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Spiritual Formation

A Lil Rant – regular ole preach up!

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A preach up!

Today I had the privilege to preach Pentecost!  This was as the church filled with “billows of smoke” (as it says in Acts 2!)…  I took a risk – time to speak plain, to give it straight from what I felt the Spirit saying.  I had pondered this message for three weeks – how Pentecost was already an established feast, what it was, why Peter quoted Joel, the context for Joel’s prophesy, the implications of the day, how the birth of the church, the coming of the Spirit was not a reaction – but God’ plan from the beginning and the mandate we have as a result of it!   It went really well – only offended a few (unintentionally!), but most loved it – though it pricked them to incarnate their neighbourhoods as the body of Christ!

I don’t often push the recordings out there, but thought I might share it with you while it’s hot off the press.  If you are in need of a laugh, want to do a little critique, give it a listen.  

Click here to listen


Liturgy

Preamble:  This is not a theological defense or attack.  It is not a thesis.  It is a thought or two, a consideration, an encouragement.  I also confess I am an Anglican, a Catholic Evangelical…  So, get over those hurdles and start from a post-reformation saint trying to authentically and orthodoxically follow the Messiah…  Now, read on!

I have Catholic roots.  I have evangelical roots.  I am an Evangelical Anglo-Catholic who is a missional missionary and leader in an urban post-Christian post-modern reality in a western context.  I suffer the same over marketed drowning culture as you, if you’re reading this!  There is no space for reflection, getting perspective unless one turns off, tunes out, blocks space to slow down and actually really do real thinking and meditating.

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Ever been in a time praying with others and the most common phrases were, “Lord we just…” or “hmmm…”  and rambling 1000 words to say what could be said in 50?  Yet in those times come birthing authenticity and earnestness.  There is strength and weakness.  Like most things in life, it is not complete or holistic.  It becomes trite and shallow and only includes what we feel and think about right now… in the moment and doesn’t help us see, think, feel (also known as align) with God, His will, or transform us, but reduces prayer to our limited shallow theology and emotions of the day.  BUT it also presents the real needs of the day – and mysteriously God includes us in His efficacious engagement with the world by moving in our prayer!  A mystery!  I heard it said recently that God somehow includes us, begins our reign with Him even now, even sharing His power with us, by making us part of the way He moves!  A huge mandate to intercede!

Yet that is incomplete.

I have experienced seasons (two plus years to be gut honest!) where it was dark, real dark.  I had no words.  I was out of words.  I didn’t feel and what I did sense was dark!  I didn’t even have energy to intercede regularly.  The only thing that kept me; what healed me; what sustained me – was praying the Divine offices….  regular times of prayer every day, where I was led, like spiritual therapy, as compared with physical therapy.  It impacted me emotionally, mentally from the core of spiritual therapy.  It guided me, reminded me, told me and exhorted me – because my heart was too dark to remember.  I am every grateful for those times of liturgy.

I am also limited – I need and have come to find encouragement, even transformation in liturgy!  I have found that it helps me get how to worship and adore Him, without a string of dime store, supermarket check out queue romance novel empty words I don’t relate to beyond mental ascent, but certainly not with the faithfulness of the command to Love the Lord my God with all of my mind, all of my body, all of my heart, all of my strength (will).

Why?  What is the draw to the liturgy?  Most holistically, what is the draw to a holistic and authentic use of liturgy – which makes plenty of room for the need of the day, the intentions of the heart, the aches and emotions that need and should be expressed?

There are several reasons for this BOTH AND to be holistic and healthy and that any liturgy provides for the former and while shaping us in the latter.  First, We don’t reflect seasonally or thoroughly through all of the things we should reflect upon without a plan, a calendar.  We don’t remember well at all.  Liturgy drives this.  Second, Liturgy is mostly Scripture!  All Anglican and Catholic, and Orthodox liturgies are formed and collected from Scripture.  Can one object to praying Scripture?  Third, by the first two, it helps form us, transform us, and align us.  Ever pray, “Your will be done?”  Ever pray “we want what you want God?”  Well, this is how we align our desire, our posture, our perspective to God.  Scripture guides us, and the liturgy is in a schedule, a routine that helps us think through and worship in a holistic way.  Fourth, Liturgy aligns our world, our lives along God’s paradigm, instead of a pagan calendar…  these two are a step closer to a Biblical world view.  In a world where there is less than 10% Biblical world view held by the Christian population of all traditions, this would be very helpful.

