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Friday, April 30, 2010

Proximal Blindness

Yesterday afternoon I was grilling salmon steaks on the back deck watching my daughters play in the backyard while sipping a decaf coffee. It was dreamy.

I got to thinking about something that is really simple, but missable. Most simple things are very, very missable I'm learning.

As I watched my daughters I had this thought...

"They are growing up so fast and yet I haven't noticed the subtle maturation process. We've been in Lowell for 5.5 years and even though my daughters we 1, 3 and 5 when we came, they look the same to me today that I remember them being then."

As I was thinking about their lives, I was struck by how much they've developed without my thoughtful notice. Right under my nose they've grown by the feet, acquired an ever increasing vocabulary, and learned interpersonal skills whereby they can interact with life around them without my monitoring, mediating and meddling.

And yet, I don't acknowledge their extensive development because I've been so intertwined with it. I barely recognize the advancement.

I then looked around at the trees in my yard. I noticed a similar perspective that I was trapped in unknowingly. To me, the trees like identical to what they were when we first arrived to that property. Almost like they hadn't grown a bit in the time we'd lived on 121 Parnell Ave. they "seemed" mysteriously stunted in their growth.

And yet, as I thought back and remember the size of branches and the height of certain trees, I began to expand my entrapped consciousness and widen my gaze of reality. The fact is that all the trees in my yard had grown tremendously since we first stepped out of our car to inhabit our 1 acre piece of heaven on earth. Signs of this were replete, but the most defined sign was the way the ash tree had wrapped itself around the rope that held our tire swing. The branch had literally grown around the rope in its unstoppable maturation indicating that, indeed, the tree was taller, wider and thicker than when we first arrived on this plot of land. Pine trees were 4 to 5 ft. taller. Bushes that I'd planted in my landscaping were filling in and taking shape. My yard had a life of its own and was growing whether I acknowledged it or not.

It didn't take much of a leap of logic to then consider the reality of people's growth around me and how I was blinded to the unbelievable steps they had taken even though I was largely unaware due to my close proximity. Like children, you don't notice they are growing unless you leave them (like grandparents do who live at a great distance) and then return every several months or years. The progress is staggering when your proximity is infrequent. That is why reunions are filled with conversation of growth initially: "You've grown like a weed." "You've grown into a fine young women since I last saw you." "You could probably take your dad in a wrestling match!" For the first several minutes, growth is acknowledged and affirmed.

I think I tend to not give enough affirmation for growth in people spiritually due to what I call "Proximal Blindness". They are wider, taller, thicker and stronger...but I'm still dissatisfied with the lack of growth. Instead of encouraging the steps of growth, I'm discouraging the person with the appearance of apparent stagnation....that is more my issue with "unperceived maturation" due to "proximal blindness". I'm discouraged (unnecessarily) and they are discouraged (unfortunately).

This trend leads people to not enjoy being around people that are close to them since it only leads to demands and "failure reminders", and to move toward relationships that keep their distance and, as such, recognize and value "subtle successes".

Subtle successes, when unrecognized and unvalued, lead to disillusionment. Which I think is why teens have a tendency to gravitate to people outside their nuclear family. Which is why people tend to lose faith in their friendships. Which is why church can often times add insult to injury.

Unless and until we learn to celebrate growth in people no matter how quickened or quick it may appear, we will only plunge people into places of paralysis. But when we stop to "hear the music" and "smell the roses"...tracing the steps of life that are replete with signs of life, and then taking time to champion those victories along the way, we will be surprised at all that his happening right under our noses that we are largely unaware of. God is "gooder" than we could imagine and people are "gooder" than we have been duped to believe.

My daughters have grown so much, my yard has grown so much, our church has grown so much, my friends have grown so much, and--this is the hardest one to recognize due to proximal blindness--I have grown so much.

I just don't want my closeness to be the very poison that prevents me from growing closer to the burgeoning life that is constantly growing all around me.

Life is alive...can you see it?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Leadership of Laughter...

