On Thursday, May 1, Christian across America will be gathering at City Halls, Legislature Buildings, Schools and Churches to pray for our nation as part of the annual National Day of Prayer (www.nationaldayofprayer.org ). The theme for this year is ‘Investing in Hope... Transforming our Nation Through Prayer!’. Locally there will be an observation at the Federal Building in Ann Arbor from 12:15 pm to 12:45 pm led by Pastor Mike Frison from Knox Presbyterian Church and sponsored by PACT. All are invited to join us for a time of quiet prayer and intercession. There will also be an observation in Ypsilanti, but the details are still being determined. If you can’t make it to one of the public prayer time, please take a few minutes that day to join in praying for our city, county, state and nation.
Joining others to pray for Washtenaw County
The Word of God is again joining with about a dozen churches to pray for Washtenaw County during the 40 Days from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday. For the past several years we have taken a couple of days in a continuous 24-hour prayer vigil shared by all the churches.
This year there will not be a vigil, but participating churches are asking folks to pray a few minutes every day using the Seek God for the City prayer guide. In addition, people are ‘adopting’ a particular day and praying in some special way for the topics associated with it. In this way we can be blanketing the County in prayer asking God to blanket it with His Kingdom!
For more information, including how to adopt a day, contact the community office: 734/994-3243.
When I was an undergraduate I had a job in a thoroughbred frog farm at the University of Michigan. You laugh, but we had frogs whose ancestors could be traced back through dozens of generations! They might have looked like ordinary Rana Pipiens but these were strictly blue-blood, or maybe green-blood, amphibians. My role was very small, only a few hours per week, but I had been invited to be part of the team by the foremost ‘frog man’ in the world, the professor directing the lab. You might wonder why bother selectively breeding frogs. It turns out that it is very important for some forms of research, including vital medical and genetic research, to be able to trace the genealogy of test subjects, including frogs. We were not really in the business of making pedigree frogs, but of curing illnesses and advancing the scientific frontier, and I got a chance to be part of it all. Seen in that light, my small and lowly contribution takes on more significance and dignity.
I must confess that there are times when the Christian life feels more like a duty and Christian service a burden. (I realize I may be unique in this, but bear with me!) However, recently I was struck in a fresh way with what a privilege it is to be invited into the Lord’s life and to join him in his life mission—to seek and to save.
He could have just rescued us and put us in a protected place for safekeeping. Instead he says to us, ‘I have need of you. I can use you as my partners in this work I am doing. You bring special qualities to the job, which I have given you for just such an hour and call as this. Come on, let’s go together.’
If there is significance and dignity in helping to breed frogs in order to push forward the boundaries of scientific discovery, how much more in helping to rescue men and women and push forward the boundaries of Kingdom recovery!
This opportunity is for a brief time only. One day soon, one way or another, we will be with the Lord in glory and the time of participation in Jesus’ mission will be over. Let’s recognize our opportunity for partnership now and join with Jesus full heartedly.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long; this day the noise of battle, the next the victor's song. To those who vanquish evil a crown of life shall be; they with the King of Glory shall reign eternally.
St. Patrick’s Day, 1907 off ‘the Lizard’, a mile long reef extending south from the coast of Cornwall, Great Britain, a huge storm was raging. This is the region where the North Atlantic smashes into the English Channel and is notorious for its tides and currents, known as the graveyard of ships. The SS Suevic, 12,000 tons, sailing from Melbourne was just hours away from its destination in Plymouth. The officers couldn’t see the stars to navigate, but they thought they saw the Lizard Lighthouse ten miles off and so in misplaced confidence proceeded full-steam ahead to reach port by next morning. It turned out that they were actually right on the Lizard rocks and crashed onto the reef so hard that they were unable to extricate themselves. The 141 crew and 382 passengers, 60 of them under 3 years old were ruined. Ruined Advent is not simply a run-up to Christmas. It is a time to rehearse the great Biblical truths. Ephesians 2 reminds us that before Jesus came ...
you were dead in your transgressions and sins... we were by nature objects of wrath.
Like those on the Suevic, we were ruined. All our efforts to direct our lives in the face of a hostile environment had only succeeded in driving us on the reef of the justified wrath of God. Our peril was not of accidental drowning, it was the sentence of death for crimes committed.
