Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent, Week One: It Begins!

Week One: The Patriarchs’ Candle
God's extraordinary promises to imperfect people

Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-22; Isaiah 11:1-5

We light one of the purple candles as the scriptures are read.

“Knowing the stories of our faith, and how they connect with our own life experiences, means that we can celebrate the faithfulness and grace-bestowing love of God that was given to Abraham and Sarah, to the Israelites in the wilderness, and to the disciples. We can celebrate what is given to us as we join others in claiming God’s promise and rejoicing in God’s love as we gather at the Lord’s table. We can celebrate what will be given to us and to all creation in times yet to come because God is faithful and God keeps God’s promises.

“We know who we are –children of God loved and forgiven and called by God! And we know Whose we are – children of God who are called to be witnesses to God’s love and care for all the world. We are therefore able to share in the festivity that grows out of our shared stories and visions. Our identity as God’s beloved sons and daughters causes us to seek ways to celebrate and repeatedly affirm that we are who we are!” –Linda J. Vogel, Rituals for Resurrection

Each of the Old Testament patriarchs mentioned here –Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, together with their wives and families– endured significant (and soemtimes self-inflicted) difficulties during their journeys of faith with God.

Who do you think had the most difficulty trusting God, and why? How did they learn that God was faithful, and could in fact be trusted?

How are the stories of our faith connected, all the way from Abraham to the Israelites to the early Christians and to us? What does this say about celebrate God’s faithfulness in the past, present, and future?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent: An Introduction

I love Advent.

I mean, I love Advent! It's my favorite time of the year...and really, it's not even close. You've got cold weather, Christmas decorations, and the already/not-yet coming of Christ, all at once? I'm in!!

People know this about me. :)

So it's been a great pleasure over the past few years to help head up some of the Advent preparations and celebrations in some of the churches we've served in (Oklahoma, Poland, and now the UK).

Last Sunday night we were asked to lead a sort of "Introduction to Advent" evening at the Ashton Church of the Nazarene. It was a great time of remembering, reflection, and renewal; I think we're all a lot more excited about the almost-here-ness of Advent as a result.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar, Advent is a season of four Sundays before Christmas when we remember and re-tell the story of a God who loved the people God created so much that he came to earth to live and love as a human (starting as a newborn baby). Amazing stuff!

If you'd like to learn more -or maybe just brush up on some British Advent traditions- some basic information from last week's "Advent 101" is enclosed below! :) 
Advent is the first season of the the Christian calendar year, and thus begins in the chill of winter. The word "advent," comes from the Latin adventus, meaning "coming" or "arrival." During this season of Advent, we await the coming of Jesus, our Messiah. 

It is not only we who wait, however; all of creation seems also to be in waiting. Trees wait to bloom again, and plants wait to blossom. While we as a people symbolically anticipate Christ’s arrival as a babe on Christmas morning, we also eagerly await His second coming. 

For centuries, Christians have used the Advent wreath to symbolize this sacred season of longing and expectation. The candles we light each week will mark our progress as a people through this period of hope and anticipation for our coming Lord.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Seeing the depths of things.

"It is not enough that we behave better; we must come to see things differently. We must learn to see the depths of things, not just reality at superficial levels.

"This especially means we need to see the nonseparateness of the world from God and the oneness of all reality in God; the Hidden Ground of Love in all that is.

"Prayer is a kind of corrective lens that does away with the distorted view of reality that, for some mysterious reason, seems to be my normal vision, and enables me to see what is as it really is."
-William H. Shannon, Silence on Fire

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Imitation of Christ

Use the things of the world, but long for the things of eternity. You cannot be fully satisfied by material possessions, for you are simply not made to enjoy them. 

Even if you owned every good thing in the world you would not be happy and blessed, for your blessedness and joy is in God, who created all those things.

Your happiness is not in what is seen and admired by others, but in what the good and faithful followers of Christ seek. Your happiness is in what the spiritual and pure of heart...sometimes experience in this life, though it is meant for the next.

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

History, Theology, and the Church.

I (Aaron) have been reading a lot about the history of the Church of the Nazarene lately, as well as its distinguishing doctrine of Christian holiness and sanctification…mostly -but not entirely- for an ordination class I’ve been taking.

One of the texts I was assigned was Mark R. Quanstrom’s A Century of Holiness Theology: The Doctrine of Entire Sanctification in theChurch of the Nazarene, 1905 to 2004.

The following are some of the more surprising (and inspiring) passages I read along the way: 

“[Vincent Synan] has rightly characterized the [19th-century American] Holiness Movement as a ‘kind of “evangelical transcendentalism” that thrived in the idealism of a young and growing America.’ ” –Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States [Century of Holiness Theology, 17] 

“Martin Marty…characterized the interwar years (1919-1941) as yeas of conflict. He wrote: ‘Instead of harmony and simplicity, conflict ruled…Not since the Civil War had America been more torn. In matters specifically religious, the nation had never seemed more divided than it was in those interwar years…original-stock Protestants vs. everyone else; “100 percent Americans” vs. Communists and Slavs in the Red Scare; old-stock Anglo Saxons vs. Catholic or Jewish or Asian immigrants; the Ku Klux Klan vs. the same, plus liberals and blacks; white Christians vs. black Christians…Protestant Fundamentalists vs. Modernists…Protestant liberals vs. Protestant realists…and more.’ “ –Marty, The Noise of the Conflict [Century of Holiness Theology, 53] 

“The doctrine of sanctification must not be so interpreted as to be made a doctrine of despair to all Christians who have not consciously attained to such an experience, particularly in the definite manner of the second-blessing theory.” –John Miley, Systematic Theology [Century of Holiness Theology, 60] 

“Free agency was fundamental for Miley because that was the only way persons could be morally accountable. ‘If God is a moral ruler over responsible subjects, they must be morally free’…the paying field was always level when it came to choosing good over evil.” -Miley, Systematic Theology [Century of Holiness Theology, 63] 

“According to [Nazarene theologian Mildred Bangs] Wynkoop, the reason it was difficult to believe the doctrine of entire sanctification was because the American-Holiness Movement had uncritically adopted a fundamentally wrong ontology, an ontology which could not be faithful to the theology of John Wesley…

“Rather, the emphasis was more on the purity of a person’s consecration which would lead to unhindered communion with God. When one willed Christ without reservation or duplicity, one could be considered entirely sanctified by virtue of the purity of the subsequent relationship with God.” [Century of Holiness Theology, 143, 146]

Interesting, illuminating, exciting, and fascinating stuff for me…as both an historian and theologian-in-training. Love it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Do Not Fear...

