Church, Where Are Your Tears?

Some wise words from a good friend of mine.

De Opresso Liber

I was born to a middle-class (remember when that was a thing?), white family in the United States of America. Both of my parents have college degrees, love each other immensely and provided a childhood that was blissfully full of books, horses, and days spent tramping through the woods with my siblings. But I never saw any of this as “privileged”. It was just my life. I never had new clothes, regularly ate leftovers, and had to start working at 16 to pay for my truck. I truly didn’t believe I was anymore privileged than any of my friends. Then I started actively expanding my understanding of the world and the life experiences of others in it. I already knew, yes, I was incredibly privileged to have been born in America. But then I stumbled upon the concept of white privilege. Talk about an unpleasant wake up.

I was always…

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This Guy Claimed to Be a Christian. You Won’t Believe What He Did.

Disclaimer: This is not pretty. This is messy stuff. Here you go. Whatever you do, don’t just read part of this.

The Good

The man we’re about to talk about is a pretty messed up dude. He claims to be a Christian, but he sure doesn’t always act like Christ. You’d never suspect it either. I mean, this guy was a leader in his youth group in high school, he led bible studies, he volunteered in VBS in the summer, he came from a great Christian family, he serves in a youth group, he seems to have some insights on spiritual matters and Scripture. We all thought he had the Christian checklist all marked off. Then we found out his secrets.

The Bad

Oh man, plenty of this guy’s actions aren’t Christ-like. Is this guy even a Christian? You might not think so after reading this stuff. His faith can’t be authentic. Christians don’t do that stuff. This sin-list certainly counters any “Christian” list he might qualify for. He’s messed around with multiple girls, but he’s made the excuse to himself that it wasn’t too bad because at least he’s still technically a virgin and wasn’t having sex. Pff. Wow. Semantics much? Still abusing and misusing intimacy. Furthermore, get this, he’s had an on and off porn addiction since middle school. Porn. That industry in which plenty of women are trafficked, manipulated, lied to, and abused. Gross, right? He’s a bit arrogant and prideful and it totally messes with his witness. He’s hypocritical and definitely guilty of taking actions that he condemns in speech. What the heck is up with this guy? He can’t be a Christian. Nope. Jesus is all about that righteous life. Sinners are God’s enemies and He will judge and smite them all, just like this guy. God’s grace was meant for people who don’t abuse it or don’t go against his ways. Not for people who have premarital sex, marry the same sex, talk and act racist, have affairs, kill innocent people (especially those who kill Christians), or overall willfully sin.

The…Unexpected?

Wait. What’s that? Oh. Yea. I forgot to tell you something. This guy is me. Eish…Maybe I should’ve told you that in the beginning. Maybe you now see me way different. Maybe you don’t. But I’m telling you all of this for a very important reason. Today our Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. In response, plenty of Christians have been talking all about how our nation is going down the drain, is in moral decay, etc. But this ruling, in actuality, changes nothing. Regardless of your views on the morality of homosexuality, I have something to tell you. We’re all rampant sinners. Absolutely guilty of sin and rebellion directly against God and His ways. We don’t give enough, we don’t spend enough time in fellowship with our Creator, we sin in all sorts of sexual ways, we covet, we gossip, we’re hypocrites all the time. I could go on and on. We’re pretty messed up people. Why is it that we, broken as we are, see these people and their sins as so much worse? Divorce as we know it today, for instance, has been legal for a long time. And many of us Christians are guilty of it despite the fact that Christ spoke directly about divorce (and not about gay marriage). Yet we cry out about the willful sins of this small demographic while ignoring our own or keeping our own secret and in the dark? Even worse, many of these people know nearly nothing of Christ and the teachings of Scripture, while we claim we do. At least these people are merely guilty of ignorance! We in our own sins are guilty of so much more. At least I am anyways… Let me tell you today. If you want to cry out against someone, cry out against me. Cause I am a Dang. Terrible. Sinner.

