Thursday, January 31, 2013

Making Space in A Culture of Disgust

I wish all smart phones
would crash
and we would all mob
the local libraries
like back when we weren't
afraid of each other.

Suspend judgment. 
Make space. 

This was the theme of Monday's yoga practice at church.

If I suspend my judgment about a certain pose, whether I like or dislike the pose, I am free to just be in it, no assumptions, no pressure. I can make space for my body to work, breathe, and be.

My friend and I had a conversation about technology, specifically smartphones-- a topic I feel very strongly about. We discussed the questions that come to our minds about this technology. My mind asks questions about the future: How will this affect the next generation and what can I do about it? His mind asks questions about the past: Where have we seen this issue before and how did people react?

You really do need both sides.

If I suspend my judgment about a topic I feel strongly about, I am free to make space for provocative questions and conversations, making space for God's Spirit to move.

This--everything--has all been done before.

It began before my birth.
It will continue after my death.

I am not responsible for the past or future outcomes.
I am not responsible for what others have done in the past, what they are doing now, or what they will do.

I am responsible for my little piece,
for keeping my garden in bloom,
for bringing a bit of light and hope in this time and place.

I am responsible for loving people,
in whatever form that takes.

At a church I attend, we are discussing the book Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Morality. Last week we discussed the culture of disgust we have toward certain things like sex, bodily functions, and profanity and how our assumptions about these things may keep us from loving people like Jesus did.  Jesus reached beyond the barriers of His society's ideas of what it was to be "unclean." He asked no questions about how the people got to be in the situation they were, nor did he hesitate to touch them, right where they were, no matter what society told Him about how disgusting they were.

"Lord, that woman has been bleeding for 12 years! She is unclean and disgusting!"
"Lord, that man has a contagious skin disease and we have to keep him away from everyone, including you!"
"Lord, this person is dead. You cannot touch her without contaminating yourself!"
"Lord, this woman is living with a man who is not her husband. She is a sinner."

He reached beyond everyone's assumptions to love people as they were, not trying to change their behaviors or personality, just loving them, serving them, showing them the beauty of the Kingdom of God as He forewent society's culture of disgust to touch the untouchables.

Who are your "untouchables"?
How can you reach beyond your assumptions about who/what is "unclean" to love and reach out to people like Jesus did, without assumptions, judgments, or condemnation?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Here to Mend

I was listening to a song called "Fall" by Ascend the Hill and thinking of those who have felt rejected, hurt, and broken by the Church, my heart so full and heavy it hurt.

"This is my heart," I felt God say to me.

"Lord, forgive me for every thing I've ever done that has broken Your heart and made You cry," I whispered through tears. "Forgive the Church for all the things we do that break Your heart and make You weep over us. Forgive us for our hatred, hypocrisy, fear, and lovelessness.  Forgive us for looking so unlike Jesus."

As my heart broke over the failings of the Church, I felt anger rising up in me. Not against any particular person but against the Body of Christ, against our sin, against our portrayal of the Good News in so many ways.

Just then a song called "The Church" by Derek Webb came on my ipod.

"Cuz I haven't come for only you,
but for my people to pursue.
You cannot care for Me
with no regard for Her;
If you love Me you will love the Church."

I have married into this Bride, this Body, this dysfunctional, messy, ridiculous family. I am a part of the Body and cannot disconnect myself without becoming completely useless. If a hand, an ear, a nose tries to detach itself from the body, it can no longer function as it was intended to function, as a piece of a greater whole. There have been beautiful things done through the Church, and there continue to be beautiful, reconciling practices being put in place by the Church. I cannot focus on an aspect I do not like while disregarding all the beauty God has brought about through the Church.

Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. Lead me deeper into Your love; let me see with Your eyes.

"Be still.
Know that I am God.
You are not here to save the world.
I've already done that. 
You are here to mend it."

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." 1 Cor 17-20

Monday, January 14, 2013

I Pledge Allegiance

I am currently reading and studying my way through the book of Luke with commentary by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel. Today I was struck by Luke 4:5-7, part of the temptation in the wilderness.

“And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 

Satan gave Jesus the same offer he gave to Eve in the Garden of Eden: take power by short-cutting God’s will. 

