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Coffee and Inhabiting Christ in the normal non-exceptional world of anyone’s reality

Havana Michael Coffee Tasting 05 2015

Why does “the church” exist?  COFFEE OF COURSE… Huh?  Read on!

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Not the institution(s) – needed to cooperate, communicate, encourage, partner, etc… but I’m talking about the church, as in “the people”…and not universal, but your own world, city, community, neighbourhood; your oikas (extended household – whanau {pronounced Fanow} in NZ)…  why are we here?

Simple – God is about redeeming the creation He started…  did God ever say He was cutting His losses, saving what He could – a Dunkirk in the cosmic, eternal, battle?  He will complete, redeem, reconcile and restore what He began and intended!  AND we “get to” be a part of it!  Read Paul’s letters to the Corinthians – the creation itself groans awaiting His return to complete it !

So, again, why do we exist as “the church”?  He co-labours with and through us to complete His plan (Exchatology).  So our mission (purpose) is to be about His plan:  Our Missiology must be centred in His Eschatology!  AND the church must organise, function and be about living out a missiology that fulfills Christ’s Eschatology…. our Ecclesiology (how we do church) is informed by our Missiology, which is informed by His Eschatology….

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But what’s this to do with non-exceptional world and me blabbering on?  See the link…  One of the places I’m doing this is not in a place that’s not a part of my daily life, but is centred in it!  AND if I don’t act, smell, value, love, speak, have the right communication in my “eyes” even, I’ll be seen as a fraud, but if I do – they’ll see Christ in me, they’ll smell Christ and be drawn to Him.  I and my tribe(s) have lived this way for years and we rarely ever initiated a conversation on God – BUT – they brought Him up!  They were drawn to Him.

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For me – that’s coffee.  I’m a coffee nerd.  I used to scoff at it, but it grew on me over years, partly from being with other coffee nerds.  I’ll drink okay coffee, but I love good coffee.  In Wellington, one of the best coffee cities on the planet, that’s easy.  I have literally 25+ great places I frequent, but I inhabit two:  Havana Coffee Roasters…. the main roaster and shops (2) on site, and People’s Coffee (a hippie café grown up).  Both respect each other and are friends.  They are different, but both also have shared values with me (fair trade, organic, etc).  As I re-entered life here in Wellington, began hanging out, getting to know staff, etc, I began to be invited behind the “curtain” to their real world…  I see the roasting, conversation (on their terms) goes deeper, wider than just coffee, and I get invited to their rituals and celebrations.  I was invited and now am a regular (them asking if I’ll be there this week) for their weekly “cupping” – a ritual to blind taste and evaluate coffee.  Recently in one of those “cuppings”, a closed internal staff one, a photographer came, also a coffee nerd, and did a shoot and study.  He even included me in his pics! 🙂  See Article!  Today, showing up early, I helped set up, and the head roaster began inviting me into his life story….a new layer deeper.

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Look, it doesn’t take rocket science… be authentic, be a real friend, listen tons, let them dictate the pace (which will vary).  Don’t rush it… western evangelicals so want to rush it!  In our post-Christian world you just can’t!  The Spirit loves them more than us and He is conducting this cantata!  It’s not information, it’s a relationship with a person – Jesus.  It’s not theology, nor a system – it’s a relationship!  Remember the thief on the cross – He only knew Jesus – never passed a Catechism test.  That’s all later.  Just love them, in your normal world, where you’d be anyway… be real – take your time – enjoy them – let them invite you into their rhythms and life.  Sacrifice, care…

They begin to give you gifts.  They begin to want to bless you… one step deeper into being really human…  give, receive, enjoy the journey.  See the bag of coffee below… a special selected tiny batch of special beans the head roaster got on his last trip hunting great suppliers.  This small African nation will probably be in a civil war (again) soon, but to help the people he went there hunting and came back with something special – and included me – a gift this morning after the latest “cupping”.  Why?  Because I enjoyed this one the most in our time together.

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What’s next?  Baking!  Get Susanne doing what she does and bake great food that goes with coffee and will bless them also!  After we finally get out of camping mode and live nearby… dinner party – good wine, late night – laughs galore!  Wait for one of them to be in need and us to be in the right place to bless them!

