Perfection: getting sued for your bike and offering them your car.

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matt 5:48

Perfection comes, not through separation from our surrounding community, but through immersion. From being around those that don't want you around, that are likely to use and take advantage of you because of your giving. It takes us being centered in Christ, letting his love work through us. This is uncomfortable.

Christ describes that perfection in 10 important ways like this (Matt 5:38-48):

1) Love your neighbor...

2) Love your enemy...

3) Bless them that curse you...

4) Pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you...

5) When sued, give your coat and your cloak...

6) Go the extra mile...

7) Lend to those that don't return it...

8) Give them your other cheek...

9) Welcome the stranger...

10) Be centered on heavenly perfection...

I've read the "be-attitudes" ever since I was a little kid. You know the "Blessed are the..." peacemakers, righteous seekers, mourners, meek, poor, persecuted... Well, if you keep reading down the instruction he gives we often get to a very routine set of spiritual goals that most of us have given up trying to live. This list is always a good moral guide, often when convenient, and is often tied to the "golden rule" by considering our enemy as one that is not to be hated but loved. 

I don't know how many times I have read this passage and missed two "Be's":
 Be Perfect & Be 

1) The first thing i would always miss was the intent of the passage wasn't to set out a checklist but a description. I would read this passage and say "hope I can be that way some day." What I missed in understanding the passage is it wasn't a to do list at all, it was a descriptor list of spiritual perfection. Verse 48 clearly tells us to be this way, not try to, not hope to, but to be this way. This is not an act but rather a state of being, a presence of mind to respond to a challenge with love rather than rage. 

2) The second thing I found towards the end of the passage where he tells us not to be as the "publicans" and only wave at the people we like, or to only hang out with the religious people we value. Often we think that to be closer to God is to be separated from the world, but Christ challenges that idea. As he describes, to be closer to God we get closer to people, especially people we don't know, are uncomfortable with, and need the gospel message. It is our tendency to close ourselves off for safety that keeps us from serving him fully.

How many of these are we really following? How would the gospel spread if we put our own priorities aside, got uncomfortable and spent time with the lost?

Got me thinking this morning.

Church Official: Christ is fat, drunk, and just one of the guys

"And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.

But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.

...And the Lord said 'Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation?...

...For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, 'He hath a devil.'

'The Son of man [Christ] is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber [a drunk], a friend of publicans and sinners!

'But wisdom is justified of all her children.'" Luke 7.29-31, 33-35


This passage has been an eye opener for me...

The religious leaders of the day accused Christ of being a "glutton, a drunk, and a friend of sinners."

They missed the reality that our relationships and fellowship with the lost, sick, and rejected are critical to our Gospel mission. They wanted him to minister and live as the religious of the day did, to associate only with other religious people, to eat and drink in ways that they had been limited to, to only visit homes and places they wanted him to go.

Instead they missed the entire point of Christ's ministry: seeing souls receive the Gospel.

Christ says that the "wisdom" in which he ministers will be "justified" by her "children" (by the results) in vs 35. He says this know what just happened in the verses preceding, vs 29, where "all the people that heard him," except the religious leaders, accepted the Gospel and were baptized. Christ's wisdom in choosing to eat and drink with the rejected, partying, lost crowd was justified by the work of the Gospel to change those lives.

Are we only ministering in safe ways? To only people like us? Only in places that our religious friends approve? Only in places that we are comfortable, places where we are not tempted?

This passage has hit me hard.

I should always be checking to see if my fear of temptation or fear of falling becomes a barrier to service. I know that Christ went to many unsavory homes and was tempted, but remained without sin. I'm not Christ, but I believe his willingness to go there is to show the capability of a spirit led life to over come temptation. I find it is often easier to fall in the places I am most comfortable rather than new or challenging places.

May I never become too spiritually refined that I would never be accused of associating with the lost. May I not do so much to avoid temptation that I avoid those that need Christ the most. May my faith in God's spirit of love, power and a sound mind be greater than fear of failure and accusations.

When people see me, may they see a student of the Great Physician ministering among the spiritual wounded and sick. May I have the boldness to enter, the humbleness to minister, and the discernment to live a balanced life.

I will not be justified in the end by what I didn't eat or drink, but by the work of the Gospel in the lives around me.

Learning to be uncomfortable for Christ.

Leftover Sacrifices

What if our churches shut their doors until we decided to give ourselves wholly to Christ? How many would be open today? What example would the ones still open be within our world today as churches full of true disciples? 

“Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands." Malachi 1.10 (nkjv)

The people of Israel were offering moldy bread,  blind, sick, and lame animals to the temple as sacrifices and saw nothing wrong with it (vs 7-9).  Even the priests excused it, so that God would rather they shut the doors than see them give leftover sacrifices. How much more do we serve out of our excess rather than out of our weakness? Do we give the things we can live without our live without that we may give? 

Our churches and we, as believers, need revival. We need a renewed faith, a broken spirit, as a cup poured out, we need a new heart - holy, full of love,  sacrificial, heavenly minded, full of joy unspeakable, abounding with life, speaking the truth in love,  given wholly to Christ. We need to live as true disciples of Christ, living in a spirit of love,  power, and a sound mind. Given to him, not for security or favor of God, but out of a love and acceptance of his precious  offer for us. 