The Beautiful

But I will SHOUT in response to you about a DANG. AMAZING. GRACE. The grace that saved and constantly redeems me, a broken man who acts out of brokenness and who periodically pursues things that I know are contrary to my God’s will and my own good. The grace that looks at people across the world who don’t know their Creator and sees a people in need of an absolutely beautiful redemption. The grace of a God who sees us not as vessels of deserving damnation, but as a lost and broken people in desperate need of his rescuing hand. The grace of a God who sees us all as lost sheep in need of a shepherd. The grace of a God who came not to heal the healthy, but the sick. Let me tell you, we are such incredibly blessed creations in that He decided that us broken people are actually worth dealing with and taking the time to heal, restore, and renew. On the daily. Read Hosea. You and I are metaphorically whores. Whoa. But all he wants us to know is that he loves us and wants us to walk with Him in ways that will restore us and bring us true fulfillment. After all, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

It’s Not Just Me

You know, I’m not the only one who knows Christ and yet acts in these ways. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” You know who said that? The Apostle Paul. A man who many of us aspire to be like. A man who many of us picture as the ideal Christian. This man called himself the chief of sinners. Elsewhere he said he does all the wrong things that he recognizes are wrong and doesn’t want to do. You ever have those times where you’ve done something wrong and it’s just like, “Dang, I really shouldn’t have done that…”? Well guess what, Paul’s telling us right here that he had those moments all the time. Additionally, 1 John kicks off with saying, “Yea, you’re all a bunch of dirty sinners. Don’t even deny it and add ‘liar’ to your list of sins. It’s alright though. Just take it to God and he’ll clean ya up on the regular.” I mean, basically that’s what’s said. So rather than talk about sins, why don’t we talk more about this grace?

Why I Wrote This

Today, when you find yourself wanting to point out how bad things are in our world, how messed up the movement for gay marriage is, how evil perpetrators of violence in the Middle East are, how beyond redemption our culture is, I have a challenge for you. Instead, get a little bit introspective. If you can’t do that, just look at my own list of sins. Then say to yourself and then to God, whether about yourself or me, “God redeemed and redeems me/that hypocritical guy. God desires a relationship of love with even the worst of us. God, make me a vessel that shows others this redemption and persevering love that they can know.” Instead of seeing the failure in others, look to the glorious beauty of our Lord’s redemption offered to us undeserving sinners. It certainly is a more beautiful thing to focus on. As a daily recipient of this redemption, I should know.

Thank You Baltimore

When I was six years old, I went to Baltimore for the first time. I have three memories from that bit of time. One, my family and I went to some fancy seafood restaurant near the harbor and I ate crab with the use of a hammer for my first time ever. Being encouraged to smash things at the dinner table is just about the best thing that can happen to a six year old, so of course I loved that. Two, we fed ducks and geese at a pond near our motel the day before we flew to move to the Azores. This was something we’d often done at my home before we began our moving process, so this was something familiar and special to me. Three, we walked along the harbor and through a shopping center and I found myself mesmerized by the employees at a fudge shop fittingly called “The Fudgery”. These folks were singing, tossing that fudge around, dancing, and providing a performance that just overall fascinated me. This little blonde kid with a bowl cut (me) was standing in front of the fudge case with a beaming smile. Their smiles, their laughter, their singing, the joy, and the presence of delicious fudge that I desperately wanted my parents to get for me…Well, as a six year old these were all of the best things in life. At the time I didn’t notice this fact, but in memory, these employees were mostly black. At the time, this was irrelevant to me. Now I can’t stop wondering what their lives are like there in Baltimore. Were they affected by these riots? Were they affected by police brutality? (In the last five years there have been 100 court judgments or settlements awarded to victims of police brutality and civil rights violations. And those are just the cases that got that far.) Are they still bringing people joy like they brought me? Is life and society bringing them joy?

