Posts Tagged the kingdom

Follow Jesus to martyrdom?

Several weeks ago, there was an attempted assassination of some folks in my church. This was a deliberately targeted attack on the leaders of a ministry that was having a detrimental impact on some of the illicit and oppressive cottage industries in the neighborhood. In God’s sovereign design, these saints were miraculously saved from a violent death.

Is being a follower of Jesus safe? Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to bring down the oppressive systems of the world which enslave and oppress. If we follow him, then will we not also bring the same kind of violent resistance that he himself (and the prophets and the apostles) experienced? Are Jesus followers all called to be martyrs?

Jesus made a very clear statement about what it means to come after him:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

The cross was not invented by Christians; it was a tool of the Romans to torture and execute insurrectionists. Jesus was inviting his followers, the “crowd” as well as the disciples, to sacrifice their lives. What does it mean to lay down our lives? Is it enough that we are just willing even if we don’t actually make any real life change to demonstrate that willingness? Does it mean facing physical death or just a mental and intellectual submission? What does it mean to be “ashamed” of Jesus and his words? What would it do to the oppressive and broken systems of the world if everyone who claimed to  follow Jesus chose to physically take a stand? What would happen if American Christians who have bought in to the notion of the American dream chose to drastically alter their lifestyles in order to share their resources, sacrifice their time and energy, or build real relationships with “sinners”?

Asking these kinds of questions might sound like some kind of hyper-religious mortification of the flesh. However, in both the Old and New Testament, God’s plan for his people has always been to bless, prosper, liberate, give rest, heal, and restore. Jesus’ plan is the exactly the same. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. How does this fit with “taking up our cross?” You can see that in the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt that they had to be brought into wilderness, weakness, sacrifice, and dependence in order to establish a new nation where the promises to Abraham could be fulfilled. But, when they were brought to the promised land, they gave in to fear of “the giants” in the land. They chose to “save” their own lives instead of trusting the Lord to protect and deliver them as they went into a war fought by the Lord himself. Ultimately, they lost the opportunity to go into the land and had to wait for God to raise up a whole new generation. The promise that God gives us has always been that we if we choose to sacrifice our lives to maintain justice and righteousness, then he will deliver, protect, vindicate, and bless us.

How does God bring his blessing through this kind of reckless sacrifice? Our ministry leaders were not only delivered from physical death, but the incident brought them into the good favor of authorities who could give the ministry even more access and freedom to bring God’s righteousness into the lives of broken people. For my wife and I, we have given up so much in order to love 2  kids who are not ours by birth or law. We are spending ourselves with the hope that comes from faith in a good God who will preserve and provide for seeking his kingdom first. We have seen the amazing blessing of God in our lives in the past 2 weeks through the love and prayers of the saints. Letting go of the idols and slavery to this world is a kind of death, but it always results in new life, righteousness and justice, even if it means physical death. That is the lavish blessing that is promised to the followers of Jesus who take up their cross and follow him.

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Why do we applaud in church?

Imagine sitting in a court room. You are the defendant. You are guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt of the crime for which you are accused and for which you will be receiving the death penalty. The representative of the jury stands while the whole courtroom waits in silent anticipation until the verdict is read: “We find the defendant ‘Not guilty'”. Instantly the courtroom, filled with your friends and family bursts into an uproar of shouts, applause and cries of celebration. The accuser, his argument rejected, is struck dumb.

Now imagine a wedding. Two people being joined together forever. The fervent prayers of the parents are being fulfilled as they see their children joined with a lover who will serve and protect them faithfully. All the fears of the past are wiped away as the pastor declares before the whole community that these separate people are now one flesh, forever united in a bond of love. The whole community of witnesses bursts into applause as the bride and groom exit, beaming with joy for how they have been loved beyond words. The whole community begins to party with music and a feast!

Imagine serving for years as a slave under and oppressive master. Your body shows the scars of beatings and your heart weighs heavy with the total lack of any hope of deliverance. Suddenly, a sound resonates clear and high through the whole countryside. It’s the blast of a trumpet declaring the that Year of Jubilee has come. No longer will you serve the wicked and oppressive master. You are free. The chains that bind your hands and feet fall off and immediately you begin to shout, dance and sing.

