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Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

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I attended Food for the Hungry’s Hope & Courage conference today with a few friends. Food for the Hungry partners and walks with churches and leaders in overcoming poverty in various countries. I’m a huge fan of what they do and have enjoyed a long relationship with the organization.

The first session was led by Os Guinness – founder of the Trinity Forum and renowned speaker and writer. Os talked about how our faith has become diluted and that we need to get back to the gospel. He identified three big tasks: repairing the global south, winning back the west and contributing to the human future. The church has gotten worldly and has spread out to areas that aren’t influential. We need leaders and we need to let the Spirit lead like in Acts. We live in an upside down Kingdom where the least is not the greatest. We give money to get and we have an American worldview of how to care for people. But despite all that has gone on, the gospel still underlines this world and has shaped it. Accomplishing these tasks would give to rise and caring (humanity, gratitude) and Christ needs to the one to lead the movement.

I was looking forward to the next speaker. Laurent Mbanda is the bishop of the Shyira Diocese for the Anglican church of Rwanda. Laurent shared a little about his story of leaving Rwanda after the genocide and then returning. He noted that as thousands were being killed in the churches, the leaders did nothing. But today there is a lot of aid with poverty as a result of the church’s partnership with the community. He talked a lot about partnerships with existing organizations, training and working together. Today he is noticing many changes in Rwanda and he credits that to many leaders becoming Christians. He stressed areas of importance to the poor, children, education, women and health.

Bob Moffitt of Harvest Foundation spoke on poverty from scripture. Poverty is defined more than a lack of materialism. Jesus was poor and was in bad living conditions, yet he had enough. He became all God wanted Him to be without having an abundance of stuff. (He then gave the example of Japan – very materialistic and wealthy, yet the highest suicide rate). There are two types of poverty – voluntary (ex: Jesus, Mother Theresa) and involuntary (as a result of sin). He stressed scripture more than projects and that we need to respond – Personal lifestyle (humility, worship – 2 Cron 7:14, Is 58:1-6), Corporate (the church-Eph 3:10) and Transformation (our success is based on obedience, not numbers).

Hope – hope in His promises when we are obedient and then we will be courageous

Courage – like  in the book of Joshua. Be strong and courageous

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Laurent Mbanda

“The church always goes forward best when it goes backwards first.” – Os Guinness

“If you’re going to change a community, you have to focus on children” – Bishop Laurent Mbanda

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A masterpiece can be said to be a work with the capacity to outlast its time and speak to cultures vastly different from its own; to transcend its time and place and inspire new works by artists in succeeding generations

When first published, Eliot’s poem received a lukewarm reception by colleagues and literary critics who compared it to his masterpiece, The Wasteland, and found it lacking. Friends of Eliot’s, such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, criticized the poem for its overt allusion to Christian faith and the traditions of sacred poetry, like that of Dante and Julian of Norwich, and the obvious way the poet attempted to blend modernist literary tropes with traditional religion. These critics thought Christianity was a thing of the past and irretrievable by contemporary artists and thinkers. Yet now, more than three-quarters of a century later, the poem is considered a major milestone in English literature.

Four Quartets is relevant to our own cultural moment because of its powerful testimony to the grace and vision of the Gospel message in a multicultural milieu. In Eliot’s vision all hinges upon the “still point” where the human experience of time evokes wonder, fear and longing for continuance and redemption, and where Christ’s presence is the pivotal point for the entire Creation. Herman and Fujimura have made a substantive response in painting, not so much illustrating Eliot’s work or making direct allusion to passages in the poem as attempting to find, in Eliot’s words, the “objective correlative,” between the poet’s themes and their own works. Christopher Theofanidis has produced a compelling score that evokes the brooding and brilliant light of Eliot’s poem. In effect, the painters and composer are collaborating in intentional dialogue with the poem, revealing the staying power of its genius and its self-declared reliance on the Christian literary and theological tradition.

Artists Makoto Fujimura and Bruce Herman, along with composer Christopher Theofanidis and theologian Jeremy Begbie, have begun a touring exhibition and festival of theology and the arts which reveals this very thing: Eliot’s masterpiece is still able to transcend its era and social location, generating fresh response and inspiring young artists of today. Fujimura and Herman have each completed four large works in response to the imagery, emotion, and allusion evoked by Four Quartets, and have collaborated with Christopher Theofanidis in his commissioned musical score entitled “At the Still Point.” Dr. Begbie has initiated and is actively organizing a scholarly and theological colloquium at Duke University that underscores Eliot’s relevance for this new generation.

