Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Writing about Family

Charity and me circa 1988
Talking about your trauma can be touchy. Writing about the trauma of others - family members for example - can be very touchy. what family members experienced during traumatic times is touchy. I've learned that when I express facts only as I see them - or think I see them - I get in trouble.

We each experience pain, and even though everyone in the family is hurting, it's still difficult to look past your own pain and think about someone else's. Coming up with words to describe your own pain is a tall order. Thinking you have enough information to give an account of another parson's trial is dangerous territory. I've found this out the hard way.

Writing our story in this book-blogging project has forced me to humble myself with my family. This isn't false piety, it's forced me to really think about how my communication about my point of view affects someone I love. As I watch these words appear on the screen, I'm thinking: this is relationships 101. That's a course I've failed. I'm trying for a do-over.

In this the 16th post in our project, I had my daughter (pictured above in my arms), read this before I clicked "publish". I'd love to know what you think about what I write, but nothing matters more to me than what she thinks. Click here to read post 16.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

How to Navigate Evil, Justice, and Love

“It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.”—Proverbs 21:15 (NKJV)

When someone hurts me, I think about evil, but talk myself into calling it “justice.” We all have an inborn longing for justice, but evil is much more present in us than we’d like to admit. Evil runs through us all like creeping vines in an untended garden.

Pain and life’s hurts cause me to forget what is valued, beautiful, and spiritual, especially when consumed by evil’s clinging, insatiable tentacles. While I should be sleeping, I lie awake and think about how to exact violent revenge and get away with it. My evil looks so delicious when I rehearse it in my mind on my bed; convincing myself it’s justice.

Love overpowers evil. Love is radical, but cannot be fully realized until evil is completely exposed. Jesus Christ proved this on the cross when, as He was abused, was heard saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV).

Evil has an inferiority complex and hates love. Like cancer, evil steals nutrients from its host.
Love heals and forgives and sets things right without destroying. The only victim of love is evil. The intention of God expressed from Genesis through Revelation is to set the whole world right. All of creation is crying out for this, and this is part of the Christian task: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17 ESV).

New life in the Spirit produces a radical transformation of behavior in people that results in making things right. You get to work with God through the Spirit of Jesus to set things right. This is in your power. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the world is a lost cause, throw your hands in the air, and retreat into your own private faith.

When Christians protect the widow, correct oppression, and care for the fatherless, they’re bringing the new world God has planned for our future right here into the present. That is justice. Since this is God’s ultimate plan for creation, this is what we are working to do now. We are ambassadors of a world where injustice will never exist. Since we believe that, let’s live that way now.

Friday, July 07, 2017

How to Complicate Courtesy

“For before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.”—Galatians 2:12 (NKJV)

We were thrilled to get the invitation. It was two of us from our South Florida church and we were traveling to South Sudan to serve at a Bible training center. We drove through a dangerous, rebel-patrolled region in northern Uganda, crossed the border into war-torn South Sudan, and prepared to teach pastors at facilities that didn’t even have electricity or running water. My partner and I were more disoriented and out of our element than we had ever been in our lives.

After a couple of days of teaching in a classroom where temperatures exceeded 100 degrees, some of our new friends invited us into their home for a meal. We sat on the cool floor of a hut built from mud bricks, sipped tea, talked, laughed, and shared food from a common bowl. We were overwhelmed with the kindness and courtesy of the Sudanese. I couldn’t believe I was sitting on the floor of a mud hut in Sudan in the middle of a war. And even so, I was among brothers.

Something similar was happening in Galatians 2. Peter was sitting with non-Jewish followers of Jesus in the city of Antioch. According to Acts 11:26, this is the place where followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” or more literally “Messiah people.” Whether Jew or Greek, it was in Antioch that racial and cultural barriers were worn thin enough to sit at a table and eat together from a common bowl. Jesus the Messiah had such an impact on people’s lives that change rippled throughout the city and Antioch’s citizens marveled.

Paul writes about his famous confrontation with Peter in this setting. When the church leaders rolled into town to see this phenomenon for themselves, Peter’s behavior flipped. With the Greeks, he was casual and gracious, but with the original church leaders, Peter suddenly forgot he was a Christian and became a traditional Jew. Paul took Peter to task for this and called him out as a play-actor­—a hypocrite.