Imagine that you are slowly dying of a mysterious disease. Every day your body becomes more and more weak. Every moment, you feel life slipping from you and darkness overtaking you. All the time you feel choked, unable to breathe, and limp with no strength to even lift your head from the pillow. Then at the moment when all hope is lost, the healer comes into your hospital room. He takes a mysterious elixir from his bag and gives you a drink. Immediately, you feel your strength returning. Immediately your lungs fill with air. Immediately, you leap from the bed and begin to shout. You embrace the healer and shower him with kisses.

Imagine the whole nation suffering under a severe dictatorship. For years the government has been an instrument of corruption and oppression. Food is scarce. The police, a tool of the oppressor, randomly arrest people who simply disappear. The nation stands in a constant state of war with every able body forced to fight and die in service of the unjust ruler. One day, there’s a mighty battle. The just and rightful king has returned. He throws down the old government and sets up a new government that will last for all ages which brings peace and prosperity to not only the whole nation,  but the entire earth. As the king takes his throne, and the crown is laid upon his head, the whole earth begins to shout and rejoice that the old era is gone and new era is dawning.

We applaud in our worship services because we have been declared innocent. We have been betrothed. We have been set free. We have been healed. The King has returned.

Psalm 103

Of David.

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children-

18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.

21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.

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New Song: a new vibe for Wesley’s The Year of Jubilee

When inspiration comes, you got to strike while the iron is hot. Here’s a new version of Charles Wesley’s “Blow Ye The Trumpet Blow”. I was thinking Dap Kings at first which this could still work with that kind of groove, but it ended up being more like a weird Jack White vibe.

The Year of Jubilee

1.Blow you, the trumpet, Blow!
The gladly solemn sound
Let all the nations know,
To earth’s remotest bound:
Jesus, our great High Priest,
Has full atonement made;
You weary spirits, rest;
You mournful souls, be glad:

Freedom! The year of jubilee is come;
Freedom! The year of jubilee is come;
Freedom! The year of jubilee is come;
Freedom! The year of jubilee is come;
You ransomed sinners return, return home.

2. Extol the Lamb of God;
The sacrificial Lamb;
Redemption through his blood
Throughout the world proclaim:
You slaves of sin and hell,
Your liberty receive;
And safe in Jesus dwell,
And blessed in Jesus live:

3. You who have sold for naught
Your heritage above,
Receive it back unbought,
The gift of Jesus’ love:
The gospel trumpet hear,
The news of heavenly grace;
And, saved from earth, appear
Before your Savior’s face:

I know what you’re thinking. You think that I hate the tune LENOX which was also a tune for Isaac Watt’s  “Jesus My Great High Priest” before I ruined it with my tinkering. Can I help it if  I like the 66.66.888 meter? Hey, for fun try singing “Blow Ye…” to the tune of “JMGHP”! Not fun? I guess it’s just a church-music-nerd  kind of thing.

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No place to lay our head.

“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Tony Myles shared with our staff on Tuesday this quote from Jesus found in Luke 9. It was in response to a follower who declared to Jesus that he would follow him anywhere. I have made similar promises to Jesus in my most faith-filled moments. I have followed Jesus’ call to St Louis, into the city, into the adoption process, into conflict and into exile from the “American Dream”. My heart often longs to lay down and rest, to be at a place where I can settle down and be at home. We have found a home here, and we love our church and community. But, Jesus seems to be saying that discipleship in his kingdom includes a call into nomadic wondering, a kind of unstable and unpredictable place of dependence on the provision of the Father. Abraham knew that kind of faith. So did Moses, Joshua, and even David who spent most of his life as a political refugee.

In crafting worship music, we can often reach a good solid place to lay down and sit a while. We can find a set of songs, a style, or a philosophical method that feels good, makes sense, and gives us a communal anthology of symbols and texts that gives our people a place to be themselves. This is a good feeling, but the call of the kingdom is to resist the urge to create a permanent home. We have to pick up stakes and move on to the next place that the Spirit of God, a pillar of fire in the wilderness, leads us. In cross-cultural ministry, this gets played out over and over as communities change, generations pass away, and culture get’s messy.

