Viewing entries in
Ministry

Comment

God and Evil - Handing us Over to our Own Issues

God and Evil.jpg

Man. This has been a year of painful silence from the One who speaks life into all the dead places and spaces in our world and heart. Did God break up with us? Is He ghosting? I've been in one long angry, puffy faced temper tantrum. Been calling Him all sorts of bad names and accusing him of all sorts of bad things. My heart has becoming hardened, and here's my unfinished take on working through his response to my rebellion. 

I've been working through the Old Testament and getting familiar with what can sometimes be understood as the grouchy side of God's character. It occasionally reads as God waking up on the wrong side of the bed. There is the whole flooding the earth situation, burning of Sodom of Gamorrah, genocide of all of Egypt's first born sons, and the straight up demolition of the sons of Eli. Granted, there's are some pretty good reasons why He reacts on a diva level 10 to these particular instances  (the earth was evil, Sodom and Gamorrah were into gang raping, the Egyptian Pharaoh ran a pretty significant slave industry, Eli's sons were straight up thugs), but still - where's is our loving God in all of these screwed up situations? Where is superman who saves the world, redeems the time, and sets things right?

  • I recently worked through the story of the Exodus, and noticed that God hardens Pharaoh's heart. 
  • As I was working through the turn over of Saul's kingship to David, I noticed that God sends an evil spirit to Saul

I have a friend in my life who isn't into accountability. I've petitioned this friend to seek pastoral wisdom, to address their issues, and to live accountable to the faith they claim. It's all been a solid 'no'. A resounding 'get out of my face'. My friend's heart has becoming hardened against the ways of God. My friend initiated the hardening of their own heart, and maybe the only way back to God (on account of their own stubbornness) is to surrender them over to their issues and pray that life in the fast lane knocks them around enough that they come running back into the arms of God. Do I abandon my friend? No! Am I done with my friend? No! To release someone to their own devices is not the same as throwing them away, rather, night comes before dawn and sometimes people, out of their own stubbornness, must experience the fullness of night. 

Sometimes, when little children throw a temper tantrum, you have to let that tantrum happen. It doesn't mean that you don't love them. It doesn't mean that you won't address their anger. It doesn't mean that you won't equip them with the right tools to work through those emotions when the timing is right. It means that that little one has decided to throw a temper tantrum, and you have to wait that nonsense out. The waiting can be costly, painful, and downright sad. The waiting can make you feel like a loser and a failure. But it's just waiting. It's not permanent.

When God hardened Pharaoh's heart, Pharaoh already did the work of having a heard heart. Pharaoh already refused to humble himself and rejected God's way over and over again. So, did God harden his heart or simply give Pharaoh over to his own pride?

When an evil spirit comes on Saul, Saul's already been freaking out and totally threatened by David's prominence. Saul has already been struggling with jealously over David's military victories, over David's popularity, over David's favor from God, and over his daughter's love for David. Does God send an evil spirit to Saul, or does he simply give Saul over to the jealously in his heart?

Sometimes, you have to let that tantrum happen. Pharaoh's heart was set against Israel, and God let it be set. Saul's heart was set against David, and God let it be set. Sometimes the only path out is right through the dark forest of the hardness of our hearts. We are little children, after all. 

So, is God's seeming silence in the face of our frustration equate to God's indifference over us? No, I don't think so. 

Are there any Stranger Things fans in the house? SPOILER ALERT (PS - If I'm spoiling this for you, you haven't lived. Stop what you are doing and go watch the second season). One of my favorite scenes is when Hopper loses his temper with El. I mean - it definitely hits a 'Hopper needs to say sorry' point, but early in the argument, Hopper's responding in a pretty understandable way. Hopper is in straight up Dad mode, and he is so protective over El and has such a strong love for her, that he gets super angry when she disobeys him, putting herself in the path of danger. You can almost see scenes of little El falling into the hands of heartless scientists who mean her great harm run across Hopper's face as it becomes red with anger at El. He can see the bigger picture that she can't see, and knows the boundaries in her life are there for a good reason. Sometimes, a good dad goes in discipline mode, and raises his voice. And sometimes - a good Dad knows the only thing to do is to throw his hands up in the air, let you learn the lesson your way, and wait for you come around. Good Dads get angry, but are are never 'done' with their kids. Good Dads pass judgements, fair judgements, but they aren't final judgements. In time and after El's rebellion, Hopper comes around to El, and they are okay. There is so much more to the story than the isolated moment of heated frustration. That moment is just part of a longer narrative. Don't turn the TV off in the middle of a show - finish the series! Don't turn the Lord off in the middle of the story - keep waiting, pressing in, wrestling, and checking your own hardness of heart against His good boundaries.

I think God is patient, and his love is strong enough that he sometimes restrains His own leadership in our life so we can learn lessons the hard way. Sometimes God (good Dad) gets angry because we are being denseSometimes little kids throw temper tantrums and God (good Dad) gives us over to own desires. The good news is when the tantrum is over, there is a loving and committed God , who calls himself Dad, who is waiting and willing to pick us up out of our own mess, brush us off, and heal our hardened hearts. Buck up, little one - its just a season.

Comment

Daniel's EP, Hidden Nation, released to raise funds for adoption

Comment

Daniel's EP, Hidden Nation, released to raise funds for adoption

THE DAY IS HERE! After years of hard work, song writing, studio time, and dreaming - Daniel's 4 song EP is FINALLY OUT! Huzzah! I AM SO EXCITED!

This has been our dream baby for years, and the songs on this EP are the sounds of our home. We we first starting talking about recording, Daniel had a stroke of brilliance and began to dream about the project raising money for our first adoption. Can you believe I married him? He's the greatest.

We launched our fundraising platform 7 short days ago thru Generosity, and all proceeds from the album go towards our first adoption. You can hear our adoption story, and purchase all of the beautiful goodies from the album below: 

Check out our adoption story here:

Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing more about the song writing process, the journey behind 'Pioneers', 'One Day', 'You Are', and 'Strongest Man Alive', and where we are in our adoption journey. I'm going to go cry now! Thanks for dreaming with us. 

- Sherei

-------

UPDATE: We've hit 30% of our goal! In celebration, check out the Pioneers & You Are music videos below:

Comment

Comment

How To Pray for President Elect Donald Trump

Want the List: Skip to the bottom.


Today is not my best day. I feel asleep in grief and woke up in grief.  This has been a week of deep pain and the days ahead are uncertain at best. My heart aches, my body moves slowly, and as I inch on my body is full of sickness because of the heaviness of my soul. A good friend of mine passed away unexpectedly last Thursday. On Sunday we celebrated her life. Yesterday I voted for the next president of the Nation that I love and at 3 am today President Elect Donald Trump gave his speech.

I am from Republican land - Alabama - and so as I write, I realize I have many, many friends who do not share the grief in my heart. I am writing in hopes of helping those evangelical Christians who do share my vantage point. I am writing to those who are heavy hearted today, feeling overwhelmed and at a loss with how to pray for a leader you do not stand with.

