Tuesday, June 01, 2010

You've Noticed I Have Not Posted in a While

Yes, I have not posted on this site in quite some time - but I have been posting. My focus has been re-directed for the near future so this site is in hiatus.

For my weekly posts, you can find me at Missional Matters - www.missional-matters.blogspot.com. This presents my thoughts on what it means for us to be missional as the people of God - so I hope you enjoy reading these as well.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Finding Our Way

As I have mentioned in other places, I find that films are often present day parables revealing the presence of God in different ways. Last night I was watching the film Reign Over Me starring Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler. It's a film about a character played by Adam Sandler whose family was killed in one of the planes that flew into the Twin Towers on 9/11 and how a number of years later his old college roommate (played by Don Cheadle) bumped into him and how both of them trying to find their way in life somehow helped each other find a way to finding their way in life.

Afterwards as I reflected on this I realized that we are all trying to find our way in life. In the midst of the brokenness and difficulties in life mixed in with the joys - life is all about finding our way. And for most of us - finding our way in life takes us down many roads that lead no where.

There is a scene in the film where Adam Sandler appears in court to decide whether he ought to be institutionalized because it seems to his in-laws (who are also grieving the loss of their daughter and their grandkids) that he has lost touch with reality - not wanting to remember his family because the memories bring back so much pain. But the judge remarks that "it seems that he needs to find his way" and he asks for the in-laws to give him time to find his way.

We all have lives that are filled with stories of our trying to find our way. That seems to be the story of human experience. All of us are searching for a way that somehow puts our life together, gives us some meaning or direction. Some of us fill our lives with distractions hoping to busy ourselves with things or activities that keep ourselves occupied so that we don't go crazy trying to find our ways.

I discover that so many of us are lost in so many different ways. People lose their way in life, but so do families, communities, nations, and even the world. We are all trying to find our way - and it seems we don't have a whole lot of success in doing it - though some of us look like we have it together better than most.

And then I think about the story of Jesus - God coming to be with us, making his dwelling with us, walking among us. And in the midst of all of our trying to find our way in life, he comes saying that he is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). I believe that Jesus comes alongside each of our lives weaving his life into ours - not forcing himself upon us - but trying to connect with us to show us the way. Too many of us are distracted by the noise of life to notice his connecting with us, but some who get the point of being distraught by coming up with another dead end are somehow able to see that walking with him leads to a way that leads to life.

Jesus, then is not about stuff to believe, or even a religious figure - rather Jesus is God coming to us, loving us, and walking with us so that we might begin to find our way in life. Jesus is not about a lot of do's and don't's but about extending an invitation to us, inviting us to walk with him so that in him we begin to find our way in life. On another occassion Jesus talks to people and invites those who are weary and burdened to walk with him, to be yoked or connected with him because he is able to bring rest into our lives (Matthew 11: 28-29).

I am discovering that the Life Story that Jesus brings is the Story that takes hold of all my stories of my trying to find my way in life and leads me to find my way in the midst of brokenness, in the midst of joy and laughter, in the midst of all that is life.

Walking with Jesus is about finding a way in life that is filled with life. I guess that is how I want to live out the rest of my life - and perhaps in my walking with Jesus, I might help someone else find their way as well.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Evangelism: Technique or Expression of Way We Live in light of Jesus Christ?

Yesterday in the community where I worship (North Suburban Mennonite Church - www.northsuburban.org) I was engaged with someone on the subject of evangelism - about whether we need to be involved in it more.

That reminded me about some thoughts I had about evangelism earlier this month.

For me evangelism is not about techniques because when it becomes so it is to dehumanize persons. Sharing the news about Jesus ought to be about giving voice to the way we live as a new humanity in this world, rather than invoking some techniques to "win" people to Christ. Rather "goodnewsing" as someone has called it, is more a partnering with the activity of the Spirit of God in the lives of people God is touching.

Evangelism is also not about inviting people to church so that the church might grow. So then what is it and why engage in it?

I think we need to ask a different set of questions in order to understand why we engage in giving voice to what God is doing in our lives. These questions are not concerned with "what techniques do we need to utilize to grow?"

But rather -

"Whose lives is God touching? Who is God calling to be a part of his new humanity, new community? Whose life is God working in?

It is in discerning the answers to such questions that we begin to discover that God calls us to be partners with him in opening up the lives of others to God's overtures.

