Thursday, March 24, 2011

WWJS - who would Jesus save

I have been reflecting on the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke 4:18-19:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus’ ministry is focused on bringing good news to the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed. So who are the poor, imprisoned, blind, and oppressed? Are we considered among these, did Jesus come for people like us? What if we do not consider ourselves poor, imprisoned, blind, or oppressed does that mean the message of Jesus does not apply to us?

Jesus certainly has an affinity toward the poor saying “Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’” (Luke 6:20). But the poor are not just those without sufficient means of finances. The poor is any one is deficient physically, socially, or spiritually. The poor are those who are ignored and not given opportunities based on family, culture, health, orientation, geography, failures, inadequacies, or even past mistakes. Jesus comes to bring good news to all those who have not. The good news is that though they are poor and lack now, Jesus calls them truly blessed with a great inheritance.

The blind are closely related to the poor. We see that Jesus does heal the physically blind, but Jesus also heals spiritual blindness. Jesus has come to reveal to us what we have previously failed to see. Jesus came to show the love, power, forgiveness, and new life. This recovery of sight is seen most clearly in Luke 24:13-35 when Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus opens their eyes to what had to happen and what was spoken about in the prophets. Jesus has come to show us the truth about God’s favorable disposition towards his people.

The prisoners and the oppressed are those who are burdened and eve trapped by self destructive tendencies, addictions, and immoral habits (or simply sin). Sin binds and imprisons (Luke 13:10-17). As long as we continue to serve our own desires and selfish whims we will be imprisoned by the need to self gratify which ultimately will lead us bent over and miserable. Jesus uses his life, death, and resurrection to release the power of his gracious love to set his people free from these binding spirits.

So does this include me? Did Jesus come to bring me good news? Personally I can relate to being imprisoned. Too many times I try to do the thing I know I ought to do, but I fail. Many times I try not to do the things that I shouldn’t do, but I still do them. Like Paul in Romans 7:24, 25 I cry out “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” I need to be freed from my own sin. I see that even though I have food enough, clothes enough, shelter enough, that there is more than my very soul longs for that I cannot attain by myself, I lack and therefore, find myself wretchedly poor. I long for life, true eternal life that I cannot afford, but must be given. Even though I have been through Bible College and Seminary, I know there is a great mystery hiding in the beautiful and wonderful presence of God. I long to see the image of love, and I long to hear the words my poor spirit desperately needs “well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21)

There were many during Jesus’ time who thought they could afford themselves everything needed. There were those who thought they saw and understood everything that needed to be understood. There were many who though that they could do whatever they desired free from consequence.

There are many even today who do not see their own poverty hiding behind their retirement, salary, and savings. There are those born so blind they do not even realize they cannot see. There are many today who believe they are utterly free while they are locked behind an 8x10 cell. Jesus has come for them as well because even though they do not realize it, they are poor, blind, and imprisoned. I think when God calls us home; we will be surprised at his wonderful graciousness. I think we will be greatly surprised at whom the God of love has brought into his kingdom.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"The Next Christians" Review

The Next Christians could almost be the sequel to Gabe Lyons coauthored work Unchristian. While Unchristian left me unsatisfied with nothing more than humbling numbers and statistics about the dismal state of Christianity, The Next Christians seems to provide not only an interpretation to the downfall of Christian America, but also a response.

Lyons sees the end of Christian America as a positive change. Too long Christians have either decided to become separatists in culture by making their own sports leagues, music, and books, or they have blended too much into mainstream culture looking no different than the rest of the world. Lyons sees many Christians now adopting a new attitude, one that is more reflective of the gospels. “The Next Christians,” as Lyons calls them, are not separatists or blenders they are restorers. Jesus came to earth to restore the purpose and calling of humanity, and those who follow him are called to practice the same restorative behavior. Jesus engaged with those he was seeking to restore, his hope was that true intimate relationships with others would cause his holiness to rub off on others. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were not only for forgiveness, but also for redemption.