Furthermore, when you reach – and you will – if you’re young and in denial, okay, I’ll wait for life to slap the ever loving s*** out of you and you’ll be back to tell me you now get it – that point where you cannot even form a prayer, the liturgy takes you there, where you should and need to be and that transformation and slow realignment, rebirth of your soul can occur – because it aligns you with Him, His will, His perspective, and the release to trust and allow God to be, well, God!  It’s surrender, but that’s not popular today.

These well written, theologically thought through liturgies and prayers are the 50 words to say what can be said in 50 words, verses 1000 to say what could be said in 50!  They are thought out, constructed, well chosen vocabulary, and have been prayed and reflected upon and sharpened over centuries.  There is wisdom in listening to good orators, or reading good writing – well, here you are!  AND it’s shared and prayed with thousands of others same day and in a world where the time zones shift, it means it is prayed repeatedly every hour for twenty-four hours!  AND it’s been prayed for centuries.  It exposes you to others.  Within the Anglican tradition there are approved liturgies and prayer books across the globe.  They are the same, but also include innovative thought through contributions of others.

Then for those who are passionate about expressing what’s on the heart, liturgy provides space every time you gather to pray openly, in your own earnest passion about anything and everything!  It also frames prayer to include the things and reflect the values of a diocese, a society, today.  So, there is nothing lost.

I think the resistance when we get honest, is a) uneducated fear of it being unorthodox or boring, or too rigid, b) not accustomed to anyone having any form – we so embrace no form (discipline) of any type, we resist it even when it’s good to allow input to help form us holistically.  Think of it as doing sit-ups; if you only do crunches and belly muscle work, you’ll be humped over in a short time, because you haven’t holistically trained your body to also address the counter balance of strengthening the back;  and c) the lie of our time that if it’s old its irrelevant and modern only is good.  Additionally, I think we don’t know how to focus, to slow down, to listen well.  Liturgy provides that space – we need it desperately!  Our lack of it has birthed theology for how we feel today – lack of orthodoxy at best and heresy at worst.  We’re moved by the emotion of today… because we feel it earnestly doesn’t make it right or true; yet it has become the arbitrating reality today.

So, give it a consideration!  Don’t go nuts.  Where I am, we practice morning and evening prayers together.  It’s not some painful hour for our busy contemporary lives.  It’s 8.30a and 5.30p…  It frames the day.  The New Zealand Anglican Prayer book also offers a short mid-day prayer and compline/night prayer for the end of the day.  It is chalked with variations and options, festival days, etc, providing variance and routine and freedom to adapt and move with the earnestness of the day.  It is respected not just by the global Anglican Communion, but other traditions as well.  There is also the Book of Common Prayer – still used (with editing over time) since the early 1600’s!  One can also draw from the Orthodox and Catholic Missals.  Our fore-fathers and mothers developed Divine offices, set times of day where different forms/types/postures/purposes of prayer occur.  I practice seven offices each day – none are ordinarilly long, five alone, some very brief, altering time when conflicting in a meeting, etc.  I vary how I do it, but it helps me, forms me, reminds me, makes sure I practice all the postures from intercession, to repentance, to adoration, etc.  Do I ever just pray?  You bet – regular form of life for me; and at times do retreats, as well as long prayer walks on my own, where I just talk with God – telling Him more than one would ever want!

