Archive for the ‘evangelism’ category

A Powerful Vision

January 8, 2010

Recently I was talking to my little sister, who happens to be one of the most faithful, dedicated and wise Christian women I know, about a vision that she had a while back. I was so moved by her vision that I asked her to write it down so that I could keep it with me and share it with others. This written version is quite moving, but I wish you could all hear her share her experience personally. Maybe someday I can get a video of her sharing, but for now here is the short written version.

Pursuit of the Beloved
Sarah Bronson

I saw myself in a field covered in rags running from God. I was terrified. I knew that He had every right to kill me. My life was worth nothing and He was coming towards me. I had tried and tried to scrub myself clean, but it only revealed more dirt. I couldn’t let Him see me like this. But He was coming for me, and getting closer.

Suddenly I felt His arms around me. “NOooo! I can’t let Him touch me! He is perfect and I am unclean.” I struggled to get away. Like a little kid who knew they had done wrong, I didn’t want to face the consequences. His hold hurt as a tried to get away. The more I struggled the tighter the hold became. He wasn’t going to let me go. I stopped struggling and stood in his arms turned away from His face.
I was terrified, but the truth was punishment didn’t scare me. I knew I deserved death. But I couldn’t bear to look at His face. I wanted more than anything to please Him and to earn His love. If I turned, I knew that I would have to face the disappointment in His eyes. THAT was what I could not handle.

I stood rigid, vulnerable, and overwhelmed. His hold softened and became warm and gentle. He whispered into my ear, “I love you. Please, turn around.” I didn’t understand. How could that be? He had no reason to love me. I was uncertain and couldn’t turn around. He continued “I love you. Turn and see…I love you turn and see…” Could it be?

Trembling I turned my head towards Him, eyes closed. “Open your eyes, beloved”, He whispered softly. Slowly I opened them to see a face filled with light and life and more love than I ever could have imagined. I was transfixed by His face. I don’t know how long I stood there amazed but when I looked down at myself I was CLEAN!!! I was seeing myself through His eyes. I began to walk with him. When I strayed I saw myself dirty again, but He would always call me back.
On the walk we came across many people. He would wrap His arms around them as He had done for me. They were all afraid. I would try to encourage them and tell them my story. It was an amazing experience when they finally turned and saw themselves in God’s light. They really came to life! We rejoiced together.

But others we came across would not make that choice. He held them the same as He had held us. I saw the love in His eyes as he spoke to them. He longed for their hearts to be whole. They refused to turn, refused to believe. I don’t remember any specific point that He released His hold, but He when did, they ran into the wilderness, into the darkness, into death. I saw Him crumple to the ground weeping at the beloved He had lost.

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Poverty and Advent

December 1, 2009

Its rare for me to hear a new Christian song these days that really hits me right in the gut, but today in Chapel I was introduced to just such a song. The service was focusing on the eschatological hope that we have in the birth of Jesus and his  return, and the lives we should live as a result. This song, by Jason Upton, closed out the service.

There’s a power in poverty that breaks principalities
And brings the authority’s down to their knees
There’s a brewing frustration and ageless temptation
To fight for control by some manipulation

But the God of the kingdoms and the God of the Nations
The God of creation sends his revelation
Thru the homeless and penniless Jesus the son
The poor will inherit the Kingdom to come

Where will we turn when our world falls apart
And all of the treasures we’ve stored in our barns
Can’t buy the Kingdom of God?

Who will we praise when we’ve praised all our lives
men who build Kingdoms and men who build fame but heaven does not know their names

What will we fear when all that remains
Is God on His throne, with a child in his arms,
and love in his eyes
And the sound of his heart cries

You should have heard my buddy Drew sing it as well. It echoed through the chapel and straight into the hearts of my fellow journeyers and I.

My Jesus and Those in Need

December 4, 2008

In one of my Seminary Classes we had to do an assignment called a Kingdom Project. We were supposed to find a place where we could serve in the name of Jesus. My group chose to go to a park in Lexington to spend time with the homeless folks that gather there in the evenings. Mainly we just went to spend time listening, encouraging and praying, but we also brought some clothes, toiletries, food and water. 

Tonight we had to give a presentation to the rest of the class about our project. At the end of the presentation we played this video because it so poignantly reminds us of the focus of Jesus’ life, ministry, and teaching.

Jerry Springer Jesus

September 25, 2008

Have you ever noticed how the cast of characters that Jesus hung out with could have passed themselves off as a few episodes of the Jerry Springer Show? I mean there was the crooked IRS agent Matthew, the zealous hitman Simon, the prositutes, the naked bloody man who lives in the graveyard, the woman who went from man to man but was always thirsty for more, the idiot fisherman who always spoke before he thought, and the list goes on.