Rescued When they finally realized they could not save themselves, the Suevic fired distress rockets into the stormy night sky. In every village along the Cornwall coast, there was a chapter of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. These volunteers, fishermen and tradesmen from the villages of the Lizard, Cadgwith, Coverack & Porthleven saw the rockets, manned their 39-foot open lifeboats and shoved out into the storm. The tide and gale were so strong that they could barely make headway and it was so foggy and dark that after rowing the four miles they located the Suevic by running into the side of it, and tossing a crew member into the sea–the first person that was rescued that night!
The first boats arrived just in time to avert a disaster. The Suevic had launched two of its own lifeboats filled with women and children. There was no way that they could safely negotiate the channel through the rocks to shore, so local men jumped into the boats to guide them. When these inadequate boats tried to return, they were smashed on the rocks.
Over the next 16 hours the four RNLI boats made trip after trip, 15 different crews taking turns in the six-man boats. Hanging from rope ladders as the waves threw the lifeboats up and down against the side of the Suevic, they tossed children and then their mothers into the arms of their comrades in the boats below. By 10 am they had rescued 456 people without a passenger or rescuer being lost. The remaining folks were taken off by a tugboat as the storm subsided.
No RNLI rescuer died that night, but in Advent we remember that our rescue from God’s wrath was more costly. It cost the Rescuer, Jesus, his life, but then...
God...made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions...God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus...it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesian 2
Recruited We are indeed seated with Christ in the heavenly realms – but not yet fully! We are also still here in the earthly realm. This is a time to remember what we have been rescued FOR. Jesus, the lifeboat Captain tells us to ‘...go make disciples of all nations…’. He has recruited us to the high honor of joining him in snatching others from ruin. And he is no shore-side commander, for he promises, ‘...I am with you to the close of the age.’ During Advent we remember that this life is not about collecting the most toys or experiences or honors but about being with Jesus as he goes tirelessly back and forth to rescue people from the shipwreck of their lives.
Retrieved The season of lifeboat work will not go on indefinitely. One stormy night on the Sea of Galilee Jesus commanded the storm to ‘Be Still!’ and it was! In Advent we celebrate that one day Jesus will say to the tumult of time and the tempest of demonic assault and the hurricane of human hubris–Be Still! And it will be! One day he will come back and on THAT day he will take us to the Father’s house that we may be with him always.
But this is not that Day. This day is our day to man the lifeboats with our Captain, the Lord Jesus, and push out into the storm and the dark and the fog to respond to the distress flares which are streaming into the night sky from those shipwrecked on life’s reefs.
It was snowing and in single digits outside but a faithful band from churches around Washtenaw County gathered at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church on Wednesday, January 22nd to ‘Cry out to the Lord with One Voice’, the twelfth annual Concert of Prayer marking the Octave of Christian Unity, Martin Luther King’s birthday, and the anniversary of Roe v Wade. For more than a decade churches in the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti area have rotated hosting this evening of intercession to pray for the important issues of the division among Christians, the need for racial reconciliation, the preservation of life and the urgency for transformation in Christ. Interweaving Scripture, worship, brief messages from several pastors and congregational participation, the evening brought people together before the Throne of God, fulfilling Jesus’ command to ‘watch and pray’. You can go to www.pact-washtenaw.org to get information about next year’s Concert of Prayer and other news of inter-church cooperation in Washtenaw County.
At the end of December I was reading in Zechariah and ran across this passage: This is what the LORD Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the LORD Almighty. Zech 8:6
The returned exiles of Judah couldn’t believe or even imagine the promises of restoration that God was extending to them. In this passage the Lord is gently chastising them for their unbelief. It may seem marvelous (or impossible!) to them when they look at themselves and their circumstances, but do they think that God, the almighty is stumped? He isn’t doubting whether it can be done. It would not be marvelous for the one who spoke the worlds into existence to speak Israel into restoration.
I experienced this as an urging from the Lord for me – and for us in the The Word of God – as we go into 2014. Let’s look for the Lord to do those things which would be marvelous in our eyes, knowing that nothing is beyond his mighty power and love.
Have a blessed New Year!
