Entries tagged with “Christian”.

A challenging story of how a successful Christian, CEO answered God’s calling reminds us that sometimes we have to do more than just sit in a pew.  Rich Stearns, is the current President of World Vision and is well respected within the international development community.  I had never heard his story before, but am amazed at how God worked in his life.

The Hole in Our Gospel, is more than just an autobiography though.  He critiques the modern church for missing a large part of the Gospel message Jesus shared.  Stearns sacrificed his lifestlye as the CEO of a chinaware company to become president of World Vision.  It is a cool story and one you should read.  But as he makes clear in this excerpt, he is not calling us to get rid of everything in our life:

However, I don’t want to also suggest that all true followers of Christ must forsake everything to bring comfort and justice to the poor. I
only propose that genuine concern for “the least of these” that finds tangible expression must be woven into the pattern of their lives and faith. That expression might involve small but regular gifts to compassion ministries, advocating on behalf of the poor to government representatives, or regular volunteering at a soup kitchen, the local nursing home, or the Ronald McDonald House…. Even Jesus did not spend every waking hour helping the poor.  He dined with the wealthy, celebrated at weddings and feasts, taught in the synagogue, and perhaps did a bit of carpentry.  Still, there is no question that His love for the poor found consistent and concrete expression in His life and ministry.

Yes, this book contains numbers and statistics that are overwhelming, even to me.  But his focus is more on telling the story about how God redeems us and redeems our brothers and sisters around the world.  Stearns will not allow you to get bogged down in the numbers, but will help you remember that each number represents a living person that Jesus died for.

Pick it up, read it, discuss it, share it with a friend.

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David went a little off-topic for Friday’s message at Seward Church. Instead of the usual story of grace this week focused more on faithfulness and community, which does connect with grace!

In John 13:34 Jesus commands the disciples to love one another in the same way that He has loved us.  This is the basis for a community that serves Christ and functions well together both internally and externally.  David shared an image of a lighthouse (similar to this) which I had never thought of before. Jesus is the light that is shining out across the sea, serving as a beacon for all to see.  But it takes people (in community) to go out and be the light touching lives and rescuing or searching out people to help draw them into the lighthouse.  Does that make sense to you?

In  Ezra (3:1,8-9) we see that the Isrealites have placed their faith in God again.  Building the temple was their expression of faith.  Building the temple or a church also represents the people coming together in a community.  All believers should come together and be made more holy (sanctified) as seen in John 17:17-22.    Ephesians4:3 says that we should do everything to keep the bonds of peace.  David really emphasised that community is a gift not a right.  As a gift we also have to work to stay unified – but also let the Spirit do its powerful work in us.

A little more controversial statement is that the community is strengthened not by looking at each other but by looking towards Jesus for His strength.  We are all imperfect beings and will annoy the heck out of each other – which could cause problems.  When we place Jesus at the center we tend to focus more on His love and grace for each one of us.  We also need to make sure that the focus doesn’t get turned towards the community we are trying to serve, because then we become all about service – not Jesus.

We all need or want to be in a community and having friends isn’t a problem but a sign of maturity.  In Genesis 2:18 God realized that man couldn’t do everything by himself – so He created the woman.  David extrapolated that to be that we shouldn’t be trying to do good works alone (individually or as a married couple) but together within the community of our church.  Community is by no means easy (as I mentioned above), I’m sure we all annoy each other!  But being in a community and having to deal with the idiosyncrasies of others helps draw us closer into the heart of God.  I’m sure we annoy Him alot!  Ultimately, community makes us better people.

While building the temple, the Israelites ran into some conflict.  Basically the king withdrew their building permits and made it illegal for them to keep working.   Ezra 4:17-21 makes it clear that soldiers were sent to stop the building process. Even though they were given clear direction by God to build the temple, the Israelites caved in to the pressure.  If construction was a sign of faithfulness, then halting construction was a sign of faithlessness.  They were concerned about their relative safety and not focused on God’s Safety.

Similarly if the church today focuses on self-preservation above following God’s calling they are acting without faith.  You can read many stories of Christians around the world standing up admist persecution and losing everything, even their life.  Almost as bad is when the church focuses only on building itself up.  Building new gyms, adding expensive stained glass, creating church schools or home-school co-ops, and forgetting to focus on the external community.  Building a fitness center within a church campus says two things – 1) community we don’t want to smell your sweat or touch your machines and 2) God you are unable to protect us from those “evil” people who live out there.  Both of these are false.  David shared an interesting analogy with manure.  Manure is an excellent fertilizer, but only when spread out across an entire field.  When kept in a manure pit it will actually kill all the grass around it, not too mention that it reeks!  Christians are like manure – we are best when we are spread out around town.

The anaolgy breaks down a little bit because we are actually at our best when we are spread out in community with other Christians who can love and support our endeavors. But the point of the analogy is pretty clear.  Again, Jesus must be at the center of our field – maybe He is the manure spreader!

Even when we forsake or forget about Him, God continues to be faithful to us.  God really wanted a place for His people to come together in worship to Him, He wanted the temple built.  In Ezra 5:1-2 we see that Haggai and Zechariah were sent to kick the Israelites back into gear. They began rebuilding the temple.  The Book of Zechariah captures some of the prophesy, specifically 4:6-7 which includes the phrase – “Grace, Grace to It.” The NIV says, “God Bless It.”  Even after turning their back on Him, God gave them a second chance.  He has given us a second chance and the ultimate act of grace by letting His Son die for our sins.