Why can’t we just pick one style and stick with it? Why can’t we just build up a team of volunteers (or pros) who know what to do, and then we can just relax and do church in a simple, predictable, fashion? The call of Jesus into his kingdom asks us to trust in the provision of the Lord in the wilderness. He will be the bread of heaven for us when we are completely depleted of our resources. It forces us to be still before the Lord and allow him to fight the battle.

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We came, we saw, we rocked the house!!

I’ve been absence from my blog for a while due to the fact that I’ve been preparing and participating in the New City Fellowship Worship Conference in Chattanooga Tennessee this past week. It was a blast! We had a great time making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, and worshiping Jesus with every once of strength we had left. My church brought a group of 11 people made up of leaders, prospective leaders, and neophytes. It was an exciting experience for everyone to be given a fresh vision, encouragement to persevere, and practical advise on the tools of cross-cultural worship music. Here’s a few of the specific highlights:

Worship sessions

The conference was infused with constant singing, dancing, and beats. NCF Glenwood (the mother church of all NCFs) started the conference worship session with loud, vibrant praise that set the tone for the event. Each seminar and talk included spontaneous worship that would break out at the mention of a lyric or title that we all knew. It was encouraging for all of us vocational worship contractors to be led in worship together. I love to praise his holy name!

Seminars and Keynotes

My dad, James Ward, gave a very encouraging talk on Thursday that was realistic about the battlefield of cross-cultural worship while also giving us hope based in faith in the kingship of Jesus. Pastor Randy Nabors shared the vision and history of worship at NCF as well as the pastors perspective of worship leadership. Pastor Jim Pickett from NCF East Lake brought a passionate message from Micah about nations streaming to Mount Zion where they are given freedom to participate in worship without being excluded by ethnocentric power struggles.

Networking and Fellowship

Every good conference has the effect of knitting together ministries from far off places into relationships that are encouraging and supportive. I met so many other musicians at various stages in life who are excited and gifted. It was especially encouraging to meet musicians from ministries that I had never been exposed to before this week. God is working all over the world in amazing ways! Meals, breaks, and spontaneous jam sessions provided times for us to tune in to the work of the Spirit in other ministries. My favorite moment was on Thursday afternoon when several of us began to worship together instrumentally; making a joyful noise with confidence and joy in our Savior. Cantad a Jehovah cantico nuevo! Alegria!

What’s in store for next year? I know that the NCF ministries in Chattanooga are not going to host a 2011 conference. Maybe the ministries in St Louis should take up the conference planning in the alternate years. hmmmm…

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I Wrote a Song Today: “This Is Not How It’s Supposed To Be”

Here’s a first draft demo of a tune I wrote today. It’s a white-dude reggae in the tradition of Bruce Cockburn, Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton. Reggae is an excellent genre for prophetic declarations against the systems of oppression. I think that if the prophet Jeremiah was around today he’d probably be a either into reggae or the blues (or both). As Christians we have a particular way of viewing evil and suffering: it’s not supposed to be like this. We reject the concepts of Karma or that God is powerless to address the problems in the world. Instead, we believe that evil is a result of sin that has taken root in the heart of every man. It’s the fruit of a foul tree that must be killed in order for righteousness to grow in it’s place. Kill the root, and you kill the tree. Christ didn’t die just to take a bunch of holy-rollers to a golden city in the sky. He died to kill the root of all evil so that he could establish a kingdom of righteousness in which evil and suffering would pass away. Not by eradicating the wicked, but by justifying the wicked. This song is designed to remind us of the redemption of created order and the failure of the church to respond to the cries of the oppressed.

This is not how it’s supposed to be
This is not how it’s supposed to be
Kill the root and you kill the tree
This is not how it’s supposed to be

The word we teach says that true religion
means to care for the widow and the orphan
but instead we have churches built on greed
serving themselves; ignoring the cries of those in need

Children soldiers fight for diamond mines
So that young brides can have ring that shines
See a child’s body being bought and sold
To try to fill the void in a broken soul

The disciples of gangsters follow the way of the gun
The seeds of mercy seem to die in the heat of the sun
Brothers kill brothers in the summer heat
A human sacrifice to the gods of the street

There’s a foul tree that’s planted in every human heart
It produces wicked fruit that tears the world apart
The blood of Christ can kill the root of sin
So the kingdom of righteousness can begin