I (Aaron) was flipping through A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God yesterday and came across as passage that's been a real encouragement at different points over the past few years...both for us, and for several couples who are friends of ours in ministry in the States, Poland the UK.

"But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

-Isaiah 43:1-3a (NRSV)

The moral of the story:
God is good, God is able, and God can be trusted! :)

Jesus, John Wesley, and the Poor.

"One of the few things John Wesley feared was the accumulation of wealth.

"As a biblical scholar and practical theologian he was convinced that to follow Jesus Christ meant involvement with, and ministry among and to, the poor.

"This conviction led him to live on a modest income even when his writing was producing significant return. His solution was to give away all but the money he needed to buy the essentials...

"Not only did Wesley beg on behalf of the poor, he preached to them and found ways to be with them. His journal is filled with entries that describe his experiences of visiting the poor, the prisoner, the sorrowing, and the suffering.

"The false stereotypes of the day were shattered as he came to work with and to know the poor and needy of the world. Had he ignored God's urging to ministry with the poor he would have missed a large segment of the population that turned toward Christ through the Methodist movement.

"He would have also missed living and witnessing to a balanced faith that emphasized love for God and love for neighbor in very simple and practical ways." -Reuben P. Job, A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader

Something more.

"Following the way of forgiveness prepares us to go one step further. Something more is asked of us by Jesus: 'Go and learn the meaning of the words, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.' (Matt. 9:13)

"This 'something more' is compassion. Once we grasp the depth of God's merciful love for us, he wants us to express that same compassion for others. This is the balm that softens the scars of sinfulness and suffering. As we show mercy to others, so they will extend the blessing to us in turn." -Susan Muto and Adrian Van Kaam, Divine Guidance

The Tyranny of "To-Do."

Full disclosure: I (Aaron) love to-do lists.

I mean, I LOVE to-do lists. Not having things to do, necessarily, but being able to order and (hopefully) prioritize the things I have to do in a way that incentivizes and reminds me to actually accomplish them all.

I have at times -only half-jokingly- audibly debated having "to-do" tattooed on the top of my left hand so I can at least keep my near-perpetual list there neat and tidy.

It is with that stubborn, near-OCD perfectionism in mind, then, that I offer the following prayer from Patricia F. Wilson's Quiet Spaces:

"Dear Jesus, during this day help me quiet all the thoughts that fill my head-where I must go, whom I must see, and what I must do. In their place, give me a sense of your order, your peace, and your time.

"Help me to understand that you are in control, and I can trust you with my day. Help me to realize that nothing on my to-do list is important if it is not what you want me to do.

"I give all my tasks to you and trust you to bring order to them. In these moments, dear Jesus, come to me, be with me, and free me from the tyranny of "to do."


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This is Ashton.

As coffeehouse ministry experts assigned to the Church of the Nazarene in the UK, we currently live and minister (mostly) in a much-maligned suburb of Manchester, England called Ashton-under-Lyne.

Ashton has a fascinating, uneven social history. The town was at the absolute epicenter of the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom. But industrial privitization and the economic recessions of the 1980s hit blue-collar towns like Ashton especially hard, and our church's makeup and neighborhood in many ways reflect that.

But we LOVE Ashton. We love its sometimes-crumbling old buildings. We love its warm, plainspoken people. And we especially love our church, the Ashton Church of the Nazarene, which in recent years has redoubled its efforts to minister to members of our community with economic, social, and mental health needs.

You can imagine our pride, then, when I (Aaron) was reading for my Nazarene History & Polity ordination class this week and came across this passage in Our Watchword & Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene:

 "Among the congregations that came into the Church of the Nazarene with the Calvary Holiness Church merger was one in Ashton-Under-Lyne, which had been established in 1874 -making it, probably, the oldest congregation in the denomination with a continuous history.

"The Old Cross Mission, as it had been known, was in the Manchester area. A succession of Holiness evangelists, including Thomas Cook, Amanda Smith, Reader Harris, C. J. Fowler, A. M. Hills, George Sharpe, and David Thomas all preached at the mission...After affiliating with the Emmanuel Bible College and adopting its doctrinal statement, the congregation in 1939 joined the Calvary Holiness Church. When, then, the Calvary Holiness Church joined the Church of the Nazarene in 1955, so did the Old Cross Mission."

This is Ashton. :)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Widows & Orphans

I (Aaron) have been doing a lot of reading lately for my "Nazarene History and Polity" class for ordination. This morning I was been reading about the denomination's early (and persistent) emphasis on compassionate ministry to widows, orphans, and the homeless when I came across this gem:

"Santos Elizondo maintained a church and orphanage on the Mexican side of the border near El Paso. The Mexican government was ready to close the orphanage.

The Mexican law said that 'no man shall have an orphanage in connection with the church.'

But, as Santos Elizondo was a woman, and not a man, the government allowed her to continue operating it!

On the Texas side of the border she ministered to Mexicans, most of them widows and children, waiting for deportation back to Mexico. 

The Church of the Nazarene, under her ministry, became known as the church the cared for widows and orphans." 

That's beautiful.

Floyd Cunningham, ed. Watchword & Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Meditations on Compassion, Part 2

"I was at a meeting of the Superiors General in Europe. They talked only of changing the structures of society, organizing things in a different way.