I also notice that much like Jerry Springer and his cop sidekick Steve, Jesus didnt even flinch when these people who represented the dregs of society crossed his path and even shared meals with him. Now I hope nobody thinks I am trying to compare the Lord of all creation to a trashy talk show host. Because it seems to me that the two have very little in common, but one thing I believe is that if Jesus were to go on the Jerry Springer show he would love each person there as much as he loves you or me. He would want to dine with them, share life with them and he would call them to take up their crosses and follow him. Whether it is the Jew hating neo-nazis, the rebellious hell’s angels, the diaper wearing middle aged man who sleeps around, or the gay racist midget eskimo who is in love with a set of conjoined twins form a circus side show, Jesus would have found a way to show them they have infinite value in the eyes of God and He would, in fact he did, die for them to know life.

That gives me hope. How about you?

Would Jesus Vote? Part 3

June 19, 2008

I am about to list 20 statements about Christians voting. On their own they are very broad, sweeping generalizations. Therefore, I hope you read them in tandem with the previous two posts on this topic here and here where I have made an effort to explain my position. So here, in short, are 20 reasons I believe Christians should not participate in government, including but not limited to voting.

  1. If we vote, we play in to the corrupt system.
  2. If we vote, we, at least in part, put our hope in a person or a party.
  3. If we vote, we use power over people as a way of changing things.
  4. If we vote, we give credit to the powers and principalities.
  5. If we vote, we go well beyond giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
  6. If we vote, we don’t follow the pattern of Jesus.
  7. If we vote, we affirm our citizenship in the world and become in and of the world.
  8. If we vote, we buy into the lies of the enemy.
  9. If we vote, we put ourselves at odds with our brothers and sisters.
  10. If we vote, we are guilty of the sins of the nation-state.
  11. If we vote, we get caught in the web of complexity that is worldly politics.
  12. If we vote, we give credence to the idea that our government is right and good and stands for truth.
  13. If we vote, we assert our “superior” knowledge and attest to our arrogance.
  14. If we vote, we potentially make the claim that the choices provided are the only ones that exist.
  15. If we vote, we confuse the Lordship of Jesus with the lordship of the Nation-state.
  16. If we vote, we only have the option to choose between the lesser of two evils, and either way we must choose evil.
  17. If we vote, we ignore the lessons of history.
  18. If we vote, we legitimize the authority of the State.
  19. If we vote, we sacrifice the unique Kingdom-Resurrection power that is ours.
  20. If we vote, we in essence pick up the sword not the Cross.
What do you think?

 

Would Jesus Vote? Part 2

June 17, 2008

Please see part one here.

Here are some other reasons that have biblical foundations but are largely based on my experiences and observations.

I have found that party politics as well as international politics greatly compromise our allegiance to Christ. People act as if they are a Republican or Democrat, an American or an Iraqi first, instead of being a citizen of the Kingdom of God first and foremost. The kingdom is much bigger than that. It is greater, more beautiful. It certainly says God bless America, but it also says God bless Iraq, Iran, Canada and the rest of the world. That is what the kingdom is for, that is why Christians are here, we are to share God’s blessing with the whole world, no exceptions.

 

When one says the pledge of allegiance to the flag isn’t that comparable with the story of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abendigo. The king wanted their allegiance even ahead of their allegiance to God, but these three men were not willing to give it even if it cost them their lives. If I pledge allegiance to a flag and thereby the country that flag represents then I am detracting from the allegiance that I have pledged fully to Christ. Now I don’t deny that the pledge and our country often stand for good, and right and noble things but they are not and cannot and will not ever be the Kingdom of God and therefore they attempt to usurp the authority of God whenever a Christian gives these things his or her allegiance. Jesus taught about money that we could only serve one master. This principle must be true in all parts of life. We either can look out for the interest of the State and serve it as our master or we can live out the Kingdom and make Jesus our Master. When we try to have it both ways we try to serve two masters and our total loyalty cannot be dedicated to either one.

