Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Swaziland - Tuesday Update

Yesterday we went to a place called the Moriah Center. I have Soooo much to say it avout it when I get home and can process things. It was wonderful, it is a feeding center, church, preschool, and orphanage all in 1. I will say more about it. I felt such peace when I was there, and I want to tell all you how we can be invloved in serving it's ministry.

At our decond stop yesterday Christi held a little girl for over an hour, who buy the cough, and sores on her body was VERY SICK and probably HIV posisitve. It was very hard for Christi to leave after she had, held, loved and mothered her. The Mageas (village mothers) said her mom had already died of the infection.

Heartbreaking! - I wish I could write more, please continue to read. Today had great visits also, and we are so excited to talk about all this upon our return.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Swaziland Sunday Reflections

Here it is 2 days into the country. I have so much to say, and want to write so much more, but internet is very expensive, it is about $1 per minute. I would write then transfer via USB, but I can't do that either.

My heart bleeds for the children we saw yesterday at the care point. It was magical and beautiful! We played, and fed, and watched them study the Bible. We played more. We were at one of the gems of the ministry. Later in the day we visited the gem of the minidtry. The first care point had a multi-purpose building, water tank, locakable food storage, and enclosed toilets. The second point being the gem, had electricity, electric water pump, a 3 room school house, and housing for 2 teachers. It was amaziung how the kids can be ministered to.

My heart though was truly captured today in church. I have to tell you honestly, I could move here and worship like that EVERY Sunday! The worship was FULL of such joy. It was amazing. At one point the song leader and the pastor were dancing together in the aisle, it was beyond beautiful!!! The worship made the room giddy! I have not felt in the presecnces of such joy before God in a worship gathering EVER in my life.

We later met another man named Kevin Ward, who runs an orphanage, he had such hope for the future of Christ calling a remnant of God's people to rebuild the new Swaziland. It was inspiring to heqar his commitment to being Christ to the kids.

As I said, I will not post nearly as much as I desire to. Please pray for the people of Swaziland. Pray for the work of Children's Hopechest and the care points, which I have VOLUMES to write about. Please pray for Christi and I that God will continue to transform us into the kingdom builders his Kingdom needs.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Leaving On A Jet Plane

So the bags are packed, the faucets are dripping. The electronic devices are all turned off. Our ride will be arriving in the next few minutes! We are off to go be salt and light to the orphans of Swaziland.

As I am enjoying the last sips of my last cup of Starbucks for a few days, I am overwhelmed by so many emotions. My stomach is in knots, and yet I am as as giddy as a schoolgirl with a crush. Weird combination huh?

Please pray for us, and pray that God will change our hearts to more instep with His passion for His Kingdom!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The Curse of Poverty has no Justification in our Age

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr day today I give you a little art based on one of my favorite quotes by him. I do believe, that God calls us his people to continue to work for justice and dignity for all people!

Thank you Dr. King for all you taught us about God!

Friday, January 18, 2008

From Left to Right?

I saw this on Joe Miller's Blog and thought it was quite profound! An entire semester of seminary study summarized into 3 small panels. I have a good friend who has another good friend who has recently been forced to either shrivel up and die or move from the far right to the far left of this diagram. That friend knows who she is , and so this post is for her!

Humanism - Pauline Style

I believe (have not researched recently) it was John Eldredge who I first heard call God "the ultimate humanist." The idea is that no person even begins to desire for the fullness of what it means to be human like God desires mankind to know the fullness of what it means to be human.

Whenever I preach I try to illustrate this "fullness" through the message of the text I am working on. People who hear me preach frequently know that Fear, Separation, and death are broken consequences of God's design for Peace, Community, and Life.

This morning in our Bible Study at work (yes I was preaching rather than teaching today, I do that sometimes) we were looking at Romans 5

Romans 5:1-11 1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Now to understand the reconciliation Paul is talking about here, I think we have to look back to the promises made at the beginning of the chapter. Once justified by faith we receive three promises; Peace with God, Hope in the Glory of God, and Love by the Holy Spirit. Reconciliation is not a promise postmortem, instead it is a statement of truth to the reality that has already occurred. The follower of Christ HAS BEEN RESTORED to the fullness of what it means to be human. When I have the peace that comes through faith and the hope of honoring God's glory, and the love that indwells me personally; that means that the peace, community, and life I was created for are restored.

So why then do still worry about my daughter's problems in the classroom? Why do I still have stress over my portfolio? Why do I still fight with my wife? Why after 3 years are my relationships at my church mostly shallow? All of this are signs of my broken humanity.

These issues still exist because I enter into these areas with my carnal mind. I do not bring the fullness of my reconciled humanity into these situations. Kingdom thinking, or living out my faith by setting my hope in God's glory and loving on the radical dangerous level of Jesus, must be integrated into my very fabric. I think Mark 10:45 best summarizes this idea. This is where the rubber meets the roads of following the red letters. Jesus' teachings were about our fears, our relationships, and our portfolios, because his teachings were about how we relate to God and how we relate to others.

