Monday, March 26, 2012

I am now writing over at Love God, Love Neighbor: Ordinary Radicals Committed to Jesus, Kingdom, Mission, and Justice. Come on over and visit. This is a contributory site that will be updated often. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Invitation to Justice

Walter Brueggemann is my go to OT scholar. This is a great 2 minute clip. Justice Conference 2012.

"We have mistakenly separated love of God from love of neighbor and always they are to be held together."

An Invitation to Justice from The Justice Conference on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Creative Maladjustment: Practicing the Faith of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A blog post from InterVarsity Press. I resonate with this so much...The good stuff, the hard stuff, and everything in between in this calling on my life and my ministry. 
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we thought we'd post an excerpt from Adam Taylor's Mobilizing Hope, a book that, inspired by the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, aspires to unleash a generation of "transformed nonconformists." King coined that phrase in a sermon that cut right to the heart of it: "The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority." Adam picks up on that theme and chases it throughout his book; it seems appropriate, just days after our New Year's resolution to do things differently this year, to remember it on this and every Martin Luther King Day, and to follow Adam on the chase.
9780830838370.jpgI used to bemoan the fact that I wasn't alive during the 1950s or '60s, when injustice seemed so much more overt and movements seemed so much more robust. At that time there was no way to ignore the suffocating discrimination of Jim Crow segregation in the South. The task of realizing justice in our contemporary context often seems more difficult because injustice and inequality have become mutated genes that seem more invisible. The Goliaths of economic injustice and inequality may be more covert and institutionalized but are still pernicious. Goliaths are still embedded in systems and structures that subjugate and oppress. . . .
Trying to tackle injustice based on our own limited abilities means playing small. Instead we must tap into the renewing power of faith to overcome the barriers that get in the way of transformed nonconformism.
The first and most common barrier is inertia. Particularly in this Internet age, we are barraged and inundated with constant information and marketing campaigns enticing us to do or buy something. This information makes it more difficult to grab people's attention and solicit their commitment. After a while, we either start shutting out this information overload or become increasingly jaded about solicitations for our time and attention. Inertia becomes our fallback and the keeper of the status quo.
. . . The second barrier is fear, which includes the fear of real or perceived risks associated with getting in the way of injustice. We may fear fallout from colleagues, family or even friends, particularly if the issues we are getting involved in are controversial. Living a countercultural life of activism can involve persecution, particularly in countries that don't enjoy the same degree of protections for free speech and assembly as the United States.
. . . A third barrier is apathy. We can easily become desensitized to the pain and suffering in the world. Apathy is often fed by cynicism, the belief that nothing will really change regardless of our actions.
. . . As people of faith, we are often uneasy about power and blind to the power we possess. While it is important to remember Lord Acton's dictum that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely," we are often overly timid and passive about using our God-given power because power takes on an overly negative connotation. But power can be used for life-affirming or life-denying purposes. Dr. King said it best: "power without love is reckless and abusive. Love without power is shallow and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice."
. . . The last barrier is a feeling of isolation, which makes people feel alone and alienated from people who share similar interests and values. In any campus, workplace, church, and so on, are countless people who are waiting for the right call to action to be drawn out of their isolation. Without an invitation we often fail to realize the degree to which other people share our values and desire to build a better community and world.
. . . Activism can be intimidating, particularly when you think about the complexity and seeming intractability of many of the injustices in the world. Where does one start? What are the best entry points? . . . Creative maladjustment involves a broad range of daily-life commitments. At its core, it requires making a daily commitment to what Gandhi described as "being the change you want to see in the world." Our actions must become a mirror image of our core values and convictions. . . . We are called to be good stewards not simply of our money but also of our time and our talents. Creative maladjustment . . . a more holistic and radical stewardship of our time and resources . . . is at the very heart of discipleship.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Parable of Hiding from Ourselves

     There was once a young minister sitting in her house on a Sunday afternoon who was disturbed by a frantic banging on the front door. Upon opening the door, she was confronted by a distraught member of her church. It was obvious that he was exhausted from running to her house and that he was on the verge of tears.
     "What's wrong?" asked the minister.
     "Please can you help?" replied the man. "A kind and considerate family in the area is in great trouble. The husband recently lost his job, and the wife cannot work due to health problems. They have three young children to look after, and the man's mother lives with them as she is unwell and needs constant care. They are one day late with the rent, but despite the fact that they have lived there ten years with no problems and will likely have the money later in the week, the landlord is going to kick them all onto the street if they don't pay the full amount by the end of the day."
     "That's terrible," said the minister. "Of course we will help. I will go get some money from the Church fund to make up the shortfall. Anyway, how do you know them?"
     "Oh," replied the man. "I am the landlord."