We claim to love an invisible Savior
yet we struggle just  to love our next door neighbor
The idolatry of safety makes us blind and dumb
Yet Christ gave us power to overcome

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Christian Hipsters and New City Fellowship

The eternal muckraker/prophet (and my former youth leader), Anthony Bradley, has been sharing his excitement on Facebook about a new book that’s coming out called, “Hipster Christianity.” Anthony wrote a response over at World, and this is the opening paragraph:

Young evangelicals have made their initial descent into urban areas all over America, bringing their hipster culture and paternalism toward minorities along with them. Brett McCraken’s upcoming book Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide (to be released in August) presents an overview of these baby-boomer hipster children and their vision for Christianity (see Susan Olasky’s short review here). Writers like McCracken and Soong-Chan Rah remind us that the hipster Christian movement may not be as cutting-edge and progressive as it sounds. Instead of avoiding minorities—as suburbanites are often charged with doing—hipster Christians are simply colonizing them.

So where does my church, New City Fellowship and the community of NCF churches that began in the late 60s relate to this new “Hipster” brand of Christian culture? The article by Soon-Chan Rah that he refers to actually hits the nail on the head for me. The “emergent” and “hipster” culture seems to be a product of the white mainstream and is more or less off-the-radar of other cultures. At NCF, we certainly have hipsters and we attract them because of many of our core values (justice, reconciliation, sonship) and the counter-cultural attitude that is the product of those values. I myself am guilty of many hipster stereotypes (I dig the arts, I like to read, I’m fascinated by Swedish design and I’m love ironic humor.) I’m even guilty of relocation into a black neighborhood, which Bradley’s article condemns as paternalistic.

For NCF, I feel like we are a little outside the normal discussions of mainstream church trends. Maybe we are just a quintessential ex-hippy, social-justice church, but I feel that NCF is not as much a part of this trend toward hipster Christianity. I have friends who have joined our church who are total hipsters who have been in emergent churches in the past. They come to NCF and find that a lot of the battles that they were fighting in there emergent camps are non-issues here. As a “Reformed” church, we have always had grace over and against legalsim as our foundation. We’ve also been pursuing the call to justice and the present reality of the kingdom long before Shane Claiborne ever met Mother Teresa. Paternalism is a real problem, but it’s something that at NCF we stare in the face and talk openly about. We reject the white-middle class  attitude of being the saviors of the world in favor of incarnational ministry that reflects the attitude of Christ described in Philippians 2. I know that it sounds like I’m blowing our horn pretty loud, but I just want to say Bradley’s concerns are something that NCF churches are not oblivious to.

Hipsters, like Boomers, and every other culture are prone to sin patterns that need to be reformed by the gospel. Hipsters also need to be in relationship with people who are not Hipsters in order to have the benefit of seeing the gospel realized in cultures and attitudes that are different from their own. The Spirit of God is alive in the Word and it’s bringing conviction to the hearts of many young whites who might have sinful intentions, but the Spirit is not restrained by those weaknesses. Maybe all these “colonizing” hipsters who are returning to the city will move in next door to a Christian African American family who will teach them brand new things about Jesus that will renew their mind in brand new ways. Maybe as hipsters pursue justice, they will meet Christian refugees whose sincerity of faith and belief in the supernatural will  show them that irony and intellectualism can be pretty depressing and lame. Every culture has flaws which is why we need reconciliation so badly.

Are you a hipster? Does anyone really like to be so explicitly labeled?

What do you think about New City Fellowship? Is it a hipster church? A hippy church? Or an anomaly?

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Worship and Poverty Alleviation – part 4: Worship as Development

Finally, I’m going to wrap up this series of posts that I started a few months ago. Feel free to go back and read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

To summarize the string of ideas at this point:

  • Worship musicians need to be given a vision for their role in poverty alleviation
  • Poverty is a bi-product of the corrosive effects of sin on creation and cultures
  • Most poverty, especially that which is caused by systemic problems,  is in need of  “development” and not “relief”   forms of poverty alleviation

I’m just about to finish John Perkin’s book, Beyond Charity. Perkins is the founder of the Christian Community Development Association. Beyond Charity is a kind of manifesto for community development. The process of development involves relocating into an materially poor community, building long term relationships, encouraging indigenous leadership, providing access to resources, and basically reversing the destruction caused by the fall. Perkins affirms that community development is not something that is fulfilled with government programs alone or even by para-church organizations. He says that community development has to be lead by the local church. Where the church is, there is liturgy, worship.