To sum it up, in good consolation seasons of life, or the dark nights of the soul, it keeps me.  It keeps me when I can’t keep it.  It helps me holistically seek, know and be known, to posture myself and keep perspective.  I’ll give you one short example.  At 4p daily, my phone/laptop/pad gives me a reminder for none (9th hour of the day prayer… anytime from 3-4p daily… I set mine for 4p because it best fits my life demands.  At none prayer, the reminder in my phone has notes to help remind me, a very short liturgy that helps me keep perspective, to think, be reminded and to align my heart to God’s – to surrender.  How?  Here is my None prayer:  “It is mid to late afternoon.  It is the fading part of the day, the time of decline, when shadows begin to lengthen.  The fading of time brings home death and impermanence and the need to connect with something transcendent.”  This simple reminder puts my very temporal time here on earth in perspective with the eternal reality inwhich I live.  I don’t take myself or my contribution in this world so serious that I think “I’m all that.”  It reminds me I am small and I serve with authenticity and sincerity, but the world is His!   In the notes of this reminder for None, is “None is nine; the night hour of the day.  It is mid to late afternoon.  It is the fading part of the day, the time of decline, when shadows begin to lengthen.  The fading of time brings home death and impermanence and the need to connect with something transcendent (beyond time).  This perspective helps us connect with what is most important.  It is an opportunity to acknowledge the limits of our lives.”    You see?  It keeps me.  It keeps me a humble disciple.  I’ll not bore you with all of my prayer structure here, but will gladly share them with you if they would help.  In the mean time, I encourage you to consider adding liturgy to your rhythm of life as a Christ follower.  For a taster, I’d recommend Common Prayer, http://commonprayer.net/.  It’s a once a day contemporary taster for anabaptist traditions.  You can also source the NZ Prayer Book, http://anglicanprayerbook.nz/, or the Book of Common Prayer, along with many other resources, http://anglicansonline.org/resources/bcp.html.  Feel free to research divine offices, etc.  Don’t go nuts!  Start slow – mine grew over years of practice and experimenting, participating with monks and living in and amongst Anglicans here in New Zealand.

In closing – I’m not saying ditching spontaneity in prayer.  Of course pray without ceasing.  Pray when needs arise, when parting or gathering, or for a specific move in the heart – including the persecuted church which is always on my heart (!).  BUT be holistic, as one is with exercise or diet.  Be healthy!  Your body will wear out and die.  Your soul – who you are is eternal!  So be healthy!  Learn to see life (think, feel, posture, attitude, action) in a holistic healthy full orthodoxy and allow yourself to be shaped by Scripture as you pray and pray together!  My experience is people who practice this, especially committed with a group of others, come to faithfully value it and miss it immensely when it’s not a regular part of their lives!  And I’m talking about millennials, not boomers or x’ers.

I’d love to hear how others are experiencing this!


Reflecting on me, or properly reflecting on me.

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We’re in a world of undefined people.  I speak as a man, so I am writing at this moment to men, as I am not confident to speak to women on this subject.  What in the heck do I mean by “undefined”?

I use undefined to refer to us as people – not knowing deeply in our heart, from the centre of who we are, “who” we are.  It comes across as insecurity, which can present itself as over confidence, self aggrandising and looking for value in external “skins” of materialism, consumerism, stuff, roles, fame, glory, etc. This isn’t new news. Simply look at the phenomena of celebrity through the media or sport, the arrogance of politic, the drunken power of the oligarchy now masquerading as nation state.  Simply stated – we as people – especially men – basically have no idea who we are, and why we exist.  Therefore, we grope for it in temporal shallow trite ways.  We then try and convince ourselves of our identity and worth and remind ourselves (thanks, soccer mom/mum generation!) through rootless messages of ‘being exceptional – being exceptional to the point of confidence through cognitive dissonance…  where we hold to our lie, in the face of overwhelming reality, facts and arguments…  We believe the norm doesn’t apply, that the normal results, normal ability, normal foibles aren’t true about “me”.  We tell ourselves we have so much specialness, worth, value, contribution and that the world will actually miss us when we leave.

This past two and a half years, I’ve spent more time on reflecting upon the reality of my own self, and life.  I’ve thought about it for a longer time, but focused here over an extended time.  The reality is:  I’m normal.  Yes, I am imperfect, have foibles, fail, am weak, am not always nice, am capable – but not exceptional…and if I am in one area, I am only okay in most and fail at several.  I am not important – no qualifying adjectives allowed (that, very, or others that soften “not important”).  I will get old… some think I am now… but will get elderly, and will diminish, and many opportunities are already closed for me, and will die.  On the day, or season of my demise and decline – very, very few will notice, or stop, or care.  A generation later, I’ll be forgotten, just like my great and great great grandfathers and do not even ask about great or great great uncles, aunts, etc., or 2nd and 3rd cousins.  Who?