It all came to nothing. It did not do something for the poor, or preach Christ to those without religion, to those totally ignorant of God. 

I was happy when it was all over...

I always explain to the sisters, 'It is Christ you tend in the poor. It is his wounds you bathe, his sores you clean, his limbs you bandage. 

'See beyond appearances, hear the words Jesus pronounced long ago. They are still operative today: "What you do to the least of mine, you do it to me." 

When you serve the poor, you serve our Lord Jesus Christ."
-Mother Teresa, My Life for the Poor

Friday, September 27, 2013

Meditations on Compassion, Part 1

"Jesus was often prompted by compassion to act on behalf of those who were suffering loss, disease, and hunger.

It seem inevitable that those who follow Jesus must also show compassion in all of their decisions and action. This is especially true of those who relate to people suffering hunger, disease, and death.

The followers of Jesus cannot ignore the needy of the world, and neither can we look away from the needs of the world.

If our lives are modeled after the one we claim to follow, we will, as Jesus did, look with compassion upon all who cross our paths. Looking with compassion requires the further step of seeking to alleviate the pain that prompted our compassion."

Reuben P. Job, A Guide to Prayer for All who Seek God

Friday, September 20, 2013

Simplicity, Scotsmen, and Sanctification

I (Aaron) have been reading a lot about the history of the Church of the Nazarene lately for my ordination classes, including Our Watchword & Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene.

Tonight I came across a beautiful, simplistic prayer of sanctification penned by Rev. George Sharpe, a Scottish holiness preacher who served in the American Methodist Episcopal Church, Scottish Congregational Church, and Pentecostal Church of Scotland before uniting with the then-Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene:

"O Lord, I give Thee all.

My spirit, soul and body,
my time, my talents, my friends,

all I have and all I ever will have,
all I know and all I ever will know,

to be anything,
and to go anywhere for Thee.


Thursday, September 19, 2013


"Solitude is obviously intended to be far more than just being physically alone. It is the way we forma  habit of retreat, creating a space and a time that God can speak to us...

"Every large city, despite the noise and crowds, has places of great solitude and peace. Often city center churches are examples of this. What is certain is that if we create a place where we can regularly turn to God, [God] will meet us there...

"Time spent with God in solitude will always bring a harvest."
-Simon Peter Iredale, The Interior Mountain

Monday, September 16, 2013

Then I Shall Find Rest.

"Reach down inside me, O God,
and change the gears that race and roar.

In place of turmoil give me peace;
in place of frenzy, give me patience.

Then shall I be more like Jesus,
who taught us to make room for you in our hectic days.

Teach me, O God, to make room for you
in all the events and affairs of my days.

Then I shall find rest.

Then I shall be at peace with myself and with you."
-Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Until we are healed.

Today's blog post is taken from Week 45 in the Green Book:

"Recently I was in a doctor's office...when a young mother with long brown hair and a gentle face entered, pushing in a wheelchair a child three or four years old.

"The child obviously was disabled: her hands unable to grasp anything, her arms and legs flailing helplessly, her eyes unable to hold focus. Her voice could not make syllables but only squeals or little wails. The mother positioned the child's chair so that they were face-to-face.

"She began softly singing and doing the hand motions to the 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' directly in front of the child's face, to attract her attention. She repeated it over and over, sometimes catching the child's hand and kissing it, stroking her hair; she looked into the child's eyes and whispered, with enormous tenderness, 'I love you.'

"When God's love touches us in our neediness, the sorrow and suffering inherent in the human condition, we name it mercy. Mercy is perhaps the loveliest of all God's qualities. This is the love that reaches into dark space of our flailing and our failing, our losing and our dying. Mercy enters that space, picks us up and holds us tenderly until we are healed.

"Little by little, this love draws our groping hands and wasted energies to purposeful service; it looks directly into our uncomprehending eyes, hears our futile wail, and says, 'No matter, I love you anyway. Come on...'

"And so mercy brings us to ever-new life."
Elaine M. Prevallet, "Living in the Mercy"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

If You Offer Your Food to the Hungry

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?...

If you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58: 6-7, 10-11 (NRSV)

Blessed are the Peacemakers.

I had a minor epiphany while sitting in a cafe last week.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Matthew 5:7-9 (NRSV)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We Cannot Pray.

We cannot pray
for the poor
if we walk by on the other side.

We cannot pray
for the hungry
and continue to waste our food.

We cannot pray
for the exploited
and buy the products that enslave them.

We cannot pray
for the persecuted
if we support the bully.

We cannot pray
for the unemployed
and still value only the lowest price.

God of forgiveness,
in this world of sin,
we dare not pray,
for we, ourselves, are ensnared in sin.

Forgive us,
that we cannot live lives without sin,
that we cannot escape the systems of death,
that we cannot change the world.

Forgive us.
Hear our prayers,
and change us
to become part of the solution.

-Clare McBeath and Tim Presswood,
Crumbs of Hope: Prayers from the City

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Searched and Known.

Our friend Colin spoke in the Sunday morning service here in Ashton a few weeks ago.

Colin's a good guy, and is preparing to pursue full-time undergraduate studies at Nazarene Theological College soon.

He chose Psalm 139 as his text, a passage that easily cracks our top-ten favorite psalms and also inspired the lyrics to a little-known MercyMe song from their pre-famous, playing-church-camps days.

"O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways...

"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast...

"For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139 (NRSV)

It is, as Colin noted, an intensely personal psalm. Note the repeated use of the word "you" and "I," for examples! The writer, King David, shows honesty and integrity in the face of (repeated) failure and confusion. He was a murderer, and adulterer, and a selfish leader...but he was also "a man after God's own heart." The difference, it seems, was his willingness to allow God to continually reshape and refocus his thoughts, speech, and actions. 