Your brother in Christ, Phil Tiews
“Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)I see a glory in the stable grow Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length Give me an ox’s strength. Among the asses (stubborn I as they) I see my Saviour where I looked for hay; So may my beast like folly learn at least The patience of a beast. Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed) I watch the manger where my Lord is laid; Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence Some woolly innocence!” —C. S. Lewis, Into The Wardrobe Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb, Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment, There He hath made Himself to His intent Weak enough, now into the world to come; But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room? Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient, Stars and wise men will travel to prevent The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom. Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie? Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high, That would have need to be pitied by thee? Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go, With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe. —John Donne, Nativity On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity This is the month, and this the happy morn Wherein the Son of Heav’n's eternal King, Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born, Our great redemption from above did bring; For so the holy sages once did sing, That he our deadly forfeit should release, And with his Father work us a perpetual peace. –John Milton, On the Morning Of Christ’s Nativity
Here is a 'Message' version of I Peter 1:3-9 If you can, read through it s-l-o-w-l-y... Consider the depth and undeserved richness of the gift Peter is exclaiming about. This is the gift you have been offered and have received. As you read, remember God really wants all his hand-crafted creatures to receive this gift...
A New Life I Peter 1:3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I Peter 1:6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. I Peter 1:8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.
Now, ask God to bring to mind someone(s) you and He would really love to see respond to the offer of faith.... Imagine the internal state of this person as they do so... Consider what joy it would give you (and God). Thank God that He wants this more than you.
As this person comes to mind in the future, keep before you the image you had of the person as they responded to God's offer of faith.
Father thank you for you universal call to faith. Thank you that you've placed a longing for a life built on trust deep in the heart of every human.
Help us live the reality of our new life and so witness without stressing to the joy, the laughter, the thankfulness which you've placed in us.
Thank you for new life to be lived today.
We remember as encouraged all those you call us to encourage. We look forward to all the ways you will call us to do what we see you doing in this coming week.
Thanks for being our Dad and inviting us into your family.
I am reading my way through the New Testament a bit at a time and I have been struck with how often the issue of permanence and impermanence shows up. Hebrews tells us, ‘Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…’ (Heb 12:28) and just a few pages later James reminds us, ‘For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes’ (James 4:14). In his first letter Peter speaks of our imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance and the perishable gold and silver which are unable to ransom us, so Jesus ransoms us with his imperishable blood instead. It goes on and on! Frankly this strikes me as backward. My life reality seems very solid to me. I have aches and pains, I have rock-hard financial realities I have to deal with, I want 25 year warrantees on everything I purchase, there is very concrete pressure all around. Life seems very substantive and its robust buffeting often gets in the way of my more ‘spiritual’ aspirations.
But God reveals to us through his Word that it is I who have it backwards! All these things around me and in me which seem so rugged and stable and impinge on my life so much are in fact to be shaken. They are a mist, they are passing away. The things which now appear to me so ‘spiritual’, that is vague, ephemeral, elusive, are in fact the only solid, permanent, immovable, imperishable things – the unshakeable kingdom which God has given us.
I get the image of shafts of incredibly hard glass that have been driven down into our world. We go struggling along in our solid-seeming-but-really-a-mist world and we bump up against these unseen-but-imperishable kingdom shafts. They are what is ‘really real’, not the mist which consumes our attention. We can choose to step into those shafts of kingdom life in Jesus, but we can’t yet stay in them continuously. They don’t yet fill everywhere. That is why we pray ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’. Drive more kingdom shafts into this reality. Make the kingdom more contiguous until the day you bring the whole kingdom crashing in at your return!
In the meantime the Lord through his Word tells us not to get too attached or too bent out of shape by the solid-seeming mist. He has us living here for the sake of discipleship (loving ever more Jesus and his kingdom) and mission (helping others to love Jesus and his kingdom). As the Spirit grows us we will be able to discern those invisible kingdom shafts better. They distort and shred the this-world mist around them. Bitterness turns to love, cursing to blessing, addiction to freedom, mourning to rejoicing, judgment to forgiveness, death to life! We begin to see where those kingdom shafts are and where new ones are being driven through the mist into the earth, and can begin to step into them and live there more and more—and bring others with us.
I have a long way to go. This life and its concerns still seem pretty solid to me. The more I bump into those immoveable, unshakeable, eternal shafts of the kingdom, though, the more I want to live there. The more the Spirit is opening my eyes to look for them and point them out to others so that together we can all live more and more in that kingdom which cannot be shaken.