So is my message we do not matter?  Well, ugh, sort of – but that’s not the end.  We’re not something because the sun shines our of our butts (sorry, ladies, that was for the men)… but we are special – we are special to the Living God and we have value and worth because we matter to Him and He gives us identity, belonging, family and a purpose.  Outside of that and we are left groping for little gods of meaning made of mere wood and stone, straw, sand.  BUT in our true identity, beyond the circumstances and fate of the families we’re born into, we have immeasurable worth – but we must always remember that we are but dust and will not last in this world, but in His world, in His home, we will and can live as sons of the King.  Tim Keller, noted pastor, church planter, author and speaker, wrote recently something to the effect, “Who dares wake a king at 3 in the morning for a drink of water, other than his child?”  Us – that’s who!  We are weak, quite helpless really…  reality will visit us, if not in our family of origin, in the fate of life.  Steve jobs got cancer and died, as do presidents, and tyrants alike, and even holy awesome souls like Mother Teresa.

Remember – you are a moment and gone, but remember who numbers your steps, hair on your head, knew you before you were and will know you eternally.  Stand up and be a man, living out of that reality and not fooled by the false messages of a lost, empty meaningless world.


So, what is sin? Individual, society or systemic? Huh? Why “or” ?

The division within the church on sin and redemption….  Why do “we” fight over sin being individual, society or systemic and not all?

In admittedly simplistic presentation, I submit this paragraph. There has been much divide in the past century – more divisiveness within the church than about anytime in history. There was a divide over reliability of the Word, and then a divide on “what is it to be a Christian” and “what is it to be the church”. The former was conservative versus liberal, and the battle circled around fights over relying on God’s Word, and therefore the efficacy of Christ’s work to redeem people to salvation – what it takes to go to heaven… The conservatives centred on Jesus’ work saves us, and we are to believe in faith. The liberals position circled around being good people and God’s Word being a guide, but not literal. This fight widened to the conservatives embracing “what we think” and the liberals embracing doing good things in society. Outside of this fight within western Europe, the UK and North America, was the theological developments through the developing world, which was awakening to the implications of massive colonialism, and the government manipulations. They began seeing the corporate systemic sins, and how God did not like this. They centred their theology on this experience.

All of this divided the church and dismissed the others. My issue is as one who holds to God’s Word being reliable, and yes, within literature genres but also in context of culture, circumstance and the weighing of God’s Word in the “whole counsel of God”… in other words, you must look at all of what God says implicitly and explicitly. What is meant is god flat tells us something very directly… do this, don’t do this. BUT there are clearly implied issues as well – where God tells us what He thinks and expects by how often He talks about it, how much it is weighed out in the actions of people.

The result is that God’s Word addresses our individual salvation (dealing with individual sin), but also dealing with systemic sins (where injustice is legitimised, codified and made “legal” or even “moral” by consensus or decree), and also the behaviour of individual saints and churches, and the whole church in being like Christ in how it engages people, individually and society. In summary, all is correct and part of what it is to be the church.

I’ve faced direct attack, and been dropped from financial support because I hold this position. If I talk about systemic sin by our society, if I talk about our “being like Christ” in loving and blessing people in simple sacrificial love, and I fail to talk solely or directly about individual sin, if I fail to discuss intellectual “think right” Bible Studies, then I’ve faced being labelled a liberal or social Gospel Christian. I resist these labes, because each is heresy without the other; each incomplete and to label one is to ignore or dismiss the other. Yet, there is so much implicit and explicit in God’s Word to address all three means of sanctification of the believer. We are called to individually be sanctified by believing, but this believing is never seen measured by having every detail in theology straight, but in the behaviour of the saint in trusting Christ by how the saint behaves towards others – social and systemic sanctification… how we love people practically and collectively as a society.

There is a lot of room for the church and for Christians to be speak prophetically, and to be behave prophetically in our individual and collective lives. This is not license to be ugly and repeatedly battling the society, as is so common today. Rather, the call is to be counter-to-the-culture, live differently; to shine as lights, be salt, be a fragrance – each of which is a positive experience for the world who encounters the church and believers.

So, may we not be in frontal combat with the world, but let us be a sweet fragrance, salt to enhance the taste, and bright to light up contrasting darkness. May we be the defenders who give preference for the disenfranchised, under resourced and oppressed, the poor, weak and vulnerable. May we not embrace Babylon’s system of power, or forcing Christ’s Kingdom on the world – Christ rebuked that when He was arrested in the garden that last night. Let us be the suffering people who redeem people through our humility, lives resisting sin, a people making a difference in society by bringing healing and as a church working for the Kingdom’s value lived out in changing the systemic wrongs.