When was Peter play-acting? When he was with the Gentiles or with the Jews? Peter’s brazen hypocrisy should rattle us much more than my original, uncomfortable narrative of genuine cross-cultural fellowship.

The truth is, when we’re in Christ, we must be who we are. No masks or makeup are needed in the Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Facilitating the Mission: Re-entry

In this audio series from the Facilitating the Mission podcast I have the privilege of co-hosting with missions guru Jeff Jackson, listeners are introduced to the reality of re-entry. Most people are surprised to learn that coming back to the States and American culture after serving for a term, whether short or extended, in the foreign field, is difficult. It seems the biggest shock to the system and senses would occur when a missionary arrives on the field. But the truth is, coming home is not necessarily a home coming.

In episode three, Jeff interviews the Charming and Beautiful Susan. Listen below.

Monday, July 03, 2017

How to Follow Your Own Advice

“Now as the king passed by, he cried out to the king and said, ‘Your servant went out into the midst of the battle; and there, a man came over and brought a man to me, and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’—1 Kings 20:39 (NKJV)

I find it difficult to follow my own advice. Age and life experience have equipped me to advise my friends on how to navigate life, but I usually resist heeding my own wise counsel when it’s time to apply it to myself. We have all done this. In today’s verse, King Ahab is a perfect example.

Prophets of old told dramatic stories to get their messages through to people who were deaf to truth. Nathan used this technique when he faced down King David during the Bathsheba/Uriah scandal. In today’s verse, a prophet got creative in his delivery of God’s message to wicked Ahab. This prophet acted his message out. To get into character, the prophet convinced someone to brutally assault him so he’d look like a soldier wounded in battle. And here’s the scene: The soldier is panic–stricken because a prisoner under his oversight has just escaped. The death penalty awaits him unless he pays a ransom that no honest soldier could ever raise.

What Ahab doesn’t know yet is God, through this prophet, is holding Ahab to account for one of many crimes committed as king. Ahab was notorious for arrogantly governing and misrepresenting the heart of God. The prophet’s elaborate ruse proves Ahab is intelligent enough to distinguish between right and wrong. As Ahab gives his opinion about our “wounded soldier’s” predicament, he pronounces judgment on himself.

Ahab had unlimited resources to do his job, but he squandered everything God gave him to feed his own appetites at the expense of the poor in Israel. The present sin being addressed by the prophet: Ahab’s collusion with a crony king to escape justice. God’s message to Ahab: the party is over.
Ironically, to deflect enemy attention, Ahab disguises himself as a common soldier. But a random arrow finds its mark and Ahab dies.

When God gives you power, He expects you to lead as His representative, providing the resources you need. Because in the end, we’ll be held to account for what we did with what He gave.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bankrolled by God

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”—Exodus 19:5–6 (NKJV)

“I can’t believe you’re driving Dad’s truck!” my little brother said. “I know it,” I said, smugly, like I’d been driving my whole life instead of only six months.

The first time my dad entrusted me with his brand new truck for my first solo drive, I took my younger brother and sister for a ride to see friends in our old neighborhood. It was a surreal experience. My brother and sister looked at me in a whole new light. I was sixteen and, for the first time ever, they finally treated me like I was somebody.

There is something to be said about being entrusted with something valuable. It says something about you and about the person who entrusted you with something. There’s a level of trust that is the result of relationship, and there’s also a level of risk for the owner of the something being entrusted. My father took a huge risk entrusting his new truck to me. All I was risking was my non-existent reputation as a sixteen-year-old driver. I had no track record. All I had was status as my father’s son. That’s what gave me access to a truck I could never dream of owning all on my own.

God has done something similar with us. Because of His relationship with us, He entrusts us with goods and responsibilities we could never acquire on our own. He has bankrolled us so that we can be His mediators. That’s how the word priest functions in God’s economy. We represent God to man and man to God. And we are to bring God’s Word, requirements, and plan of redemption to men.

He hasn’t saved us to be good and moral (although we need to be). He’s saved us to be His people, and to bring as many people as we possibly can to heaven with us. He has also made us holy, not to separate us from the others, but to teach others how to be holy (separated) to God.