I said something scary to my husband as we were snailing through our morning routine. I muttered, "Today, my identity as a woman and as a Latina feels louder than my identity as a daughter of God." Yikes. I was all anger and no prayer. I didn't even want to turn to God. I've had many fellow believers write words of consolation, peace, grace, and dependence on God while I have spent the day in grief, in tears, and in fear. I fear for women. I fear for Latinos. I fear for the marginalized. I hate bullies. No, let me correct that: I murder them in my heart. This is not noble. This is against God's law:

Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
— 1 John 3:15

My response to breaking God's law is one of pride. I think, "He is not a brother." Then I hear God's voice say:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers,what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
— Matthew 5:44-48

So, I am writing this list of prayers to correct my own heart. I write this in hopes that the brokenhearted find words to lean into, and leaves the day remembering their lot is with God - not with the way of this world that is passing away.


How To Pray for President Elect Donald Trump

  • WISDOM

I pray that God's spirit of Wisdom resides on President Elect Donald Trump. I pray that President Elect Donald Trump uses godly wisdom when working to unify our country, identify and protect the marginalized, and interact with our friends and foes abroad. I pray that President Elect Donald Trump would not be wise in his own eyes, but would fear the Lord (Proverbs 3:7). 

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." - James 3:17

  • COMPASSION

I pray that President Elect Donald trump operates with compassion in all of his dealings. 

"To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - James 3:17

  • SALVATION

I know there are many that believe President Elect Donald Trump is a follower of our Christ. Even so, I pray that he encounters the love of God in a miraculous way that would cleanse, renew, and rebirth him from the inside out. 

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:17-19

  • FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT/ FRUITS OF SALVATION

As we become followers of Christ, we become more and more like Christ. I pray that President Elect Donald Trump manifest the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans 12:2

  • VISION THAT HONORS GOD

I pray that as President Elect Donald Trump builds a vision for our country's future, he would do so with the will of God in mind and seek to honor God in all that he does.

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." - Proverbs 16:9

  • INTEGRITY

I pray that President Elect Donald Trump would become a man of integrity. That he would treat all people, of all creeds, with human dignity and respect. I pray that President Elect Donald Trump would guard his words, and become more mindful and aware that the tongue has the power of life and death. 

"For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man." - 2 Corinthians 8:21

"The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy." - Proverbs 12:22

  • HUMILITY

I pray that President Elect Donald Trump would become a servant of the American people, valuing their lives above his own. I pray that President Elect Donald Trump recognizes his shortcomings and his sinful nature. 

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." - Phillipians 2:3

  • UNITY

I pray that President Elect Donald Trump works hard to unite the American people, and that we live in peace. 

 "They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it." - 1 Peter 3:11

Comment

Comment

Miracles & Methodism: A Model for Moving Forward

Dear Methodist Church,

In my freshman year of college, my roommate Wes introduced me to the Avett Brothers, who would quickly become my favorite band. North Carolina born and bred, these alt-country rockers melded their punk-rock days as a garage-band with their love of country and bluegrass music, creating a unique and incendiary sound that spread its flames wildly from North Carolina across the country. Their concerts were raw, real portrayals of the brothers’ lives of love, dreams, and struggles. An audience member couldn’t attend and not be moved; not feel something. Then they reached acclaimed success. They won a Grammy, and shared a stage with Bob Dylan.

By all appearances, the Avett Brothers new sound should have been about to transform the American musical landscape. But the next album, produced by Rick Rubin (of U2, Metallica, Johnny Cash, and Neil Diamond to name a few), took a different tone, and something sacred was lost. When asked how Rick Rubin influenced the process of the new album, members shared that “he helped us calm down a bit in the studio...[before] awareness of key and pitch and singing has been something...I didn’t pay any attention to at all.  All I wanted to do it to get on stage and move and make an impact – surprise people, or scare people, or excite people, or make people angry or happy or whatever.” I was shocked to find the new Avett Brothers album for sale at Starbucks. I bought it excitedly, but only listened to it once.  I called my old roommate Wes, and he let me know he stopped listening to them a year ago. “They’ve lost their roots” he said.

I wonder if this isn’t the story of the Methodist church. As Hempton puts it, “Methodism was restless and energetic, introspective and expansionist, emotional and earnest. It was an unsettling movement led by unsettled people,” and as was the case with the Avett Brothers, “With respectability and cultural acceptance came an inevitable decline in the otherworldly zeal of its earlier manifestations.” Where Rolling Stone magazine and Hillary Clinton may know the name of the Avett Brothers and Methodism, does the average ‘Wes’ know the Avett Brothers anymore, or the modern-version of the downtrodden coal-miner know Methodism as they once did? By tracing the loss of the miraculous in the Methodist church, a correlation can be drawn to the decline of the denomination and shed light on the impact this change has caused in the global church, both inside and outside the Methodist Church.

In order to move forward, it is important to first define what is being called “miraculous.” Wesley explains the miraculous as follows: “In the common course of nature, God does act by general laws, but he has never precluded himself from making exceptions to them, whensoever he pleases...by suspending that law in favor of those that love him. ‘What! You expect miracles then?’ Certainly I do, if I believe the Bible: For the Bible teaches me, that God hears and answers prayer: But every answer to prayer is, properly, a miracle.” The miraculous is then anytime God interrupts the established order, or as Wesley puts it “suspending [the] law.” These occurrences are referred to using a myriad of phrases containing nuanced connotations and meanings, including “extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost”, “the power of God”, “manifestations”, “demonstrations of the Spirit”, “miracles”, and the most negatively charged term, “enthusiasm." These words and phrases will be used in quotes henceforth, but all will land under the umbrella of the term this author will most often use, “miraculous”, more due to clarity than any theological or doctrinal reason.

It will also be valuable to establish a context for a discussion on the miraculous in the history of Methodism. What is the history of the miraculous in the church that led to its prevalence in the Methodist movement? What led to its waxing and waning throughout generations of the church? The miraculous has had a rough history, particularly due to those who have told its story in history books and sermons. Arguments have existed against the continuing of miraculous activity since early in the church, and often people on both sides of the debate reference Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD). Dr. Frank H. Billman, wrote in his book “The Supernatural Thread in Methodism”, that early in Augustine’s life, he reasoned that the miracles of Jesus were done to prove His authority and who He was…[thinking that] now that we have the full New Testament, we don’t need that miraculous evidence - it’s in the book.” This theological view has come to be known as cessationism, which holds that the miraculous seen in Biblical times is no longer at play. But Billman continues that “six years before his death, Augustine rejected cessationism…due to a dramatic healing that he witnessed himself…In 426, Augustine wrote, “I realized how many miracles were occurring in our own day and which were so like the miracles of old.”

