A Culture in Need of Forgiveness

I believe that as a culture we’ve entered into dangerous territory. If you don’t believe just watch the news. Whenever something bad is done by someone, see how people react. Most of the time now, the reaction is the same. People want swift justice and without forgiveness. What we have seen in South Carolina is exception to the rule. The victims chose to forgive Dylann Roof. Their actions, however, are rare. Typically see the opposite reaction.

Photo Credit: ivoras via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: ivoras via Compfight cc

A little while ago, the news broke that a college fraternity was caught on a video singing a song with racist lyrics. This was discovered because video showed up on the internet. Whatever station I was watching was interviewing students on campus. They asked an African American student a very important question and his answer showed that we have crossed a line.

The reporter asked him if he would forgive the students involved if they asked. His answer was, “No.” Continue reading

Remembering that the Bible is full of real people

noahIn the past couple of months I watched Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings. Now I know that both of these movies came with controversy and the Exodus movie received poor reviews, but I think that there is something that both movies can bring to the table. While neither of these movies entirely lines up with the narratives found in Genesis and Exodus, they reminded me that Noah and Moses were real people with real struggles and real frustrations. Noah showcases his drunkness at the end of the movie and Exodus: Gods and Kings shows a Moses who struggles to accept his past and wrestles with God’s decision to kill the first born of Egypt. Continue reading

Speaking the Truth about God

I’ve been on a journey this year through a chronological Bible reading plan. The plan takes you through Genesis and then into Job. There are a lot of things about the book of Job that are very striking, but this time through Job what really struck me was his “friends” and how easy it is to be just like them.

1024px-William_Blake_Job's_Tormentors_c1785-90_this_state_1800-25_British_Museum_LondonJob is inexplicably stuck with disaster and disease. From the human point of view, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for all this devastation after having lived such a good life. Job begins to lament and question why God would do such a thing to him and his friends are ready with an answer that goes like this, “Obviously, Job, you have done something wrong and you have earned punishment from God. Everyone knows that God punishes people for their sin.” Continue reading

Waiting on Redemption

100_1768Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel’s strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne 1

It’s probably a bit strange that I would say I am waiting on redemption because I have already been redeemed. When Jesus came, he saved us. His life, death, burial, and resurrection have released us from the power of sin and death. I have been forgiven. James Bryan Smith writes about this in his book The Good and Beautiful God. He says that as Christians we are in Christ. This means that, “Christians are not merely sinners but a new species: persons indwelt by Jesus, possessing the same eternal life that he has. The New Testament is unambiguous on this issue. Several Bible passages affirm this.” 2

Smith goes on, however, to talk about how while sin no longer reigns over us, it still remains. This is the reality that we live in now. Sin has no power over us anymore, but it still exists in this world. This is why I am waiting for redemption. At the heart of all that is broken in this world is the power and presence of sin. We live in a world broken an marred by sin. Sin causes violence, hatred, division, and suffering. When Jesus returns, this will all change. The world will be restored, people will be reconciled, and we will be redeemed. In the words of Andrew Peterson, “The world was good, the world is fallen, the world will be redeemed.” 3

As Christmas quickly approaches, we celebrate the one who came to save us and who will come to make all things new in the end. Together we wait for our savior to return. While we wait let us be about the work of reconciling, restoring, and proclaiming the redemption that he has given us.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come
among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and
the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.4

1. From Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
2. James Bryan Smith. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 154.
3. “All Things New,” Andrew Peterson, Resurrection Letters Volume 2 (Centricity Music, 2010).
4. From the Book of Common Prayer: http://www.bcponline.org/Collects/seasonsc.html#advent

Waiting on Restoration

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Photo Credit: deeksdj via Compfight cc

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.1

The world is broken, and in my last post I wrote about the broken relationship between people. When we look at scripture, however, we also see that the earth itself is damaged. In Genesis 3, the ground was cursed and began to produce thorns and thistles. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that all of creation is waiting for redemption and to be restored at the return of Christ.

In the beginning, God made all things good. All of creation was good. When we sinned, all of creation fell under the curse of sin and death. When Jesus came into the world not only did he bring hope to humanity, but to also to creation itself. Paul calls Jesus the second Adam. He is the firstborn of the new creation, his return will not only bring about the restoration of humanity, but all of Creation. Revelation 21 and 22 gives a picture of a world that has been made new. Jesus says in chapter 21 that he is making all things new, and chapter 22 tells us that there will be no more curse.