Pastors in the ‘Love Ypsi’ network have been building relationships with Ypsilanti school officials over the last year. They first got involved following the suicide of a young high school girl. When they asked the Ypsilanti High School principal what they could do to help, he invited them to come and be available to students who wanted to talk with someone as they processed this tragedy. With the combining of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts this Fall, school officials have anticipated a greater need for community involvement. They have asked the ‘Love Ypsi’ group to provide pastors who can just be present at the new High School and Middle School every hour school is in session! They would like them to walk the halls, talk with students, and be available if there is a need for more.
What an opportunity! Tony Weatherly, who has been largely responsible for the bridge-building, sees this as a major breakthrough and a great opportunity for the Church to serve the real needs of the broader community – and bring a Kingdom presence right into the heart of the schools.
Obviously, it will take a lot of involvement for many pastors to cover the need, so pray for the Ypsilanti pastors to catch the vision and invest the time to step into this Kairos moment – the time is now, the Kingdom of God is at hand!
From Ps.344 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. 8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
When have you known God as refuge? When a boss or person in authority 'scolds' without comprehension of the truth of the situation?
Do you realize how radiant your face looks as you walk without shame having separated yourself from all your fears??
David's formative years were in fields watching over the sheep by night... Pondering God's beauty & greatness, his unchangeable qualities like his steadfast love and mercy, his justice, his desire for intimacy with us, his people.
Father, give us the discipline to set aside sufficient time to abide in you as David did... long enough to honestly seek, intentionally take refuge, truly taste and see your goodness, doggedly discern areas of fear/ anxiety, realize our need for deliverance and then claim it with gusto!
For all this brings you pleasure and glory!
John in his brief second letter seems to be writing to a church undergoing some duress. Exactly what the issues are we have to deduce from the letter, but what strikes me is John’s instruction to the church. Basically what he has to say is, “when the going gets tough, love one another”. This is the commandment we had from the beginning, this is the one to stick with when things are unclear or when the pressure is mounting or you don’t know what to do – love one another. As I was discussing this with some brothers and sisters in our Bible study recently, I was struck with how relevant this is for us in The Word of God right now. We are trying to clarify our vision and move into a more missional direction. Some things are changing, some things are not, and nothing is flowing with breathtaking power. In the midst of this do we grow impatient, lose heart, give up? John tells us what to do – go back to the basics and love one another.
Mother Theresa said “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love.” This is a good corrective for those of us you hunger for inspiring and clear vision. Don’t wait until you have it. do the small things before us each day with great love. As we do so, we participate in the great vision of He who is Love, and I believe our own part will become clearer.
Stay calm and love on!
Do not be afraid to speak my word.Proclaim it strongly! People need to hear it. Even if people contradict you and oppose you, proclaim my word! My word will be vindicated by events: the humble will be raised up, and the proud will be brought low, and all people will see that Jesus is Lord!
This message came at a time when I'd been reflecting on Exodus 14:13-15. Several points in that passage stood out to me:
"Do not fear!" "Stand your ground!" "You will see the victory the Lord will win for you today." "Tell the Israelites to go forward."
As the apostle Paul wrote, we haven't received a spirit of timidity. God is bold because he knows he has something we need very badly. He knows that no obstacle can stop him, and he wants us to go forward boldly with him on his mission of mercy.
From another perspective, I was struck by the magnitude of the benefits which are provided by life in Christ even in the present "age": -knowing God personally! -receiving and perceiving infinite love -receiving forgiveness -receiving a purpose in life -freedom from: --habitual sins --addictions --fear and anxiety --resentment --pride -family ties in the Body of Christ -a sure hope -peace -joy -healing -spiritual -psychological and emotional -physical -in personal relationships -empowerment to love and to bring blessings to others -and certainly others that I've left off this list.
Spreading the Gospel is a tremendous work of mercy. As the apostle Paul wrote about the Holy Spirit -- who, of course, produces all the benefits cited above -- these benefits are the first fruits of what we'll experience in heaven. People need these things desperately. I think God wants us to keep these things in mind as we consider whether and how to share the Gospel with others. We're not "selling" merely a dry, abstract, legal forgiveness. We're offering real, living personal relationships with tangible, observable benefits in the here and now. The Kingdom of God truly IS "at hand"!
