Archive for October, 2005

“…More Jewish” continued


Hustle and Bustle
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

For sure, a legalistic following of the law is not what I’m advocating in my previous post. As I mentioned, “Sabbath” (and you may choose not to use that terminology) will look different for everyone. The key questions remain: In what ways are you living counter-culturally in a society that connects the value of a person to what he or she is able to produce? How are you redeeming God’s gift of time in a world that stretches it thin with shallow pursuits? How much time are you “offering” on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis to stop the usual grind and hear from God?

My wife and I have most certainly NOT perfected this in our life (who has?), but God is definitely working on us in this regard. I only share my experience to encourage others to take seriously God’s ancient call for “time redemption.”

Here are some questions we have been working through that relate to the witness created by our practice of Sabbath (borrowed from Mark Love):

– How does the practice of Sabbath demonstrate the nature of the kingdom? How is this good news?

– How is the practice of Sabbath embodied in the ministry of Jesus? What does it say about the nature of God?

– Is Sabbath a death and resurrection practice? How is it a saving practice? What does it save us from and what does it save us for?

– How does the practice of Sabbath critique the way things are? How is this a departure from business as usual, from life as determined by the principalities and powers of this age?

– Where are the places of resistance in our culture? In the church?

– Why is this hard to believe?

– Why would the Sabbath way of life require a community? The power of the Spirit?

Those may or may not be rhetorical questions — if you have input regarding the practice of Sabbath or “time redemption”, we’d love to hear it.

Christians Need to be A Little More Jewish

I mean, right?

The Israelites had such a “sane” rhythm of life. God knew what he was doing when he commanded His people to observe Sabbath, participate in feasts, celebrate during Jubilee, and the countless other regulations regarding “time.” Where have these rhythms gone? Just because death is not still connected with a failure to observe these laws, should Christians have ever ditched the intentions behind the “Sabbath” regulations?

God is trying to teach Chrissy and me to be a little more Jewish. We are in the beginning stages of rejecting the Western, American lie that our value is connected to our ability to constantly produce. We are doing this by saying “no” to more things. We are also doing this by commiting our Sunday mornings to stopping for once during the week and commiting a significant chunk of time to each other and the Lord.

This doesn’t have to be the model for everyone, but in what ways are you living counter-culturally in respect to your time? How might a healthy theology of Sabbath be salvific for ourselves, our community, and those “outside” our communities?

I’m pretty sure Christians need to begin asking these kinds of questions, for reasons like this, among others.

You can download the first chapter of a book that I plan on buying, Sabbath Keeping, here. This could be a very important book in this conversation. A secular book that probably should play a role in the conversation on Sabbath is In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore — see the book’s Web site here.

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Also, for a great CNN commentary on the “time” situation in America, read this. Are Christians modeling a different standard than what is described in the article?

WMW in a Nutshell

Great weekend at the World Mission Workshop in Searcy, AR. Tons of folks who are serious about taking the gospel to distant and not-so-distant places. Perhaps the most surprising part of the weekend was the number of people viewing North America as a viable location for mission work. Nearly every class on North American missions, urban ministry, or church planting was full of vibrant believers (mostly young people) see themselves as missionaries to their own continent. Praise God!

We got to meet a few of these folks who will be arriving in Boston at exactly the same time as the Holts next summer (complete coincidence — NOT!). We spent a considerable amout of time with a Boston team from Harding University, and we soon found out that our visions for evangelism and discipleship in a relational way in Boston were almost identical (again, complete coincidence — NOT!). We are looking to reside in different parts of Boston, but this is a good thing, not a bad thing. We can pray and cast vision with one another for the entire city of Boston, not just certain neighborhoods. (by the way, we are told that no fewer than five more teams are scheduled to land in Boston to do kingdom work beginning next summer, and several hundred folks are “very interested” in learning more about what God is doing in the Northeast — I’d say God is moving.)

These are exciting times. God is raising up missionaries to America alongside missionaries to Sudan. He is calling his community out of self-gratification and indulgence to serve the culture in which it lives. Whether we have formal training or not (and if you want formal training, the place to be is at ACU…winkwinknudgenudge), we must all begin seeing the work that lies ahead of us in America as mission work. I want to re-print a quote that I published a few months back (far before I surpassed 10,000 hits — thanks, faithful readership!) because I think it illustrates the calling of the church in our culture:

I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on a town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek…at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died, and that is what He died about. And that is where churchmen ought to be, and what churchmen should be about.
— Ian Thomas, 20th century theologian and author

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If you’re in the mood for a striking story (potential sermon story material!), read this. If you can get past the annoying author, I think you’ll like it.

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Also, I’ve never much been into the lifestyles of “hit harlots” on the blogosphere. Hit harlots will do anything and everything (sell themselves on the Internet, so to speak) to collect hits on their blog sites. I would, however, like to thank the faithful readership after the most recent milestone — 10,000 hits. When I began this blog in January, I never thought it would be read by anyone besides maybe my wife and parents. I pray that it is an edifying part of your “spiritual blog-mation.” Again, thanks.

Harvest Boston


IMG_0151
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

I apologize that Chrissy is not in the picture to the right. We seriously don’t have one together in Boston. We’ll remedy that on Spring Break.

My wife Chrissy and I have been training to make disciples in Boston, Massachusetts, beginning in the summer of 2006. We’ll travel to Boston with Steve (Sr) and Lynn Holt over Spring Break to finalize housing, neighborhoods, etc. We believe God has set us aside for simple, relational “evangelism” (I even hesitate to use that word, with all its connotations of door-knocking and soapbox preaching) in New England. Our hope, however, is that the Lord will use the Holts to facilitate the planting of a vibrant family of Jesus Christ within close reach — culturally and geographically — of every Bostonian. That means every diverse neighborhood, people group, and family system has the opportunity not only to hear the gospel of Jesus, but to “throw in” with a community of Christ-followers not unlike themselves and committed to Kingdom expansion.