We finished the evening with communion – the ultimate symbol of Christ’s life and death and a symbol of community. David said, “Communion is an act of kneeling together and looking at Christ.”  As 1 Corinthians 11:17-26 says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Let us each proclaim the love of God to all we meet and rely on God and the community He has given us to love those who are hard to love.

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I don’t remember exactly how I found the post entitled Bible & Homosexuality: Enough with the Bible Already but it obviously intrigued me enough to click on it and read through it. I’ll be clear I’m not completly comfortable with a lot of the statements he made throughout his post but you can get the main point from this quote:

For some, I believe the Bible has become an idol. Some place the Bible above Jesus’ compassion and love, Jesus’ radical inclusivity, and hold steadfast onto what they believe to be the correct interpretation of a small amount of verses that speak about same-sex relations. To those who repeatedly start quoting Leviticus and Romans verses as soon as anyone brings up the topic of homosexuality, I’d suggest perhaps you stick your Bible back up on the shelf for awhile. Perhaps it should collect a little bit of dust. And maybe, just maybe, you need to go out and grab coffee with someone who’s gay. Maybe you need to hear their story, learn about what they’ve been through, how they’ve experienced Christians and the church.

I haven’t sat down and explored the life of a gay person, but moving to Minneapolis we have been exposed to more openly gay people in the last year than my entire life combined.  I would love to hear your thoughts about this issue and topic.

A few months ago at breakfast with Christy I said, “the longer we live here the harder it is going to get to be opposed to civil unions and domestic partner benefits.”  Yes I think homosexuality is a sin (one no worse than my own), but if I was lying on my death bed and my mom forbid the love of my life to be at my side, I would die a painful and lonely death.  Say it ain’t so Joe, if you aren’t “married” it is possible for your parents to dictate who is allowed to see you or find out information about you (given that you aren’t able to to dictate otherwise).  That seems completely unfair and stupid.  Where is the love of Christ in that?

I have made quite the journey in my thinking about this issue.  It may not be complete but the more I understand and know the Bible, if you believe in Jesus then you can’t believe in hating another human being made in His image.

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What in the world does Incarnational Living mean? You are about to find out!

Continuing the review of ESA’s March/April Prism Magazine, the second article is Reimagining Relocation: Can Christians walk with the poor without leaving their neighborhood? by Eric T. Iverson.

Webster defines the adjective Incarnate as: 1 a : invested with bodily and especially human nature and form b : made manifest or comprehensible : EMBODIED <a fiend incarnate> but the verb form of Incarnate is: : to make incarnate: as a : to give bodily form and substance to <incarnates the devil as a serpent> b (1) : to give a concrete or actual form to : ACTUALIZE (2) : to constitute an embodiment or type of <no one culture incarnates every important human value — Denis Goulet>

BLAH BLAH BLAH what does it really mean?

Incarnation is usually referred to Jesus becoming human and living on earth for thirty years.  The Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) uses the word Relocation in their 8 component philosophy. Incarnational living is just another way of saying that you are investing and moving yourself into a new area, becoming a part of your new neighborhood.

Back to the Article at hand.  Iverson’s main premise for the article is that while all Christians might not feel called to relocate or move into a more “urban neighborhood”  can still help impact those neighborhoods:

I worry that too many assume that picking up and moving to places like Lawndale [a CCDA community in Chicago] is the only way to be involved in the principle of relocation. I fear that many Christians use relocation as the bullet to shoot down the entire message of the CCDA: “If I have to move to the ghetto to build the kingdom they’re talking about, then I’m gonna find somebody else to listen to, ’cause I ain’t moving’.”

Iverson uses the example of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 to illustrate his point.  He draws five points from the story:

  1. Went to the person in need
  2. Recognized there was a problem
  3. Decided it was important enough to act
  4. Met the need
  5. Walked with him

He continues by saying:

I know a lot of people performing steps one through four, but it is number five that many struggle with.  Walking alongside those in need can lead to real change and healing for all parties involved. (When you walk beside the poor, they walk beside you, too.) But walking with the poor physically – for those who choose to move – is only one option.  Walking with the poor spiritually – for those who won’t or can’t just yet – is another.

He later interchanges the idea of walking with the poor spiritually and walking with them mentally.  I think spiritually we should pray and intercede with God on their behalf, but mentally is the more practical stuff that we can do each day.  Iverson uses the illustration of purchasing a new SUV.  Typically its an easy mathematical and mechanical decision on which car to purchase, “Can I afford this car, that is brand new and meets my needs?”.  Iverson adds into the equation the thought process that the cost of the car might equal someone’s yearly wages or even their wages for 5 years.  He would argue that we should purchase a used SUV and then take the extra $10,000 or so saved and use it to help the poor among us.

He closes with some practical applications, and so will I:

  • Relocate, or work to create a livable wage for the poor

  • Relocate, or stop for a minute before yu hire someone from within your network. Is there a group of people not represented in your workplace?

  • Relocate, or think about the purchases you make – How will this purchase impact the poor?

  • Relocate, or support someone who has

  • Relocate, or send somebody else’s kids to college

  • Relocate, or help someone make a down-payment on a house.

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