"I know from personal experience that seeking God honestly can be scary...terrifying even!" Colin testified. "God doesn't wish to see any of us hurting. He doesn't want tot see us n pain. But he can and does use these experiences to teach and strengthen us."


Monday, August 19, 2013

An Awkward Thing

Life as coffeehouse ministry consultants can be an awkward thing.

At times, it is exhilarating: the thrill of travel, the joy of building new relationships, the challenge of exploring extant coffee communities.

At other times, we ache (like the Apostle Paul) for missed fellowship with all of our friends and family members in the different churches and ministries and shops we've shared life with along the way. We remember them in our stories, in songs, and in our prayers.

Sometimes we just get really tired. :)

And it always feels a little strange...because we are seldom actually starting the projects that we help develop, and as foundation-layers, we're not likely to see all of the long-term fruits of our labors.

But we're encouraged by passages like this one from John's Gospel:

"'But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and gatehring fruit for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper may rejoice together.

"'For here the saying holds true, "One sows and another reaps." I sent you to reap for that which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.'" John 4:35b-38 

And so it is with us. Sometimes we sow, sometimes we labor, and sometimes we get to reap a little.

But it's God who makes things grow! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

An Unqualified Yes.

"The dramatic change in the lives of people touched by the power and presence of God through the early church proved to be a nearly irresistible magnet, drawing many to believe in and follow Jesus Christ...It was clear to observers and participants: God was at work transforming individuals and communities through this new movement...

"Today people still look for evidence of God's transforming presence in the church and in the world. When they find evidence, they often turn toward it, seeking to be close to the God who is obviously at work changing lives in dramatic ways...

"The congregation where signs and wonders are evident is the congregation that finds new people coming to be touched by the transforming presence of God. In Acts we read of transformation that leads from sinfulness to holiness of life...This transformation is promised in the Gospels by the One who came that all may have life and have it abundantly...

"Where are the signs and wonders of God's active and transforming presence most visible today? How can you and I make ourselves and the entire church more available?...One way the early church made itself available was by always giving an unqualified yes when God invited obedience, witness, and service...

"Can we do as much?"

-Reuben P. Job, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Last Friday I (Aaron) was asked to lead the monthly "God Spot" devotional time at the Young People's hang-out time at the Ashton church. More specifically, they asked me to talk about love.

Talking to teenagers about love (divine, fraternal, romantic, or otherwise) can be tricky. :)
"First, let's talk about what this is not: This is not a talk about 'romantic love.' (Several girls looked disappointed; several guys looked slightly relieved.) This is not a discussion about 'what love isn't' (which seemed to confuse them), nor is it a talk about 'how pop culture gets it wrong.' (This made more sense to them when I pointed out examples like Twilight).

"What we are going to talk and read and pray and think about tonight is this: 'How much God loves us, and how we are called to love God and others.'"

Next, we prayed. Always important, perhaps never more so than when speaking to teenagers about love. :)

Then we watched this YouTube video from SoulPancake:

Next we talked about four key questions, each supported by group discussion and a few appropriate (and sometimes surprising) Bible verses:

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world..."
1 John 3:1 "Behold what manner of love the Father hath given..."

Romans 5:6-8 "But God demonstrates his own love..."
I John 4:7-12 "Beloved, let us love one another..."

Matthew 22:34-40 "Love the Lord your God...and your yourself."
Matthew 5:43-48 "Love your enemies..."

I Corinthians 13:4-7 "Love is patient..."
John 15:9-14, 17 "Love each other as I have loved you..."

We concluded the discussion with this thought:
"God loves us with a fierce, driving, passionate, all-forgiving love...and it's this kind of love that calls us to love God and our neighbors and ourselves! And we're all going to struggle with that in different ways. 

"For some of us, it's loving God; for some of us, it's loving others; for some of us, it's loving ourselves. But we are all God's children -God's Beloved- and we are all loved and called to love."

Then we watched this video:

We finished with prayer...prayers thanking God for his love, confessing our unworthiness, and expressing our gratitude. Prayers giving God permission to work in and through and with us to bring about his kingdom here on earth.

Prayers for our friends and family and neighbors and co-workers and classmates who don't know God, and asking that they might glimpse him through us

Prayers of love.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Have You Eaten Today?

Pastor Carl showed this video at Ashton Church of the Nazarene last Sunday night, and to be honest I think it wrecked us a little:

Here are a few things that particularly stood out:

"I keep seeing this bumper sticker that's popular where I live. It says, 'God Bless America.' Every time I see one, I think, 'God has. God has blessed America.' America has around 6% of the world's population, but we consume over 40% of its resources. The point isn't, "How can God bless America more?' The point is, 'How can America bless others?

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share..." -1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NIV) 

"Have you eaten today?

"Because somewhere around like 800 million people won't eat today.
Like 300 million of them are kids. 

"Every couple seconds, somebody dies from hunger.

"For the rest of the world...our life is the commercial, our stuff is the catalog, we're the picture in the advertisement.

"Let's be honest. It's easy to go to a church service, it's easy to read the Bible, it's easy to discuss who believes what and who's right and who's wrong. It's easy.

"But when Jesus talks about his followers, he talks about people who are generous, people who clothe the naked, take food to the hungry, take water to the thirsty, people who visit the prisoner, people who invite the stranger in, people who give their time, people who give their energy, people who give their money."


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

God's Missionary: Holy, Loving, Lowly

I (Aaron) have spent a great deal of time this week working in the Nazarene Theological College archives.  While sorting through the Rev. Dr. James B. Maclagan collection, I came across an absolute gem of a pamphlet by missions legend Amy Carmichael titled "God's Missionary."

A few of the most convicting and inspiring excerpts are below:

"This writing is not meant for old, experienced missionaries who long agao have made up their minds concerning the questions discussed. It is only meant as a little word offered in all humility to younger fellow-missionaries who have not made up their minds.