I learned something last night.

Laughter attracts people.

I had already kissed Aly and Taylor goodnight, tucking them in and tickling them with my fingertips, my whiskery chin, my nibbling on their ear lobes and my counting their ribs (Taylor used to say, "Dad, count my ribbons!") I turned on their fan, cracked the closet door so that a shaft of light illuminated the room with a gentle glow, and walk toward Kami's room while saying over and over "I love you, my little princesses!"

As I made my way into Kami's room, she was waiting with bated breath. I could tell she wanted to talk a little bit, so I laid next to her and let her spill her guts. She took me down about every rabbit hole and cow path of conversation she could squeeze out of her little memory bank. A couple thing she said struck me funny and I laughed out loud. One thing she said reminded me of something I had experienced that day and so I shared it with her. She laughed hysterically until tears poured out of her eyes. I was laughing at how hard she was laughing...a "laughter begets laughter" sort of thing.

Low and behold, I noticed a shadow move across the wall indicating that someone was standing in the doorway blocking the light that sines in from the bathroom. It was the silhouette of my daughter Aly. She walked towards Kami's bed and said, "What are you guys laughing about?" We retold the story again which got her laughing. I'm a sucker for laughter, so I busted out another story that I thought was funny from my day. This induced a deeper, more guttural laughter yet. Minutes later, Taylor made her way into the doorframe and stood there wondering what was going on. She came into the room and said, "What are you guys laughing so hard about?"

We retold the same stories again and got her to laughing with us. I then told them about a couple new stories that their Mom and I experienced on our date just that night. Kami was about in tears and Aly was laughing at Kami's reaction that was obviously caused by something hitting her "funny bone" just right. Taylor, who revels in the opportunity to both be up late and get in on grown up talk folded right into the moment with her shot-gun giggle. It wasn't long before we were packed on Kami's bed each trying our hand at some stand up comedy.

Much to my chagrin, I had to put a kibosh on the night and get them to bed. But as I descended the stairs and toward the living room. I thought about how irresistible laughter is to people. It piques people's curiosity and draws them in like a moth to the flame.

Furthermore, I wonder if one of the most essential traits of leadership is the ability to laugh. People follow the sounds of joy. They are dying for comic relief under the dark shroud that envelopes them on most days. Their souls are needing the cathartic therapy of a good hearty laugh. Leaders have got to learn to laugh hard and live in such a way as to induce laughter in others. Parents have got to laugh more. Pastors have got to laugh more.

I think one of the biggest turn offs is people who take themselves and life too seriously. They are always bent toward a sober take on situations. They live out a gravity, but neglect a much needed levity.

Sometimes people don't need to learn, they just need to laugh.

I submit that if we can get some laughter going in our lives, it won't be long before people are standing in the doorway wanting in on whatever we're doing.

How badly our world needs the leadership of laughter.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chosen affection and father/daughter connection...

My six year old, Taylor, called me on the phone yesterday afternoon out of the blue. I was in the middle of tearing down the stage to get ready for a rehearsal when my cell phone rang and I could tell from the caller id that it was a call from home. I answered the phone fully expecting to hear the soft and sensual voice of my wife (pipe dream) only to be surprised by the nasally tone of my youngest.

"Hi Daddy" she said with a sheepish intonation.

"Hi Tager" I replied with a voice of half-surprise.

There was a pause for several seconds as I waited for her to relay a message for her mother. This is what typically follows a random call from one of my girls. Many times they serve as the last line of offense/defense used by my wife to get my attention and alert me to a scheduled reality that I must abide by. Based on the length of the pause, I wondered what the purpose of the call was.

"How are you doing, Tay?"

"Fine."

"That's good. Have you had a dandy day?"

"Yep."

"That's good."

Again, I was waiting for the punch line. The real purpose behind the call. I paused long enough to give her a chance to "get to the point". All I could hear was her heavy breathing on the other end of the line.

"Tay, is there something you need to tell me?"

"What?" she replied.