A conversation with Makoto Fujimura & Bruce Herman

 

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I was chatting with my friends Mat and Lisa Weddle from my Missional Community and we were reminiscing on how exactly six years ago today (New Years Eve) we were boarding a plane with thirty other young adults to be a part of Passion in Atlanta. For them, it was where they first met and they are now married today. My friends Brian Wurzell and Promise and Steve Adame and Liz met on that trip and they too are married and doing amazing stuff for the Lord. For people like myself, Shauna and Amaris, it was the trip that God called us into cross-cultural missions. They both ended up serving on the field for some time. It was a pivotal trip for many of us from that amazing community that were led by Pastor Ron Merrell. I heard God speak through Francis Chan for the first time that year. Chris Tomlin’s version of “Fire Fall Down” reminded me of my broken life and how God was putting me back to together to do years of ministry following that trip. Ben Stuart’s message on singleness was the best message I have ever heard on how God can use us as single people. I used that message to start a group for newly divorced people and how God can use them at this time to do amazing things for Him. But the impactful part of that trip was Louie Giglio’s message on how heaven will be a party for the nations. That message blew me away and opened the door for me to engage with God’s heartbeat for the world.

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Passion ’07

I had an amazing conversation today with my friend Amber at 8th Day Coffee and Culture. We were talking about our creative gifts and how God uses them for His purposes. She has been getting a lot of pressure to sign with a major record label. Her heart is just to share her music with the world and how God healed her from a difficult time. For me, I hope never to have to make money off of anything creative I do. I am blessed to have a job that provides more than enough for me to do life. I personally want to use my creative talents for the Kingdom and to share with others. We were talking about how easy it is to make our gifts about ourselves and not about the Lord.

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It’s New Years Eve and I am so thankful for where I am at in life. It’s been an incredible year for me and I feel focused for the first time in a few years. My friend and mentor described my year like this: He said I’m like a plant and God put me into a pot to grow and heal me for a little while because there were some things He needed to work on. The soil represents the healing power of God working in my life. But now he sees God taking me out of that pot and putting me back into world to allow me to continue to serve Him. I do feel that. I feel God is ready for me to begin to go back to work and be a light for Him. And honestly, I don’t know what that is and I love that. This is where my faith and trust in God comes in and allows me to stay on His path.

IMG_1462I do know that God is about to reveal some of His plan for me. Through teaching from amazing influential people and reading His word, God is syncing my heart to His heart for injustice and mercy. I’ve gone about this all wrong for some time. I saw trafficking firsthand in Cambodia for the first time in 2008 and God opened the door for me to learn more about it. Failed opportunities to go to Fiji and other chances to engage were due to me following my own wants and desires and making life about me. I’m done needing approval from other people for my sense of self-worth and being a one-man show trying to save the world so I can feel better about myself. Now God has put me back into a position to be a part of His plan for justice and I want to be attentive to just following His will. It’s about the gospel and the message of God redeeming a fallen world. God is aligning me to Him and I look forward to learning more about topics like slavery so I can be an effective tool for Him.

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Cambodia ’08 – my first exposure to human trafficking

I also was convicted by a passage in Luke 5 this week in which Simon Peter falls to knees in worship when Christ invites him to drop what he is doing and follow Him. When was the last time I dropped to my knees in worship to the Lord? I honestly don’t have an answer to that. I want to be in worship everyday with my Lord and Savior. I want Him to be my first priority in all I do. God has done so much for and hasn’t given up on me. I want my life to reflect on His grace and for others to see Jesus when they meet me.

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I have been wanting to write this entry for a while now, but I’m always afraid my words won’t come out the way it is suppose to when I write from my heart. I want to make sure I sound genuine and not sound like I’m boasting. That’s what this blog site is all about to begin with – just writing about my struggles in life and how I am seeing God work in the process. I try to keep things about me and not others because I don’t know what goes on in other people’s heads. I have been deep in scripture reading and prayer for a few weeks now and I keep experiencing weight and convictions from the Spirit. And as the weeks go by, I am finding myself sobbing more and more. I’m feeling the Holy Spirit really working in me and guiding my thoughts and actions. It’s been a really crazy emotional ride for some time now.