Luther is another whose position on the miraculous is quoted by both sides of the discussion on supernatural activity in the modern church. The Roman Church’s abuse of the “miraculous,” with miracle-working relics, saints with supernatural origin stories of questionable merit, and leaders hoarding the power and any “miraculous gifts” for themselves, warranted heavy criticism at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. Protestantism, to some degree, “built itself by attacking the miracles of Catholicism.” Though Luther believed in exorcism, prayer for healing, and “special revelations of the Spirit," when Luther was asked to prove his authority by miracles to the Catholic higher-ups, he said that miracles were “particularly suited to the apostolic age and were no longer necessary to vindicate the authority of one who stands on the side of Scripture.” This was said as a reaction to the abuses of the Catholics regarding the miraculous, but his statements were “taken out of context and codified into a legal system” resulting in a legacy of Reformed and Lutheran churches that embraced a cessationism they believed that Luther founded, Calvin extended, and one in which B.B. Warfield ultimately put the final nail in the coffin of when he published Counterfeit Miracles in 1918. Warfield declared that the Lord had not performed a single miracle on earth since the death of the original twelve apostles and those directly associated with them.”

The near purging of the miraculous from the midst of the Protestant church is a typical reactionary pendulum swing seen in power struggles. Where a dangerous extreme is reached on one side of the spectrum, a reactionary party comes in and takes power, vowing to swing the emphasis to the entirely opposite side. This is the same reason why a certain political party rarely keeps one of their candidates in office for more than two terms. The pendulum swings, and the opposite party is voted in again. The Protestants most likely fell prey to this common mishap of throwing the baby out with the bathwater; while “endeavoring to pull up the tares of false Roman miracle, they have…pulled up the root of faith in miracles, and the great spiritual heritage of the Church with it." Despite this, there rises up occasionally the individual, or the movement, that can grab the strong elements of both sides, and bravely hold them together as one. Remembering that, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” the question becomes, when the next spring of supernatural activity would arise, would there appear this man or movement that could walk the tightrope? Who could bear the task of not being carried away with spiritual extremism, but also not dousing out the Spirit’s flames at first flicker?

John Wesley and the Methodists proved to be one of these rare gems of history. Refusing to succumb to the extremes of either side, Wesley leaned heavily toward the side of believing in the miraculous, while keeping a strong hand on reason that was most likely informed (subconsciously or not) by the Enlightenment that was happening all around him. A map of his position on the miraculous might look like this, with his position in bold:

                                     |-----------------------------|--------------------------------|-------------------------------|

                   Cessationism         ‘Everyday’ Miracles           Reasonable Enthusiasm          Enthusiasm

Wesley strongly opposed the idea of what we now call cessationism, stating clearly “I do not recollect any Scripture wherein we are taught that miracles were to be confined within the limits either of the apostolic age…or any period of time, longer or shorter, even till the restitution of all things.” Another explanation for a lack of supernatural activity in the church is a population that believes simply in ‘everyday’ miracles; this is a popular view today for those whose denominations do not encourage or intentionally teach on any demonstrative activity of the Holy Spirit, but also do not have a theology (i.e. cessationism) that opposes the miraculous. These proponents might cite the ‘miracle’ of baby being born, or the ‘miracle’ of your car making it to the gas station when you are out of gas; perhaps coupling them with platitudes like “God winked at you.”  Where these might indeed be miracles of a sort, Wesley had a different definition (as stated above) for what constituted the miraculous, and a higher standard for what should be expected in the life of a believer. On the other side, Wesley was also fighting against some religious extremism that led to extra-biblical behavior within his own movement. This topic will be addressed in full later, but for now it is worth noting the genius in how Wesley positioned himself, and consistently so, in the midst of all these factions:

Wesley was not willing to label all manifestations as being completely of God. He said that sometimes they were, sometimes it was a mixture of God and the person, and sometimes it might be the devil. He said, “Perhaps the danger is, to regard [the manifestations] too little, to condemn them altogether; to imagine they had nothing of God in them, and were an hindrance to his work…This should not make us either deny or undervalue the real work of the Spirit. The shadow is no disparagement of the substance, nor the counterfeit of the real diamond.”

Wesley would learn the lesson from history, judging as Jesus says will be done in His final judgement, to “let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, 'Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn'” (Matthew 13:30). The result of Wesley’s decision to walk this narrow road would indeed prove to reveal real diamonds: thousands of genuine encounters with the living God.

The early days of Methodism were a hotbed of miraculous activity, beginning with Wesley and his associates. In 1738, Wesley had been praying diligently for the assurance of his salvation, a component that would mark the First Great Awakening. While reluctantly attending a meeting on Aldersgate street where a Moravian was sharing from Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Wesley wrote “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

This is a story many Methodists are familiar with, but what would follow that same year is seldom spoken of. Wesley recalls, “About three in the morning, as we were continuing in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground." George Whitefield, the great preacher of the awakening, was also there, and added of the experience, “it was Pentecostal season indeed…We were filled as with new wine…overwhelmed with the Divine Presence.” Whitefield’s assessment may be the best to explain this peculiar activity, as when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in the upper room, “others mocking said, 'They are filled with new wine.'” What about the disciples would cause the others to describe them as being drunk? Perhaps this same behavior being seen by Wesley.

As Wesley stepped into a new season of ministry filled with power, these occurrences of people being “overwhelmed” to the point of “cry[ing] out” and “falling to the ground” would come to consistently accompany his preaching. Wesley shares that while he was “preaching at Newgate...Immediately one and another, and another sunk to the earth: They dropped on every side as thunderstruck.” This became such a clear sign of the Lord moving on the hearts of the people, that when “no one was reacting, he would pray “Lord! Where are thy tokens and signs?” and many would be seized and would scream out.” These miraculous movements of the Spirit on people were not the only supernatural activity that Wesley pursued in his Ministry, he would also engage in the prophetic, affirm the gift of tongues, and pray for healing. Wesley tells of an evening when he “called upon Ann Calcut. She had been speechless for some time; but almost as soon as we began to pray, God restored her speech…from that hour the fever left her; and in a few days she arose and walked glorifying God.” All of this laid a supernatural foundation for a Methodism that would be built into what Hempton calls an “empire of the Spirit," which from  his research he determined defines the movement so succinctly that he named his most recent book on Methodism the same.