"I mean is there are reason you called me?"

She stuttered and stammered for a couple seconds weighing her words so that she could respond to my inquisition.

"No." she said matter-of-factly.

"There is no reason you called me?" I said quite bemused.

"No, I just wanted to talk to you."

My first thought was this: "Does your mother know you're on the phone right now?" My second thought was this: "This is a sacred moment."

Sacred in that it represented the first time that Taylor strayed from the path of preconditioned, preconceived protocol and struck camp. The first time she deviated from what she was "supposed to do" into the world of what she "wanted to do". This is an epic inter-relational shift in a child's life.

I can't tell you how powerful the chosen affection of my child was to me yesterday afternoon as I stood there probing for an ulterior motive. The longer I talked with her, the more and more apparent it was that she called me so that she could hear my voice, share about her day and connect with her father. That's all. She didn't ask me anything or ask anything of me. She just wanted to talk--to connect.

I think this is the dream of any father--to have your child just want to talk to you. Not to be asking for something or relaying a message or punching in like a union worker on a time clock. There is a beauty in chosen affection. A free will offering.

And I felt it...did I ever feel it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thanking Jesus while Seeking Justice...

Last night Heidi put up a big blow up trampoline contraption in our backyard for the girls. We received it from some friends that didn't use it anymore. It's huge...like one of those ones you see rented out for youth events. You climb into it and throw down like your in the UFC! It's a cage match only the cage is netting and blown up, tarp-like fabric. The girls played in it for like an hour.

I was on the back deck doin' my thing, grillin'. "Chillin' like a Villain while Grillin'" as I like to say. I was looking down over my land like Nebuchadnezzar, glorying in my one acre empire. As the aroma of grilled chicken breast wafted across the yard, I got to thinking how good my life is. Laughter echoed off the back woods as the girls giggled with glee. Now, I'm not saying there wasn't an occasional fight due to the the glaring depravity that still resides in my little angels, but all in all it was a "nirvanaic" night for the most part. The sun was just settling behind the woods, sending "disco ball-like dots" across the yard and onto the backside of our house. The blowing tree branches only made the display more brilliant. The grass gave off a pungent smell reminiscent of my childhood when dreams of "summer little league" began to fill my mind. Everything about the night felt glorious.

We had dinner outside with Dave VanKeulen talking about meaningful things and trivial things all at the same time. The food was delectable. The conversation eternal. The weather celestial. Again, I paused to take in the beauty and bounty of my life. I'm so undeserving. God is so full of mercy on me.

As the night drew to a close and I laid my head down to sleep, I was kept up in part by this nagging feeling of injustice. Why me? Why not someone else? Why am I living in such blessing while others are living in abject poverty or scarcity and misery? It makes it hard for me to enjoy my life when I know so many others are hurting so badly, and yet, I want to live a grateful life back to God for his favor.

So I'm caught in between two worlds that I must hold onto concurrently. Thanking Jesus and Seeking Justice. I cannot let go of either of these realities today. I can't let go of one without jeopardizing both. "To do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly" Micah 6:8

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nothing special...

Last night my offspring (kids) and my springoff (wife) had what we traditionally call a "family meeting". Sometimes these meetings are for the sole purpose of chastising them for sibling malpractice or moral peccadilloes. But sometimes we meet just to recap our existence making sure we aren't losing each other along the way.

It's a time to revisit the past and retell the story to make sure we're on the same page. It gives everyone an opportunity to share their side of the story and to make meaning of their life. I'm always surprised how responsive the girls are to these times in the living room. (we so glibly call it a "living room" these days...I suppose it should be called the "television room" now since very little living happens there anymore. It's more like a staring room.)

I guess I just feel blessed to have a family today. A group of blood relatives to live with and jostle with. A nuclear unit to laugh with and fight with and play with. Someone to play UNO with and watch reruns with and snuggle with. A grouping that isn't with you because you're something special, but loves you simply and simply loves you. This is a treasure beyond compare.