"Comrades in this solemn fight, this awful conflict with awful powers, let us settle it as something that cannot be shaken; we are here to live holy, loving, lowly lives. We cannot do this unless we walk very, very close to our Lord Jesus...

"If this message should reach a new recruit, one would say the same word, only turning it a little: Will you not wait upon your Lord before you come out, and every day there-after from the first hour on board ship onwards, asking Him to keep you, as we ask Him now to keep us?..."

"There is the social entanglement: such and such things are expected of us, and we cannot do what is required in this direction, and at the same time get the quiet we know we must secure if we are to go on in strength and in calmness of spirit.... There are the late hours, simple enough to those whose duties do not call them up at dawn; but for those who, to have any sort of undisturbed quiet, must not only be up by dawn but awake the dawn, quite another matter...Quiet time - the word is vital."

"And there is the entanglement of over-work. Who has not known it? The more we love our work, the keener we are to do it well, or the more the burden of souls unreached weighs upon our hearts, the greater our joy in reaching them, the subtler the form this entangling peril takes, and the more likely we are to slip into it before we are aware."

"We can never know [another] people -it is fallacious to imagine we can do so- while we find out chief recreation to be an escape from their companionship into the society of our fellow [Americans]. The people of the land are keenly observant: they mark our preferences in the choice of friends, as in everything else; if we find our rest and pleasure in being away from them, will they open out to us and let us understand them?

"No, we shall be further away from them than we know, and however affectionate they are, there will always be a certain reserve in their confidence, unrecognized by us, perhaps, because we are not near enough to them to know it exists."

"'Lord, Thou knowest: Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee. But because I am as yet weak in love and imperfect in virtue, therefore I do stand in need of being strengthened and comforted by Thee. Wherefore visit me again and again; and instruct me by all holy discipline.

"Free me from evil passions and heal my heart of all inordinate affections; that, being inwardly healed and thoroughly cleansed, I may become fit to love, strong to suffer, constant to persevere.'"


Sunday, June 2, 2013

This Misty Lowland: A Confession

"O God, I have tasted thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace.

"I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the triune God, I want to want thee; I long to be filled with they longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.

"Show me thy glory, I pray, so that I may know thee more indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, 'Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.'

"Then give me grace to rise and follow thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.

"In Jesus' Name. Amen."
-A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Beauty of Ordinary Time

"The period after Pentecost is known by a variety of names: Kingdomtide, Whitsuntide, the Season after Pentecost, and more recently, especially by Roman Catholics, Ordinary Time.

"However, there is nothing ordinary about this period of the Christian calendar. There continues to be a distinct emphasis upon telling the redemption story in all its fullness as the church gathers to remember how God has come, is coming, and will come again to redeem humankind and all creation (Romans 8:19-23).

"The church especially remembers in worship and deeds the truth that God dwells within the body of Christ and within the believer. Through the Holy Spirit, God companions, directs, and gives power, wisdom, courage, and faith to believers and the church for living obediently.

"Therefore the church - gathered and dispersed - not only represents God but also in a real way embodies God to the world. Christians seek to bring justice, peace, and love to every situation because we embody the very God we worship.

"No day can be ordinary when God dwells within. Every day is seen as blessed an holy, filled with opportunity and grace for all who put their trust in God." -Norman Sawchuck and Reuben P. Job, eds., A Guide to Prayer For All Who Seek God

Monday, May 13, 2013

Further Up, Further In

Last week was an exciting one in our journey with the Green Book.

First, Aaron got to spend an hour or so last Sunday evening leading a sort of reading circle/group discussion at Ashton Church of the Nazarene based on excerpts from Week 27, "Receiving Direction." Afterward, four or five different people asked how to order copies for themselves! That was exciting.

On Monday morning we came across this reading from Emmet Fox's Power Through Constructive Thinking:

"The most secret, sacred wish that lies deep down at the bottom of your heart, the wonderful thing that you hardly dare to look at, or to think about - the thing that you would rather die than have anyone else know of, because it seems to be so far beyond anything that you are, or have at the present time...

"That is just the very thing that God is wishing you to do or to be for Him. And the birth of that marvelous wish in your soul - the dawning of that secret dream - was the Voice of God...telling you to arise and come up higher because He had need of you."

Wow. That really got us thinking. 

It reminded us of Pastor Brandon and our friends at OKC First Church of the Nazarene's Overflow worship nights, who first taught us to love the All Sons & Daughters' song Called Me Higher (which we've been streaming pretty much non-stop for the past week).

It reminded us of one of Aaron's all-time favorite (fictional) C. S. Lewis quotes from The Last Battle, the last book in his Chronicles of Narnia series. "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!"

It made us wonder what God is calling us to next, long-term, big-picture.

Next up was Monday's Scripture reading...which turned out to be Matthew 28:18-20. Uh-oh. 

"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" (NRSV)

Wow. We don't have the clearest idea what this means for us yet. Probably something like bivocational ministry, with lots of teaching and loving people and cooking and reading on the side.

But where that calling might eventually take us? Back home to the States, or around the world? We haven't a clue. But we do know that we are called!

So where God leads, we'll continue to follow...
higher, deeper, further.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Social (in)justice and the morality of cheap socks.

After a few months' absence, we got to spend last weekend with our house church friends and family at the Fresh Ground London. During the Sunday service, Pastor Jason led a group discussion that focused on the idea of social justice in light of the recent collapse-and-fire at a clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

We watched this heart-wrenching news report.

It reminded us of Isaiah 58, a passage that makes us laugh and cry and always reminds us of our friend Lance. It reminds us why we buy everything that we can secondhand, too.

Then we watched a thought-provoking/convicting/inspiring video from the TearFund project about what it means to be Christian in the light of everyday injustice, and how we can be more conscious (and more Christ-like) in our decision-making.

It reminded us of Micah 6:8. Of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly.

