It Matters.

Breonna Taylor’s life matters.

Black lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

Trans lives matter.

Immigrant lives matter.

The victims of sex trafficking and

forced labor matter.

If you’re reading this, YOUR life matters.

However you might feel maligned, marginalized or lacking, I pray that — no matter what contradictory messages our culture gives you right now — you would be deeply convinced that you have endless worth. This was true of you before you even left your mother’s womb, long before you lived a life that the dominant society around you might recognize as making a valuable contribution to its agendas.

Your life matters, not because of what you are able to make of it through your own success or good, moral performance. Not even because you respected the value of others around you properly. It is simply because of WHO you are. Or maybe better said, because of WHOSE you are.

You matter to the gracious Source of all life from whom we each originated. You matter to the one who dreamed you up, who came to redeem you, who constantly reaches out and speaks to your heart to remind you of how incredibly cherished you are…

“He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of the poets have said, ‘For we are all His offspring.’”

Child of the Divine, trust that your very being in this world is significant and ought to be dignified. Your Maker deems it to be utterly precious.

 

Disruption, Inclusion & Pentecost

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover He was greeted by crowds singing His praise, seemingly recognizing Him to be sent of God. But Jesus came with an agenda for more than mere festivities. He went straight into the Temple and began to deliberately make a big scene. No doubt this was premeditated.

As Jesus entered the outer court, He took it upon Himself to start aggressively flipping the tables of the businessmen who were selling livestock there. He also took the time to fashion a whip, with which He proceeded to drive out the animals that were being sold. He shouted about how unfair it was that their business was occupying this space, quoting from Isaiah 56:7…“For My house will be called a house of prayer for ALL nations.” This was a holy, staged disruption. It was a demonstration, if you will.

Scholars say these businessmen were selling their goods in “the Court of the Gentiles” — the one place non-majority culture worshippers could come and serve the Lord. The Jews at that time had the whole Temple set up exclusively for their worship privileges, but God had intended His home to be welcoming to every ethnic group. And the marginal space that religious leadership had segregated for these minorities to worship in was now being filled with Jewish commerce instead.

Our Lord was not merely demanding that He be loved more than financial profit was loved. In one sense He already had the adoration of the masses. He was also taking a stand to dignify and make room for everyone in the house of God. And He was not afraid of offending His fans in the process.

Later in Scripture, after Christ’s ascension, the Holy Spirit was poured out in Jerusalem. The Spirit came with what is described as sounding like a “mighty rushing wind” — the winds of change. Suddenly those gathered to worship began to supernaturally speak in a wide variety of tongues, miraculously praising God in languages that all the outside foreigners understood. Again, the Lord had set the scene for holy chaos… a disruptive sign and wonder. In doing so, He was affirming that “all nations” were to be included in His worship. Or as the prophet Joel had said, God’s Presence was coming upon “all flesh.”

Our Lord is not an apathetic person. Jesus came moved with compassion, flinging open the doors for all people to enter His Kingdom. And then He came once more in Spirit, standing in solidarity with the diverse spectrum of humanity. Again, He did not mind whether or not His methods made everyone comfortable.

Today on Pentecost (May 31st), we celebrate that great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the launching of the global Jesus movement. This movement is for the inclusion of all in God’s family — as many as will come. We are now the international temple of God’s Spirit.

I want to encourage those of you who are working to live in a way that is socially conscious. Take some time today to honor the occasion in the midst of this painful moment for our world. Remember the Presence that was poured out for you to access. Be filled afresh with the comfort that only His manifest nearness can bring. Encounter the living God, listen to His still-small-voice and let Him re-energize your heart. We can’t continue His ministry without continually drawing afresh from our Source. And in Christ, the Spirit’s wild, demonstrable, refreshing, empowering touch is freely available to us all.

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Who Rules the Universe?

I had such a great time leading this discussion on Revelation Chapter 5 last Thursday! It’s all about the meekness and trustworthiness of the God who rules and judges the world. I think it can really give some perspective on the disruptive crises that face our nation and the globe… Take a listen!

“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals…

And… I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…”

 

3 Resources for Addressing Abortion

    How are forward-thinking followers of Christ to tackle the subject of abortion? Should we take a specific stance in accordance with our passion for human rights? If so, how do we take a position that genuinely humanizes all parties who are being affected by our culture’s debates on this topic?

     The following are a few resources I have found especially helpful in shaping my own perspective on this issue. Through them I have been encouraged to yes, seek to be “pro-life,” but in the process to make sure that I am not merely “anti-abortion.” Further, I have learned to see some of the serious errors made in accepting the assumptions we have to hold when we are sympathetic to keeping abortion legal.

     I pray that you will consider all of this information, as I believe progress in the fight for social justice is greatly determined by the decisions our generation makes to support pregnant women and their preborn offspring.

  • First, listen to this talk at Google by human rights advocate Stephanie Gray. She gives a lot of great reasoning and logic for how to sort through this controversy and come to clear conclusions.

  • Second, this recent article from Relevant gave an excellent, very respectful approach to the debate, encouraging both empathy for those with unwanted pregnancies and a respect for Scripture’s counsel.

Reflections on My Conversation With an Abortion Provider

  • Lastly, this piece in Christianity Today helps one see why this cause is so central and prioritized in our mission of fighting for the underprivileged in our society.

In Defense of Pro-Life ‘Hypocrisy’: Analogies between abortion and other “life issues” are shakier than we sometimes suppose.