Interpreting the nature of historical Methodism is like only hearing one side of a telephone conversation, you can hear the initiation of questions and information, but not the response. “Too often,” Hempton shares, “the Methodist message is reduced to its theology and entered the world through learned discourse with printed texts, but that is not what made the movement fizz.” Because of the incredible structural and doctrinal feats accomplished in Methodism to enable such an immense movement to be organized and shepherded well, many may focus on graphs, theology, and social impact, missing what really made Methodism tick. It was, for the most part, an oral movement led by ordinary people, so most of our history based on written texts miss key elements: “Itinerants preached, exhorters exhorted, class members confessed, hymns were sung, prayers were spoken, testimonies were delivered, and revival meetings throbbed with exclamatory noise.” It is most likely into these cracks that the miraculous nature of Methodism has fallen. These were not just pockets of the Methodist movement; everywhere Methodism placed its foot, the miraculous followed. Methodists “believed that God was with them, not in a general theological sense, but in a set of encounters, which supposedly obeyed no other explanation than that of a proactive divine presence.” Dreams, visions, prophetic words of knowledge, electric encounters and other “special providences” of the living God were expectations for the everyday life of a Methodist. Even those outside of the church noted the supernatural as nearly synonymous with Methodism. The Victorian author George Eliot writes in her first classic novel Adam Bede in 1859, “I cannot pretend that Seth and Dinah were anything else but Methodists...They believe in present miracles, in instantaneous conversions, in revelations by dreams and visions."

Seeing that Methodism could be coupled with the miraculous from the beginning, it can also be said that offense at these supernatural claims were also present from the start. How did Wesley respond to these allegations of God’s work being reduced to emotionalism, imagination, and what became the token derogatory term for the activity: “enthusiasm.”  Understanding his and other leader’s reactions will do much to inform our modern day posture within conflict and criticism. Wesley, rife with accusations of leading a movement of enthusiasm, labored much to define the term, assuage the hostility of those concerned, while standing firm in his conviction that what was taking place was indeed of God. Often, he would see those who began on the offensive have their hearts “strangely warmed” in a way as well. At one point a physician who was offended by the crying out of those attending the meetings, fearing it all to be phony, then witnessed a girl’s body healed first hand accompanied by the same commotion, and he gave credit to God. Wesley’s biggest attestation to the validity of these “outward signs,” was the “inward work” that God had done within the individuals who had been affected. Wesley called these people his “living arguments.” How else could you explain some of the most wretched traits, woven deep into the fabric of a soul, to be exchanged in an instant for a life filled with the fruits of the Spirit? Equally important in Wesley’s defensive rhetoric was his concession to the reality of counterfeits. An important distinction was made, as stated earlier, that just because all “miracles” were certainly not miracles, did not mean that the game was over. Wesley was not “unaware of [Satan’s] schemes” that he might “outwit” them, but keenly observed that “satan likewise mimicked this work of God in order to discredit the whole work” (2 Cor. 2:11). Wesley opposed any supposed supernatural revelations that did not line up with Scripture, and made sure to “test the spirits” and see if they were of God. Often those that Wesley disciplined were giving “millenarian predictions” or “fanciful revelations of special authority” (1 John 4:1). Still, the debates persisted, and at long last a war of attrition waged by those concerned won, aided significantly by some key leaders.

Giving a stern warning to those who criticized the Methodist miracles, Asbury resolves with a familiar axiom, “the friends of order may allow a guilty mortal to tremble at God’s Word…and the saints to cry and should when the Holy One of Israel is in the midst of them. To be hasty in plucking up the tares is to endanger the wheat.” This is the same explanation Wesley gave as to what happened to miracles in the Protestant Reformation mentioned earlier. It seems history was not learned, and therefore would be repeated. Four characters entered the storyline of Methodism at a decisive point that would be the tipping point into a Methodism weary and distant from miracles. These characters represent a few key ideas reacting to miracles that led to their dissolution from the denomination.

James Buckley, the editor of the Methodist journal The Christian Advocate “wrote a two-volume history of methodism that highlighted the development of its legal and ecclesiastical institutions and all but ignored Methodism’s beginnings as a denomination of supernatural religious experiences.” Buckley was responding to the Faith-Cure movement and the Pentecostal revival that broke out within his time as the editor of the journal, and his case is one of the classic pendulum-swing mentioned previously. An extreme version of the miraculous was taking place, and Methodism had to take a stance on it; the easiest being to discount it altogether and run the other way. Buckley explained away miracles with naturalistic explanations, sharing the cessationist conviction that these supernatural phenomena only happened in biblical times.  

The second figure to arise was Borden Parker Bowne, a professor at Boston University, a key early Methodist training center. Bowne began a wave of liberal theology that attempted to accommodate the Enlightenment era’s scientific discoveries of the human psyche, sociology, and Scripture into religious education. At its zenith, humanism reigned supreme as Arthur McGiffert, president of Union Theological Seminary declared that "religious education…should be such to convince everybody that things can be controlled and molded by the power of man.” In short, "God’s presence was not to be sought in unusual experiences or unexpected or extraordinary events.”

The final railroad switch on the tracks was John Fanning Watson, a Methodist writer from Philadelphia, who pushed back on enthusiasm in hopes to give Methodism a more respectable name, especially in higher classes. Watson “started writing vigorously and systematically against ecstasy in the 1810s….[and] Over time Watson’s viewpoint gained ground. Higher economic levels, increased education for preachers, and a growing desire for social respectability all contributed to diminishing the extent of exuberance and ecstasy among American Methodists.” The result was that the supernatural spirituality of former years was at first marginalized, then branched off altogether from the “main trunk.” Watson’s aim was to give Methodism a better name in civilized culture, insisting that the “excesses of the few were firmly identified with the poor…illiterate [and] blacks.” It is should not be a shock then, that not long after the effects of this sunk in that “the poor were abandoning Methodism in droves.”  With the trade in of the miraculous for social respectability and a humanistic theology, a change was coming for Methodism that they were not expecting: increased influence and decreased recruitment; a pattern that is obviously unsustainable over the long haul.

When Jesus is preparing the disciples for his departure, he tells them to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Jesus had given them the task of spreading the gospel, but demanded they not go forth without the Spirit. Again he directs them in Acts 1:8, saying “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The command was strictly to not grow the church apart from the leadership of the Spirit. At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon those in the upper room, Peter preached and three-thousand believed that day. As mentioned previously, the seemingly drunken nature of the disciples led to some grumbling and questions of authenticity in that day, but the fire was not quenched, rather the preaching of the gospel continued to go forth coupled with the power of God displayed with these signs. As Paul says later to the Corinthians, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom....my message [was] not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). The Methodist church toward the end of the nineteenth century adopted a gospel preached void of the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” that it once had, the result which was the start of a slow decline of growth in the Methodist church. Ultimately, the final recorded year of growth was 1968, and the stats for the modern church seem detrimental: “In the United States during the period 1991-96 the United Methodist Church closed 1,025 churches and opened only 210, a ratio of five to one.” Out of all the explanations for what has happened and what should happen now, one thing is blatantly obvious, business as usual isn’t going to cut it anymore.

