pipes up saying “No Lord, don’t say that.” “Don’t say that you will have to suffer in anguish!”
I mean think about it! Jesus isn’t just saying poor me, he’s saying every person of worldly leadership, the government, the religious leaders, and educator’s of his country and culture will despise him and murder him. Probably on a cross. And Peter who has seen the horrific anguish and torture of people dieing on the cross is saying to his friend “Please Jesus, there has to be another way?”
Jesus responds “Get away from me Satan!” That’s pretty powerful words to use. So why would Jesus say this?
If we look back at Matthew 4:1-11 we can see that earlier Satan also tempted Jesus three times. One of which where he offers Jesus all the nations of the world if he would just bow down and worship him. He was offering Jesus a way to gain the whole world without having to suffer on the cross.
In the same way Peter, although motivated by a different purpose (the purpose of love for his master and not wanting to see him in pain), was still asking Jesus to avoid the cross. He was asking for another way in which Jesus could be King without having to suffer. Whether Peter knew it or not, the temptation was directed by the works of Satan.
By saying that Peter was looking at things from a human perspective, Jesus was pointing to the fact that Peter was quick to see the promise of glory and worship that come at the end of the road but he was blind to the path that Jesus had to walk in order to reach the end of the road.
Likewise, Satan is more then willing to let us see the promises that Jesus has for us but his illusion is to blind us from seeing the road in which we need to travel in order to receive those promises. We stumble around asking ourselves why must I go through this, why do “I” have to suffer.
With God’s vision though Jesus recognizes the fact that power and glory comes after hard work, persecution, deprivation, and suffering.
Jesus gives us to results for Peter in these first few verses.
First is the command “Get away from me Satan!” “Get out of my sight!” Recognize that his temptation is a lie. Recognize that it is a feeble attempt to cloud our focus from the truth that we have to first travel the road of hardship before we can receive the riches of heaven.
Secondly he says in the same words to Peter as we see in other translations “Get behind me…” Jesus is placing Peter back into the proper position of authority to which he belongs. Jesus is the master, he is our leader, the one who is holding the white towel, and Peter is the disciple. Plain and simple, we can’t follow what we can’t see!
Jesus is reminding us of the same thing. He is the one with the vision, the one who sees the invisible dream, and if we are going to be able to follow him we have to see him in front of us!
THREE STEPS OF TRAINING
Do you remember the scene in the movie were Frankie Dunn is taking Maggie Fitzgerald as his next fighter. Maggie is spilling guts out about all the hard work she’s doing and all the suffering and persecution she’s had to endure and wondering what it’s all for. Frankie finally concedes to training her under some specific conditions. He say’s “If I take you on you don’t say anything, you don’t question me, you don’t ask why, you don’t say anything except maybe yes Frankie.”
That’s exactly what Jesus does in the next few verses. Now that Peter is in the proper position to which he should be, Jesus gives three quick points, three conditions as to how we can follow him as his disciples.
First he says “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”
Jesus was aware of the persecution that the church would later face and he also knew the purposes the Romans had for there acts in crucifying people. See the Romans would not only whip the people they were crucifying to dull the pain of the crucifixion itself but they would also tie the cross beam of the cross to the shoulders of there victims and make them carry it to the site of execution. This cross beam which would weigh in excess of 60 pounds or more would cut and scrap the raw backs of their victims and was meant to be a representation to the people of their submission to Roman authority.
Jesus is asking for that same allegiance. That we would submit inspite of pain and anguish all our authority to him right down to the place and time of our death. He was saying that the promises he has for us are greater then even death itself and they were worth sacrificing every part of our self desire for. We begin living our lives with an attitude that says “What I want is irrelevant!”
Maltbie Babdcock once wrote that “Present suffering is not enjoyable, but life would be worth little without it. The difference between iron and steel is fire, but steel is worth all it costs. Iron ore may think itself senselessly tortured in the furnace, but when the watch-spring looks back, it knows better. David enjoyed pain and trouble no more than we do, but the time came when he admitted that they had been good for him. Though the aspect of suffering is hard, the prospect is hopeful, and the retrospect will start a song, if we are “the called according to his purpose,” in suffering.”
Jesus’ second condition is that “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.”
In the early parts of the movie do you remember the scene where the character Big Willie Little is in the fight of his life and he gets a shot to the side of the head where he gets cut under the eye. Stopping the fight and sending the fighters to their corners, the ref tells Frankie (Eastwood) that he had to stop the bleeding or he would stop the fight. Not wanting to loose, Willie asks his trainer “What should I do?” And Frankie responds “You got to let him hit you?”
Although a little perplexed Willie follows his advice and just like those old Rocky movies we can see the slow motion of Willie dropping his guard as the fighter gives him a shot to the head and then those cool CSI special effects when we see the close up of all the blood vessels in his check seizing up and stopping the bleeding. It was after that when Willie could go in and give the knock out blow and claim victory.
Willie is the picture of what Jesus is asking of us. That if we persist of guarding our own lives with our own wisdom we will loose it and be unable to continue the fight. But, if we just place our faith in him, allow ourselves to drop our guard and endure the shots of suffering we receive in this world, we will begin to experience the path to victory and rejoice with the final knock out blow. That is what “real life is about”.
The third condition Jesus gives us is a series of rhetorical questions. “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?