Fast forward about five years later. I live in Virginia at this time. My family sometimes takes day trips up to D.C. and Baltimore. One day, we visit Baltimore and go by The Fudgery again. I loved it just as much as before. For my family, it was just a momentary pause. I don’t know if they even remember it. But I remember that brief moment we stopped by. It was a chance for me to remember an earlier joy I’d had five years ago. It was a chance to participate in an atmosphere of joy currently there before me. I remember one man in particular who worked there. He was black, singing as he flipped the fudge with his little scraper thing (I’m kind of unaware of fudge tool terminology), and smiling a big smile full of shiny white teeth. He had short dreads. He was a pretty young adult. I thought, “That’s a really cool guy”. Quickly, we were off to visit a science museum or something. But I’d had my moment. I’d gotten to see my favorite place.

Fast forward ten years. I now live in Seattle, WA. I’m watching racial tensions ignite across our country and praying for Baltimore as it experiences troubles I could never dream of. I’m praying for African Americans who feel unheard and utterly frustrated with the system of our society. I’m praying for the police and public officials in Baltimore, that they might be given wisdom, peace, and a spirit of reconciliation. I’m praying for business owners and the population of Baltimore, watching as conflict has descended on their home. But most of all, I’m praying for those people who made me smile as a six year old boy. I’m praying for that young black man, now in his 30s or so I suppose, who impacted me as an eleven year old boy. I’m praying that he’s safe. That he’s been free from police brutality. That he’s a voice for reconciliation. That he’s still bringing joy and happiness to people and wearing that big, contagious smile.

Baltimore, and the greater black community of our nation, is experiencing a great struggle right now. Pray for them. Stand with them. Acknowledge the wrongs wherever you want, but, more than that, choose to see the rights being done. Choose to see the good in people and strengthen that. Rally around the voices of reconciliation. Support the efforts for progress. Hear people out. Bring peace, justice, and understanding. Pray for Baltimore. Pray for Maryland. Pray for our nation. Pray for that man from The Fudgery with that beaming smile. I want you to know there’s light in the midst of these bits of darkness. Light like those people unknowingly displayed in my life. Light that we can all choose to see, support, and be ourselves. Strengthen this light and the darkness will fade. And thank you Baltimore, for putting a little bit of that light into my life as an awestruck boy at a fudge factory.

If you appreciated the spirit of this post, feel free to share it yourself! I would love to see these words stand out as a positive note in the midst of all the negative media we consume.

#Ferguson: A Gospel Issue

I am so tired of waiting,
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
-Langston Hughes

It was in my college Liberation Theology class back in 1990 that I first discovered different ‘Gospel’ perspectives – perspectives from those steeped in death and persecution, suffering and scarcity.  We spent evenings at my professors house reading and discussing Gustavo Gutiérrez, Juan Luis Segundo, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, and a host of African and Asian liberation theologians.  It may have been the first ‘aha’ moment for me, the first realization that the Gospel wasn’t just about getting saved and voting pro-life.

A next significant time came during the year I lived with Tom in the hood in Chicago.  Though I grew up on Long Island with great diversity, I was a suburban kid, mostly protected from the issues Tom grew up with.  Tom was black, and he showed me and told…

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A Letter to the Church in America

Wise words from a friend.

Unrestrained

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The western Church is not a series of church buildings and denominations. Those are businesses. The true Church is the body of believers that move in the power, control, and direction of the Holy Spirit. They proclaim the gospel and bring truth to the hearts of those darkened by sin.

That being the case, if Paul and John (the author of Revelation) were to write a letter to the church of America I have a feeling this is what it would sound like…

*These are passages taken from different scriptures in Revelation 2 and 3, and Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 1 and 3 with “America” in place of the churches they addressed among other relevant changes etc.*

To the Church of America,

I urge and entreat you, friends, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in perfect harmony and full agreement in what you…

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I. Am. Not. Anonymous.

I’ve honestly always had a bit of an iffy feeling about Mark Driscoll. Whether you’ve always liked him or not, you should read this.

ronwheelerjr

Dear Mark Driscoll:

You were once one of my closest friends.

You were once my trusted mentor and benefactor.