Evangelism then, is more about the work of God in the lives of others and also our own lives, rather than some technique or approach we use. It is about living life in such a way that we are open and sensitive to the people God connects us with - people God is active in bringing about transformation in their lives as God has done in our lives. When God brings people into connection with us we are changed because there is a connection the Spirit of God is developing that not only helps us mature, but is also focused upon drawing that person into a transformative relationship with the Living God.

God is at work in people's lives and when such people whom God is at work in either connect with us in our neighborhoods, at work, or come to see what is going on in our worshiping community, we need to be reminded that their coming into our lives may just be the work of the Spirit of God connecting them to us so that they might be recreated in relationship with Christ Jesus.

And so as we live our lives we may indeed invite people to worship with our community - not just to add numbers to our community, but to invite those people we are discovering God is at work in - the worshiping community provides a context for others who the Spirit of God is active in to intentionally connect with God and for us to connect with them and them to us.

So evangelism becomes more about discerning than exercising a technique. Are we aware of those God is calling to live their lives under God's reign? Are we praying for becoming aware of those with whom Jesus is connecting? Are we open to engage others who are searching, seeking because of the work God is doing in their lives? Are we conscious of our living out our faith, and at times giving voice to it, as providing open doors for others to find new life as human beings through and in Christ Jesus?

Some of the ways we can develop such awareness is through remembering our stories of how we were encountered and called by God to become persons within God's community. As we become aware of our own stories, we are more apt to take the time to hear the stories of others, helping them make connections in their own stories where God is connecting with them. It involves a daily praying asking the Spirit of God make us sensitive to the ones the Spirit is working in - just maybe God desires for us to walk with them, alongside them to guide them on their journey. Are we open to invite others into our lives, and open to being invited into the lives of others - in such relationships it is uncanny what the Spirit of God is able to develop.

Evangelism in such an understanding is not about bringing people into our church, but being a part of the lives of people whom God is working in to guide them to be able to respond to the calling of Christ within their lives, a calling in which Christ calls them to become a part of his kingdom, a new humanity, a new community - no matter what church they eventually choose to participate in.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Amazing Grace

Thought I'd share this ad with you that the Salvation Army is running -
Consider donating to the Salvation Army to help others in need.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Does Church Get in the Way of Life?

This is a thought that crossed my mind as my wife and I came out of a movie today. Yet, its not so much the idea of church that I struggle with, but the way we do church in North America - does it get in the way of life?

I regard movies as a kind of modern day parables which, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see, we see something of the kind of life or the kind of humanity we are to be in light of God's vision for humanness. Being human in God's vision for us has much to do with caring for one another, sharing in each other's struggles, grieving together, consoling one another, working alongside one another, help one another succeed - in short being real, open, and ready to love one another. It has little to do with facades, hiding our vulnerabilities, putting on airs, pretending like things are okay when they are not. It has little to do with a rugged individualism, and so forth.

In light of what it means to be human in the most humane sense of the word, I also think that much of what we call church gets in the way of this humanness.

When we gather together, are we indeed real with one another? Do we come together to share our struggles, to help each other be strong, do we share life openly with one another - or do we bring numerous agendas that say, "I'm here, but life is okay with me." Do we gather together as a group of individuals keeping to ourselves?

Sometimes I think that what real life is about is people being open and transparent with one another - having nothing to hide - being vulnerable with one another. That also leaves us open to hurt - but do we trust one another to navigate the rhythms of life in which we hurt one another at times, but also forgive one another and are reconciled to one another - and somehow grow together with one another.

What does it mean to be a community, not centered in the idea of community - that we try somehow to maintain, but to be a community centered in Jesus Christ who helps us be open, vulnerable, and real with one another - I mean discovering what it means to love one another just as we are.

This kind of community, the way I believe church ought to be, is indeed messy, unpredictable, filled with struggle, but also hope - this kind of open and vulnerable community that is rooted in Christ, is where life happens - where we don't need to hide what goes on in our lives.

That is the kind of church that is filled with life and lives in the midst of life.

Is this not the kind of community you'd like to be a part?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pre-Occupied with Self or Other Directed

A few weeks back I asked my congregation what the opposite of love was. I got different responses - hate, fear, indifference, etc. However, I think the opposite of love is sin. That's right - sin.

