Categories
Christian Living

Jesus, the Counter-Culture Rebel with a Cause

Sometimes Jesus’ words shock me because they are so offensive to my own culture. Jesus has a lot to say to us today. His words still indict and call us to a new, counter-cultural way of living.

These statements are a powerful reminder that Jesus, fully God and fully man, could have easily conquered the world. (He had the power.) Instead, the Good News is primarily an insurrection of the heart. He knows that capturing a mans body without first capturing his heart is a fruitless effort. Until we fully surrender our lives to Him we will not be changed and we will not see the change we long for. (Romans 12:1)

Categories
Church Leadership

The Apostles Stayed in the Neighborhood

Did you know that The Way wasn’t the only Jewish cult in Jerusalem in the first century? 

Visit a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit and you’ll learn all about the strict rules and discipline of the Qumran community. While they didn’t have a Messiah figure, they were disciples of a teacher. Who had his own beatitudes and life plan which sounds very similar to Jesus. Devotees left society altogether and lived in no mans land in the desert. (Remember, it took 1900 years to discover the Dead Sea scrolls– not exactly prime real estate.)

And there were others. Collectively they are known as the Essenes. Most of them were built around a claim of the messiah or a certain apocalyptic vision or a withdrawal from societies pleasures. (Some took vows of celibacy, which seems like a tough multiplication strategy.) They each tended to remove themselves from society by first creating compounds in the city, then once you’d proven yourself truly worthy, you were allowed access to the leaders.

My point isn’t to give an exhaustive list. Rather to point out that at the time of Jesus’ resurrection The Way joined a few other groups in the city. (I’m sure there are other books about this. But one I’m familiar with is Communities of the Last Days. Also see Josephus.) Jesus’ followers copied some of what they saw from these other groups since this is what all the cults did,  these will seem familiar in light of the Acts record:

  • Asked followers to forego their families for the sake of their group.
  • The entry point was communal living.
  • Baptism was a symbol of identification.
  • Followers sold everything they had and gave it to the group for the sake of the common good/needs.
  • The ones in Jerusalem all had a base near where the Last Supper and early church hung out. It was kind of a neighborhood of cult groups.
  • Once you’d proven you were all the way in, memorized everything, worked your tail off, proven your devotion… then you got to spend time with the leaders. (For most that meant complete withdrawal to the desert. For others that meant living in protest in the city.

The Difference

Of course, those groups collectively known as the Essenes, are all gone today while The Way became one of the largest religions in the world.

Why? 

As Christians, we believe Christianity spread because it was true. But another practical answer is strategy.

Followers of Jesus didn’t withdrawal from society. They indwelled it.

Once followers of Jesus had proven they were all in, memorized everything, been baptized, gave everything they had to the group– they were sent out to love their neighbors in ways that were defined by the needs of the neighborhood. Instead of withdrawing they deposited and invested in their community. (This was radical thinking! No one else did this!)

All of these other groups, their contemporaries and fellow Judaic cults, believed that their strict obedience to rules would lead to the messiah coming, or the apocalypse, or revival of the people.

But Jesus’ followers became an unstoppable force because of their profoundly simple strategy. They loved their neighbors as themselves. They didn’t just know them. They didn’t just witness to them about Jesus’ resurrection.

They loved them.

As people used to harshness and exploitation, when they experienced love in the name of Jesus, they wanted that– experiencing the practical realities of Good News made for fertile ground for Jesus’ message to be received.

The Good News wasn’t just a theological reality, it was an unstoppable force of love for their neighbors. To date, no army has been able to stop the spread of love. The Way was an insurrection of the heart and it changed everything. It spread like wild fire. Think about it, within 200 years this simple strategy spread throughout the known world.

Love literally conquered all. 

And my belief? My belief is that the simple strategy of The Way is what we need today.

Let’s indwell our neighborhoods and truly be the Good News in the name of Jesus.

 

Categories
hmm... thoughts

When Dreamer, When?

In the cold dark morning of my day my soul cries for new days, new songs, new delights.

I wonder where the dreamers are dreaming this morning.

My heart weeps in disdain for a time and place lost. It lives in my sleep; it dies in my schedule. Such a place feels real but the left side of my cranium conquers the right with alarms beckoning.

This new day is not dedicated to dream, but to task.

Yet in moments of stolen shadows, my mind reveals a new day. A new alarm buzzes between my ears calling me to create, basking in the presence of a bee hive of something so fantastic words cannot capture.

I wonder where actors practice their craft.

I wonder where champions train.

I wonder where the beat of the poets rhyme comes from.

It is at that founts source I want to drink.

It is at that 7-11 my coffee cup wants refilled.

I wonder if there is still a place in peoples hearts to imagine new days? New life? New aspirations of inspirations beyond awe.

Or am I alone in my tears of anticipation?

I long to cry at creative expressions so wondrous, like dolphins dancing to their own song before your eyes on a lonely walk of solitude.

I long for moments where awe seems a ridiculous expression in light of my eyes observation and ears hearing.

Are those moments now lost?

I see days lost milling with friends pondering in circles of delightful giggles as words create paradigms faster than people with pens can write books about them or lawyers can lay claim to who’s words are whose.

In anxious tension I envision manifestos so delightful that poets scribe them in a loss for expression.

People sleep in their seats collected in rounds, as if at the circus, because they fear they will miss the next moment.

Where do I find such a place. Where is moment so thick with creation that hunger pains and mortgages are checked against the register of the moment and forgotten?

Where is the place where pedigree is placed behind the streaming flowing waterfall of ingenuity, it’s bars of acceptance overpowered by respect for the moment.

Where is the place patent laws and egos vanish for the sake of the moment?

Where is the place that time is irrelevant in the measurement of my day?

That’s my Zion. That’s my Jerusalem. That’s my city of dreams.

That’s my alarm.

Am I awake now? Or am I dreaming when I call it wake and alive when I am dreaming.

Where is this place?

Take me there.

Categories
NYWC youth ministry

What is NYWC all about?

I have the coolest job in youth ministry. I get to do what I love, connecting with youth workers around the world and I get paid for it!

At the core of it this video demonstrates the 2 things I love most about working at YS.

  1. Tic lays out the heart of why we do the National Youth Workers Convention. This is really the heart of YS. We do all of this to minister to youth workers… that’s why it is worth it to us.
  2. I get to work with amazing people. Setting aside the amazing people I get to connect with outside of YS as part of my job, I have gotten to work day-by-day with some amazing heroes of youth ministry. These folks continue to be a daily inspiration to me.

When we were shooting this video (ht to Ian) I just kept thinking about those two things.

Dang, I am fortunate.

And dang, I want to be a part of carrying on this legacy.

Categories
hmm... thoughts

5 Clarifying Questions

As another week begins and another year winds down I hope that you are pausing long enough to reflect on who you have become, who you are becoming, and the trajectory/pace you are taking.

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. Luke 12:28-30

Where have you set your heart?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. If they stopped paying me to do what I do… would I still do it?
  2. Am I proud of what I’m doing?
  3. Am I doing something worth dying for?
  4. Am I doing something worth living for?
  5. If I were to go back nine years, am I on the path of things I dreamed about for ten years in the future?
Categories
Travel

Travels With Stoney: Stuff


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