    Altogether, I believe these thought-leaders’ contributions to this discussion can help us form a more sincerely compassionate and firm stance on the side of all humanity. 

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Media Digest 1/18/18

     A great deal of what I like to post on this site is media content from other providers whose work I found impressive or helpful. I consume so much media on a regular basis, and I love to share the highlights of what I am finding. I don’t feel like an article or podcast or video is fully appreciated until it is shared. And, for one reason or another, I don’t want to post it all on my social media accounts.

     That said, I’ve decided I will occasionally make a single post sharing some of the best media content I have read, watched or listened to lately. Some content might still deserve a review in its own post in order to highlight it, but that will be on special occasions.

     Feel free to check these “Media Digests” out for great places to turn for thoughtful, edifying material to study or entertain your mind with!

     So far this week…

  • Bruxley Cavey on “Hell”

     A friend introduced me to this YouTube channel featuring a pastor named Bruxley Cavey. I was really impressed with him in these two episodes on the topic of “Hell.” Bruxley reexamines what Scripture has to say about how we define Hell, and he gives a very well-argued case against believing in eternal conscious torment. 

     I feel like Bruxley brought a lot of knowledge to the table concerning this topic that I had never considered before….

  • “The Dr. King You Never Knew”

     Attorney Breanne Palmer wrote a great article in honor of Dr. King that was published on Relevant Magazine’s website. The article brings a good reminder that, though we do seek pure and peaceful means for societal transformation, this does not mean we run from being seen as a “trouble maker.” King, a model reformer, was very confrontational in his pursuit for justice. This is what is required to really follow through on what we have conviction about.

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A Justice-Infused Gospel

Isaiah 61 starts out,

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
 to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God…”

     Jesus used this very passage of Scripture to describe the purpose of His ministry (see Luke Chapter 4). I was struck tonight by the reality that these verses say nothing directly about Jesus coming to save sinners from their guilt or to deliver people from divine wrath on the Day of Judgment. There are plenty of Scriptures that reveal how the Gospel addresses such worries, but Jesus explained His own agenda by listing a somewhat different set of problems He would confront.

     While there is definitely a spiritual form of each of these issues — Christ clearly expressed opposition to poverty, depression, slavery and corrupt criminal justice systems. God’s favor was to be revealed to the oppressed of the earth, and vengeance upon all the strongholds that dominated His children.

     Sometimes I think we make our presentation of the Gospel too ethereal. We talk a lot about God’s forgiveness, justification, Heaven, and the Resurrection. All of these are topics worth deep and repeated exploration. But we somehow have divorced these doctrines from their relevant applications in the here and now.

     God, however, has not.

     I believe Christ’s mission remains the same today as it did the day He stood up in the synagogue to read from this passage in Isaiah. He is the fulfillment of this great prophecy, and where His presence is made known today we should see a manifestation of this reality playing out. A restorative justice should be executed in society everywhere Christ’s ambassadors are releasing His message.

     Let’s trust God to use us to materialize His Kingdom in our scopes of influence in a greater way. As it is written in Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”

     Amen.

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Feeling the Impact of this Crisis

Someone said to grab my five year old nephew and a friend of mine and go take cover in a small stairwell. “Don’t worry, this is just practice,” I was told. “But take it seriously.”

Thinking, “This is going to be fun,” I put an arm around my nephew and pulled him down into the corner of the wall. I assured him with a grin that this wouldn’t be too bad. My friend leaned into the wall of the stairwell with us. Before we could get comfortable though, a booming explosion went off. 

Holy crap. That did not sound safe.

The explosion did not sound like “practice,” and it sounded close enough that I thought the bomb could come flying through the top of the stairwell at any moment and penetrate the level we were hiding on. I pictured a massive rock blasting through the wall to crush us.

In a matter of mere moments I scrambled to pull my nephew closer to my chest and to make sure my friend a few feet away was still okay. At the same time I was struggling to move my jacket to cover all three of our heads and was trying to get us into a safer, lower position. I had no time to readjust everything, but I was desperately hoping I could protect us from the force of any debris now flying our way. And the explosions only continued to roar through the little stairwell one after another — coming from who knows where.

My nephew starting crying loudly, and then the dam broke in my own soul. I too began to weep profusely as I shook with the impact of the bombs hitting near us and with the fear and pain now rising in my soul.

It was real. And it was terrifying. 

All at once it had become clear that I was not preparing for battle. I was in the middle of war, and for the first time in my life I felt responsible to somehow preserve the life of someone else I cared for who was also under attack. But I had no idea what we were even up against.

I was in a swirl of intense emotions and feeling like I could only process them by just letting them all out. Then I woke up.

It was just a dream. Yes, I literally just woke up on a Thursday night from a nap and realized I’d just had a dream. But I was smart enough to know it wasn’t “just” a dream.

God just gave me a very vivid picture of what it is like to be in a war zone like Syria right now. I actually felt like He was processing His own emotions through me in the dream… conveying that He stands in complete solidarity and empathy with the victims who are currently suffering in this tragic situation. He was showing me how He really feels as He is present in the bodies and hearts of His children in that nation, seeing things from their perspective.

Jesus is not apathetic to the pain and injustice of this crisis.

However we respond to what the news is showing us, we must not become apathetic. Let the situation hit home, just as if it was your own nephew or friend going through this.

The Lord wants us to allow ourselves to feel the impact of what is taking place. He wants us to care.