As my daughters retold their stories of days gone by, I basked in the privilege of parenting. I literally soaked in the moment like a starving sponge. Their every word resonated with meaning for some reason, even if what they were sharing was nothing special. Because that's what being a family is in my opinion, that's the thing that separates it from other relationships...the ability to do "nothing special" and still be loved especially.

I'm reveling in that this morning as I start my work week.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Innovation and Contagiousness...

For too many of my Christ-following years I've lived in Christian community with unspoken and unwritten values that few could articulate and fewer still demonstrate.

It is a powerful church that possesses a collective and communal spirit of shared values. They are the body that not only lives with purpose, but with poise.

And this is what we want to take a moment to rehearse…the values that give poise to our purpose…we can be missional, but if we are not meaningful…we are wasting our lives away.

The values of our church are quite conveniently found in the form of an acrostic…

Innovation

Multiplication

Participation

Authenticity

Contagiousness

Transformation

In the Latin language, they had a certain phrase that spoke of the power of creating a culture of strong values. They called it a…

genius loci - spirit of place - The unique, distinctive aspects or atmosphere of a place, such as those celebrated in art, stories, folk tales, and festivals. Originally, the genius loci was literally the protective spirit of a place, a creature usually depicted as a snake.

Our first two values are: Innovation and Contagiousness…two values that are closely related in their essence, because an innovative body soon becomes a contagious and infectious presence in the world.

It speaks of this in the book "Carpe Manana" – Seize the Future.

The teaser on the back cover spoke eloquently of why this kind of innovative spirit is critical to the churches survival in the coming years…

“While the church dreams of old wineskins, the future is arriving, and the world around us has undergone a radical transformation. Those of us over thirty are no longer natives of a modern culture, but immigrants in a postmodern society that speaks the language of cyberspace, grapples with the implications of robotics, nanotechnology, and bioengineering, and looks everywhere but to the church for spiritual and moral guidance.

But the gospel sun, far from setting, is poised to shine on this new frontier--provided we’ll seize tomorrow and its unprecedented opportunities. The possibilities are limitless for those of us who choose to live as Jesus lived, as people of our time and culture.

The world is hungry to encounter a Church who knows its soul, speaks its language, and loves it with an all-transforming love.”

Jesus deeply cared about knowing the world’s soul, it’s language and meeting it with an all-transforming love…

This is why innovation and contagiousness were wired into the recruitment and deployment of his disciples. Listen to Jesus as he launched his disciples into the mission field. His metaphors speak of his ingenious philosophy of ministry…

Matt. 10:16 - I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Jesus is talking to His disciples here. He’s sending them out alone for one of the first times. I love the way it’s rendered in the Message Paraphrase Bible:



Stay alert. This is hazardous work I'm assigning you. You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack. So be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove” (MSG)


The word here “shrewd” is the Greek word “phronimos” which is defined as … “artful, thoughtful, sagacious”


Some translations have used the word “Cunning” - Marked by or given to artful subtlety. Executed with or exhibiting ingenuity.

The word “Shrewd” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as follows – “Characterized by keen awareness, sharp intelligence, and often a sense of the practical. Disposed to artful and cunning practices; tricky.”

artful, crafty, scheming, sharp, sly, tricky, wily”….do any of these words strike you as almost counter-Christian. They didn’t settle any better in the religious culture of Jesus’ day.

---

Jesus had to know that employing the phrase “Shrewd as a Snake” would evoke a response of confusion, for this was the exact description of Satan in the Garden of Eden when he artfully and cunningly tempted Eve. “The snake was more cunning than all the other creatures that God had made…” This is probably why the church suffers a great deal of criticism when it seeks to be on the cutting edge of culture. It is seen as a worldly enterprise, even diabolical to some.

But this is the kind of life that Jesus effortlessly and altruistically lived when he walked this earth as a sinless entrepreneur.