You were once someone who preached the Gospel with a fierce and captivating passion and purity.

You were the one who inspired me to be a preacher… a church planter.

In 1996 I was working as a missionary in West Africa when my mom sent me a recording of you speaking at the Northwest Christian Education conference.  I was intrigued, captivated, and a bit disturbed by what I heard. You deconstructed my tidy neat little worldview and described the church as a mission outpost that exists between the gospel message and various cultures.  That message convinced me that I could be a missionary at home, and so I returned.

I started attending Mars Hill with my family, driving an hour each way from Mount Vernon down to Seattle.  Mars Hill was…

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Losing Your Idealism

More good words from my friend Anna Maclellan after her time in Ukraine.

De Opresso Liber

I have been called pessimistic, cynical, a downer. And yes, I do have a tendency to see the dark side of things (that comes with being a criminology major…although I prefer to call my dark streak “realism”) but despite that, there were (are?) still a few things I was quite idealistic about. Humanity was one of those things.
This past semester, while sitting in my class on the philosophy of ethics and listening to the often-times ethically bankrupt statements of classmates, I had the thought, “I might lose faith in humanity. Soon.” You might’ve expected that to have occurred earlier than this. After all, I’ve befriended girls younger than I who have been sold nightly for their bodies. I’ve written extensive research papers on some of the most prolific and sadistic serial killers in the world. I’ve met little children across the globe that have been wantonly abandoned by the people…

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Palestinians are People: A Missionary’s Observations

Wow, this blog post from a missionary in the West Bank is incredible.

Dr. Jeremiah Gibbs

image Photo: Tarek

As of today, 197 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,500 have been injured in Israel’s constant bombing of Gaza over the last 10 days. Though Palestinians have fired lots of rockets and mortars at Israel in this same time frame, reportedly only one Israeli has been killed. This outburst of violence is the worst in five years. This is a guest post written by an American friend of mine that is a missionary to the West Bank. I asked her to give advice to all of us for whom this conflict is just a bunch of numbers: 197. 1,500. I hope this reminds us that each of those numbers is a person made in the image of God.

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Persecution

Per·se·cu·tion
pərsəˈkyo͞oSHən
noun
hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs.

As Christians, why does persecution surprise us?

Why does it anger us and bring us outrage? Why do we demand to be treated better, often see our persecutors as opponents unworthy of God’s grace, and even sometimes retaliate or call for retaliation? Were we not told to expect this when we signed on with Christ? (2 Timothy 3:12) Were we not given directions in advance to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? (Matt 5:43-48) Peter even says not to consider persecution “as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12-19). So why does our reaction to persecution of the Church today look so…well, typical? Predictable even?

My fellow Christians, God has a call for us. He is calling us to shower the world with Christ’s love. He is calling us to respond to persecution of ourselves and fellow believers not with hate or disgust for the persecutors, but with support for the suffering. Dare I say it, he is calling us to respond to the persecutors themselves with love and empathy for these lost people. He is calling for us to graciously accept anything and everything that the world throws at us or the rest of the Church. He is calling for us to turn the other cheek, to offer our tunic to those who rob us of our cloaks, and to surprise the world with how incredibly different we are. He even calls us to enter persecution knowingly and willingly.

Today, the Christian church is facing persecution of various degrees.

Tens of thousands of Christians were recently forcibly evicted from Mosul in Iraq, Christians across Syria are suffering at the hands of extremists, Christians have been imprisoned recently in Iran and Sudan, the Church continues to be persecuted to near elimination in North Korea, and Christians in Nigeria are suffering at the hands of Boko Haram. Overall, Christianity is illegal or physically dangerous in about 51 countries of the world. Persecution of a lesser degree has happened in the West, with some seeing certain political actions as persecutions of the Church and with parts of Europe being seemingly hostile to religion altogether. So yea, we’ve got some tough stuff going on. But let me tell you, we can use that hostility to turn the world on its head.

We’ve just gotta respond in a way that would turn heads.