As I read the Bible, God is big. Bigger than anything I can ever fathom. God can do anything that seems impossible to me. I know he has his sovereign will – basically it’s his will that will get accomplished no matter what. But then there is his moral will – the will that we submit to as believers. It’s our obedient response to him and circumstances that are to line up with prayer, our experiences and what scripture says. Where I am getting emotional is that I keep asking myself the same question – Do I really believe God is sovereign? Do I really believe God can make the impossible possible? Honestly, almost majority of the time it’s no. I know that because I can see that over and over in my life in the choices I make and how I handle things.

God has really been working in me. I’ve had to ask myself if I truly believe I deserve his grace because I know I won’t experience it until I know I believe that it is there for me to have free of charge. This is where true change and healing begins with the scars of life I hang onto. But most of all, I need to believe that the same grace is available for other people too because I find myself down a path where I look at others and situations and think I can justify myself with my thoughts that things won’t ever change because I don’t trust God is big enough. God is too big and too powerful for me to not ever believe he can restore and redeem anything or anyone.

So as I study God’s word, he keeps me from looking ahead to the other side. It’s too easy for me to draw up my own plan and think I know God’s will down the road and get myself excited about that. This so goes against scripture – God’s preparation and calling is timely in each moment of the day. I don’t want to miss what he is doing now, today. I want to experience God’s grace and power in this moment and join him with what he can and is about to do. So I have been committing myself to pray diligently because I don’t want to control or do anything that short-changes God’s sovereign power. I am going to pray that the gospel will change all that is wrong and all that is broken every moment I can. I’m going to pray that God provides opportunities that I can join in that only he can make happen. I have been holding prayer sessions all over the place with people I trust and people who truly believe in God’s power because I believe strength comes in numbers when we pray. We had a long prayer session last night praying for God’s intercession. Even my prayers with my good guy friends have ended up with both of us sobbing. When guys cry like that, the Spirit is there and moving. I believe God is big and I’m going to trust he can do anything regardless how I want life to work out for myself. I gotta believe this with all my heart and soul. All he his asking me is to be obedient to his moral will and keep up the fight. I truly believe in the gospel and what grace can do. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross to redeem us and giving us hope.

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In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.

In John Tierney’s classic humor article “Picky, Picky, Picky” he tries nobly to get us to laugh at the impossible situation our culture has put us in. He recounts many of the reasons his single friends told him they had given up on their recent relationships:

“She mispronounced ‘Goethe.’”
“How could I take him seriously after seeing The Road Less Traveled on his bookshelf?”
“If she would just lose seven pounds.”
“Sure, he’s a partner, but it’s not a big firm. And he wears those short black socks.”
“Well, it started out great … beautiful face, great body, nice smile. Everything was going fine—until she turned around.” He paused ominously and shook his head. ”… She had dirty elbows.”

In other words, some people in our culture want too much out of a marriage partner. They do not see marriage as two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation, a “haven in a heartless world,” as Christopher Lasch describes it. Rather, they are looking for someone who will accept them as they are, complement their abilities and fulfill their sexual and emotional desires. This will indeed require a woman who is “a novelist/astronaut with a background in fashion modeling,” and the equivalent in a man. A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put—today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner.

You never marry the right person

The Bible explains why the quest for compatibility seems to be so impossible. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” The understandable retort is: “But this is not baseball or literature. This is love. Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul-mates. “

The Christian answer to this is that no two people are compatible. Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.

We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

Hauerwas gives us the first reason that no two people are compatible for marriage, namely, that marriage profoundly changes us. But there is another reason. Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered—living life incurvatus in se. As author Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love … ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? Indeed, many people who have mastered athletics and art have failed miserably at marriage. So the biblical doctrine of sin explains why marriage—more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.

No false choices

The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is—we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level.

Excerpt from THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE © 2011 by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller. Published by Dutton, A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Excerpted with permission from the publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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Community – life together

Tonight it sunk in that my missional community has really become my family. I still remember trying to get a feel for these people and having my own judgmental thoughts about them. I put all that to rest a few months back because all of them truly get the gospel and they have been so loving and accepting of me. The two little girls used to be so scared of me and tonight I spent most of the night playing with them and letting them climb all over me. God has really taught me so much about why community is so important for the gospel to work in our lives. I have many friends and friends are important to have. But a missional community is in your life and knows your deepest darkest crap. You literally grow in your relationship with God as you do life with them. I really can’t imagine living life without community while going through my walk with Jesus.

