Thinking Out Loud

September 2, 2013

Years Later, The Revolution is Still Irresistible

I mentioned earlier that this summer, instead of reading the books the publishing machine thinks I should be reviewing, I’m choosing things in remainder bins and re-reading some things on my shelf that cry out for a fresh glance.

Irresistible RevolutionShane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution fit nicely into that category. Not needing to meet a deadline, I read this almost devotionally over a period of about 15 days while I had other titles on the go. The book was published in 2006; the first of Shane’s books I reviewed here was the 2008 Jesus for President.

There’s a scene toward the end of the book where Shane describes crashing the Republican National Convention where, one-time, for the sake of expediency, he claims the title of prophet. He states clearly this is not something that one would readily say about themselves, perhaps especially if they were a true prophet.

But nonetheless, there is something different about Irresistible Revolution, a different tenor or tone if you will, whereupon I have to say that Shane Claiborne speaks with a prophetic voice. This book is a challenge to us as The capital ‘C’ Church, as members of local churches, and as individuals to embrace the social justice mandate given to us by Jesus.

However, despite the force of the message, the book also speaks with an almost off-hand, casual East Tennessee southern accent. I’ve mentioned earlier that with YouTube and online media, we have the opportunity to hear authors speak, and then to read their books with their voices ringing in our ears. Shane’s approach is, for lack of a better word, friendly; while his intentions are fierce.

While ultimately God may not call all of us to travel to India, or Iraq, or risk arrest or imprisonment for the sake of the poor and underprivileged; the mandate remains nonetheless. (For more on risking arrest, read this recent story of Shane’s fellow Iraq-traveler, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.)

A few months ago, I mentioned the exhaustive treatment social justice is given in Ken Wytsma’s Pursuing Justice. If that book is the modern textbook on social justice, its seeds were planted years earlier in the testimony of people like Shane Claiborne.

I encourage you to read both. If you don’t have a social conscience, you will. If you don’t think the ministry of the church involves anything other than proclamation of the gospel, you will.

Irresistible Revolution, 368 pages, paperback, Zondervan 2006

Read more about Shane’s community, The Simple Way.

June 26, 2011

Classic Reading: Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby

While the Christian blogosphere tends to focus on the latest author and the latest book, I’ve always believed you should read a current book and then read a classic, or in this case, a modern classic:  Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby (B&H Publishing Group, revised edition 2008).  The foundation of the book is what he calls “The Seven Realities of Experiencing God;” and everything else in the book — and the related study Bible — flows out of those realities. 

I thought it would be great to have them be part of this blog, and I’m grateful to the blog A Cup of Joy for already having these typed out.  The realities are listed with accompanying scriptures that should quickly indicate that the book is also a study on the life of Moses. 

7 Realities of Experiencing God

(From Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby)

1. God is always working around you (Exodus 2:23-25)

“And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.”

2. God pursues a continuing personal love relationship with you that is real and personal (Exodus 3:1)

“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.”

3. God invites you to be come involved with Him in His work (Exodus 3:8, 10)

“And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites…Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring fouth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.”

4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways (Exodus 3:2-8)

“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses, said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.”

5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action (Exodus 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10, 13)

“And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?…And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?…And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee…And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue…And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.”

6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing (Exodus 4:19-20)

“And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life. And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.”

7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you (Exodus 6:1-8)

“Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. And God spake unto Moses and said unto him, I am the LORD: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.”

January 7, 2011

Getting the Story versus Getting the Credit

Over the holidays, I got to play a very, very, very small part in a much larger effort to bring both a hot tasty meal and warm friendship and fellowship to people who would normally be alone on Christmas Day.  At some point in the future, I might write further about how important it is to meet both of those needs.

A local reporter was present at the event and interviewed a man that she knows from his involvement in the local business community.  The end result was an article that was genuinely favorable, but one that placed this one individual at the center of the story, when in fact, this was a group effort involving dozens and dozens of volunteers.  To be fair, it’s possible that this person did not know the whole history of the event in question.