There is no discontinuity between life in heaven and life on earth. We're living in eternity now. The choices we make now and the relationships we form now will endure, with eternal consequences. I think we should keep this in mind as we consider how to evangelize. I think this is the message that we need to proclaim. Christianity is not about "pie in the sky, by and by". What we do to others, we do to Jesus. God is not an "absentee landlord". "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). The Kingdom of God is at hand!
I gave a talk at a recent prayer meeting based on a chapter from Mike Breen’s book, Covenant & Kingdom, in which he follows these themes from Genesis to Revelations. He illustrates how these two themes repeatedly draw the believer’s attention to the overarching purpose of the Father to increase our capacity to live as citizens of heaven on earth. The talk (archived on the Word of God website for Feb. 17, 2013) addressed ways that King David’s understanding of Covenant and Kingdom informed his thinking and actions from poet shepherd to protector king. We didn’t have time for some of the ‘Practical Tips’ portion of the talk, so here they are. Try listening to my talk the others in the Covenant & Kingdom series and consider how the Spirit of God may want to use these suggestions for his glory and your benefit as his disciples. Three applications for us as heirs of the Covenant and representatives of the King.
First, the covenant promises oneness. We are one with God. He is one with us. Daily we have the privilege of accessing this reality all it takes is time…
- Time to adore,
- Time to intercede,
- Time to meditate:
- On Creation/ Creator,
- On Sinful leanings already forgiven,
- On God’s character expressed in accounts of Jesus words and actions and attitudes…
- On the whisperings of Spirit to spirit… and as we spend time hearing from God we can record this in a journal of some sort…
Second, we can use the covenant’s promise of shared authority and power to extend the King’s rule…
- In our lives - By discussing with someone things we’ve been shown about our character vs. God’s character which need to change, and some steps involved in doing so
- In the lives of others
- By including them, as led by the Spirit, in our lives
- By praying for their felt needs
- Through direct prayer ministry like praying over them for healing or offering unbound prayer.
Thirdly, we can continually seek God for wisdom to know how to join Jesus in his ongoing mission as he addresses the injustices of our day to the orphan, the disabled, the poor, the neighbor in great emotional pain, those enslaved to sin, those enslaved by the sin of others, the widow, the international.
- To get a hint of which of these (or other) injustices Jesus may be calling you to invest in correcting, just prayerfully read the list while noticing which situations which come to mind cause you the greatest sorrow, pain or anger.
I've been thinking lately about how I’m doing as an enemy-lover. I want to share with you something about my process, and I’d like to invite you to consider making a personal examination of your own. In this time of increasing polarization, I’m watching Christians argue heatedly not only with non-Christians but with each other. But my concern here is not with divisive issues. In fact, I don’t believe it is necessary or even desirable for Christians to be in perfect unison as long as they are doggedly attending to their own consciences and loving one another (check out Romans 14). So my concern is with the heart posture that produces my thoughts and influences my language while I’m fighting the good fight.
The starting point—’love your enemies’, really? My process begins with looking seriously at what Jesus said:
I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… (Luke 6:27-28)
I want to take this word seriously because the stories I’d heard and read about Christians who radically and impossibly loved and forgave their persecutors were the very stories that first drew me to Jesus. So I want to pay close attention to whether I’m living it out. I don’t want to be found a hypocrite, and I want to keep my promise to follow Jesus. He did say, after all, that I couldn’t expect to be recognizable as his follower unless I’m loving my enemies:
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them… (Luke 6:32)
Humanly impossible love served as evidence for me that something greater than flesh was at work—evidence that God had broken into the world and was restoring his image and likeness in people, cultivating in them a family resemblance to himself:
Then …you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35b-36)
Do I really have enemies? Still, when I was young I thought that “enemies” was an awfully strong word, and I now realize that I took for granted that it would never really be applicable to any of my relationships. I saw myself as always good and kind to others, and I expected to go through life without enemies. But real life turned out to be a humbling experience in that regard. Not only did some people resent and, yes, even hate me despite my best efforts, but I’ve had to admit that I’m not actually as loving as I used to believe. My own capacity for resentment and vindictiveness, once masked by denial, is now apparent to me.