Worship is the greatest power to heal a community from the effects of sin because worship is the very process that re-aligns the human heart with the Lordship of Jesus and their familial relationship with the Creator and the creation. When we meet together in worship, we bring our hearts back under the instruction of the Word to expose our sin and to magnify the glory of the Redeemer. In worship, we get our feet back onto the Rock; all other ground is sinking sand.

Poverty is created when our worldview is corrupted and we no longer reflect the amazing image of the Father. Sin causes us to fail to love our neighbor and fail to love the Lord God. The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ defeated death and sin and now we have the freedom to become the salt and light of the world to bring restoration. In worship we have our hearts restored to the right harmony that we aught to have with the Truth. This is the greatest resource for “development” that there is.

Let’s take the practical example of an unemployed, alcoholic man who has been born-again is now in the worship service. There’s not an instant overnight change that comes from looking at a painting of Jesus and hearing “Amazing Grace” like you see in movies. However, sitting in worship every week, he starts to hear about how he’s loved by the universe Creator. He learns that he’s been made into a new creation. He learns that God is a good God who can do anything but fail. Soon, he sees that his freedom to pursue drunkenness is actually a trap that deprives him of the good promises of God. Emboldened by these promises he gets the help that he needs to overcome the addiction. His new identity in Christ also emboldens him to pursue employment because he is no longer defined by his poverty or his lack of education. Instead, he’s a child of God who can trust in the Father to be Jehovah Jirah. He’s no longer defining himself by his lack of power in the cultures eyes, but by the immeasurable power of the resurrection of Jesus.

At the same time, worship is changing the hearts of people in positions of power in the community. These other redeemed sinners  start to affect change in the systems that contribute to his unemployment. Power shifts, resources become available, jobs start to materialize as the people of God in this man’s community draw near to the God of Justice. When the wealthy, powerful people experience the love of Jesus they begin to repent of their materialism and idolatry to capitalism, mobilizing their resources into service to the kingdom.

Worship brings us near the heart of the Reconciling God. Jesus prayer that we will be unified begins to spring into life as we proclaim that he reigns. Soon the recovering alcoholic and the recovering capitalist begin to worship together and become bound together in the brotherhood of the kingdom. Singing and praying together, these men bring a kind of alleviation of poverty that goes much deeper than the band-aid solutions that only perpetuate the relationship between the materially poor and the materially wealthy.

What’ s the church musician’s role in poverty alleviation? We lead people in songs of praise to the Sovereign Lord who proclaims freedom for the captive, who binds up the brokenhearted, opens the eyes of the blind. Coming together on the first day of the week to worship Jesus and to remember his death and resurrection  is the means by which our hearts and minds are tuned to resonated with the anthem of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The new songs of the kingdom are more than fight-songs or cheers from the sidelines – we are in the very thick of the battle for hearts and minds to invite sinners into the banquet of grace into order to make His blessings known far as the curse is found.

Sing! Sing for the Lamb who was slain sits on the throne. He is making all things new and He brings captives in His train. Sing!

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Worship and Poverty Alleviation – Part 2: What is Poverty?

Please read Part 1 – Worship and Poverty Alleviation.

Richard Sterns book, “The Hole In Our Gospel” paints a vivid picture of what poverty is in today’s world: imagine 100 jetliners full of children crashing everyday and you get an idea of the number of children who die every day from poverty related problems.  Lack of access to food and water, disease, famine and armed conflict are what Sterns describes as “the horsemen of the apocalypse”. Sterns’ book is an appeal to the disciples of Jesus (especially in the “developed world”) to stop being so focused on our own comfort and safety and to actually follow Jesus’ summons to join in the vision of the kingdom of God as described in Isaiah 58 and 61.