After a long, thoughtful group discussion, we wrote out prayers of confession. This was Aaron's:

"Father, I confess that I have often willingly and knowingly neglected to hold myself to the standards and passions that you have created an cultivated in me.

"You know how difficult it is to remember all of the things that I hear you calling me to do and be and say...but you also know full well when I'm just choosing to ignore your voice, your words, your Spirit in my life.

"Convict me, I pray...about the things I say and do; the things I eat; the ways I contribute to environmental problems; the things I buy and wear and own. Help me to be faithful in small things, so that I may be faithful in big things. Forgive and use me, I pray. Amen."

We concluded by singing Tim Hughes' We Must Go as a sort of prescriptive benediction. It seemed fitting, somehow...because singing (and thinking, and talking) isn't enough.

It's not nearly enough.

Because as Christians, we are called to act, to live, and to love each other...and to do so prayerfully and mindfully and intentionally, knowing that the God of southwest London is also the God of southeast Asia.

We are all his beloved children; we are called to act like it!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Club Kids, Jesus, and The Church.

A few Sunday nights ago Ashton Church of the Nazarene hosted a talk by several members of the Greater Manchester Street Pastors, a group who spends weekend evenings (and very early mornings) spending time with (and showing God's love to) club kids, addicts, and homeless folks in Stalybridge, another nearby suburb in Tameside.

Our expectations weren't that high; the Greater Manchester Street Pastors blew us away anyway. The following are some snippets from their inspiring, encouraging, make-you-want-to-stand-up-and-get-involved presentation:

"We make up one-third of what's called the 'Urban Trinity:' the local police force, local government, and local churches. We're not about preaching; we're about offering practical help to vulnerable people.

"We are called to love our neighbors. In Stalybridge, our neighbors are often drunk; they are sometimes covered in vomit; and they are quite often very loud. But we are still called to love them!

"It's not just talking to people on the streets; it's chatting to the door staff and police as well...we provide girls -that is, young women- with little rubber stoppers that make it harder for blokes to spike their drinks! We carry flip-flops to help avoid foot injuries; we carry little brushes and dustpans to sweep up broken glass and get bottles off the street. It it's not there, it can't be used as a weapon.

"After six months of Street Pastors in Stalybridge, there's been 60% less violence; 70% less public disorder; we've removed 1,000 glass bottles from the streets; we've had more than 4,000 conversations and helped more than 50 vulnerable persons seek assistance."

"The good news is that Stalybridge is no longer the leader in night crime in Tameside; the bad news is that now Ashton is."

Long story short...yeah, we're probably going to look into Street Pastor training. :)

Because it's absolutely where Jesus would be if he were alive and walking around Ashton in 2013. It just is.

History, Missions, & Me

Brittany and I spend (almost) every Tuesday that we're in Manchester on campus at Nazarene Theological College. She studies for an upcoming graduate school module; I volunteer in the NTC archives. We generally attend chapel and eat lunch together.

A few weeks ago I attended a chapel service without her (I can't remember why) that was led by Professor Andrew Walls, a Scottish Methodist and pioneer missionary/historian to West Africa (among many other places).

Prof. Walls is an amazing figure, and one of the leading scholars in the field of 20th-century church development in Africa and Asia. His unique perspective as an historian-turned-missionary-turned-church-scholar absolutely fascinated and inspired me...the following are snippets from his talk about that journey:

"I went to the field as a Christian historian. Africa made me a missionary....God doesn't waste anything, any of our experiences. He uses it all.

"I've been amazed, over the course of my 85 years, how FEW decisions I've actually had to make! And I'm so grateful for all of the places God has taken me -I've lived all over Europe- sometimes kicking and screaming! I've sometimes gotten myself anxious about what decisions I would make, not the decision itself! But generally I've found that he makes his will so plain, there's often no real decision to be made...and I'm so thankful.  

"Disciples are those who learn about Jesus; apostles (Greek) and missionaries (Latin) are those who teach and tell others about him! In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said that he came 'to seek out and to save the lost.' In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said, 'the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.'

"In the Gospel of John, after Jesus' death, he returned to his disciples and said 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' Then he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' This is a calling without a retirement age!" I 100% certain what God has planned for the rest of my life as a teacher/scholar/missionary/minister? Not yet. :) But was I incredibly inspired by Prof. Walls' example and encouragement? Absolutely! Thanks be to God!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Polish Prayer Requests, April 2013

Last Tuesday afternoon we got to spend a few precious hours with some of our friends who minister in the Sweet Surrender coffeehouse/house church  in Krakow, Poland. It seems that many of them have had a difficult last few months, and we promised them that we would continue to pray for the following requests:

For our American friend H., who attends the church and helps out quite a bit with church/shop special events: she's working more as an English tutor, which is both good and exhausting; her dad continues to struggle with very painful, possibly terminal cancer; and she's working to receive her Polish health certification so she can help even more in the coffeehouse. 

For our English friend J., who's been a great friend and ministry partner for the volunteers in Krakow: his family is reeling a bit, as one of his uncles recently died quite suddenly; another uncle just narrowly survived a very serious heart attack; he continues to feel a call to ministry in Poland, but is seeking God's long-term plans for his life.

For our American friends B. and M., who helped take our place at Sweet Surrender: their son recently spent 3+ days in the hospital after severely burning his arm; their family continues to struggle with illness and fatigue; they prepare to take more of a hands-on role in the coffeehouse and house church as another volunteer prepares to go home for deputation in a few weeks.

For our American friend T., who continues to help mold and focus the leadership vision for the house church: he's working hard to fit serious language study into an already-busy schedule; he's taken on more responsibility by joining a local gospel music association board; he' splaying an active role in developing the small group ministry in the Nazarene house church; he and his family have been a huge source of support and encouragement to the Mission Corps volunteers since we've been away!

For our Polish friends and family in Krakow: that God would encourage two of our friends who have taken in several foster care children and are now struggling with employment issues; that God would continue to foster a spirit of inclusion and reconciliation in amongst the families and volunteers in the house church; that God would honor and bless the leadership of our friend T. as he seeks to provide a model of servant leadership for the future. 