I was amazed at how the everyday chatter in my head, once I actually began to pay attention to it, betrayed the wickedness lurking in the corners of my heart. “I’m so glad I’m not as clueless as that woman!” “Doesn’t that guy know how to use a turn signal?” And dozens of daily emotional responses to people—at work, in town, in the news—that never surface clearly enough to form a phrase. My heart is a fountain of judgment and contempt, clearly un-Christ like, clearly in violation of Jesus’ command to love.
It was tempting to reason that the people I’ve alluded to—with the possible exception of the one who actually hates me—weren’t really my enemies, and that my inner chatter falls somewhere on a spectrum to which “love your enemies” isn’t strictly applicable. But I had to admit that that wasn’t the approach I saw Jesus take to such questions. (Remember that the one who calls someone “fool” is violating the command against murder!) Nor was it the approach that sat right with the Spirit in my heart.
Accuser or Advocate-who is talking? I began to examine myself more critically. I figured that when I plead technicalities, chances are good I’m listening to the Accuser, not the Advocate. The truth is, the process of wrestling with my heart attitudes in prayer has fully convinced me that, for the purpose of understanding and living out this uniquely Christian command, the true definition of “enemy” is less “someone who is against me” than “someone I am against.”
When a relationship at work became so toxic that I found myself in a constant state of resentment and fear, I began to hear my thoughts in a new way. I was distressed by the vengeful thoughts that came so naturally. Months of dogged prayer gave me some relief from the more overt enmity, but then my flesh found another way to express it as I started petting myself, imagining my “goodness” convicting my enemy before the world.
At that point, I was on to myself. I actually became grateful, realizing that God was using this difficulty and that we were really working toward actual Christ-like enemy-love. Continuing to pay attention to all those inner responses in a normal day revealed that I am actually postured against an awful lot of people.
Loads of ‘enemies’ There are people I find intimidating, people whose lifestyle offends me and people whose opinions are nonsense to me. There are people who behave obnoxiously, people who have committed terrible crimes and people who have merely hurt my feelings. There are people who are against things that I am for and people who are for things I am against. There are people who have wronged my loved ones and people who are just in my way. There are people close to me who are hard to get along with and easy to walk away from. There are people distant from me that my thinking has reduced to mere symbols of their sins, hamstringing my capacity to realize that they are people.
Even the thought, ‘some of these people are Christ’s enemies’, doesn’t work to excuse a posture of enmity. This idea hit home in a new way when I recently observed a Facebook exchange over gun laws. Now, I can admit that Christians of good conscience can come down in different Scripturally legitimate places on the exact meaning of “Thou shalt not kill.” But when someone in the discussion asked the others to imagine what Jesus would have done had he stood between a crazed gunman and 20 kindergartners, some of them said, “There’s no way to know. The situation couldn’t have happened in those days, and there is no way to draw any conclusion.”
That response seemed grounded in defense of the flesh to me. The situation did exist, and Jesus did set us an example. He interposed himself, not just between his friends and Death but also between his enemies and Death, taking the bullet so to speak, and loving everyone on every side exactly as he had enjoined his followers to love, back in Luke 6. And, of course, we know that in terms of their estrangement from God by the sin from which all alike suffer, his friends were his enemies, too. I was his enemy.
No wiggle room So I have no excuse. No wiggle room. My housecleaning must be thorough. My speech, thoughts and actions must be consistent with love, but even more my fundamental desire for my enemy must be mercy and not judgment, because that is, on the one hand, my fundamental desire for myself and, on the other, God’s active desire as well.
Even though I have been candid about my inner life, what I’ve written here has been mostly of a theoretical nature. Where the rubber meets the road, I have needed much more than personal conviction and reflection. The things I have done to help myself change on the inside as well as to behave consistently, are the stuff of another article. Stay tuned….!
The Word of God has decided to postpone its regularly scheduled prayer meeting on Sunday 3/17 to Sunday 3/24 in order to make it more possible for community members to attend the Charism School featuring Damian Stayne the weekend of 3/15-17, and particularly to go to the Healing Service at 6:30pm on Saturday, 3/16. The School is being sponsored by Christ the King Catholic Church and more information and on line registration is available at www.rc.net/lansing/ctk . No registration is needed for the Healing Service on Saturday evening 3/16. Damian has taught all over the world and led people into a greater release of the gifts of the Spirit. The Lord has worked through him and those that he has mentored at such schools to heal many people. As we focus on expressing the Kingdom of God in all the places God has placed us, we are asking for a greater release of the work of the Spirit. Hopefully the Lord will use Damian and this weekend to answer that prayer.