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Our tendency is to just want to apply the gospel to ourselves. We have learned in church the gospel is threefold – individual, community and the cosmos (God’s sovereignty). Being with my family has changed my life so much and I know they won’t ever let me falter if I ever veer off path again. I love the new format of our group for each month – a night of fun (social, games, etc), a night of worship and prayer, a night of community outreach and a night of teaching. We played board games tonight for social night and the girls won, so the guys had to buy them gelato.

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I only know a few people in this Experiencing God small group (I would hardly call 25 people small..) that I am in. But tonight I shared my testimony with them so they could get to know me. A lot of them go to Cornerstone and to meet someone who had Pastor Linn as a youth Pastor and then to also meet someone who was a part of the beginning days of the church was interesting to them. They of course had lots of questions for me. For me, it was a time of reflection of my roller coaster life. Not that it has been bad, but I can see where God has always been present and how he has always been calling me back to him all throughout my life.

This week’s study has been focused on joining God where he is working and to be a servant for him. For me, I have always interpreted that as a service project or an event, etc. I have had so many opportunities that have come my way lately that I could easily jump on board with. I have been very careful about not keeping myself too busy or ignore where I am at in life. So I just commit to pray about each opportunity and to make sure it is part of Gods plan. Other than be father to my kids, God keeps telling me to be still. He doesn’t mean to just sit and do nothing, but to really take the time and build my relationship with him. I know it is because he is molding me for something bigger and better in my life. I have experienced things the past six years that only I can attribute to God, but I truly feel he has something even bigger than my puny brain can ever come up with. My relationship with the Lord is so rich right now, I can’t ever imagine walking away from it.

God has taught me so much about his sovereignty and the power of prayer. I always find myself in situations where I want to control my environment. But I am in a place right now that I know praying is more than enough for God to do his work and I don’t have to anything more. It takes the power out of my hands and teaches me to trust God. Last year, I left my last church looking for community to apply the gospel to my life. At that church, my life was mainly about me and my accomplishments (not to say there wasn’t good things.. but this was my idolatry issue there). There are a lot of people who like to pat themselves on the back there and I got caught up with that. I have learned the importance of community at my current church and I now have that and it has become a big part of my life. But now God is teaching me another part of the gospel – the cosmic part of it. This is the part where we look at all creation and trust God is in charge and that he is at work. This is huge because we all want to do things our way because our faith and trust in God is weak. This is where in my Experiencing God study that I feel God is wanting me to look at and join with him.

At church today they nominated Mark Durban to be a deacon. You know, Mark has stuck to me like glue these past few months. I have had many great mentors (I can’t tell you how important having older wiser people in your life is for growth. You will never get that from younger people or people your age), but Mark seeks me out each week to see how I am doing. My last counselor was great and he helped me with a lot of things. But what I have learned is counseling is a process that process needs to keep going, even when things are great. Mark has been counseling me each week for the past few months with the material from CCEF. This stuff is so rich with the gospel and is truly material for life long change. I have taken some courses myself, but to have is applied has been amazing. I’m not going to lie to you, I fought God long and hard my first month of counseling. Our tendency is to finger-point, blame everyone for our problems and simply to avoid them all together (I hate it when I fall into this trap). It is such an exhausting way to live and one will simply carry those burdens their whole life and look to quick fixes to get by. True change doesn’t even begin until you have a desire to change first and that you are willing only to look at yourself and your own heart issues and not anyone elses. We spent a lot of time re-visiting my childhood and I did not like seeing myself as that scared little boy in the corner watching my parents fight and my father abusing me. Or being picked on in school or going through divorce. But after a few weeks, I finally gave in and repented my crap to God and I have experienced so much freedom since. I quit blaming all these people and circumstances for who I am today and remembered who I was in Christ. Just learning about the gospel and my need for a Savior has so enriched my life. I have never had this much peace in my heart and I feel the changes going on in me will be life long changes. I am so thankful for Mark, my church, my MC and the scores of support from friends for their commitment to me and the changes God is doing.

So today the plan is to be still and allow God to mold me. I’m growing, learning and I love my life! I am so thankful I am choosing to go through the fire and trusting God as I face my problems and not side-step or hide from them. God has something huge in store and I want to be ready for it. And the glory part of it comes with how he used this broken guy who loves Jesus for his purposes.

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