When I bring that spirit to my relationships, to my discontent, and to my finances I will find that peace, community are already there and waiting.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Paper Beats DOS - What I Did At Work Today

It was a bizzare phone call that I could not believe a person had the guts to make. A former employee found a payroll check that had not been cashed from January of 2001 and wanted it reissued.

IT was called in because that data was stored in the old DOS program. We have only 1 license for that system anymore, so I am usually involved when data is needed out of those archives.

After much research into the check, we discovered that all records for that fiscal year had been purged 3 years later. So we were left to have him return the check for reissue. Personally I didn't agree he should be repaid, but others in authority did. The whole thing bothered me. What if it had already been reissued? So it was down into the basement. It took myself and the office manager (who did think he should be paid) only about 20 minutes, and we were victorious in finding the 2001 PAPER payroll records.

As we looked through the 2001 Paper backup, low and behold there was the signed check stop form with his reissued check number!!! AWESOME! The old DOS system failed us, BUT paper was king!!!!

As IT I think it is great, we got beat by paper!!! sometimes, the old fashioned solutions, are the most dependable!

Monday, January 07, 2008

What's Love err... Justice Got To Do With It

Justice, the word conjures up pictures of men sitting in dank cells behind iron bars, or perhaps images from the Nuremberg trials flash across eyes. Justice does not have a positive connotation in our vernacular. Like the character of Shylock in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" justice is equated to an idea of vengeance for unrighteousness. However, this is not the justice we see in the word of God. In
Deuteronomy 27:19 - "Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the
To further clarify this idea, a Biblical definition of justice is actually laid out in the prophets.
Zechariah 7:9-10 This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.
Isaiah 1:17 Seek justice,encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

While the carnal definition of justice is focused on punishment and reward, Biblically, Justice is mercy and compassion. We can return to Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" to see these two juxtaposed by Portia,

Portia - But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself,
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
(Merchant of Venice IV.i.189-199 - William Shakespeare)
So now to bring these three idea's of Biblical justice; equity, compassion, and mercy to Christ himself. This examination must begin in the Old Testament prophets, continuing on to the prenatal prophecies, and finally conclude with Christ own words about his sense of mission.

Notice how in Isaiah 9:6-7 the very physical incarnation of Christ is defined by justice and righteousness.
Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, [a] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

The lens of scripture relies only on the praxis of these two concepts to illuminate the identity of the Messiah. Later in Isaiah 42:1-7 the mission of Christ to bear justice through the action of compassion, mercy, and equity is affirmed as being directed to all governments and people's of earth.
Isaiah 42:1-7
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his law the islands will put their hope."
This is what God the LORD says—
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
"I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."
This is important because of the intentional inclusion in the second verse of the non-violent nature of Biblical justice in contrast to carnal justice.

The activity of Biblical justice being wrought through the incarnation is demonstrated in Jeremiah's prophecy about the restoration of Israel in the time of Messiah. In Jeremiah 30 the promise of Christ is that he will return God's people to their right place.
Jeremiah 30:21-22
"Their leader will be one of their own;
their ruler will arise from among them.
I will bring him near and he will come close to me,
for who is he who will devote himself
to be close to me?'
declares the LORD.
'So you will be my people,
and I will be your God.' "
The prenatal New Testament prophecies of Luke, echo these same ideas of Biblical justice. Both "Mary's Song" and "Zechariah's Song" define the mission of incarnation in terms of restorative justice.
Luke 1: 46-55
And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."
Mary prophesies that the mercy of Christ will be demonstrated through abolition of carnal political power and just treatment of the poor and humble. Zechariah also promises his mercy to be a force of rescue to those in oppression in verse 74.

It is clear that both the prophetic scriptures, and prenatal prophecies were littered with justice as a central attribute of Messiah. So then it stands to reason that Christ's own mission would be anchored in Biblical justice. This is demonstrated by his reading from Isaiah 61.
Luke 4:16-21 "He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
His mission statement as outlined to the listers in his home synagogue is solely defined by the concepts of equity, compassion, and mercy. Immanuel is justice. John 5:36-40 demonstrates that Christ uses his participation in justice as the proof he is Messiah.

So one is left at this point to answer the question of what justice has to do with the gospel. The justice of the cross was that the incarnation restored humanity to the image of God through equity, mercy and compassion. The justice of restoration to God has no resemblance to the justice of punishment and reward. Instead the fullness of the new heaven and new earth are seen in Christ ultimate mercy and compassion. Christ non-violence retards the myth of redemptive violence which was powerless to restore humanity to God.

Since therefore the prophecies about Christ, the mission of Christ, the practice of Christ, and the sacrifice of Christ were all centered in this Biblical concept of justice, the new creation must also be realigned to practice equity, compassion, and mercy as beacons for their mission. The second incarnation, the church, must be hallmarked as people of restorative practice. The church can not achieve the mission of the Kingdom so long as it is shackled to a notion of punishment and reward. Biblical justice frees the adopted sons and daughters of God to live out compassion and mercy in their sacred spaces and their marketplaces as imitators of the lifestyle of Christ.