The world is a beautiful and wonderful place. I haven’t travel outside of North America, but I’ve been enough places to know that this world still is beautiful. I’ve seen the beauty of the ocean in California, Maine, and Florida. I’ve seen the beauty of the mountains in Colorado and the beauty of the plains in the midwest. This world that God created is amazing, and I am waiting on the restoration of all things. If our world is this beautiful under the curse, I cannot even imagine how beautiful it will be when Jesus makes all things new again.

In the meantime, we need to be a people of restoration. Restoration began with the first coming of Jesus. He loosened the grip of the curse on this world. When we choose to follow Jesus we become new creations. We live to help bring about the reconciliation and restoration that Jesus’ second coming will complete. Jesus is already king, he is at work reconciling, and, as he says in Revelation, he is making all things new.

O King of nations, your reign spreads through all the lands,
you defend the cause of the poor and plead for the wretched of the earth.
Fashion us into an obedient people, that we may spread the good news
of your reign of perfect peace and justice, until all creation will finally rejoice in your perfect will,
until all bend the knee to the King of kings and Lord of lords,
in whose name we pray, even Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior. Amen. 2

1 From Joy to the World
2 The Worship Sourcebook (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, 2004) 463.

Praying for a Harvest

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Photo Credit: bernat… via Compfight cc

The last section of Life on Mission is really the place where you begin. To live a life on mission, you need to begin with prayer. The problem is, most of us don’t start there. We end in prayer.

I’ll admit that I have the problem. I love a good problem and when something is presented to me, I’ll try to figure it out. You may have not even asked me to solve your problem but odds are if you told me about something you’re working through I’m thinking through solutions in my head. The trouble with this mentality is when it comes to mission, God doesn’t ask us to solve the problem. He wants us to go and do His work, not go and figure out our work. Yes he wants us to use our skills, abilities and resources, but we need to do it his way and not ours. That’s why we start with prayer. Starting with prayer allows us to submit ourselves to God’s way and it says that we are relying on God’s power and not our own.

There are a lot of things I could say about prayer, but I don’t need to say all those things. All I need to say is that we need to pray.

In Luke 10:2, Jesus challenges his disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the fields. So my challenge this week at the end of this reflection of Life on Mission is to pray. Pray for God to send workers and pray for God to send you.

What are you waiting for?

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Photo Credit: Jorbasa via Compfight cc

This week begins a four week season in the life of the church known as Advent. Advent comes to us from the Latin and simply means coming. The season of Advent is a time when we await of the coming of Christ. Since this is the season leading up to Christmas, we are commemorating the time of waiting for Jesus’ first coming which we celebrate at Christmas. In the Lectionary readings for this time of year the Old Testament readings tell of the coming Messiah.

That’s not the only coming of Christ that we await during advent, however. We are waiting for the second coming of Christ as well. The New Testament readings in the Lectionary all speak of the future return of Christ. Continue reading

Feed Me

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Photo Credit: Still_life88_second via Compfight cc

I have a confession to make. I’m not very proud of this, and in fact I laugh a little at myself for thinking it, especially for when I had the thought. When I was in high school, I thought that I was not being fed spiritually. I was convinced that I had achieved a level of spiritual maturity beyond that of what was being given to me. The problem, however, was that I didn’t understand what maturity in Christ meant. I had grown up in the church, went to Christian school, and participated in Bible Bowl. In other words, I (thought) I knew the Bible really well. I had large chunks memorized and at times could identify the chapter of the story or quotation. I was equating knowledge with maturity. On top of that, I was a good kid. Obviously I was doing something right. Continue reading

Won’t you be my neighbor…

A life on mission begins with connecting. It starts by developing relationships with the people in our everyday lives. It starts by loving our neighbor. Tim Harlow writes in Life on Mission, “Your mission is to your Jerusalem. The people right around you. THE PEOPLE WHO YOU KNOW! So our mission starts with relationship. It has to start with relationship.”1

So let’s ask the question that was asked of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Continue reading

Life on Mission

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 1

Consider what disciples were experiencing at this moment. Jesus unexpectedly returned. They thought they lost their leader and the Jewish leaders would be coming for them at any moment. To their surprise, Jesus shows up instead of the Jewish leaders. The surprise doesn’t end there, though. Continue reading