Due to a variety of factors, the Pastors Alliance for County Transformation has announced that they will not be holding the annual Palm Sunday worship celebration called Hosanna. Folks from churches across Washtenaw County have been getting together for a ‘mosaic’ of worship styles and forms to welcome the Lord Jesus in our County on Palm Sunday since 2001. Organizers are hoping to gather churches for planning and participation in time to celebrate Hosanna 2014 next year, on Palm Sunday, April 14, 2014.
[on January 6 Phil Tiews spoke about ‘Counting the cost’ at our prayer meeting, describing the characteristics of bodies in ‘incline, recline, and decline’. Below John Whiting shares what he sensed the Lord saying through that talk.] A thought about the slide which shows us at the beginning of a new upswing: perhaps we're being called to die to an old way of life in order to take up a new one. Times are changing, and it appears that God is calling us to move from a period of "lying fallow" to a period of more active service to the people around us. That'll require changes to the lifestyles of many of us.
It's too bad there wasn't more time for the end of your talk Sunday. We need to give serious attention to your "serious questions" about what God is saying to us and what we'll do about it. The needs around us are great, and they're likely to become greater. I think God would like us to respond with Isaiah's cry of "Send me!" We certainly need to listen for God's direction, but I think we'll be more likely to hear it if we're eager to act on it. This might well be worth another talk or two in the future.
In considering how to act, I'm reminded of the story about King Saul's son Jonathan considering how to approach the Philistine army. As you remember, he took one small step at a time, looking to see whether God blessed it and presented him with an opportunity to move further. Pretty soon the whole Philistine army was routed. I think that would be a good approach for the Community right now. We're doing that already with our contacts with 3 Dimensional Ministries, the bike outreach, our Christmas celebration gathering, and the discipleship groups. I'm sure many individuals are likewise testing opportunities to see how much fruit they might yield. Still, it might be good to encourage people in the community to be more aggressive in this approach. I suspect strongly that God would like to use us more powerfully than we expect. If we were more opportunistic -- and, perhaps, less analytic -- we might be very favorably surprised at what we see.
God bless you!
[We reprint this article with permission from Sam Williamson’s blog Beliefs of the Heart because it captures a great sense of what it means to approach our world with a positive, missional vision. ] A friend of mine challenged me to adopt—perhaps embrace—a Transcendent Pursuit for the coming year, something life changing, something I can bring to the world to make a difference.
Then I re-read the first chapter of Genesis. It felt like I was reading it for the first time, and I felt the nudge of God.
The first thing I noticed was the creative artistry of God. The opening verses do not focus on God’s unparalleled power. Instead they reveal—and almost revel in—the beauty. After each creative act God doesn’t say, “That was powerful;” he says, “This is beautiful” (a better translation than what we are used to).
Next I noticed that God sees potential where no one else ever could. God hovers over and looks into the chaos and void; he takes the raw materials of darkness and depth, and he creates light, and it is beautiful. As are the oceans and fields and skies.
After observation and creation, God gives. He gives this unparalleled treasure of creation to man. The opening chapter of the Bible surges with swarming fish, teaming land animals, luscious vegetation, and a sky pregnant with stars.
And God turns to man and says, “It’s yours. Take it. Care for it. Love it.”
The opening of the Bible reveals a completely different God than any man has ever created. The opening of the Bible reveals God as an artist, seeing beauty, creating incomparable art, and giving it away. It is a radical image of God.
I long to live like that artist
Seeing God as the creator—not merely powerful but a creator of beauty—moved me. It makes me want to be more like him in a selfless giving of light, life, and joy. And then I read the next few verses.
God makes man in his own image. God revels (imagine a reveling God!) in this description of human design: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … God created man in his image … in his own image he made him” (Gen. 1:26-27).
It is almost as if God needed an editor to say, “Uh, God, you are being redundant.” But God wasn’t writing useless repetition. He was being emphatic. He wanted us to know—he needed us to know—that his image is the blueprint of our design.