Political affairs are often divisive. The church has enough issues that we like to debate and fight over so why do we need to bring a person’s political views in to the mix? If I say that I am a Republican that automatically makes some people feel a sense of pride while others cringe. If I say I am a Democrat the same is true. I remember years ago while sitting in our school’s chapel listening to a speaker and he mentioned off hand that he was a Democrat. At that point in my life I automatically tuned him out because I was raised in a politically conservative family and to me a person who was a democrat must not be a faithful follower of Jesus. I have heard a lot recently, probably due to the upcoming presidential election, Christian people from “both sides of the aisle” demean and belittle those who hold opposing political views. This is especially sad to me when it is a Christian attacking another Christian. I remember Paul saying something about the way we are a body, now how much sense would it make for the left hand to cut off the right hand because they were from different sides? Not much. But this is what is happening throughout the body of Christ. In recent years I have since come to know that people from all walks of life and all political understandings can be followers of the King, but it is my hope that we all are willing to let go of our labels and even be willing to put our political views aside in order to hold on to the politics of Jesus; the politics of service, of love, of forgiveness, of prayer, and of worship to God and Him alone.

 

The politics of the empire or the republic are too complicated. The politics of Jesus are very simple, albeit rarely easy. If we let the complexity of partisan and national politics muddle up our lives and our time then we often miss out on the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel. We have enough things in our lives vying for our time without having to concern ourselves with who we are going to support in the next election or which amendments we need to vote on, or campaigning for a person who we probably truly know very little about or at the very least is certainly not someone in whom our hope should be put.

 

As we discussed earlier it seems that satan has dominion over this age and the earth. He is called the prince of this age and Jesus doesn’t deny the devil’s authority over the land during the tempting of Jesus. This leads me to believe that all governments, even the best ones, are inherently deceptive. Governments have always felt it necessary to keep certain things a secret for the “good” of the people. The truth is often skewed, obfuscated, twisted, shaded, and spun in an attempt to mold our perceptions of the government offices and leaders. Therefore, whomever we were to vote for, not matter how honest and how good would be stuck in an inherently flawed system. A system that can certainly be revised and improved, but one that will always be, at its core, deceptive because it is under the dominion of the father of lies himself.  No matter how many Christians we get into our government or any ruling body for that matter, it will still fall short of the glory of God because it is an inherently flawed system and no amount of human effort will ever change that. On the other hand, the Kingdom of God takes wretched people, like me, and transforms them, by the power of God in to something much greater, because the Kingdom of God system is inherently holy and good.

 

It is my view that political power is always destructive to the kingdom when Christians get involved. When a government involving Christians makes a decision then it is often viewed as the Christian understanding whether it represents the views of most Christians or not. If our government goes to war, no matter what one thinks about a particular war, then it is viewed by much of the world as the Christian thing to do since it is often claimed that the USA is a Christian Nation. This is undoubtedly bad and destructive for the Kingdom of God.  It is also destructive because when rulings are made by Christians trying to convert others to their understanding of morality it inevitably drives those people further from the Cross. For instance, however one feels about homosexuality or gay marriage, when Christians vote to pass laws forbidding homosexuals from getting married it drives an unneeded wedge between Christians and the Gay community. It puts up a wall that prevents dialogues, relationship building, and truly meaningful evangelism. If you are too busy trying to change people’s actions you will never find time to show them to the God that can change their hearts.

 

History shows time and again that religion and politics make a poor couple. When the church and the empire get married it is bound to be an abusive relationship and will likely end in a resentful divorce. It is usually harmful to the empire and is always destructive for the Kingdom. Take for instance Western Europe, the Church thrived there for centuries, but most of that reign was tyrannical at best. Now the Church in these countries has dwindled to nearly nothing and often is only held on to because of tradition. It only took two years for the first “Christian” empire to start killing dissenters, labeling them heretics. Christian empires have shed as much blood, perhaps more than any others in history. It was Christians who headed up the slave trade, slaughtered native Americans, led the crusades, fought against civil rights, supported the rise of the Nazis, led the imperial oppression of countries like India, committed the genocide in Rwanda, contributed to apartheid, and still can be heard as the loudest voices of bigotry today. All of this was “justified” by Scripture and all of it related directly to Christians being involved in governments.

 

Our priorities seem to be out of order. We need to work on reforming and restoring and reviving the church instead of trying to get in our two cents in with the government. If we want to change the culture around us then we do it by loving, by serving, by living sacrificially as examples of Jesus Christ. That is what truly changes a culture, that is what changes hearts and minds, and that brothers and sisters is the only way that we bear witness to the Crucified and Risen Messiah.