Is this a lofty goal?

You bet.

But so was Christ’s commission Matthew 28.

But the Great Commission has also been used to do a lot of destructive things in the name of Christ. I think a more appropriate model for our ministry may be in Luke 10:

“The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them on ahead in pairs to all the towns and villages he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: ‘the harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. Pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest, and ask him to send out more workers for his fields. Go now, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Don’t take along any money, or a traveler’s bag, or even an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road. ‘Whenever you enter a home, give it your blessing. If those who live there are worthy, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. When you enter a town, don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide you. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay. ‘If a town welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you and heal the sick. As you heal them, say, ‘the Kingdom of God is near you now.'”

Our aim is not to baptize as many people as we can or even to plant a church, but to be a part of the in-breaking of the reign of God wherever we are — work, school, home. We want to serve people, declaring to them the coming of a “new order” — the exciting coming of the kingdom of God — and invite them into the exciting existence of living fully into that kingdom. A kingdom life that values justice, service, sanity, spiritual disciplines, hospitality, community, non-violence, and mission, among many other things (those virtues, of course, overlap in significant ways).

We believe this kingdom life will be good news — “gospel” — to a widow neighbor, a newspaper editor, or maybe a MBA student in Boston. May it be good news for us all again, even today.

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As of 7 a.m. Thursday, we are headed with a group to the World Mission Workshop at Harding University. We will have the opportunity to tell the above story at least once corporately, and numerous times individually. We also will meet with a Harding team headed to Boston next summer to talk and pray about the ways we may cooperate in God’s mission. Please pray for us as we’re on the roads. If you have any questions about who we are or what we’re about, feel free to leave us a message in the comments section or e-mail me at smh00a@acu.edu. You all are appreciated. Blessings this weekend.

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

If you haven’t ever done this, click on the “View My GuestMap” icon in the menu to the right and “make your mark” to let me know where you are. Several folks have done this, but I’d love to get a better idea of where in the world my “readership” resides.

A couple people have asked how Boston plans have been going, so look for an update in the next few days. Sorry I haven’t written more about the ‘ol plans for Beantown…

Blessings today.

Eternal Truth in a Stupid Forward


Noah’s Ark
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I was inspired by a recent e-mail forward (you know, the “Send this to 10 people in 10 minutes or you will die” sort of forward…) I received from my uncle in Miami. My uncle’s a highly insightful individual, so when he sends me something, I read it. Even when it has “Fwd:” in the subject line. Anyway, I think these fun principles from an old, old story have implications for us and the church today. The comments in italics are mine.

Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah’s Ark.

ONE: Don’t miss the boat.

We are in a war, my friends. We can either sit it out and succomb to Satan’s pressure, or we can join God in the battle. How many Christians do we know that are on the sidelines? I would hate to be left on shore while the adventure that was the ark set out.

TWO: Remember that we are all in the same boat.

We’ve been studying unity in our Restoration History class at ACU. One thing has been crystal clear to me during this study: Unity on “my terms” is not unity. It is pride. If we are in a battle (or on an ark), what a shame it would be to scream at the guy next to you in the foxhole for touching your elbow (there’s no “ark” equivalent, so I’ll leave that alone). You get the point, I think.

THREE: Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

Just read Mike Cope’s blog today. Pain is coming. So is the rain.

FOUR: Stay fit. When you’re 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

I take this to mean establishing habits of spiritual discipline early in a person’s walk with the Lord. This really connects with No. 4.

FIVE: Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

I’d modify this one slightly to read, as my friend Miller Talbot always reminds me, “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.” In other words, consider the source when attacks/criticism comes. Don’t fall in love with your work so much that you are blinded to its faults, however. In ministry or church work, God is actually doing the building. Are we working alongside him?

SIX: Build your future on high ground.

For the Holts, this means that we are drastically simplifying our lives materially. It also means we are extravagantly sharing with others. For everyone, high ground might look a little differently, but we ought to all be “storing up treasures in heaven”, not on earth.

SEVEN: For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.

One of my favorites. We really, really need each other. Not only so we can give the occasional pat on the back or correcting jab in the ribs, but so we can minister effectively to others. Read this for a great blog entry on the “Power of Pairs.”

EIGHT: Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

Boy, do we need to remember this one! We need to apply it to our maxed out, 100-mph lives, as well as to our strategies for growing our churches. Individual Christians need to remember that Christ’s “yoke is easy and his burden light”, and that being tired all the time is not virtuous! Slow down and listen to the Lord! (I’m talking to myself right there…) And church leaders, the “whatever works” mentality for quick church growth has to go. Start with a few people, like Christ did. It might take three years, but in the end you’ll have a disciple.

NINE: When you’re stressed, float a while.

We all need to float sometimes. Just rest in the arms of God. What if the answer to the great “spiritual dillemmas” and “deserts” of life was NOT to simply “try harder”, but to float?

TEN: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

And the church was spread by “unlearned, ordinary men.” I think it can be that way today. After all, the greatest “seminary professors” in the universe are Christ and the Holy Spirit. My Bible says they reveal groundbreaking things to “babes.”

ELEVEN: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

A.K.A. “eschatology.” We have to begin living like we have a “future glory”, both on earth and in heaven. Our hope is not just for the world beyond, but for this world — God wants to restore all of humanity AND the entire cosmos to himself. We are to be transformed into glorious creatures. Heaven should be pretty cool, too…