God’s first act is to make us his masterpiece—his literal artistic crown of creation—and his second act is to make us artists as well. He animates his masterpiece, breathing into us a creative force to see beauty, create incomparable art, and give it away.
When he puts us in the Garden of Eden—asking us to dig the earth, rule creation, and name the animals—God is inviting us to join with him as creative comrades. He enters into partnership with us as we artistically cultivate and nurture this world.
What is the church meant to be?
When God gave his creation to mankind, he said, “Subdue it and have dominion.” But these words do not mean to invade earth like a conquering king—God spoke these words before the fall. They don’t mean subjection, they mean cultivation.
The church—God’s people on earth—are meant to be gardeners, maybe a guild of gardeners. We are here to create the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and nurture. To create an environment of peace and life, joy and light, and hope.
How do we cultivate each other? We begin to see the unseen. We learn to spot beauty in each other. We become gardening treasure hunters; recognizing the raw materials of gifts and passion in each other and speaking it into life: “I see this in you; it is beautiful.”
We are called to be an Army of Artists or Guerilla Gardeners. We win the world through the cultivation of a Garden. The church on earth is that collection of artistic gardeners who are cultivating the Garden of Eden, bringing light and beauty.
The Christian life is joy, light, and creation in comradeship with the creator of all.
Don’t confuse the Garden shed with the Garden
Religious groups can frustrate me. I get sick of the same weekly board (or perhaps bored) meeting, or the memo to write, or the program to manage. I say to myself (and sometimes to my wife), “This can’t be God’s plan for his people! There has to be more!”
This week I realized my problem: I’ve been confusing the garden shed with the garden.
God’s people—this guerilla band of gardeners—are here on earth to cultivate His garden. But I’ve been tripping over the spades, hoes, pickaxes, and rakes. They are just tools. They are used to create the garden, but they aren’t the garden.
If my primary experience of God’s people is frustration, it might be time to let go of a gardening tool—that spade of board membership or that pickaxe of the program I manage. All our programs, plans and meetings are simply tools to cultivate the garden.
Sometimes I feel we cannot see the garden for the shed. When the tools are creating blisters, it’s time to lay them down. It’s the garden we are creating, not a tool shed.
Creation and re-creation
When Christ came into the world, scripture says of him that “a bruised reed he will not break … [and yet] he will faithfully bring forth justice” (Is. 42:3).
Christ came to earth as the ultimate guerilla gardener; he brought justice not through violent invasion but through violent gardening, through aggressive art.
After the fall of man—after we rebelled against his creative design—God again hovered over the dark void of the earth and saw what we could be if brought back to life. By sending his son, he again proclaimed, “Let there be light,” and it was beautiful.
I long to live my life like that Artist.
You may well be like me – more committed to the IDEA of evangelism than to actually DOING evangelism. I want to see it happen, but feel most comfortable with others making it happen. Actually, Jesus, the master evangelist, gave his disciples – that includes us – a fairly pain-free strategy for evangelism. I think I can do this! Luke 10: 5-9 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’”
Jesus did not send the disciples to people who most ‘needed to be saved’ or who were the hardest cases they could find. To paraphrase He said, as you go out, bless folks. If you find someone, or a whole town, who responds positively, stick to them. Give them what you’ve got – the good news, healing, the whole works. He goes on to say that if they don’t want to listen to what you have to say, don’t sweat it, move on and keep on the lookout for that ‘Person of Peace’.
God, and only God, does the hard part of evangelism – opening someone’s heart to make it receptive. That really takes the pressure off of you and me to say it just right, to have all the answers, to be sufficiently persuasive. What we need to do is go through our days with our heads up on the lookout for a Person of Peace. Talking with them about the Lord is easy because by definition they are people whose heart the Lord has prepared and they want to hear what we have to say. They are favorably disposed toward us, even willing to buy us a meal!
There is a critical point though. We won’t spot a Person of Peace if we aren’t looking and they won’t receive anything from us if we don’t engage with them. This is way of walking through life as disciples that most of us need to grow in, I know I do. That is why this summer we are opening up the community schedule a bit to allow for time to mix with folks ‘outside the box’ of our normal round of activities. Hopefully we will discover some People of Peace and start on some new Kingdom relationships.
If you have a story to share about how you encountered a Person of Peace, please drop me a line at phil@thewordofGodcommunity.org so that we can encourage one another.