So what is a viable solution? We must start with identifying some of the crucial missteps identified so far. But first, it must be noted, as Hempton does, that there are some aspects of decline that are exogenic, and which the Methodist church had little control over. For instance, the Methodist movement dovetailed nicely with the American Revolution, and in many ways rode the waves of the democracy that offered individuals empowerment and liberation. Democracy puts the power in the hands of the masses: the poor and the oppressed; so does Christianity. Methodism especially was a movement of the downtrodden and marginalized: women, blacks, and the poor. Revolution and the settling of America encouraged risk: moving to the west, and starting over, perhaps if only to lose everything. Yet this all changed at the industrial revolution of America between 1820 and 1840, where cultural values shifted rather to mass production, consistency, and security, signaling a cultural change that influenced an adolescent Methodism.

Primary schools were originally developed to prepare industrial workers, therefore, risk was eliminated from the equation. This system has principally remained the same and now tests are taken still today where the grading system is based on knowing facts, and decreasing the margin of error. It is as if in the Olympics for the high beam, a gold medal was handed out to the one who grasped on to the beam tightest with all his or her limbs for the duration of the performance. Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Perhaps these can lend us some insight into a developmental problem in Methodism. Buckley, Bowne, and Watson seemed to have observed the Methodist church, and deemed it was time for it to “grow up”; time to put away foolish whimsical ideas about the supernatural, stop embarrassing yourself with risky expectations and behaviors, and move on to a more mature Methodism. The problem with this is, of course, Jesus commands in Matthew 18:3 that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The mishap for the Methodists here was in discerning the difference between “childlike and childish.” Certainly there were people who were leading the church in a childish manner, many of whom Wesley disciplined himself, but much of the beauty and power of the Methodist church came from its childlike nature.

By the 1850s, there were as many Methodist churches and ministers as there were post offices and postal workers. How did this happen? Methodism was a church for the people, run by the people. It thrived on a bottom up strategy, with quick and easy on-ramps for the common man to not only interact with God, his Word, and the church, but also to become actual ministers. Asbury had no education like many other circuit riders who evangelized America. Peter Cartwright, a famous circuit rider, wrote in his autobiography that:

“Many times…the itinerant had to camp out, without fire or food for man or beast. Our pocket Bible, Hymn Book, and Discipline constituted or library. It is true we could not, many of us, conjugate a verb or parse a sentence, and murdered the king’s English almost every lick. but there was a Divine unction attended the word preached, and thousands fell under the mighty hand of God, and thus the Methodist Episcopal Church was planted firmly in this Western wilderness, and many glorious signs have followed, and will follow, to the end of time.”

The Methodists would cast their homespun nets out and reap the reward of a grassroots revival. Methodist pastors got their hands dirty with the people, and spoke from a place that they could understand, since many of the ministers worked other jobs to survive, and some were purely volunteers. One minister of a Congregational Church commented that "they are constantly mingling with the people, and enter into all their feelings, wishes, and wants; and their discourses are on the level with the capacity of their hearers...The ignorant, the drunken, the profane listen.”

It is worth noting as an aside that music did much to accomplish this task. Methodism was truly a “worldwide singing movement.” The Wesley’s hymns were for the common man, meeting them where they are and compelling them to a personal revolution. The lyrics are full of “personal pronouns, active verbs, and intense struggles.” The Wesleys would adapt new lyrics to popular melodies, avoiding “sophisticated anthems or singing in parts, preferring tunes that were singable, teachable, memorable, functional and accessible to all…They transmitted complex theological ideas in accessible language." Music is a vehicle for faith that is specially set aside in Scripture to hone in the hearts of believers on God, magnifying their love for him with both their mind, in comprehending the concepts being sung, and also in the spirit, as their relational adoration increases as these realities set in.

One of the greatest challenges of an adult’s life is to steward the maturation of their child. Is it possible to raise a child to maintain their childlikeness while growing out of their childishness? Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he told his disciples “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The Methodist church did not afford such a stewardship, and has suffered the loss. Methodism lost in its striving for institutional stability, investing in more security, and compromising for decreased conflict. By increasing the requirements for elders and deacons, the common man was factored out. Hymns that were once remarkably apt to communicate the gospel to the uneducated were institutionalized due to their effectiveness, yet now are no more relevant or comprehensible to some than Chaucer is to a child. Traditions are important, but manmade traditions that are tested and don’t bear fruit, must be tossed out, as Jesus made clear (Mark:7-9).

The leaders of Methodism seem to have sought for a solution to the problem in seminaries (“maybe it is a theological issue?”), in society (“maybe it is an ethical issue?”), and in structure (“maybe it is in an organizational issue?”), and where all three of these concerns are most likely valid, what if we are looking for the ends without the true means? What if the problem is a spiritual issue, and from working out this kink living waters might flow and inform the other problems provided? It seems that the time is nigh for Methodism to embrace its heart religion again. To take a risk. To believe in the impossible. To grow up, yet grow young. To unlearn some human wisdom gained through the years, and make room for the wisdom and power of God again. This will fly in the face of those who have come to respect the Methodist church for its great stability. Rarely do we hear of scandals in the Methodist church or of money laundering. To that I would say that it is much easier and tidy to mow a field where weeds are found, than to let the weeds and crop grow up together, and steward the crop's protection throughout. I am by no means encouraging scandals, but the door very well must be opened to them to make way for the real thing, just as the front porch light that illuminates the dark also attracts bugs. It cannot be forgotten that regarding opposition, “Methodism at its heart and center had always been a profoundly countercultural movement. It drew energy and personal commitment from…its challenge to accepted norms in religion and society. It thrived on opposition, but it could not long survive equipoise.”

One might say this position is dramatic, that it looks too much like Pentecostalism or something like it, but we might need to go no further than Wesley himself and the foundations upon which the denomination lays to find that this would not be a new thing, but a revival in the truest sense of the word: a recovery of what was lost; a resurrection of what has died; a resurgence of what has faded. The stakes have never been higher, as the statistics show. What would a child do? Hold on tighter, or make the big jump? The truth is, Methodism “is not a religious movement that can survive for very long on institutional consolidation alone. For Methodism to thrive it required energy, change, mobility, and flux.” For the Methodist church to grow again, it needs to begin recruiting again; to begin recruitment, it needs to embrace the Great Commission again; and to make progress in the Great Commission, the Methodist church needs the Holy Spirit, just like the disciples did.

What would happen if at the next United Methodist General Conference, before voting on the important issues at stake, responding to problems, or discussing strategies for moving the church forward, the leaders stood up and declared “we are going to join ‘together constantly in prayer’ until we ‘have been clothed with power from on high?’” (Acts 1:14, Luke 24:49).  What would ensue probably wouldn’t be what the world or even the leaders expected, it may not even look exactly as it did before, but my bet, based on our history, is that there would be a growth the worldwide church hasn’t seen since Wesley and Whitefield took to the podiums. And of course it may get messy, and there would be many who mocked, but would that make us any less Methodist?

With a loving, graceful, and hopeful heart for the Methodist Church,

Daniel Jackson

 

Works Quoted:

K. W. Harrell, "Songwriting Session - The Avett Brothers @ MerleFest," Evolution of a Fan, https://evolutionofafan.com/2013/05/03/songwr iting-session-the-avett-brothers-merlefest/.