Why do I say that. Well, it has something to do with how I define sin. I don't look at sin as primarily bad behavior, breaking the law, immorality, or broken relationships - though they have something to do with the working out of sin in our lives - but for me sin is a preoccupation with self. It is about thinking about ourselves first, thinking about ourselves before we think about another.

As human beings into our own thing we are indeed people preoccupied with self.

Too often we confess “our sin” too easily. We may acknowledge that our lives are screwed up – but that still does not get to the heart of the matter – our confessions are still self-focused. Do we realize that this preoccupation with self is not just screwing “me” up, but it is also screwing up others, that it is screwing up the world.

This in my mind is the exact opposite of love is. We ask - as Foreigner sang - "Do you know what love is, I want to know what love is."

We have a difficult time understanding, experiencing what love is – because love is not preoccupied with self, but other-directed. We have got to get out of our preoccupation with self to begin to “know what love is.”

The problem is that we are not all that successful in dealing with our self-preoccupation by ourselves. We need help!

Love is more than a feeling, more than emotion – it is a choice we make!
But not the kind of choice we think.

In fact in reality “choosing to love” is a choice

· to be open to the Spirit of God,
· to be open for the Spirit of God to create Jesus’ nature into our lives
· to be open to God’s intervention to deal with our self-preoccupation
· to be open to the Spirit to cultivate in us a perspective of being other-occupied, of being
world-directed – just as it is the nature of God’s love to love the world – John 3:16.

And so when we are open to the Spirit to work in our lives – our lives are opened to be other-directed in the same way that the nature of God’s love is other-directed toward all humanity.

I say it this way because there are other things that are other-directed but not selflessly. War is other-directed, hate is other-directed, prejudice is other-directed – but these are other-directed through a focus or preoccupation with self. We think we are protecting ourselves, our way of life by engaging in war, hate or prejudice.

But love in the way of God, love which exemplifies God’s nature is selflessly other-directed.

As the Spirit of God develops love in our life – we too learn to love in ways which are selflessly other-directed. A way of being that:

· gives love to those who do not love us back,
· keeps loving when someone does whatever they can so that we might hate them,
· shares in their suffering, walking alongside with people not leaving them alone in their pain,
· loves all – even those whose behaviors or beliefs are contrary or adamantly opposed to our

This is the way Jesus acted in love towards others – in the story of the Good Samaritan or washing his disciples feet – and we hear Jesus saying to us: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10: 37; John 13: 17).

That's what I am trying to do. Join me?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Does the Ground Feel Like When You Walk in the Spirit?

I was in conversation with a friend yesterday over a cup of coffee. We got talking about life and how walking is a metaphor for how we journey in life. What does the ground feel like under our feet on the pathways of life? Often we walk on hard paths - the same paths everyone else has walked on before, pathways that have been packed down - and so walking seems pretty easy. But from the Jesus' metaphor of the soils, not much grows on hard paths.

When our walking is frustrated it is often because the soil beneath our feet is not hard anymore, its soft and so every step takes an effort to move forward. We get frustrated when our forward movement is impeded and we try to get out of this kind of soil as fast as we can in order to find a hard path again. But this kind of soil in the parable of the soils (cf. Matthew 13) Jesus says is the kind of soil in which life takes root.

As followers of Jesus we are called to walk in the Spirit. I think this is difficult because we want to do the walking and walking in the Spirit requires our being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. When we are cruising along the hard pathways, we're in control - who needs the Spirit. But when life slows down, moving forward is bogged down, step taking requires effort - maybe then we can be most open to the Spirit in our lives. The soil we most despise because it slows us donw, is the soil that something can take root in, we can take root in, soil in which the Spirit of God can produce something in our lives.

We talk alot about making a living and we often think about our being Christian while we make our way in the world, while we make a living. But I am beginning to think differently about what it means to follow after Jesus. Could it be that our primary calling is to be persons who are open to the Spirit of God, to be instruments of the Spirit working in the world and our jobs, etc are secondary to that calling. Could it be we are called to be the people of God in such a way that our jobs, careers are merely the contexts in which we live out lives which are open to the Spirit of God. So for example, if someone was a plumber, maybe it is not about them going to their job and do what they do, and then also think about how they are to be a Christian in this context, but rather in all of life they are called to live/walk with a sensitivity to the Spirit's leading and it just so happens that plumbing provides the context in which they walk in the Spirit in the presence of other people.

This has implications for the way we live. We are to be primarily those who walk in the ways of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and our careers, or whatever we do, provides the context in which we do our walking.