“I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and turban.”

What does a missionary in a post-Christian western urban context – within the USA actually do?  Why are you needed?  How do you do it?  Is there an impact?  Aren’t all Americans Christians, or rebellious people who know the Gospel?  These are common and realistic questions to ask.

It’s been a while since I unpacked that – and to be honest, it’s a challenge at times to explain in ways that most Christians can get a handle on…. We’ve been working on how to best unpack it. I openly admit I’ve borrowed terms from others who are better words smiths than us! I’ll make another attempt to refresh and unpack our work.

In a post-Christian context of the US, especially in cities along our costs, where the church’s influence is drastically diminished within society and communities, things have changed and for many Christians, they aren’t daily thinking about how secular it is, save when the media brings the hot topics to our door step or embraces licentiousness that offends us.  People are busy, including Christians… but did you know the best estimates are under 15% of the US is marginally Christian and in the coastal cities, it’s even lower?  That’s the big why!  But it’s more personal, and intentional for us.  Here’s our gig… It’s not to make people projects, or convert by baiting them.  It’s about authentic relationships.  Let me unpack it.

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Our neighborhood – 30,000+ people… two churches (one small, elderly & declining – one alive and present).  Hence our call to inhabit the neighborhood and be a blessing?

What we do: In many ways, we do exactly what missionaries in many countries do… from meeting real and tangible needs, to helping develop neighborhoods, to meeting direct spiritual needs! This prepares hearts to hear the hope we have and then communicating so they “can hear”. We’ll unpack that more below.

Who we target: We are called to work in engaging people “beyond the reach of the church… any church.” We use this phrase to simply refer to people who, be they secular, another religious background, or distant Christian backgrounds; they have no interest or a disposition against relating with, wrestling with, or participating in a relationship with God, or His church…any church. That’s not a fringe, but a major percentage of people in the West, in the US, and an even higher percentage in major cities, cities like New Orleans!

Why we do it: God loves all people – He created them to relate with Him, and see them become everything He created them to be, in right relationship with Him! He tells us to leave the 99 to get the one! Sometimes, there are “life happened” and oher times, they are clearly underserving – openly sinners. One of my favorite stories is the Prodigal, which included his father and his brother. It moves me deeply at the father’s posture – God’s posture…read Luke 15. As Jesus told this story to the critical Pharisees for his cavorting with “sinners”, his ultimate point was the posture of the good son. It motivates us to live our lives sacrificially.

How we do it: In summary, the vision is to create the “beloved community”… where the values of the kingdom are seen lived out pragmatically… In other words, what if.., “Your Kingdom come; Your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven” were real in our neighborhood – in your neighborhood? It’s that simple, and that hard – because we have to live in what a pastor mentor, Tim Jack from Seattle taught me years ago, live in deference to others before ourselves. We’ve learned that this is what He calls all of us to do – live in deference.

We work hard to incarnate (be like Jesus – in the flesh), to inhabit Christ to these people (live life in the same space, same neighborhoods)… By inhabit and incarnate, we simply mean we live life alongside people in normal contexts of life – in our normal contexts of life. They need to “bump” into God (people) daily as they live life, in the same tasks of normal life – who smell different; act different; look different; but yet look like them, are just like them, facing normal life like they do.

First, we work hard to create situations where they are so touched by the people (us) in front of them, in these normal life situations, that they cannot help but see God and be thirsty for more. Traditionally, we’ve called this “evangelism”. We honestly do not use this term often, simply because it has meant confrontational “truth telling” in the past and it makes people feel like “a project”. We want to get to the place where we can “explain” (unlock the mystery of the radical truths of who Jesus is, what He accomplished, and God’s heart to relate with them) the great news. We often need to gain trust, be authentic, unconditional, constant friends over time. Some people have bad tastes in their mouth from the past, or have such brokenness in their life story that we need to “take down the brick wall” keeping them being able to emotionally and/or intellectually understand our message.

This often comes through meeting real world needs – physical, material, emotional and spiritual. We are working to relate with people in an urban, complex area of the city – bohemian, artistic, multi-ethnic and cultural. From musicians, to artists or various kinds, from elderly to immigrants, from the poor to homosexuals, this area is ripe with brokenness and also a spiritual thirst that makes them ready to have real conversations.