I’ll add to these questions; “What is your life worth?” “Can you truly understand the value of your life and how it affects everyone around you?” These are very personal questions that I have asked myself and to be truthful with myself, I cannot answer them with any certainty not because I can’t see what has happened in the past but because I cannot see the future! Who am I to judge and determine the people I may speak to, hear, comfort, or come in contact with in future? I cannot judge! I have no authority to do so!
There is a very clear point at which the movie Million Dollar Baby changes direction and for those of you who have seen it you know what I am referring too! It is at the point where Maggie after having broke her neck and becoming paralyzed, asks Frankie to help her commit suicide. I want you to think about it for a moment and the power of her statement. She says “I can’t be like this Frankie, not after what I’ve done, I’ve seen the world, People chanted my name, not some damn name you gave me, they were chanting for me. I was in magazines. You think I ever dreamed that would happen. I was born 2 pounds 1 and a half ounces, Daddy use to tell me I fought to get into this world. You know if I had my way out, that’s all I want to do Frankie. I just don’t want to fight you to do it. I got what I needed. I got it all. Don’t keep letting them take it away from me. Don’t let me lie here till I can’t hear those people chanting no more.”
Compare it again to Jesus’ words “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
At what point did Maggie become disillusioned to the fact that here soul was measured by the fight for life, the fight of celebrating 33 years of life and still punching that speed bag and not just for the simple chants of a crowd.
Titles are won and titles are lost, champions come and champions go, but in the eternity of life there is only one Maggie Fitzgerald. There is only one Erik Freiburger. There is only one you.
With this in mind I give you a quote from G.K. Chesterton. “In everything worth having, even in every pleasure, there is a point of pain or tedium that must be survived, so that the pleasure may revive and endure. The joy of battle comes after the first fear of death; the joy of reading Virgil comes after the bore of learning him; the glow of the sea-bather comes after the icy shock of the sea bath; and the success of the marriage comes after the failure of the honeymoon.”
It is true that some of us endure suffering here on earth whether it be physical or not however in the face of eternity this lifetime is a mere moment before the riches of heaven.
Likewise, our soul is not set to the riches of this world but through Christ it is intently focused on the Kingdom of God making the value of this life a journey of preparation planned out by our heavenly Father for the coming of the next life. It’s value immeasurable in the hands of God!
If you can’t tell I am very emotionally attached to this message and moving into the conclusion I want to share with you why.
Bonnie and I watched this movie a few weeks ago. Sitting down we thought we where going to watch a movie about boxing, about over coming adversity. Instead we were flooded with images of fear, worry, doubt, self-pity, and ultimately the glorification of murder. It hurt and it cut deeply as it attacked us personally in our lifestyle.
The producer called it a work of genius and the general public would seem to agree giving it 4 Academy Awards out of 7 one of which being Best Picture. It floors me that, that same public would earlier have just rejected ‘The Passion of Christ’ film from any possibility of award for its implied message content of hatred and instead embraces the message content of a film comparing human life being worth that of putting a dog down.
Work of genius? Absolutely! Great direction, superb acting, fantastic screen writing but, orchestrated by an unseen entity to which millions will be affected which geniusely is far greater then anyone man. The film deceivingly does not allow the public to understand the message of euthanasia prior to viewing and instead hides behind the mask of Actors names and a beaming picture of the awards it has received.
At the same time bringing a message of comparing euthanasia to justifiable homicide in a society that struggles with the very question of assisted suicide. We have states like Oregon passing bills making euthanasia legal, husbands denying communion to the wives as they starve to death such as the court ordered murder of Terry Schiavo, and human beings laughing as they crack a joke about Dr. Kavorkian.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the height of the Nazi’s campaign for euthanasia wrote that “In a Christian community, everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain. Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable. A community which allows unemployed members to exist within it will perish because of them. It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable. Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of the fellowship.”
He was not advocating euthanasia but instead was pointing to the fact that each and every individual is vital to the community of faith despite any physical fight they may have or physiological struggle.
Jesus tells us in verse 38 of Mark 8 that we are not to be ashamed of his message. We’re not to be ashamed of his life because the life he gives us is not a life of shame. It’s a life of power and influence, of love, and compassion, and generosity to all of his creation in the midst of adversity! I know its true because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve seen it in the life of my wife’s friend Katie and her passion for friendship and sailing. I’ve seen it in my friend Mike Zunic’s life with his love of racing and race cars while expressing his faith through those experiences. I’ve seen it in the lives of Henry and Geraldine Eckert with the joy that they have in sharing stories about there grandson Nathan. And I see it in the life of my wife Bonnie and the inspiration she gives me as we share life together.
I began this message saying I wanted to share with you the million dollar message and shared with you the words of Eddy “Scrap Iron” Dupris. “If there is any magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys, and detached retina’s. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”
It’s more then the magic of boxing. It’s the magic of life. The power of the Holy Spirit taking us beyond the physical pain and suffering of this world, beyond the psychological struggles of depression and anguish, beyond the spiritual attacks of sin and unseen enemies. It’s the power of each one of us risking everything and submitting to the dream that nobody sees but the Son of God. Jesus Christ. And when we get there we won’t hear the applauses of human hands but the choruses of Angels singing. And we will all raise our arms in victory not with the closed fists of self accomplishment but with open hands of praise and worship to an awesome God!
I’m going to close in prayer but while I do that would you do something with me. I want you to all stand up, grab the wrist of the person next to you and lift their hands in victory. We are all champions in Christ!