INNOVATION –

Jesus ministry –

*Parables (stories) – “the kingdom of heaven is like…”

*Provocative Language – “Eat my flesh drink my blood”, “strain a gnat, swallow a camel”, “if your hand offends you, cut it off.” “if you offend a child, it is better to have a milestone tied to your neck and be thrown into the sea”, “you must hate your father and mother, and even your own life in order to follow me.”

*Visual Aids (metaphors)

Jesus making mud out of spit… (wholly beside the point.)

Jesus writing on ground with his finger (Why did he do this?)

Casting the demons into a herd of pigs. (Who paid for it?)

His Disciples breaking through roof. (Who paid for it?)

Instead of being predictable, Jesus was provocative.

The benefit of being provocative is that instead of strictly answering questions or asking them for that matter…you’re arousing them…causing them. What has happened to this communicative art form?

He loved piquing people curiosity and whetting their appetites with bizarre behavior.

You see, Curiosity might kill the cat, but feeds the Human Soul.

I really believe that the reason why Jesus functioned with these sorts of stunts was because he was trying to make the truth meaningful and memorable for a change. He didn’t want to be forgettable. (Simon on American Idol… "it was good but forgettable…it was utterly karaoke.”)

Jesus didn’t want to be religiously karaoke. He knew, as C.S. Lewis so brilliantly discovered that…

Reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. - C.S. Lewis

Innovation is laboring to bring imagination to information…it’s a culture that cares about both “Meaning and Truth.” Making the truth meaningful.


That is why there is dogma and data…but it only makes a lasting impact in life when coupled with drama (that is, story, life, narrative found in the textures of one’s personal culture).

And innovation is an emphasis that focuses on both Scripture & Culture – because the world is saying to the church in a thousand ways…“If you don’t care about my culture, I don’t care about your scripture. If you don’t care about my world, I don’t care about your world.” It’s actually very logical and rational thinking.

And this is what got Jesus killed lest we forget. He was seen as scandalous because he didn’t set himself apart enough from Middle-Eastern culture and customs. He didn’t separate from society, isolating himself from the messy masses. He entered their language, their customs, their limitations and their cultural norms. Why should we function any differently?

………

This is what I love about watching Jesus interact and intermingle with people…The truth finally made sense!!! It resonated with people. It wasn’t irrelevant and boring.

You see, Boredom guts belief. Christian Conviction is bolstered by piqued curiosity.

Boredom flourishes when you feel too safe. It's largely a symptom of security. ~Eugene Inesco

For some reason, Born Again Christians turn into Bored-Again Christians and the Church is anything but fantastic…it’s yawntastic.

When the church doesn’t start to think innovatively and imaginatively it starts to become monotonous…

And when Monotony becomes the familiar norm, the message becomes Monotone Same things, same look, same ole’ same ole’, same message, same order, same faces, same ideas, same rituals, same antics, same shenanigans.

You would think the Bible said…

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you bored.

If the Son has made you bored, you will be bored indeed!

The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is boredom.

God is boring, and those who worship him must worship in boredom and monotony.

It is for boredom that Christ has made us bored.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have an everboring life.

But it isn’t the everyboring life…it’s supposed to be the everlasting life…and a contagious, infectious life at that!

Contagious was what the church was know for in the early years of it’s formation:

Acts 6:7
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.


Acts 12:24
But the word of God continued to increase and spread.


Acts 13:49
The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.


Acts 19:20
In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.


HMMMM…I wonder why? Maybe cause they learned from the best. The cultural architect himself. The trend setter, the savvy futurist, the entrepreneurial genius of his day…Jesus Christ!

In his book, The Anointing, R.T. Kendall says, “The greatest opposition to what God is doing today comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God was doing yesterday.”


In the words of George McLeod: 


The cross must be raised against at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died and that is what He died about, and that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen ought be about.

In his book, In Their Time, Anthony Mayo profiles the greatest leaders of the 20th century. The leaders lived in different eras, worked in different industries and faced different challenges, but the authors found one common denominator amongst all successful leaders: contextual intelligence. That is…

“They possessed acute sensitivity to the social, political, technological, and demographic contexts that came to define their eras.”