Funny reality… we “never” bring up God first, but they always do, always taste and see, smell it, see the light on the hill and initiate the conversation about spiritual things, God, living following Him. It may start with asking us to pray, or a discussion about bad things happening to people – but they introduce God into the relationships, and regularly!

But, how do you do it? Okay, okay, let me attempt to give you some handles. Ever hear of John Perkins? He’s a legend in how to work with and heal broken communities… reaching them spiritually while through being obedient to minister to physical needs-as God so repeatedly commands as we emulate Him. He uses some great concepts….

1) Relief (working on physical and financial needs that are immediate, right now). Think of the Good Samaritan Story. This might look like helping people get financial help from government or church sources. It also might look like financial training to manage their funds and bills, or parenting mentoring.

2) Development (working to move people from need of relief to economic and personal development that leads to financial self-sufficiency and healthier families and neighborhoods, that see families stay together, kids getting educated, neighborhoods safer). This can be by helping in youth sports, advocating for education, neighborhood association and collaboration. It can be job training or helping them access training for a future.

3) Through the 3-R’s;

Relocation is the first part…. To do what we do – you must inhabit – in other words, live where they live; same schools, stores, streets, cafés, clubs, problems, etc. You can’t “drive to ministry” in this context – you have to be one of them.

Redistribution is often seen as a “take from one and “give” to another. That’s not what we or Perkins means. In broken communities there is economic blight, loss of jobs and the money there, from poor paying jobs or government subsistence, it flows out to businesses owned by people somewhere else and usually worked by people somewhere else… no momentum locally! Even well meaning banks removes funds from the local context. Therefore, in working with people to get business owned and operated locally, employing local, and banks designed to help people in these neighborhoods gain more financial freedom and success. It includes to working on the beauty of the neighborhood, and events (like block parties) that build unity and momentum for a future together.

Reconciliation is the last part. People usually think white people apologizing for past and present bigotry and systems that discriminate, at times unknowingly and unintentionally. Yet it’s bigger than this. It means empowering the locals to lead – not paternal external (almost always white males). We work to empower local leaders (male-female, white-black-brown-yellow) to working for their own futures. We have a role, because we live there also, but we know we must empower the local people for it to last or have deep transformation and not just create a new dependency and no confidence to make progress without external help.

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Have you connected why we use the quote from Job here (at the top of this article)? You see, Job understood that to be a God serving person, it was more than the sincere religious habits, but a faith lived out in the most intentional, sacrificial and pragmatic ways. Job worked to stop injustice, to advocate for those in need and to meet real needs – sacrificially. To translate it to today – he spent more of him self (time, money, resources – including his business) to “incarnate God” far more than he spent on himself (material stuff – cars, house, items for the house), or vacations, or spending the majority of his time with people like him. Read the passage – it’s impressive! The prophet Micah tells us the same message, as does Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, then Jesus, Luke and Matthew, Paul, Peter and James.   This isn’t just a means to “getting to” explain the “Gospel” – but is inherent to and foundational as part of the Gospel.

We hope this inspires you and encourages you! We pray it empowers you to advocate and be the hands, feet, eyes, ears, mouth and heart of Christ in your own neighborhood as you posture to be light, be salt, be the fragrance and see the needs right there, no matter what the economic context you live within!


Circumcised Hearts

Yours O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours… Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. And Your hands are strength and power to exalt and to give strength to all… But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand.         ~ 1 Chronicles 29.11-14

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David got it – all we have is not ours, but a gift from God.   Two key Old Testament words used over and over again, especially in dealing with our stewardship of money is mizpah (justice) & tzadequah (righteousness).   OT scholar B Waltke writes, “The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.”