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Joy… Perspective in a life of First World Problems

O’ Lord, we need an Amos

Unlike other Old Testament messengers, Amos was not a professional prophet; he had no special training, nor was he related to any other prophets. He was a peasant farmer and sheep tender called by God for a special mission. A native of the southern kingdom of Judah, Amos received a powerful commission from God to preach to the -people of the northern kingdom of Israel. In the first half of the eighth century BC, during a time of great expansion and prosperity in Israel, Amos spoke out against the economic injustices between urban elites and the poor. Rich landowners were acquiring money and land, taking advantage of small farmers and peasants. Although Amos was not wealthy, he was sent to warn the wealthy and invite them back into the good way of God’s justice.

Amos spoke out, saying, “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring ruin to the poor of the land. I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  [From Commonprayer.net, 28 March]

O’ God, we need an Amos today, one empowered with authority to speak that there might be change, real change.  Amen

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.

A Message Signed with Blood: A Sermon on the Martyrdom of 21 Christians in Libya

A worthy read.

A Desert Father

A Message Signed with Blood

A sermon delivered at 8:00, 9:00, and 11:15 masses at Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver on March 1, 2015.

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Mark 8:35

They were seized from villages in Egypt.  Some of those captured were even fishermen like the first disciples to be martyred.  A video camera was set up.

The terrorist declared that this was “A message signed with blood to the Nation of the Cross” and thus fell the knives that sent 21 martyrs to their reward in Libya.  They were put on display for mockery and derision.

Their captors demanded that they recant their faith – that they deny Christ.

Their videotaped murder was designed to frighten Christians everywhere – to shock the sensibilities of the civilized world. …

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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.

The Right Order

During the church growth years…. there was much about how to make churches healthy – we are indebted to the hard work they did for us.   From 1980’s, 90’s and early 2000’s, many leaders wrestled with how to mature the church and move people into engaging the world.  The result they found was that it became an inward focused church on “feeding me”, an attractional model that created a gospel and how Jesus, God and church “felt” to me… and reinforced a culture of multiple choice.  This was NOT the intent and their models worked to ground people and move them into mission.

The challenge was mission was something much later…some models literally using the baseball model where mission was introduced at the 3rd base to home plate leg of the journey – instead of a completely different model where it was inherent and natural for a saint to be involved in the Kingdom’s (Christ’s) main business….
There are a lot of great thinkers who have grown out of what our church growth fathers did.  The best thinking today starts with the outcome – God’s intent and His Kingdom.  From that Rubric, of God’s intent, we then aim and shape and form our mission, and then, and only then, from our mission do we form, shape, develop & grow and organise the church.

In other words, our eschatology forms and shapes our missiology, which forms and shapes and ecclesiology.

Therefore, what is our eschatology (the end result, time, event, goal).  It starts in Genesis 1 & 2, and why God created people, and the creation… He was wanting community with His creation and namely in personal relationship with us.

His entire eschatology is to redeem, and restore that holistic relationship, now veiled awaiting our complete redemption and the redemption of the entire creation (1 Corinthians).

Hence, our missiology is a waste unless it is aligned, submitted and coordinated with His plan for the world and creation.  Our mission is a farse if not part of that ultimate plan.  We’ll not achieve this in our own efforts, but we are called to be a part of what He’s doing in the world and He works through us – and that is woven in being His hands and feet in the most practical ways of loving, serving and blessing others – to manifest the values of the Kingdom (Isaiah 58, Isaiah 61, 2 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12).

Then, and only then is there a purpose for the church.  Ever wonder why God even instituted the church?  If we read our eschatology, and then our missiology – which is threaded through God’s Word, then the versus on the church (read Jesus’ biographies, and the epistles and it’s clear our purpose is the missiology, by being ambassadors, leaving the fragrance of Christ, being light, being salt…  these behaviours, reflecting values of the Kingdom in the simplest ways become the jar that holds the message, Gospel, hope we have, are supposed to have anyway!  Then the message makes sense.  Then the “telling” of the Word makes sense and isn’t just God judging and condemning.  Then, following, surrendering and sacrificing our wills to Him makes sense.  For then, we also see and are aware of a) our lost state (Romans 1-4) and b) how great is His plan (eschatology) (Romans 5-8).

Now we have a life that makes sense, for God’s plan, intent, heart is the core and foundation for our efforts to reach the world, and our motivating central DNA of our behaviours as the church on mission.

In growing and being the church, we have a role, indispensable role – for Jesus only has physical hands, feet, eyes, mouth in us!  He never re-inhabited the 2nd Temple, but He did inhabit us in the Holy Spirit.  Wow!  What a plan!

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