 "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me" 
- Jesus

I was studying this (in Crazy Love by Francis Chan) as i was preparing to teach this morning and can not shake the thought, hope you are challenged too. 

5 Community Partnership Principles

I have been strongly reminded this month that this neighborhood work is a messy work.
Contrary to popular belief, I'm not here to just provide a community service (trash pick-up, put out fires, repave a road...), I am here to empower and equip people to improve their neighborhoods.
These are 5 of my principles that I think makes for a good neighborhood partnership.
  1. Empowerment: If you come to me with your hand out, I ask that you reach into your own pocket first, then take a quick inventory of what and who you know to help you accomplish the task.
  2. Ownership: I can assist you, I can guide you, but you have to do it. It isn't mean to say no, because it is often the only way the effort will last and it will mean something to you for accomplishing it. Start simple and grow as your resources grow.
  3. Respect: Value your partners, when you undermine the work they do, they will not run to your aid so quickly the next time. Stand up for them, respect them, challenge them, and be honest with them.
  4. Unity: It has to be done together and can not be done alone, each person has a role they can fulfill better than most others. Do it, do it well, and do it together.
  5. Adaptability: Everyone starts at a different place, so what has worked for one may not work for another. Treat everyone fairly, not necessarily the same.

White Flight, Christian Separation, And Good Citizenship


So we have been talking a lot lately around the office concerning the influence of financial mobility and its impact on local school choices. Then this article on the Huffington Post pops up and brings up some great points for discussion:
Why White Parents Won't Choose Black Schools: 

Many people I know explain these choices based on very inaccurate perceptions of our public school systems. Some people blame the philosophies of "secularism," a need for "separation [i.e. religious focus]," lack of "safety," too many "socialistic teachings," or promiscuously biased "sexual education" as the reason they choose other schooling options [alliteration intended].

But as this article points out, there are often just bad perceptions, unannounced/un-admitted stereotypes, unacknowledged fear, and hidden racism that underlie many of these excuses. Parents that believe in these dangers of their local urban schools and with the financial ability to do so, are often either moving to the suburbs, turning to private/out-of-district schooling [if they can afford it] or homeschooling [if private schooling is not affordable or not readily available or want even more control].

Don't misread what I am emphasizing, I fully support the idea that parents should be the ones to choose what schooling arrangements meets the needs of their child and family. Just don't based those decisions on false conjecture, skewed perceptions, or biased parental fears. We all are part of this community and therefore all have a part of the reason for why "that school" is the way it is. What is that I see quoted all the time: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke) Remember, this applies to our public educational system too, we weren't called to abandon the world just yet, but to be a force for positive change.

We see this in churches and social circles too where we now viewing our public/volunteer lives as a consumer interactions that must meet my needs and desires rather than fulfill our responsibility to be good citizens, meeting the community's needs, and challenging our school/churches to be better because they are "ours" and not some unknown other persons.

As believers we need to get real about our great commission to "go unto ALL of the world" and get ready to be "TOO diverse" in our worships, our gatherings, our fellowships, our organizations, and our relationships.

The Apostle Paul said it often:
"For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Rom 10.12-14
In full disclosure, my kids do go "out of district" out of convenience to our family's lifestyle. However, I will refuse to bad mouth our neighborhood school, and will do whatever I can to support and promote their success.

As an attendee of a public schools for over 19 years of my life (college included), and in very diverse communities, I can attest to the quality, the values, and the richness that being involved and committed to our community schools can bring. Not to mention the influence of my Christian parents on my friends was an invaluable testimony that many parents often forget (i.e. stop being selfish about public education views, it isn't just about your kid it is about our calling to be "in the world but not of the world").

You see the age old rebuttal was that it "isn't fair to make our kids missionaries in the "lost" public school" is based on the same flawed philosophy that they are "protecting their kids from the bad influence of liberal teachers." This flawed philosophy rest on the belief that teachers are the only ones who are the keepers of the keys to a good education. In fact I agree with many that use this flawed argument: Education is more than just good teachers and yes it does begin at home, but that applies whether you are in public, private, or home-schooled.

We have to stop taking a relatively easy way out and say that "the right school will be the solution to educating our kids." Keep in mind that it is only a small piece of the equation that should look more like this:
(parenting) X (teachers + school + community + friends + students) X (prayer + fasting)
= Student Success

The scary thing for many modern parents is that they are only one part of that equation in which that they have direct influence on, however, it is a vital piece to that equation and defines these results. I have witnessed too many friends who have gone by the wayside or hit some very rough patches in their lives because even our Christian parents forget the principle of community influence and parental foundations.

We must begin to critically look at our perceptions and motivations that drive our decisions. I know for some this is going to be major paradigm shift in worldview, It will likely take them from a comfortable homogeneous society to a very diverse, heterogeneous community that values our differences as unique but unified for the cause of Christ and the betterment of the community.

But for that shift to occur we have to remember who we, as believers, are honoring in those decisions. Am I seeking a parenting award for successfully educating my kids in all things by being everything in that equation? Or am I living a life that puts my family in unique opportunities to be a witness of the good news?

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." 2 Peter 2.9-10
{...steps off of small soap box and goes back to reading..}