-Insurrection, Peter Rollins (81-82)

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in Review: Bible Verses and Passages

Nate Hughes did a little blog about the most meaningful Bible verses for him this past year. Reading his post gave me a better insight into him as a person as well as giving me some space to reflect on the exact same thing myself. So I decided to do it too, hoping you will see a little bit more about what makes me, me and to also give me a good reflection to end 2011.

“The Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” –John 1:14
To be fair, this verse came to the forefront for me at Urbana 2009. The entire conference revolved around the richness of this verse: the incarnation. Since then, this verse has been the foundation and sustaining passage behind our call to Asia and the thrust of our team. Being people living in the reality of the incarnation, or the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, is of the utmost importance.

The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, -Matthew 5-7.
This passage could easily show up each year, and probably will. There is a movement – a growing movement – of people who are rediscovering the radical message and life of Jesus and desiring to live into it (no matter how flawed the human endeavor ends up). Whenever I open the Bible my heart and eyes are naturally drawn to this part. This is so much the case that I literally read it about every two weeks. I learn something new each time I dig in, which means I need to keep reading on!

The True Fast, by God through the prophet Isaiah, -Isaiah 58.
A new movement was launched earlier this year called “58:” (learn more here). This past year I have been closely following this movement and participating in it. This movement is looking to end extreme poverty – noting that most of the world’s evil is linked directly to issues of poverty, but that equally we currently have all the resources we need to end poverty now. What do we lack? The will.

This movement is based on the Isaiah 58 passage. It is in this passage that we see clearly that God is not moved by our worship, our preaching, or our Christmas celebrations. In other words, He does not want empty ritual, words, and religion. Instead, He wants us to “chose the fast He chooses” and “let the oppressed go free”, “share your bread with the hungry”, "bring to your house the poor”, and “extend your soul to the hungry”. Needless to say, it’s a powerful passage that refocuses my energies and efforts every time I read it.

The Good News, -Isaiah 61 and Luke 4.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good news to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Just a mere three chapters after God tells us what type of life He wants – justice, mercy, helping those in need (Isaiah 58, the true fast) – He gives us the fulfillment of those passages – Jesus.

When Jesus enters into Nazareth, his hometown, He is given the entire scroll of Isaiah to read from. The people want Him to teach them, to do the Scriptures for them. He opens the scroll, and out of 1200+ verses, He picks out a verse and a half (above), reads it, sits down, and says, “Today, this has been fulfilled in your hearing.” It has been said that the entire book of Isaiah is like a miniature Bible, incorporating virtually every theme of the Word. In other words, as some would call it, a “systematic theology”. So it is indeed a watershed moment for his listeners then, and for us now, that from all of the book of Isaiah, Jesus chooses to read these passages and end his teaching right there.

This passage is another foundational passage and foundational theological emphasis behind our move to Asia to do the work He has called us to there.

As a side note, only a few verses later in Isaiah 61 we read, “For I, the Lord, love justice,”….further driving home the point.

“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand….” –John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2.
Repentance and the kingdom, both central themes and messages in the New Testament. Jesus primarily talks about the “kingdom of God” and similarly calls all to “repentance” within the context of the kingdom, which it turns out is equally a confessional movement as well as a turning away from sinful practices. In this particular passage, and its parallels in the gospels according to Mark and Luke, John the Baptist gives concrete examples of what “repentance” looks like, which includes things like – “if you have two of something, give one away”.  That is what the kingdom looks like. It is tangible expressions of love, or as Cornel West has put it, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

This past year or so most of my personal biblical studies have revolved around the “kingdom of God” and what it all entails. I have a looooong way to go. But as I have studied this, and try to practice living into a kingdom ethic and lifestyle, I have found life, truth, and meaning. I am truly thankful for those who have helped me in this endeavor. 

"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." -Jesus Prayer in Luke 11.
Jesus wants the kingdom of God to come on earth as it is already in heaven. This is revolutionary. This changes everything. We are to be kingdom people, living into a kingdom reality no matter how unrealistic, hard, or sacrificial.

All of these passages and verses, and many more, have been key for me this year. As I prepare to charter into the unknown, into suffering, chaos, and darkness - these passages will continue to provide the Light and foundation I need. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 in Review: Best of Blogs, Books, and Music

Here are some "best of" or personal favorites of 2011.

Ordinary Radical Blog:
My blog on Osama and "justice" was by far the most read of the year. I got a lot of positive feedback from this post, but I know that those who disagreed just respectfully read and left it there. The death of this man brought all types of reactions. You can read my reaction again here.

**In full disclosure, most of the people who know me are aware that I lean heavily to the anabaptist/pacifism side of the spectrum. This post certainly reflects that conviction, though also transcends it to some degree. 

Best Blog(s) I Read This Year:
I spend a lot of time at Alter Video Magazine and The Work of the People. I also enjoy reading Scot McKnight, Scott Bessenecker at "The Least of These" blog,  and the many who write at Q Ideas.