They were like the Men of Issachar in I Chronicles 12:32 who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.

……..

May it be said of our churches that “we as a church body understood our times, and knew what we should do as a relevant response to the customs of our culture bringing the gospel in innovative and imaginative forms to a world in need of something real, something true, something meaningful.”

We want to be known as Innovative people, not just an innovative church. We want to be a contagious people, not just a contagious church. These are two of our hallmark values and we want them to permeate our every activity in society.

This must be our …

genius loci – our spirit of place - The unique, distinctive aspects or atmosphere of this place, such as those celebrated in art, stories, folk tales, and festivals. Our “protective spirit”.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fourth Expression of Love...the Activist.

The Great Commandment

Mark 12:30 - Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

THE ACTIVIST

Action

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John,

ACTION.

You didn’t think we got to where we are

Simply because people prayed, did you?

Not on your life.

The early church didn’t just pray for God to move…

They did.

The book of Acts

Could have been the book of dreams, ideas , sermons, or prayers,

But we wouldn’t be here talking about this stuff today, now would we?

Nope, they didn’t stop with last words and best wishes…

They acted so that we could read Acts, not the book of Sermons.

“Dear children,

Let us not only love with words or with tongue,

But with actions and with truth.”

Have you noticed that Jesus didn’t go around

Telling people that he would be praying for them?

That’s funny since that appears to be the most

common expression among church-goers.

“I’ll be praying for you.”

I wonder if Jesus saw that expression as a crutch

For those who didn’t want to inconvenience themselves with action?

Believe me when I say that Jesus, of all people,

knew the power of prayer.

So I’m not downplaying intercession.

But it is thought provoking to wonder

why Jesus didn’t utter that phrase as he ministered, isn’t it?

The only time I remember Jesus saying he prayed for someone

Was when he told Peter, “I have prayed for you.”

But never do we see Jesus and his disciples leaving a scene

Waving to the crowd and saying, “You’ll be in our prayers.”

They did something about the need.

They moved toward the mess.

They entered into the ugly.

They acted.

Words leave people wanting.

Tongues, though golden, tarnish with time.

Moving mouths don’t replace moving people.

They never have, they never will.

The call to action has never seen a more desperate hour.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John,

ACTION.

____________________________________________

The Bible speaks openly about the danger of the Artist, Aesthetic or the Academic apart from Activism. In some ways, some of the most scathing passages of Scripture are reserved for this particular topic. God was not ambivalent about his passion for Action within the Kingdom.

Artist without Action –

Amos 5:23-24

Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Well Done is Better than Well Said. -- Benjamin Franklin

Aesthetic without Action –

Isaiah 58

2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 3 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'

"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please 
and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? 
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD ?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins 
and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold—but so does a boiled egg.”

Academic with Action –

John 5:39-40

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

“The Word became flesh—and then through theologians it became words again.” – Karl Barth

___________________________

You see, being Passional and Visional is all fine and good, but it is meaningless if it doesn’t become Missional. If we claim to be a Missional Church that is a part of the Missional Movement of Christianity, we must value and continue to champion the cause of actual action.

The word ACTual if you will notice has the word ACT in it. My fear is that until our faith becomes active, it never becomes actual.

That is why I’m much more comfortable these days calling people missionaries instead of members. Membership has its privileges, but Missionship has it’s responsibilities.

The reason this distinction is crucial is because of the Olivet Discourse of Jesus in Matthew 25 wherein he judges our lives on the basis of Activism, not our Passion or our Doctrine. Check out these telltale words as to the heart Jesus had for Activism…

Matthew 25:31-46

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

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I John 3:16-20

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us.

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It reminds me of the story of Irena Sendler...

There recently was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena. During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an 'ulterior motive' .. She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews, (being German herself.)

Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save nearly 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely. Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.

After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the children with their families. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

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A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

Mohandas K. Gandhi