Dr. Frank H. Billman, The Supernatural Thread in Methodism

Hempton, David. Methodism: Empire of the Spirit. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys

George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense

Wesley, John. "The New Birth." The Wesley Center Online. 1999. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/john-wesley-the-methodist/chapter-vii-the-new-birth/.

Comment

Comment

UnCreated God | Student Questions | Edition 1

I am the new student director at Warehouse242, and in the process of getting to know my new squad, we took some time to write down our wrestles with God: the questions we have in the back of our mind that we are afraid to ask. 

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing my searching as I seek to wrestle through the questions of my students. They aren't answers, but I hope they help in your own searching. 


QUESTION: You were the beginning of everything. How did You come to be? How were you "there" at the beginning?

The intro to God's story starts  out with "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth". This kind of sounds like the Big Bang Theory. There was nothing (or, if we're getting technical, a small, dense, hot soup). Then there was something.  The difference here is that Christians believe there was God instead of nothing. Then there was creation. We see God as uncreated (no start), sovereign (He's in charge of everything), eternal (He never ends), and spirit (a member of a different realty than we currently live in). 

Our world is confined. We have a start and an end. We have an up and a down. We age. In attempts to make God fit into our reality, the idea of Him not having a starting point is frustrating! Square peg, round hole. He doesn't fit into our parameters of what works and what doesn't. 

Through the story of Christ, we have a taste of what it's like in God's world. We see the impossible happen. People who are dead start to live again. Bodies that are broken get instantaneously healed. Jesus flies up in the air, seems to teleport at other times, can walk through walls and eat food all in the same body. We also see this when God's kingdom breaks into the Old Testament. People's faces glow so bright that you can't look at them. Donkeys talk. The in breaking of the Kingdom of Heaven means that our 3 dimensional world becomes 4 dimensional. The impossible becomes possible. We have promised words that when God's Kingdom of Heaven is fully realized here on earth we will see things like colors we've never seen before, lions laying down with lambs, and the end to daylight because the Lord, God will be so bright we won't need the sun anymore.

So, God is uncreated. In our world this is impossible. Cause and effect. Who made God? In our world, every plant has a seed it came from, and every child grew in the womb of a mother. But God is outside of our world. His reality is not our reality. He knows no time, no beginning, and no end. And because He exist outside of our reality, He is absolutely sovereign. 

I think it bothers us that God is uncreated because it doesn't fit into our reality. But God not fitting into our reality is a good thing. It means His nature is all together different from our nature, and if we believe and pray "on earth, as it is in heaven" (or in our reality as it is in His reality), we might get to see MORE of His mind breaking, incredible, amazing reality in our world today. 

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Cor 2:8

Comment

Comment

Bethel Music + The Gospel of John


Get lost in the love story of Jesus again, centered by the beautiful wordless worship of Bethel Music's "Without Words" albums

Bethel Music's "Without Words" and "Without Words: Synesthesia" played alongside a reading of The Gospel of John, in the contemporary language translation "The Message" by Eugene Peterson

Comment

Comment

And Who Is My Neighbor?

Daniel:

Our friend Janell has spent the last month with us. We have had some amazing journeys to DC and NYC for New Year's Eve. The adventure she is about to start is one we sadly can't go with her on, but we can send her off with a bang.

Janell is going to the front lines of the Syrian Refugee crisis to the island of Lesbos, Greece with Adventures in Missions, alongside Samaritans Purse, the Red Cross and the UN. Lesbos is receiving the highest number of refugees daily, the trip there you might have heard on the news where dozens have died just in the past month. Convicted by the crisis, Janell is heading over to help the refugees, being one of the ones picking shivering children out of the overpacked life-rafts, threatened by hypothermia or starvation; wrapping many in NASA blankets; shuffling many quickly to the Red Cross medical tents. We were thrilled when she decided to go, helped her setup an awesome new website (www.janellking.wordpress.com - click to see how to support her as well), talk through travel details, and pray with her as she discerned the next steps in support raising for the trip. We couldn't wait to see the support for her by her friends and family to send her off well.

But that's not really what happened.

I'll let her jump into the details below.


Janell:

I remember the image like it was yesterday. Do you know the one I’m talking about? The image of the little boy’s body washed up on the shores of Greece. Do you remember the waves of outrage the image caused at the atrocities happening in Syria, and how quickly people moved to respond? No? Most people don’t.  The news of ISIS and terrorist attacks and the waves of fear of the refugees have long swept over the images of death and suffering experienced by the people of Syria.

I've been sharing about my heart for the refugees to friends, family members, and complete strangers. The response has been surprisingly negative. The first response usually looks something like this:

“I mean.. You can help them just as long as they don’t come here.”

“That’s so sad. Those muslims are dangerous though.”

“Why would you do that? There’s enough people here in America that need help. Why go all the way over there helping THEM?!” 

A short video on the Syrian refugee crisis

“We can’t help them. They will bring their religion and their oppressive antics over here. America is already over-run by foreigners. They don’t belong here. Tell them to go to Asia or something.“ 

“Girl, do you have a death wish? You can’t go help. It’s too dangerous.”

“America needs to stop playing big brother. It’s not our problem to help. They got themselves in this mess, let them figure it out.”

I’ve spent the last 6 years traveling the world, experiencing a plethora of different cultures, religions, beliefs, and ethnicities. I’ve lived amongst the poorest of the poor, held their dying children, whispered love into the thrown-away, abused and neglected children of society, listened to stories of those infected with HIV/AIDS (as well as genocide victims, survivors of rape, widows, etc.), watched as revival gangs bloodied each others bodies, prayed for miracles of food when feeding hundreds of starving people, and experienced first hand what a drought looks like and how precious water is.

My journey across the world has shown me that we cannot take our privileges for granted, nor should we let these privileges be an excuse for not responding to injustices all around us.  I have also learned that we can learn so much from those who are different from us. 

I have friends of all kinds of religions - friends whom I deeply love and respect. This blog is specifically for my brothers and sisters who call themselves believers of Jesus, although I hope in some way this speaks to everyone.

To me, the response to the refugee crisis is a simple one. I’ve been confused and so heart broken over America’s response to love those who need help- especially the church. 

I’ve attempted to uncover some biblical truths for those struggling with compassion and empathy in hopes to bring understanding to our mandate and response as believers. Take a look at what the Father tells us to do:

1. Love Refugees As Yourself

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

2. Leave Food for the Poor and the Foreigner

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

3. God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

4. The Sin of Sodom: They Did Not Help the Poor and Needy

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

5. Do Not Oppress a Foreigner

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

6. Invite the Stranger In

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

7. We Were All Baptized By One Spirit

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

8. Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14)

9. Have Mercy on Your Neighbor

He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:29-37)

10. Jesus Calls Us to Love our Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-45).

11. Jesus Was a Refugee

“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’” (Matthew 2:13-15).