Eve accepted, thus handing over power to Satan (thanks a bunch Eve).  Jesus rejected, knowing that true God-given authority comes from suffering and sacrifice, not from coercive power offered by Satan and the kingdoms of this world.

Satan basically said to Jesus, “Jesus, You don’t have to suffer. I offer You the kingdoms and all their glory because they have been given to me to give to whom I will. You don’t have to be separated from the Father by taking the world’s sin upon You. You won’t have to watch Your mother weep at your beaten, bloodied body. You can have it now—without the suffering.”

This is the same offer Satan gives to us:

“Don’t wait for God’s vengeance: pick up a gun. Don’t do the hard work of developing deep, lasting relationships: keep it shallow through Facebook and text. Don’t love when it’s seemingly impossible: divorce, move on, you deserve better anyway. Don’t push past your stereotypes and fears to love people you don’t agree with: point fingers, throw stones, and claim you’re standing for Jesus. Don’t worry that your brothers and sisters around the world are suffering and dying: you’ve worked hard for your luxury, enjoy it.”

Lies. Lies. Lies.
Satan is a liar.
Satan has charge over this world (Luke 4:6, Eph 2:2).

Jesus knew suffering through sacrificial love was the way God wanted Him to reconcile mankind back to God. He refused to let Satan trick Him into short-cutting God’s plan by taking the easy way out.

Satan doesn’t give up after tempting Jesus in the wilderness though.

In Matthew 16 and Mark 8, Jesus tells His disciples what He must endure, the suffering, His excruciating death on a cross, and His resurrection three days later. “Far be it from You, Lord!” cries Peter, ready to fight and die for his Lord.

What is Jesus’ reply to this seeming bravery and desire to protect his master? “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (emphasis mine).

Peter, like Satan, wanted Jesus to avoid the suffering, avoid the pain, skip straight to the conquering hero role. After all, this is what the Jews were expecting: a soldier ready to tear down the Roman empire, set up His own Kingdom, rule as the King. They were not prepared for this suffering servant, the one who told them the least is the greatest, the meek will inherit the earth, and only those like children will enter the Kingdom.

Romans 6:16 says, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness.”

Jesus tells us we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6, Luke 16). We can pledge allegiance only to one power: that of God or that of the world. God and the world have nothing in common—“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15, emphasis mine)

I pray that the Church, the entire Body of Christians, may have the courage to follow “in His steps…when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23). 

We may think we fight against governments, corporations, materialism, weapons, poverty, or terrorism. But truly these things are only the result of Satan’s control over the world: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

You cannot fight Satan with a gun, nor can you ever win by wielding the power of this world through coercion, violence, or threats. It is only when we look like Jesus, imitating His sacrificial love for His enemies, can we truly begin to defeat the darkness around us, and in us.

We must answer like Jesus, when any power besides God asks for our allegiance: "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve."

I should also add this, which I should have added earlier: None of this can be accomplished on human will alone. Jesus Himself was "full of the Holy Spirit...led by the Holy Spirit" into the wilderness temptations, then came out of the temptations "in the power of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4).  We are to be full of the Holy Spirit, led by the Holy Spirit, and living in the power of the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish the will of God and overcome the kingdoms of the world. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2013 Has Too Many Syllables

Last night with some friends at Church, my friend challenged us to write down a list of spiritual goals we felt God had put on our hearts to accomplish this year. 

I am all about lists, making lists for everything. But I was hesitant. What if God changes the goals? What if it doesn't go according to plan? What if I fail at them? 

“Have goals, but be flexible to the Spirit,” said my friend.

When Paul and buddies tried to enter a region called Bithynia, the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them (Acts 16: 7).  Paul was on a mission to spread the Gospel, but he was flexible to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In that same way, I prayerfully wrote out a list of goals I feel the Lord leading me to accomplish.

Here it goes:

Goals to complete by the end of August when I will join Mission Year in Chicago
1.      Raise $12,000 for Mission Year
2.      Read a Bible study book for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week--supplement with leisure book (one that does not require checking sources) and stretching
3.      Read through each New Testament epistle with study tools in order to understand background, history, culture, context
4.      Meet with at least one girlfriend a week to share life and pray with

Goals to start now and continue
5.      Do everything without grumbling or complaining
6.      Use Facebook seldomly and only as a way to encourage others in love (ie- do not use it as my own personal soapbox...)