Please help us lift up these praises and concerns to the Father! :)

Giving and Receiving

"Giving needs not be confined to money or material gifts, but I would like more people to give their hands to serve and their hearts to love - to recognize the poor in their own homes, towns, and countries, and to reach out to them in love and compassion...

"I'll never forget during the Bangladesh suffering we had ten million people in and around Calcutta. I asked the government of India to allow a number of other congregations to come to our aid, to help us, because we were working the whole time.

"They allowed them to come: about fifteen or sixteen different sisters came to help us, and each one, on leaving Calcutta, said the same thing...

"'I have received much more than I have given and I can never be the same person again; because I have touched Christ, I have understood what love is. What it is to love and to be loved!"
-Mother Teresa, My Life for the Poor

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Real Spirituality

"Real spirituality dawns when our life with God becomes as real as the problems and joys we experience each day. Until then we live in two different worlds - one seemingly real, practical, and demanding world; the other a wistful, so-called 'spiritual' word...

"This separation cannot remain if all our life is to be filled with real meaning, peace, and awe, no matter how violent or stormy our days may become. When we are truly prayerful we join both worlds.

"As we become naturally aware of God throughout the day, we journey in both worlds simultaneously. That is truly the spiritual life." -Robert J. Wicks, Everyday Simplicity

Monday, April 8, 2013

Buried Dreams and Bearing Fruit: A Meditation on Ministry

I feel like this passage has been haunting me this Easter season:
"Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor." -John 12:24-26 (NRSV)

Here's what I read about it in the Green Book last week:
"In a word, earthly life is but the first, very short stretch of a journey to be done; it is very far from completing it. This is the time of 'the grain of wheat that dies in the earth'; it lasts the space of a day as against the thousand thousand years of God." -Carlo Carretto, Journey Without End

I've also been listening to old sermons a lot lately, thinking about the cost of ministry in general and about pioneer missionary Rev. Harmon F. Schmelzenbach and the subsequent generations of his family in particular.

And hearing this quote in Pastor Carl's sermon yesterday helped sort of tie it together for me:

"I think a lot of us are not on a path; we’re in a rut. We have confused comfort with peace, belief with faith, safety with wisdom, wealth with blessing, and existence with life. And for many of us, our dreams will be buried under the epitaph, 'I refused to let go of what I had.'" -Erwin McManus

All of this is kind of sums up why I feel (now more than ever) that God is calling us to some sort of full-time ministry. Whether that's on a missions field or back in the States, in traditional or bi-vocational ministry...yeah, I still have no idea.  
But here's why I feel okay about it all:
"You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that my father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another." -John 15:16-17 (NRSV)

He is faithful!! :)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Faith, Belief, and Wheelbarrows

During Pastor Carl's message this morning, he briefly explained out the difference between belief (the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition to be true) and faith (confidence or trust in a person, thing, doctrine, or a deity).

In doing so, Carl recounted the story of Charles Blondin, the world-famous nineteenth century acrobat and tightrope walker:

"Blondin's greatest fame came in June of 1859 when he attempted to become the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over a quarter of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls.

"He walked 160 feet above the falls several times, each time with a different daring feat - once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once he even carried a stove and cooked an omelette!

"On one occasion though, he asked for the participation of a volunteer.

"A large crowd gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oooohed!” and “Aaaaahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across one dangerous step after another -- blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow.

"Upon reaching the other side, the crowd's applause was louder than the roar of the falls! Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: 'Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?'

"The crowd enthusiastically shouted, 'Yes, yes, yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. You can do anything!'

"'Okay,' said Blondin, 'Get in the wheelbarrow.'"

As Christians, we're called to much more than belief;
we are called to faith!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shunning Power, Waging Peace

A few worthwhile readings from Week 21 (Passion Week) in the Green Book:

"Peacemaking must be the primary focus of all political leaders, whether in or out of power. But the temptations to personal power are too intense to be overcome by our insistently self-centered egos. 

"Therefore, the peace must be God's peace, a peace that is freely available when we turn inwardly to Jesus. Jesus is the model of the ultimate peacemaker, always pointing to Abba as the ultimate source of peace, justice, goodness, mercy, love, and creativity. 

"In order to claim peace, we must relinquish our private agendas and let ourselves be claimed by God."
-Robert A. Jonas, Henri Nouwen: Writings Selected with an Introduction

I deeply believe this. As a Christian, as a pacifist, as a scholar, and (perhaps especially) as someone who often struggles to submit my own controlling nature to God's devastating, all-encompassing, merciful love.

"Is it possible that our world still knows better how to deal with a bandit, a murderer, an insurrectionist than it knows what to do with the Prince of Peace?...

"Is it possible that we would rather deal with raw power that rides on a stallion than with this one who comes on a donkey, with the weapons of love, patience, suffering, and peace? Given the choice, isn't it possible that we would take Barabbas, too?"
-James A. Harnish, What Will You Do with King Jesus?  

Here I identify with the disciples' words to Jesus: "This is a difficult teaching; who can accept it?" (John 6:60). It's definitely thought-provoking; even shameful. And almost certainly true.

Drinking Deeply of the Present

"Christians are claimed by a past that hopes for the future by drinking deeply of the present. They are daring persons for whom belief is etched with faithful doubts. They hold tenaciously to what has been bequeathed, yet they gamble on the new being born."
-W. Paul Jones, The Art of Spiritual Direction

This idea really resonates with me, as both a Christ-follwer and an historian. We are shaped by the past, and long for the future...but both must also inform our actions in the present!

"If wakeful Christians harbor a wish for heaven to fulfill, they wish not for an escape from reality but a deeper acquaintance with reality. When wakeful Christians lament this life, they grieve this world's trivialization of itself that obscures the more profound reality of the kingdom of God in our midst.