Jesus chose to walk this earth, not as a King, Chief Priest or wealthy landowner, but as an undocumented child refugee to Egypt. 

If our Lord deliberately chose to identify Himself with refugees, we should not be too quick to overlook the significance—Jesus was in solidarity with those fleeing persecution.

 There is a chance that some of those who seek refugee status have some connection with violent radicalism. What then is your response to an enemy? On this, Jesus is very clear… Love your enemy.  You can argue that this is naïve. You can say that it is unrealistic. But you cannot argue that Jesus called you to something different. Jesus showed us how to love our enemies - not seeking to preserve His life, but to lay it down. Are you willing to pay such a high price for loving like Jesus?

Now is the true test of our faith. Will we also care for immigrants, refugees and foreigners, or will we turn our backs, saying it’s too hard or too dangerous?

The world is watching. Will the church rise up in this hour to be true love in action? Will we model the radical love Jesus asked us to live by? Or will we sink back into fear, discrimination, hate, racism, and war? 

What will you choose? 


Daniel:

This blogpost wrecked me, as I'm sure it did you. It got me thinking about how we see people far off and different, and make compromises in reasoning for why to not help. Why to not see them as our neighbor. But let's do an experiment: look at the story of the Good Samaritan one more time, with some substitutions of the current situation in Syria, modernizing the parable of Jesus a bit. I'd like to title this experiment...

What Could a Modern Good Samaritan Look Like?

"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Bible? How do you read it?”  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A Muslim was going down from Syria to Greece, whose government were robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a politician was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a humanitarian aid worker, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Christian, as he journeyed, came to where the muslim was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, providing medical care, food and warm clothing. Then he set him on a boat and brought him to a new country and took care of him.  And the next day he took out his credit card and gave the number to the customs & immigration office, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, charge it to my card.’  Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

[Adapted from Luke 10:25-37 / Changes in italics]

What if the Syrian Refugee is our neighbor? Are we walking on the other side of the road?

Our call as Christians is to the marginalized. The inconvenient. The illogical. Will we answer the call?

Scripture says that the good samaritan looked upon the man and had compassion. 

Janell is selling T-Shirts that have the word "Compassion" on them. They look awesome. If you would like to help Syrian Refugees in a tangible way, support Janell by buying one of these t-shirts here, or donating directly through her website here.

 



 

Comment

Comment

Bovine Inspiration: Freddie the Cow Escapes the Slaughterhouse

When my friend Janell told me about a cow escaping a slaughterhouse in NYC two days ago, the idea was at first hilarious (the image of this cow running wild through Manhattan in my head), but then afterwards I felt strangely inspired. 

This guy made it out. And he was scheduled to be slaughtered THE NEXT DAY.

I became intrigued with the story. Would the cow be caught? Shot? Sent back to the slaughterhouse? Be hit by a car? Be rescued?

Maybe all of this is striking me harder because Sherei and I have been going meatless for January. After talking with our associate pastors who are vegetarian, and hearing them expose the truth of the meat industry they discovered through watching documentaries like "Forks Over Knives" on Netflix, this story is sounding more and more like a bovine miracle.

Watch the video below to see what Freddie had to look forward to if he didn't escape. Warning: this video is slightly graphic, but not nearly as bad as many others.

If I was Freddie and had any inkling as to what was coming for me. If I heard the bleating echo through the halls of the slaughterhouse, or became curious about why my living space was so small - I'd make a run for it too.

I wonder if there was an inner longing for another land in Freddie? If he believed deep inside somewhere that there were rolling hills for him to explore with fresh grass for him to eat, a cool breeze in the air, and a family for him to care for?

See I bet Freddie was a conspiracy theorist. All his friends thought he was crazy. He was convinced the life they were all living was a sham, that there was a greater existence outside those walls that they were made for. One with family. Fulfilling food. Frolicking fun. Freedom. But they rolled their big eyes whenever he brought this fantasy up, and told him to get with the program. Just keep his head down, and stick with business as usual. If he challenged the status quo...there'd be consequences.

I wonder what the cattle-lyst for his escape was? We're not told how Freddie made it out, but my guess is he saw one too many friends disappear, ate one too many bleak dry grass and cereal dinners, saw the sun peak through a high above window - just out of reach of feelings its warm rays on his cold, damp, dirty skin - one too many times, and decided to make a run for it.

Watch the video above again, and note how the cow responds to his new found freedom. He is running, half free and half frantic. He is both out of harms way, and yet not safe yet. Not fully free yet. Many have made it as far as he has, and been shot down, or dragged back into the hell they came from. He is out of the Egyptian bondage, but not to the promised land quite yet. And Isn't that where so many of us live? Delivered but not free.

I was showering this morning and noticed a sticker on one of Sherei's shampoo bottles: "50% More FREE." I laughed and thought that was the oddest thing. How can something be MORE free? What a stupid marketing technique. If it is free, it doesn't cost anything. It is either free, or it is not. Don't worry, I get what they're trying to say, but come on. Something can't increase its freeness! And then I thought of this message by Christine Caine, and how I have lived so much much of my life as a believer set free by the cross, yet not living in the full freedom of a Spirit-led life. I am receiving the living water, but in cracked cisterns that leak and occasionally run dry. Listen to Christine Caine speak to this idea at this year's Passion just a few weeks ago:

My favorite part of this story is the ending: our cow is rescued. 

This cow that was once just another number, another consumer product to be mindlessly eaten by the masses (did you know there are 100+ different cows in a single McDonalds hamburger?). But this wasn't our cow's story anymore. He was picked up by an animal sanctuary from a distant land, across the great divide (New Jersey...). He now will live 100% free. Adopted by these caring beings of a higher power, yet not of the dark powers that ran the wretched slaughterhouse. He was given a name, a place and a purpose. His name was to be Freddy, named after the lead singer of Queen. Now he is free to roam, eat fresh grass, play with friends, and sing "we are the champions my friends" indignantly looking toward the slaughterhouse he was raised in. 

He is an animal kingdom example of the kingdom of heaven; of the human soul escaping to freedom. A dairy good...I mean very good picture of what it looks like for us to wake up and realize we're in a cage keeping us from the real life, mindlessly moving forward on a conveyer belt toward death. 

Freddie was validated in his belief of a greater life. And what a peace he must live in. How appreciative he is of the life he now lives. His stories must make the other cattle of the sanctuary tremble. But his mind must wander to the other nameless ones he left in the slaughterhouse.

So what is Freddie's next move? My guess is to set the captives free.  

Check out the song "Terminal" by Jon Foreman and let's take his advice to "not let your soul die before you body does."

Check out the place where Freddie gets to live now...paradise.

 See the full video below. Long live Freddie, who inspired both man and beast.