It’s the third time in a few weeks that the local paper has not gotten the story right, where the story involved something church-related or of a “religious” nature.  While it’s not objective journalism, I think sometimes the best reporting on a thing like this one can only happen when someone within the story itself does the writing. Also, churches need to be more sensitive when a member of “the fifth estate” shows up and assign a press liaison to that person.  Perhaps everyone else should be told not to speak on behalf of the organization or event, but to refer questions to someone else.

There’s a whole lot I could write here about how the media generally misses the nuances of Christian — and especially Evangelical — event coverage. We need more Christian young people to study journalism.  My wife says the potential for errors multiplies greatly when you’re dealing with small town newspapers.

But I want to put some positive spin on this.

While thinking this over in the 24 hours since I finally got around to reading the story, I was reminded of something seemingly unrelated that Frank Viola has written in many of his books that deal with the house church movement.  (Told ya it was seemingly unrelated!)

Viola says that when you visit a home church, if it’s running ideally, when you walk in you won’t get a sense of who is in charge. Different people participate by contributing different gifts and any teaching you get is organic, springing up from within the community, and possibly coming from different voices on different weeks. There isn’t the compelling need which we have as humans — similar to the need to put things in ‘boxes’ — to identify the “Alpha person” and give them a place of honor. Viola would say that the Holy Spirit is in charge. Not a particular individual.

That’s probably what bewildered the reporter.  She was looking to “get the story” as reporters do. And really, there were a couple of people “in charge” that she could have interviewed if she was doing her job properly, and those two are humble enough that they wouldn’t allow the story to center on them.

The “star” of the show that day was the Christian community — and a few others who were drawn into the current of generosity that was flowing that day — who were manifesting the grace of God being outworked in love and service.

And if you find yourself being interviewed some day, that’s where you should directing the “credit.” The pop and rock stars who accept their award by saying they “want to thank God,” may not always be sincere, but their words have the right idea. That would have worked well in this situation.

A Canadian pastor, Dennis Anderson shared a few years ago in a sermon, and it has stuck with me ever since…

“There is no limit on what can be done for God, as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.”

December 28, 2009

Post #1001 – Don’t Go To Church

One of the things about Andy Stanley’s church that impresses me is a study that they did using a Fortune 500 company where they conducted interviews with people in their services who had been in attendance for five weeks or less.

Let me pause and say that this speaks huge volumes about their church when they have enough people passing through on a regular basis that it’s worthwhile to employ a company to survey those who have been there only a very, very short time.

What they found was that many of these people were already interested in “discerning next steps.”  They wanted to jump in with both feet and get involved; they wanted to get their hands dirty.   (Okay, technically, that would be jumping in with both hands.)

I was reminded of this in a church yesterday when I looked at their bulletin which runs a recurring promotional paragraph about their men’s ministry, and it talks about a couple of social events their group holds a few times each year.   I couldn’t help but think, “Okay, but what else do you do?”

I should say that this group does in fact offer some optional missiony things throughout the year — like that word?  I just made it up — but they don’t advertise them much.   I think people are looking for a cause.   I think people who haven’t even crossed the line of faith yet are spiritually savvy enough to realize that Christians, if they are going to bear that name at all, should be about changing the world.

And then, in the evening I came across the Faith In Action site.  This California-based organization partners churches with projects.   Frankly, I’m not so sure that there ought to be any church in any part of the U.S. that has to engage an outside agency to point them in the direction of need.   But what the heck, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt; there are many churches out in the American suburban hinterland that may be a tad isolated from what’s goin’ on down in the ‘hood.   Or even what the church down the block is up to, which is another partnership service Faith in Action offers.

Faith in Action will also provide you with additional promotional materials to support your project.   Banners.  T-Shirts.   Postcards.   Doorhangers.   (Ouch!  I just bit my tongue.)

They’re also promoting a Faith in Action Sunday on 10/10/10.    Nice numeric optics.   But people in the inner city, people in need of jobs, people in need of food on their table,  people in need of housing, people in need of justice, people in need of medical help, people in need of freedom from addictions, people in need of love, etc.; these people all need help NOW.    Not on 10/10/10.    It scares me to think a church could be aware of need but decide to hold back until that Sunday.    I hope instead that 10/10 is actually the day they do THE REALLY BIG PROJECT.

But I do like their T-shirts.    Don’t Go To Church, Be The Church.

Like, a big Amen to that.

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