Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Reflectors are NOT enough

Early one morning I was run over by a bicyclist from behind.  My reflective gear wasn’t enough for the rider to see me in time to brake and/or swerve.  For years I blamed the cyclist, until it dawned on me, that reflective gear is not enough.  So, now I run with both a forward facing headlamp, and a rear facing red back light when it is still dark outside.  Vehicle drivers, other runners and cyclists cannot depend on reflectors alone to know there is trouble ahead. They rely on a car’s brake lights or a runner’s backlight to alert them to the need to also brake and/or change their trajectory.



What’s the point?

As a Christian, we hope that our good behavior will so reflect the love of Jesus that someone will want to come to church with us, and/or enter a relationship with God.  Most people have so much going on, that they miss subtle signals, and need a “brake light ahead” to let them know to slow down and adjust their trajectory.

Be affirmed for being a nice person and reflecting the love and grace of Jesus. Also be encouraged to generate some light by using words about your church and/or a relationship with God, through Christ Jesus.

We have many examples in the Christmas story of telling others about Jesus. 

Luke 2:17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone...


Who will you tell about Jesus and invite to your church?


When?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Neutrality and Polarity


The presidential election has revealed how polarized we are as a nation.  How do we follow Jesus in this polarized environment.  A difficulty in determining and following our Lord’s example is that he demonstrated many different leadership characteristics in ministry.  He is referenced in scripture in contradictory terms often in the same book, chapter and verse.  He is defined both as a predator and prey in Rev. 5:5,6.[1]   He is defined as the author and perfector or finisher of our faith in Heb. 12:2.[2]  He is restorer in Acts 1:6[3] and destroyer in Mt. 24:2 [4].  He is healer in Mt. 15:31 [5] and afflicter in Zephaniah 1:17[6].  He is holy, set apart from culture in Revelations. 4:8[7], and incarnated into culture in Philippians 2:6-8[8].  He is also defined as judge in Acts 10:42[9], and mediator in 1 Timothy 2:5[10].   He is described as one who is to judge in John 5:22[11] and as one who is not to judge in John 12:47[12].  The dilemma in following Christ as our example into this polarized world is highlighted in the book of John.  In one scripture Jesus himself tells us that he did not “come to judge the world” [13] yet in John 9:39 he tells us that judgment is why he came into the world. [14]

Navigating polarity requires that we follow our Lord’s example.  The challenge is that there are so many conflicting characteristics of Christ, all of which we are to reflect.   Which model best serves the purpose of navigating polarity?  The model penned by the Apostle Paul regarding Jesus in Philippians 2 is the clearest example of Christ being neutral in his office of mediation.  Philippians 2 says that Christ “made himself nothing”[15].  This neutral, or “nothing” model is what one must bring to the table of polarizing conversation.  Jesus further demonstrated this when he clearly stated that he didn’t bring his own agenda to the place of mediation and reconciliation, but “the will of him who sent me.”[16]  Often, Jesus would refer to his neutral mediatorial role reminding his disciples and even himself in prayer that He did not come to do his will, but the will of the Father.[17] This neutral mediatorial theme is reflected often in the gospels, going so far to claim, Jesus did nothing whatsoever on his own.[18]
We must use discernment and reserve acting upon Jesus’ example as Judge for very rare cases.   The definition of judge, according to Dictionary.com, is to “pass sentence on and condemn, as well as to govern, rule and to hear and decide on in a court of law.” [19]  Also, from Dictonary.com, the definition of mediator is “one that reconciles differences between disputants”. [20]  A mediator is a neutral party “who intervenes between two persons who are at variance, with a view to reconcile them” and as a “medium of communication between two parties” [21] while a judge is someone who “passes sentence on, and condemns”[22].   The mediator model is the more effective choice for a pastor/leader in a Christian context for resolving the conflict in this polarized culture.
            Prayerfully re-consider polarizing rhetoric, including sharing polarizing  social media posts.




[1]NIV Revelation 5:5 Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." 6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
[2] NIV Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
[3] NIV Acts 1:6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
[4] NIV Matthew 24:2 "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
[5] NIV Matthew 15:31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
[6] NIV Zephaniah 1:17 I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth.
[7] NIV Revelation 4:8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
[8] NIV Philippians 2:6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!
[9] NIV Acts 10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
[10] NIV 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
[11] NIV John 5:22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,
[12] NIV John 12:47 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.
[13] Ibid
[14] NIV John 9:39 Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."
[15] NIV Philippians 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
[16] NIV John 4:34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
[17] NIV Matthew 26:39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
[18]. NIV John 8:28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
[19] http://dictionary.reference.com/  
[20] http://dictionary.reference.com/
[22] http://dictionary.reference.com/

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Education and Entrepreneurship

"So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father." (Heb. 2:11)

In addressing the Father in prayer, Jesus gave a direct communication:

“you love them as much as you love me”. (Jn. 17:23)


Gender and racial equality seems so obvious in scripture, yet some still struggle with it.

Men like Booker T. Washington, were heroes of faith, who lived as if no race is better or less than but all races are equal.  He is best known for a speech he gave called the  "Atlanta compromise, when he called for black progress through education and entrepreneurship, rather than trying to challenge directly the Jim Crow segregation and the disenfranchisement of black voters in the South.” (Wikipedia)



That is a great strategy for both gender and racial equality. 

What is so controversial about gender and racial equality?

A great example is Usain Bolt.  He not only is a great athlete, but he is also a great entrepreneur.  Forbes.com says he receives $30 million in endorsements a year.  The other night, it was amazing, as an American I found myself pulling for a non-American to win the 100-meter.  I wasn’t alone, as many reported the same phenomenon. 



Forced gender and/or racial equality aren’t working, but it can be given, feely, and willingly for it is heart issue.

Consider searching for a congregation that is free from the chaos of male dominance, and/or white supremacy.  Consider asking your pastor straight up, “what do you think about gender and racial equality?” (Especially if it a white male.) 

Why not engage in conversations with friends and family, and see what they believe about gender and racial equality?

It is a surprising and enlightening conversation.

We have tackled these conversations in our congregation and are aligning ourselves under scriptural authority, and would welcome you as equal brothers and sisters, whom the Heavenly Father loves just as much as the Father Loves Jesus (with or without education and entrepreneurship). 


Until the day dawns when all genders and races are granted equality at the heart level consider the pathway of higher education and financial entrepreneurship that Booker T. Washington proposed and Usain Bolt models.