 

In Paul’s writings he reminds us that we are like soldiers on assignment who have been deployed in to hostile territory and that we should not get entangled in civilian affairs. This seems like a pretty clear directive to me that we should keep our battle against the powers and principalities of the air and not concern ourselves with the politics of civilian life; we leave that to those who have not joined the Lord’s army. Again, the only way we can battle the powers and principalities is by doing what Jesus did, taking up our crosses in selfless, sacrificial service to all people even those who would call themselves our enemies. This doesn’t sound like the way this world’s political system works. It seeks self-preservation by out maneuvering, out campaigning, out witting, or out fighting the opponent, not by loving them and blessing them at the cost of our own lives and well-being.

 

Both 1 Peter and Hebrews also tell us we are aliens and strangers here. With the recent debates over immigration in the States this should be a picture that we can understand with ease. Do aliens have the rights of a citizen? Do aliens have the same vested interests in the foreign land as the citizens do? Of course not. We, as aliens and strangers here are not supposed to fully comprehend the culture, we are not supposed to shape the culture at large through the present political system. When Paul wrote this I believe he also knew that aliens and strangers in a foreign land are a persecuted minority without the power to win in the political arena, but they can win people over to their worldview and lifestyle, or at least to accepting them through their kindness, which by the way is exactly the way God wins us to repentance, through His kindness.

 

In conclusion, Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. At the end of the 40 days, Satan took him to the mountaintop and offered Jesus Christ dominion over the world… if Jesus would kneel down and worship him. Satan offered Jesus political power. Jesus would not give in to the temptation of political power because He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus turned down political power. “Was Jesus wrong?”  Of course he wasn’t. That along with the legacy of people like David Lipscomb and the obvious abuse of the church by any government lead me to believe that Christians should stick to our commitment to the kingdom of God and that should be enough for us.

 

Please don’t take my feeble reasoning and understandings as an important source on the subject. Others who have written much more extensively and articulately on the subject include, Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, Dr. John Howard Yoder, Dr. Vernard Eller, Dr. Lee Camp, Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, Dr. Richard Hays, Shane Claiborne and David Lipscomb, just to name a few. 

What do you think?

Jesus Wept

October 31, 2007

John 11:35. The shortest verse in the bible. A look at the humanity of Jesus.

Most of us know that this is on every bible trivia quiz ever created for children’s Sunday school class, but have we considered why the Lord cried?

I have been pondering this for a while. It hit me one night, perhaps through Divine revelation, that it might have been one of the best indicators of the way in which we should pursue a life of ministry.

I think it might be Jesus’ true compassion for the family of the deceased, and the feeling of hurt over the loss of friend that compelled the perfect Son of God to shed tears that day. He is truly sharing in the grief of the friends and family of Lazarus, even though He knows that He will raise the dead man to life again. If this is true, then how does it inform the way we minister? What does it say about ministry?

I think it reminds us that ministry is a lifestyle, not just an infrequent attempt to “share the Gospel” at a weekend outreach or your annual donation to goodwill. In every waking moment, of every day, we are to minister to people. Sometimes it is through a prayer, other times it is felt in a hug, and still others it is in the form of a hot meal or a shoulder to cry on.

Jesus, didn’t seem to need elaborate plans to minister to the community. He didn’t need to have a business meeting with his disciples every week to plan their activities for the coming days. Instead He lived a life of prayer, partying, and partnering with people in their good and bad times. These three things, I think, lead to his tears the day that Lazarus died. Because he prayed for these people, because he partied with them, and because he partnered with them in their joys, and in this moment, their sorrows, he was able to genuinely feel their pain.

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s what we as followers of the Messiah ought to do, to share in the joys and the sorrows of others. That is how we minister. That is how we love. That is how we show people the Truth of the Resurrection.

Now to the fact that Jesus knew that Lazarus would live again. Verse 36 says that the Jews saw how much Jesus loved Lazarus. He wasn’t a charity case. He wasn’t just another miracle that Jesus could add to his tally. He was one who was loved, and loved deeply by the Carpenter Christ. Jesus saw the importance of joining in the suffering of people even though He knew that He was going to fix the problem, even though He realized He was the solution.

Think about how much that says about our lives of ministry. We must join in with people’s triumphs and failures, joys and pains, dreams and wants. We must have compassion, and suffer with, those who hurt, even when we know we are there to bring healing, when we are there to fix the problem. We must first feel the affects of the problem ourselves. We must first join with those who it is hurting most and then we can truly show them they are loved, and that it is not just an opportunity for us to pat ourselves on the back for “making a difference in the world.”

Too many times I see ministries that are only “fixing” the problem, by handing out clothes or food, or donating money, or providing medical care without joining people in their suffering. Church, it is time that we put aside our pretentious attitude of charity and learn to hurt with those who hurt. Then they will see our good works and praise our Father in Heaven.

Jesus wept, do we?