I am still praying about these goals and will change them if God leads me to it, but, otherwise, here they are!

If you would like to help out in this season God has me in, you can use the following links to either donate to my upcoming Mission Year apprenticeship or purchase a book from my Amazon wishlist in order to help my Biblical studies.

Mission Year account: choose my name from the dropdown list

Amazon Wishlist

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Talking Me Out of a Smartphone

I feel strange today, uninterested, unfocused, switching projects every few minutes. Restless.

I feel like I'm slipping into something, something I shouldn't be sucked into.

Searching the internet for phone plans,
debating whether or not to actually get that smartphone,
thinking of spending money I don't have on things I don't need just because they're available.

Meanwhile, my friend Benard in Kenya's slums doesn't have enough money to get patients out of the hospital, pay for HIV treatments for widows and orphans, or get a hospital bed for that 10 year old girl whose father raped her.

Do I need a smartphone? No, and to be honest, no one really does.
Do my brothers and sisters around the world need resources to survive? Yes.

Who am I to deny them that?

By making a choice to buy some unnecessary luxury for myself over using that money for my brothers and sisters in need, I am turning my back on the Gospel, on Jesus Himself.

"But wait," people say, "doesn't God want us to have good things?"

Yes, of course. But our definition of "good" needs to change. Because I have siblings dying around the world while I lavish in my "good" things.

"Good" is this: "Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common...There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need." Acts 4:32-35

The early church eradicated poverty because they knew God did not give them possessions to hold onto, but to distribute to anyone who was in need. Paul also says later that the thief should no longer steal, but work with his own hands "so that he may have something to share with anyone in need" (Eph. 4:28).  The thief doesn't just work so he will no longer steal. He works in order to share the bounty with anyone in need.

Who am I to live in comfort and excess when my Christian family is in need of their daily bread?

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth." 1 John 3:17,18

How can God's love abide in me when I ignore the suffering of my neighbors, my family, around the world?

"But I don't see anyone in need!" 

Open your eyes. Be willing to look beyond your own backyard. 

As followers of Christ, the Church (which is you and me) should be at the forefront of meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world. That doesn't mean we can have it both ways, living in luxury and giving the leftover to charity.  

Every purchase is a choice: me or my family in need around the world. And if we have read the Bible, we know to follow Christ we must die to self. Is it really dying to self if I'm buying another pair of shoes, a new phone, a movie, a fancy dinner...anything that focuses on me rather than Christ and my neighbor? 

For visual readers: You're in the store checking out a range of new smartphones and tablets (since this is my current issue).  Next to the row of gadgets is a malnourished child asking you for food. 

You can:
A) Buy the phone, ignoring the kid completely
B) Buy the phone and give the kid the change (or some extra just to make yourself feel better about doing the "right" thing)
C) Give the kid all the money you were going to spend on a smartphone
D) Bring the kid in to your home, feed him, clothe him, love him and spend infinitely more on him than a quick pass by would allow

I'm not being dramatic.
This is the choice we have every time we make a purchase. 
We just choose to ignore there is a choice. 

My brothers and sisters are dying around the world and I'm debating whether or not to spend $200 and an extra $30 a month for a cellphone? A cellphone?! Sure I could buy that phone, justify how it would make things so much easier, how I'd get lost less by using the GPS, how I could now use Bible apps to look up verses on the go, how I could be in contact with everyone I know at all times and never miss anything exciting on Facebook, and then, in addition, send another hundred bucks to Compassion International and feel good both about the purchase and my distant act of charity. Why didn't I just send Compassion all the money I would have spent on that phone plus the hundred extra and say, "Jesus, you are my fulfillment and I need nothing else, not a fancy phone, not a new outfit, not another purse, not anything beyond necessity for myself." Better yet, why didn't I call up Compassion and say, "I'm looking to be the hands and feet of Christ. What do you need me to do?" And then give them all my money. 

This was not a guilt trip.
This was me talking myself out of selfishness. 
If you're convicted, good.
Go do something about it. 

Guess I talked myself out of a smartphone.