Lyons does a wonderful job of bringing out the true purpose of Jesus and his followers. The Christian faith is one that identifies brokenness in themselves, others, and the world around them and then looks to restore the person or world to its created purpose. The Next Christian is a book not just for confessors of Jesus, but for anyone who has looked at the world and came to the conclusion that it needs to be restored.

A free copy of this book was provided to me by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing for review purposes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

pray for japan

In the last week Japan has undergone some of the worst disasters that I could not wish on my worst enemy. With a 9.0 earthquake so powerful that is shook the Earth’s axis making our days shorter by milliseconds and moving the entire island of Japan 13 feet closer to the United States. The devastated country also suffered numerous aftershock quakes almost just as powerful. When the earth began sitting still a new sound was heard of water rushing through Japan caused by an enormous tsunami pushing cars, buildings, and burying thousands more not just under rubble, but now also underwater. With fallen buildings and flooded streets, a nuclear power plant is on the verge of having a meltdown causing over 250,000 to evacuate. Though the plant is currently maintaining any nuclear leaks, it only seems a matter of time before the cancer causing poison is released into the air and the ground. Thousands of lives have been lost, thousands more missing, homes swept away, fear and panic that most of my generation never had to experience.

In the midst of such tragedy we can only pray and wait to see how we can help. Yet instead of prayers, instead of concern, and instead of ready volunteerism, it seems that the U.S. has been led only to start worrying about themselves. The web has been ablaze with articles about how Japan can negatively affect our financial economy! How narcissistic can a nation be to ultimately be concerned with our pocket books in the wake of such an ugly tragedy! The catastrophe in Japan only seems to be of value to us in terms of how it might affect our own interest. Gilbert Gottfried tried to use the events to bolster his “comedic career” Gottfired Fired by making crude jokes concerning the tsunami. Undoubtedly there are also many others who are licking their chops at these events and see opportunities to bolster their careers in media, journalism, or even blog hits (I really don’t care if my blogs gets any more or less hits). I hope that you have seen some of the self-interest preservation going on, and I hope you see it for what it is; pure selfishness.

However, I know there are many good people left in this country who are not solely concerned with their pocketbooks and careers. There is still much to be done. I first suggest you pray, and then pray, and pray some more. No matter what relief does come, the people of Japan need prayer in their mourning and restoring processes. Pray that God does a miraculous sign, and gives strength. Second, give to relief programs show that you care. Third, realize that 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of the things that happen in the world are not about you, but they are about others, so start doing for them.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jesus education

If you have read the Indy Star in the last several weeks you have seen some controversy surrounding the salary of a former superintendent being exuberant in its retirement package.  With public schools struggling financially and programs being dropped, this undoubtedly upset many parents, teachers, and concerned citizens.  Monday, February 28th was the first school board meeting since the news broke with the former superintendent’s salary.  It was the most attended school board meeting I had seen.  Many took an opportunity to voice their concerns, and some even demanded the board to resign due to their failure to put children first. 

Yellow_school_sign.JPG.jpgUndoubtedly public education is struggling to keep classroom sizes minimal, maintain programs, achieve adequate test scores, and generate funding.  Certainly the public school system and government could do better to appropriate finances.  However, putting kids first involves more than financial planning.

Jesus had a soft spot for children (he got upset when his disciples and others kept them from coming to him in Matt 19:13-15).  If education for our children is going to improve than I think it is going to take a full communal effort.

I believe we are at a crossroads.  

It was churches in the very beginning that made education available to the masses, and perhaps it is time that churches pick up that long forgotten cross.  I’m not talking about just preschools and daycares (but it certainly involves that as well).  I’m talking about volunteering, helping out, and being supporters of local grade schools, middle schools, and high schools.  Sure we are not allowed to talk about Jesus and his love in these places, but there is nothing stopping us from showing it.  The state of our school system cannot be blamed on one person, or even on one single board (though each will be held accountable).  If public education is failing it is because we are failing, and it is time we step up to show the love of Christ, by giving our best to the very least.