As I mentioned in the previous post in this series, when I look at the “horsemen”, I think to myself, “put down the guitar, and get your hands dirty feeding the hungry and healing the sick.” How can I reconciled my job as a full-time salaried church musician to the call of Jesus Christ to be like the “Good Samaritan” and not walk past my neighbor in need, proceeding on to my rehearsal or worship set? Is it an offense to the values of the kingdom of God to  spend resources that could be used to provide the basic living necessities to the poor? How many children from those jetliners could I save by resigning my job and letting my salary go to the rescue efforts? Thankfully, I don’t have to resign from my job (which I love!). In fact, my job is an important piece of God’s plan for the rescue and restoration of His good creation but it starts with a good biblical view of poverty.

A biblical view of poverty starts at the beginning. According to God’s word, this universe was created good. Humans were created as image bearers, who were also good. We still possess this distinction as the apex of God’s creativity and an expression of his sovereign love and wisdom. Humans are wonderfully made to be in harmonious relationship with God, with each other, with creation and with ourselves. The bible also teaches that the inherent goodness and glory of humans  has been corrupted by our separation from God through sin. Sin has broken humanity to the degree that those harmonious relationships have been lost. This loss of harmony has created a true poverty that is the root cause of the hunger, disease, conflict, imbalance of resources, etc. that are the characteristics of material poverty.

“When Helping Hurts” presents a definition of the fundamental nature of poverty from Bryan L. Myers

Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.

Poverty is caused by a web of circumstances that are all rooted in the fallen, broken nature of all humanity. In a sinless world, poverty would not exist. I know that this doesn’t let me off the hook yet from resigning, but I think that it gets us closer to the real problem. At the root of poverty is sin. We will not succeed in any effort to eradicate poverty without addressing the problem of sin.

Coming up next…Part 3 – Not all poverty is alike

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Near-sighted and far-sighted ministry

I’m learning a lot this year from organizing the NCF Black History Celebration (this Saturday night. 6pm, NO COVER!). It’s been frustration and stressful at times, but I have also been greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of our musicians and volunteers. It’s been a process that has forced me to get my focus on both the near-sighted and far-sighted aspects of ministry.

Near-sighted ministry

Sometimes, the best thing for me to do is focus on the immediate circumstance and situation. Who am I talking to right now? What do they need for me to do for them? How can I encourage or support them? What needs to be accomplished with this rehearsal/interaction? I can tend to become overwhelmed with all the details that have to be addressed; I become panicked about my inability to catch every detail. The Spirit is teaching me to take each moment as it is, and to trust Him enough to not become anxious or fearful. This past weekend, I felt like I had invited a crowd of people to a party and then realized that I didn’t have enough food for everyone. I knew that some people would feel neglected and disappointed with my lack of preparation. It was my sin taking control of the situation and bringing a sense of guilt. The Spirit spoke to me on Sunday to get my focus back on the small view of the kingdom…a cup of cold water…a mustard seed…a simple trusting and following the Shepherd’s lead.

Far-sighted ministry

When I look at the weekend by itself, I can become obsessed with performance. The priority shifts to producing an excellent performance. This makes me frustrated with the inconsistency of volunteers, the weaknesses of amateur musicians, or my own inability to lead well and make things work. Yesterday, I was having a special rehearsal with one musician, and the Spirit spoke to me about the long-term benefits that this weekend will have on this individual. Because he is part of this weekend’s event, he will grow in his playing, his practicing, his trust in Christ, his musicianship, his worship expressions, his leadership skills. If I focus on just this weekend being the best performance possible, I am temped to “fire” all the volunteers and hire pros to make everything sound perfect and run smoothly. Working with volunteers in the church who are growing every week, I have to be far-sighted and appreciate that each time they play they are growing in their sanctification and their skills.

Jesus’ Ministry

Jesus was always working in this way. He had a small view of the kingdom that would give him the patience to sit down with the woman at the well and chat or allow children to come sit on his lap. He was not driven by a big agenda to save the world in just 3 years. He taught us that the kingdom is about small acts of justice and kindness. But, Jesus also had a big view of the whole picture of what he was doing with his ministry. He was so patient with the disciples each time they said or did boneheaded things. Jesus knew that the process of preparing them for the coming kingdom would take time. He trusted his Father that the big picture goals were more more important than getting caught up in the stress of making each interaction successful. If he didn’t keep the ultimate redemption in view, he would have never taken the road to the suffering and defeat of the cross.

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