Most Important Book I Read:
Surprised by HopeN.T. Wright

I know this book was published in 2008, but I have only this past year or so been turned on to Wright's work. He has quickly become my go-to biblical scholar. He is terrific and is able to articulate many feelings and thoughts I have had on faith and the Christian witness, but writes in a clear and thoughtful way. This book, subtitled, "Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church" says it all. This book has honed in my "kingdom of God" theological emphasis, to which I am grateful.

Wright convincingly argues that what we believe about life after death directly affects what we believe about life before death. For if God intends to renew the whole creation—and if this has already begun in Jesus's resurrection—the church cannot stop at "saving souls" but must anticipate the eventual renewal by working for God's kingdom in the wider world, bringing healing and hope in the present life.

Most Challenging Book I Read:
InsurrectionPeter Rollins

I had never read any of Rollins's work, but a lot of people are talking about him these days and it seems that the postmodern landscape is right in his sweet spot. You know when Rob Bell gives this little snippet on the cover, that you are in for an interesting ride: "In this book, Pete takes you to the edge of a cliff. And just when most writers would pull you back, he pushes you off. But after your initial panic, you realize that your fall is a form of flying. And it's thrilling."

I am going to write some type of review of this book soon (the only reason I got a copy), but suffice it to say, there is plenty I agree with him on and some things that make me pretty nervous.

Best (Christian) Song of the Year:

Favorite Song to Dance to with Judah:
Rihanna'sWe Found Love
*I have thought better of posting the video.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 in Review: Personal Highlight and Lowlight of the Year

Inspired by friend Nate Hughes, I spent some time reflecting on 2011 and major highlights, lowlights, headlines, and favorites. Here is my first entries.

Personal Highlight:
Being called and appointed to go the slums and margins of Asia to start and begin a new work focused on playing a (small) part of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven.

“You are doing what?” A common refrain from neighbors and loved ones alike. Honestly, I think the same thing myself…

“I am doing what??”

“God, you want me to go…where??”

Over the past several years, God has been cultivating my “conversion within my conversion”, or as Mother Teresa called it, a “call within a call.” I found in my maturation and evolution as a Follower of Jesus, happen the same thing that happened to pastor and author Rick Warren. Warren shared a watershed moment in his life that mirrors mine. “Around this time”, he says he was driven to reexamine Scripture with ‘new eyes.’ What he found humbled him. “I found those 2,000 verses on the poor. How did I miss that? I went to Bible college, two seminaries, and I got a doctorate. How did I miss God’s compassion for the poor? I was not seeing all the purposes of God. The church is the body of Christ. The hands and feet have been amputated and we’re just a big mouth, known more for what we’re against.” Warren found himself praying, “God, would you use me to reattach the hands and the feet to the body of Christ, so that the whole church cares about the whole gospel in a whole new way-through the local church?” Like Rick Warren, these past several years for me and my wife have been an education and confrontation with God’s clear and overwhelming heart for the “poor, widow, orphan, and immigrant,” or in other words, the oppressed and marginalized of our world.

It is one thing to know that Jesus cares about the poor, and quite another thing to actively engage with that reality. The prophetic words of Shane Claiborne helped me process this distinction. “I asked participants who claimed to be "strong followers of Jesus" whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question, I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time with the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.

Right. Its not that rich Christians don’t are about the poor, it’s that they don’t know them. What I had then was nothing less than a moving of the Spirit to (actually, for once) live out my beliefs and passions instead of just intellectually assenting to them. This in turn translated into a calling to move into the slums of Asia and live in solidarity with the ones Jesus called “blessed”; the “poor.”

And so I go.

Personal Lowlight.
I am starting to unearth the depths of my self-centeredness and independence. For a lot of my life, I have forged my own way doing things according to my agenda and time frames. I paid my own way through college, worked up to 60 hours a week while going to seminary full-time, and went as a single to live as a civilian in a place armed soldiers don’t even want to go. I have never had to really consider anyone but myself in my life decisions. Well, marriage and fatherhood has brought this self-centeredness all to a head.

God has and will continue to refine me to rely on others, live in intentional community, and most importantly, focus on the essential bond of marriage and family with my wife and son. God has and will continue to show me ways in which I put myself before them. He will continue to show me how much hurt and suffering I bring on relationships because of this self-centeredness. This is by no means a 2011 issue only. I have history and past experiences I still need to work through and confront, but no doubt I will be able to look back to 2011 as a year that revealed to me just how messed up I am in this regard. So even though this is a “lowlight”, I am thankful because I belong to Jesus and He is in the business of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation, that it can turn this dire “lowlight” into a “highlight” one day….Thank you, Jesus!

More to come!