Therefore, if it is all a gift from Him, what is our responsibility?  Deuteronomy 24 tells us that when harvesting the fields which we haverovsionally in our control, we are to leave the corners and the fallen shafts… For the immigrant, the widow, the fatherless, the poor. (v. 14-19)  you see part of the harvest wasn’t for the owner, but the poor.  There is a recognition of God’s care, our participation and grace, mercy built into production, into profit.   A refusal refuses to acknowledge all is a gift from God and part of our gifting for others is thT ability to produce.  It’s not a hard jump to today.  When we consider children in poverty; the failing schools, the environment that is not conducive to learning, the neighborhoods that are not known for values or morals, much less reaching for goals with delayed gratification, financial planning, or even that the glass ceiling can be broken in something greater obtained… They are doomed to reply their legacies.  Some argue it is the parents’ fault; others that a failure of government (we the people) to break broken systemic evil and immoral systems.  Both have merit!  Yet, we don’t say it’s the kids’ fault.

My sons attend prep school. We teach them values morals and give them the confidence to reach for gGod tells us very clearly in Deuteronomy 1016 through 19oals, we teach them fiscal responsibility and understanding how to plan for the future. They have a completely different outlook on life. Due to their parents, their education and the Headstart we’ve given them, As well as through connections via their parents relationships, they will have the privilege to be successful and get ahead in life.as their parents we do this intentionally and work hard to position our children to be successful in life. We don’t apologize for that. Yet, we do have a compassion, God’s compassion, for the poor and want to advocate and do what we can to help them clean and make progress themselves, and for their children.

God tells Israel, and us, in Deuteronomy 10:16–19 that we are to circumcise our hearts and not be stiffnecked. He tells us to not show partiality not to accept bribes, and to defend the fatherless and the widow and the alien and to give them what they need.  Why? It is simple. Because we were needy, independent, and got saved and provided for us.if we cannot grasp this, to live justly, to have hearts that are circumcised it’s very simply means Heartcenter transformed and changed because of God’s compassion on us, then our religion is cheap and shallow and external, and has not changed us, and I would argue saved us. God tells us to the prophet Isaiah chapter 58 that we humble ourselves but we haven’t noticed that while we fast, referring to Yom Kippur, that we still do as we please and export our workers he goes on to ask is this the kind of worship he wants. It is a rhetorical question. The profit goes on to tell us that what he really wants his heart that are transformed,  and for us to do justice and care for those less fortunate.  We are recipients of grace and must therefore do the same.  This same key ethic, more, value  and expectation is repeated throughout the Gospels of our Lord’s life. Every time we see the verses on stewardship and grace for what was first given to us we are reminded that he actually really does expect us to show unmerited grace and compassion on others less fortunate than ourselves

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This takes us full circle to the beginning above; mizpah  (justice) & tzadequah (righteousness).  If we do not have compassion, do not reprioritize how and how much we consume, reordering our priorities, to where we give more to what God cares about than we spend on self indugence ( luxuries such as cars, vacations, “get-a-ways” we don’t call vacations, toys, discretionary consumption, and life extras), then I exhort that we are not appreciating our grace received and must wrestle our lack of radical conversion.

So, what is God calling you to change, to surrender, to repent?  Where are you grateful?  I would challenge that possibly you take up I have it I learned from the Jesuits, the daily examen.  I take a moment as I am to each day and I replay my day and take note of the graces, the compassion, the unmerited favor, the mercies, and many kindnesses that I received.  I take note of the ways in which I have failed to be my brother’s keeper, and to give the same graces kindnesses and compassionate to others, and I repent. I ask God to help me inhabit him in my world better tomorrow.

In closing, as any common reader of what I right here will not be surprised, I challenge that we have a very un-biblical worldview of God, his word, and literally what it is to be a Christian. I propose that the gospel most Christians were converted to was actually a spiritual prosperity gospel, where God gives order and success, and comfort, and security, and eternal investment for a higher pay out later. This self oriented gospel is not biblical, does not take the radical free grace the calls for absolute surrender, repentance – changing direction, and living as a living sacrifice to be in ambassador, representing the king and his kingdomin this world, so that people can grow in perception of the real God, his love, and be subverted to his kingdom. Our lives here are not about us, our success, our toys, our comfort, our security but… Loving him so completely and so consumed that we become his hands and his feet and his eyes and his mouth and his purse.


We are now “them” – Our American – even New Orleanian – “Krystal Nacht”

What in the heck is wrong with us as a people?  Treachery from one of the most tolerant cities in the western world….