"Yet, more often wakeful Christians celebrate life, finding the mark of God's hand in this world and beginning their praise with the discovery of the holy here. 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory' (Isaiah 6:3)."
-J. Marshall Jenkins, A Wakeful Faith

I think this sort of faith-filled, wakeful awareness is what Jones means by "drinking deeply of the present." As Christians we do not merely ignore the screeching and suffering of the world around us; rather we are called to seek out and redeem the works of God in his people and in creation.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Wild Hopes and Holiness

"Do you have any wild hopes,
or tame ones for that matter?
The possibility of acorns becoming towering oaks,
or caterpillars blossoming into butterflies.
or that dawn will chase away midnight fears?

"Wild hopes!

"That all humanity will learn the dance of joy,
and all humanity might taste the win of peace,
an that our loving God will become transparent through love.

"'Recast the earth, O Lord,
and move our hearts with wild hopes.'"
-Robert F. Mornea, Resurrection to Pentecost

"Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.' Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

"He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." 
-1 Peter 1:13-21 (NIV)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Sunday Morning Meditation

Teach me not to move too quickly, Father.
Nor too slowly. 
Help me not to sleep when I should wake. 
Nor wake when I should sleep. 
Teach me when to be silent,
and when to speak.
When to act, 
and when to be still. 


Friday, March 8, 2013

Doing and Not Doing

"Action, just as silence and the word, can help us to claim and celebrate our true self. But here again we need discipline, because the world in which we live says, 'Do this, do that, go here, go there, meet him, meet her.'

"Busyness has become a sign of importance. Having much to do, many places to go, and countless people to meet gives us status and even fame. However, being busy can lead us away from our true vocation and prevent us from drinking our cup...

"It is not easy to distinguish between doing what we are called to do and doing what we want to do. Our many wants can easily distract us from our true action. True action leads us to our true vocation.

"Whether we work in an office, travel the world, write books or make films, care for the poor, offer leadership, or fulfill unspectacular tasks, the question is not 'What do I most want?' but 'What is my vocation?'

"The most prestigious position in society can be an expression of obedience to our call as well as a sign of our refusal to hear that call, and the least prestigious position, too, can be a response to our vocation as well as a way to avoid it." -Henri J. M. Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup?

Global Christianity, Part 4

"For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity... 

"But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. 

"They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers...They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.

"They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven." 
-Mathetes, Epistle to Diognetus 

Global Christianity, Part 3

As Christians, we are called to global citizenship in both the spiritual and the temporal world.

We are called to stewardship of global resources.

God did not create autonomous micro-ecosystems along modern-day political boundaries. God created a world of community, of interdependence, and of shared responsibility.

That's why the coal deposits of East Asia didn't come pre-stamped "Made in China," nor did the Great Plains of North America "Made in the USA."

God created the earth for fellowship with all of humankind, regardless of race, creed, color, orientation, or national origin.

And sometimes I wonder if for us to pretend otherwise isn't, just possibly, a little bit un-Christian.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Global Christianity, Part 2

"In offering ourselves as fully as we can, we discover the cost of discipleship.

"For to bind our lives to Jesus Christ requires that we try to walk with him into the sorrows and suffering of the world. Being bound to Jesus Christ, we see barriers broken down and we are led to places we have never been before and to carry loads we have not even seen before.

"Having offered ourselves to Jesus Christ, we may expect to become the eyes, ears, voice, and hands of Jesus Christ in the world and in the church.

"The cost of salvation? It is completely free and without cost. The cost of discipleship? Only our lives - nothing more and nothing less." -Reuben P. Job, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Global Christianity, Part 1

It occurs to me that if we really wish to to change the world, we must first feed and hydrate the world. Shelter and clothe the world. Heal and love the world. Only then can we help to change it.  

The writer of the Gospel of Matthew put it like this: 

“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’ 

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’" 
-Matthew 25:31-40 (The Message)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Jesus, Weddings, and The Church

Today we were honored to attend the wedding of Tiny and Sarah, two formerly homeless, ex-addict members of our faith community here in Ashton

The service was a beautiful, loving, communal affair. It was full of giggles, gracious moments, and the barely-restrained enthusiasm of a very diverse, very supportive that included toddlers, punks, little old ladies, and what appeared to be members of a biker gang. 

We joined together in singing several celebratory congregational worship songs, and when Pastor Carl pronounced the newly wedded couple, shouts of "Well done!" and "Get in, Tiny!" peppered the boisterous applause. 

It was all a bit rough around the edges. It was real. And it was very, very beautiful. :) 

As a celebration of community, redemption, and the transforming power of God's love, it all reminded me (Aaron) more than a little bit of Christ's relationship to The Church. 

Without him, we're more than just a little rough around the edges; we're lost, we wander, and we're addicted to ourselves. But in Christ, all things are made new, and we are called to celebrate and proclaim that redemption and restoration in community! 

And so...please consider this your friendly reminder that Christ's life, death, and love for us -all of us- is bigger than our sometime hypocrisies as we seek to follow him (courtesy of Derek Webb):

"I have come with one purpose, 
to capture for myself a bride.
By my life she is lovely, 
by my death she’s justified.
I have always been her husband, 
though many lovers she has known.
So with water I will wash her, 
and by my word alone.

"So when you hear the sound of the water,
you will know you’re not alone.

"'Cause I haven’t come for only you,
but for my people to pursue.
You cannot care for me with no regard for her.
If you love me, you will love the church.

"I have long pursued her,
as a harlot and a whore.
But she will feast upon me,
she will drink and thirst no more.
So when you taste my flesh and my blood,
you will know you’re not alone. 

"'Cause I haven’t come for only you,
but for my people to pursue.
You cannot care for me with no regard for her.
If you love me, you will love the church.

"There is none that can replace her,
though there are many who will try.
And though some may be her bridesmaids,
they can never be my bride."

Thanks be to God!! :)