---

Daniel Jackson 

Comment

1 Comment

Why, as a Christian, I should care about the rights of Muslims

 

Today I broke down and had a 'chocolate attack'. This is a phrase my mom made up for when I just HAD to have some candy or else I'd lose my mind. Chocolate attacks are brought on by stress, overthinking, overworking, or silliness. Today's chocolate attack was brought on by all 4. Daniel was gracious enough to take me to our grocery store to pick up some CHRISTMAS THEMED oreos. 

At the grocery store, I fell into a conversation with a kind man next to me who was debating over which half and half to get. Several jokes and lighthearted comments into our discussion about the tireless quest for healthy living, we began talking about our faith. He is a Muslim, and I am Christian. I listened to this new friend's story of being hated, misunderstood, and discriminated against by...southern Christians.

He told me the heinous story of a woman, a Christian, who began thwarting his social media posts and publicly arguing with him on his wall. With a grievous heart I wanted to apologize for the actions of my fellow brothers and sisters. The most I could muster up was a kind smile, and an exchange of information for further talks. 

I'm writing today with a heavy heart, because I think that faithfulness to the Gospel means standing up for the oppressed, even when it's ostracizing or uncomfortable. If for no other reason, I ask my readership to read my words with an open heart because I am your friend, and I'm asking you to. 

Why, as a Christian, I should care about the rights of Muslims:

1. When one religious group is threatened, it a threat to all religious groups. Martin Luther King puts it this way: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". 

To put is simply, the pioneers that would lead to the establishment of this country were originally Christians fleeing their homeland on account of religious persecution. If we allow any religious group, even one that we disagree with, to be threatened we are threatening religious freedom for all Americans. 

2. We are called to live in peace with our neighbors. 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:9-21

This passage was written to a group of Christians who were under persecution - in today's language you would call it terrorist attacks - by the Roman government. Even in the climate of such turbulence and insecurity, they were still called to live in peace and love their neighbors. 

3. We are called to welcome the foreigner into our land.

Remember when our people were persecuted under Egyptian rule and became slaves under Pharaoh? After all of that, God calls us to never mistreat others in the same way that we were mistreated when we were foreigners in another land. "Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt." - Exodus 22:21

4. We are called to be a light to all men. 

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." - Matthew 5:16

5. American Muslims are a deeply misunderstood people group, and should be handled with tremendous care for the sake of the Gospel. 

The reality is that most Christians don't know or understand a lot about Islam (like what the difference is between Islam and Muslim, Sunni and Shi'a, what a Hijab is, What the Qur'an is, What the Shariah Law book is and who abide by it.....) and so our national fear is not rooted in authentic information - but rather assumptions. Think about how Jesus handled the misunderstood. Anyone who was on the margins of society were embraced by Jesus and handled with care. 

6. Fear mongering often leads to the ostracizing or extinction of entire people groups.

In Nazi Germany a man put the fear of the Jewish people into his national agenda, and we all know where that led (concentration camps, the near extinction of the Jewish people). Fear mongering is a few slippery steps away from another genocide. 

7. We should seek to understand before we demonize. Consider the demonization of Jesus.  

Jesus was ultimately led to the cross because he was misunderstood. The reality is there is just a lot we don't know, or understand about Islam, and before we pick up a pitchfork, we should get to know who and what Islam represents, especially through conversing with and getting to know our Muslim neighbors. Let me be clear here; I don't think that if we become friends with Muslims that any Muslim (or Christian) will turn out to be blameless and holy like Jesus was. What I am saying is that Muslims are just humans, and many of them are seeking out the truth about God, just like Christians. One of my good friends was a Muslim and sought after God with all of his heart. In the end God showed him the Son of Man and he became a follower of Christ. Although I disagree with the theology of Islam and believe the Jesus is the only Son of God and the only way to God, Muslims are real people, with real stories, and should be handled with dignity and care. 

Thank you for your grace in reading even things that are hard to talk about. 

1 Comment

Comment

Radical

Radical or Radical?

We use radical to mean revolutionary and extreme. However, the original meaning is really ' going back to the roots, or original intent.

 

Despite the variance, I don't think these two definitions conflict. Getting things back to the original intent is hard. It often takes revolutionary and extreme measures to make it happen. 

- Getting your body back to how it was when you were 21.
- Breathing life back into your career. 
- God restoring mankind back to Garden of Eden status.

We Never Change, Do We?

I want to be someone who is constantly becoming what I was made to be. Getting back to my original intent. I don’t want life to just happen to me, and look up one day simply being the sum of the influences and events around me. I want to happen to life. 

To do this I have to regularly check myself. I have to look inward, contemplatively. Am I who I want to be? Am I doing what I want to do? What do I spend my time, energy, thought life, money and breath on? 

Most of the time if we do this, we don’t like the answers. So we set ideals of what we want to be, and goals to get there, but find we can’t meet them.

Priority Plumb Line

I propose, instead of setting reactionary goals from anxious self-dissapointment, that we take an honest look at ourselves, at what God says about who He made all of us to be, and factor in specifics on who we know he has called us to be personally, then set some life priorities. We often don’t change because we either change our goals too much, so we never have time to progress, or we are striving to be something we aren’t supposed to be in the first place (examples: perfect, someone else, etc). We have to have a plumb line: a consistent priority list to aggressively go after - and grit through for the long haul.

 Plumb line: (n.) a tool that consists of a small, heavy object attached to a string or rope and that is used to see if something (such as a wall) is perfectly vertical

I have a list of 15 radical life priorities. A list of who I want to be, and what I want to do. I keep it in the back of my Bible so I see it regularly. When I see it, I don’t feel condemned, but encouraged by the Holy Spirit to keep pushing onward, and He gives me strategy on how to accomplish them. 

Here is my list, with some key notes below each:

1. Love God, Jesus, Holy Spirit
-Uncompromisingly abandoned

2. Love Sherei
- More than myself, intentionally communicating and taking on dates

3. Love others
- Relationship over vision

4. Make Disciples
- Teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded 

5. Read Scripture daily
- Man lives on the word of God 

6. Worship Freely
- Radically, with dove eyes, alone, in a group

7. Exercise Daily
- My body is a temple

8. Read/talk/pray more
- Tv/movies/apps less

9. Be led by the Spirit
- Ask each day: “What do you have for me today?"

10. Be a good steward of $$
- give extravagantly, pay debt, save, spend well

11. Be good steward of time
- Calendar, to-do list

12. Live as a pioneer
- Fearless adventurer, dream, believe

13. Pray without ceasing
-  Prayer closet, asking “What does wisdom look like?”, with others

14. Family
- Keep up with, pray, visit

15. Nature
- Run away, get lost, fall down

 

What would be your radical life priorities? 

I encourage you to write them out. Put them somewhere that matters. And don’t give up.

God has started a revolution in the world, getting it back to its original intent, and he wants to partner with you - but the radical revolution has to start in you first.

 

Comment