Our democracy (picture Norman Rockwell’s painting of the man standing up in a community meeting and having his say…) where everyone is “supposed” to have his/her say – where power transitions peacefully with the power of the people… to today’s ugly mean spirited vilifying political campaigns (thank you super PAC’s)… to NAZI GERMANY 1933… [see article below]

It has begun.  Right here in New Orleans where nothing gets the people too upset…where a republican can still be HAPPILY married to a democrat, or even a socialist, it has landed on our doorstep!  This violence at some one involved in the political process is beyond hate – it is the outright criminal political activity we see in supposedly far less stable parts of the world where people will attack and murder some one for a different view of solving OUR common issues, challenges and problems!

Thank you Super PAC’s for creating the hate mongering violence we clucked our tongues at in more extreme nations… wait, we are now them!

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SEE ARTICLE ON POLITICAL HATE ATTACK IN NEW ORLEANS 6 November 2014: http://www.wwltv.com/story/news/crime/2014/11/06/prytania-fire-home/18590919/

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There is a dark “hatefulness” over taking us as a people….  We hate anyone who differs with us, is different than us.  We vilify foreigners, ethnic groups, nations, political systems different from us – internal & external… (just reflect on every ad prior to Tuesday!) and we’re more and more predisposed to violence… be it war or violence against anyone daring to think differently than us.  We idealize the 1950’s as if everyone was the same… they simply disagreed peacefully and respectfully between political parties, but wait…maybe not… only between republicans and democrats, but we then had state sponsored terrorism against any other political conviction (McArthy anyone?) and unless you were born with black skin… then you were free game.  The 1950’s were good and bad and we are returning to terror – violent terror in our politics…

Can I suggest a third way?  This friend’s wisdom, thoughtfulness and insights are a great read and a great response to this hate displayed today in my own city.  His name is Alan Cross.  He recently released a book, When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and a Better Way of Jesus.  Even if you are secular, Jewish, Muslim, etc – this book has a REAL pragmatic approach that yes, is truly “red letter” Christian, but it is a way that will pull your heart towards a new posture in being a citizen and person.  I strongly recommend this read!

YOU, WE – individually & collectively – need to be concerned about the direction we’re going!  We all must stop falling into the trap of “hating”, condemning, disrespecting, dismissing anyone and any message different than us.  We must stop watching the programs (i.e. sorta news casts), listening to the pundits (pick your side’s shock jock) and reading (politicizing facades masquerading as journalism) and start thinking critically – that is to understand all sides of an argument.  The right champions the right of the individual – slaves to the enlightenment – and ignores the social – common good;  the democrats champion the group and ignore moral responsibility of the individual or collective responsibility for the individual  – slaves to the same enlightenment.  With no compass, it is no surprise we’re lost at sea in this horrible mess and growing storm.  May we stop being so d*** adolescent and grow up, listen well before we speak – understand before we form conclusions, be open to critique of our own argument…  It is what education is supposed to build into us.  We WILL NOT SURVIVE as a free society into the future if we do not heed this.  Today, November 2014, the political right wins… tomorrow – see all social trending – the left will succeed and win.  Neither conclusion is good for us – the right needs the left; the left needs the right!  ONLY then does this prevent extremism where one side is totally intolerant of the other… sort of like the Tea Party’s hi-jacking of the GOP!

Above, Montgomery Alabama 1961… Attending a wedding of an extended relative in 2012, a great aunt made a comment that is “shortened” to this, “Those busy body yankees came down and stirred our up nigras (N word + negro… this allowing southern Baptists to use the N word but be Christian about it).  They were perfectly fine and happy until those yankees stuck their nose into our business.”  In other words, our “way of life” where we rule, make the rules, benefit from said rules and lord over a servant class was great… for us… and we had them in their place and they liked it; being poor, discriminated against, having no say, being made to be scape goats, used and consumed to do what we don’t want to do..

I’ve heard so many arguments about “them” imposing their views upon me, from left and right – but the blind spot is that what is really being said is that “WE” want to impose our view upon “them”… what we want is OUR right way…  This huge blind spot and resumption of moral high ground is very dangerous and adolescent.

If we can attack some one who is participating in the political system and for a candidate that is not my party, just what would the next step in destroying a democratic republic look like?  Did you know that when the US State Department works internationally to help nation build with new emerging democracies that they do NOT help them build a US form of republic?  They help them build a British parliamentary system, to prevent massive one sided government, forcing more conciliatory working together?  Think about it in our own nation!