Jesus says some pretty awesome stuff in chapter 5 of Matthew. Something he says about persecution specifically that’s always stuck out to me is Matthew 5:11-12, “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

Wow. Be glad about persecution? What? Um, Jesus, you do understand what persecution is, right? It kinda sucks… Huh, maybe he just doesn’t understand what persecution is like… Or maybe, just maybe, He plans to use our persecution to save others and to glorify His name.  In all honesty, I think many of us Christians today often respond to persecution in much the same way that anyone else would. We avoid it, detest it, and get angry about it. We march in protest, shout about our rights, and overall demand to be treated right. I can’t blame ya. Everyone deserves justice, yea? Everyone deserves to be treated fairly, yea? Isn’t that what Western society, democracy, and the modern world is all about? Equal rights for all and such gooshy stuff?

But what if we took a more humble approach?

What if, instead of spending time marching for our rights that are infringed upon, we spent that time ministering to the needs of those infringing on our rights? What if we considered others as more important than ourselves? (Phil 2:3) What if we chose to be wise not in the world’s way, but in God’s way. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18.

I will say, it is crucial and absolutely called of us as Christians to stand for justice. And we are meant to oppose wrongdoing and evil. But I believe we should oppose evil itself. Oppose the Evil One, not the ones he has deceived. Make it your priority in life to reconcile the lost to Christ, even when they persecute you or others. Let your heart break for those stuck in hatred rather than also being driven towards hatred by their actions. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12. Trust me, God will judge those who allow themselves to be instruments of evil and do not turn from their ways. No condemnation from us will even make a difference in the end.

But for us, love, above all things, is meant to emanate from our lives, absolutely regardless of anything going on in the world around us. I call you to pray for the persecuted, but to pray for the persecutors just as much (if not more). We can change the world through Christ, but we must consider ourselves nothing for the sake of others first.

Counting our lives as nothing for the sake of others.

About a century ago, a band of brave souls became known as one-way missionaries. They bought tickets to the mission field without the return half. Instead of suitcases, they packed their few earthly belongings into coffins. As they sailed away, they waved goodbye to everyone they loved and all they knew, knowing they’d never return home. They gave up everything to leave for near-guaranteed persecution. One of those missionaries was A.W. Milne. He set sail for the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, aware that the headhunters there had martyred every. single. missionary. before him. But guess what. Milne didn’t fear for his life because he had already died to himself. His coffin was packed. He ended up living among the tribe for 35 years, sharing Christ and His love with people who had previously horrifically killed many of his brethren. When he died, they buried him in the middle of the village and inscribed the following on his tombstone: “When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.” I wish to see more people thinking like that today. Counting our lives as nothing for the sake of others.

See the world as God sees it.

I hope that we can all come to see the world as God sees it, a place full of people desperately in need of their Creator, beloved and beautiful, and in need of healing over their brokenness. In Ezekiel 18:23 and 27 God says, “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die?…Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live…if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life.” I encourage you to do all you can in your life to help people turn to God and be reconciled to Him, so that their incredibly valuable lives will be saved.

I will leave you now with the passage of 1 Peter 3:8-18. This passage summarizes beautifully the focus that God hopes to see in our lives.
“8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,

“Whoever would love life
    and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
    and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good;
    they must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

WEEK 3 & 4: More than I could imagine

My partner in ministry’s latest blog post is here!

A Journey to Kenya

So it’s been 2 weeks since my last post. I know I promised to do one a week but the wifi ended up going when I was trying to do it so I decided to wait another week. – so here it is!

In the past two weeks I have been able to do and learn a lot. I’ve done everything from climbing a dormant volcano, meeting with Spur Afrika(a local ministry that I’m working with), to having a bible study with some guys from the hostel, and going to the UN. The details of the past two weeks could fill a book but as always I will do my best to capture some stories that have really impacted me recently in order to keep it somewhat brief. Hope you are doing well and that God is moving mightily in your life.

Story Time: 

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Working with Spur Afrika has been…

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