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Archive for February, 2010

(mis)understanding Jesus

There is an ever widening gap between who Jesus is as he has revealed himself to be and who we understand him to be. The problem? We begin from ourself and work out, as if our salvation, God’s mission, and everything else revolves around us. If you do not take yourself to seriously check out the video above. I think it is a hilarious representation of a popular misconception of who Jesus is. The video below is more representative of who Jesus has revealed himself as (the King of Kings!) and I for one want to appropriate this reality more and more in my life. I hope you will join me on this journey.

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how popular is Jesus in our church?

 Last night our church had our first attempt at corporate prayer, a gathering for the entire congregation to pray together as a family. It is encouraging to me that we are being stirred by the Spirit to cry out to God as a family in this way. I believe he is stirring our hearts and congregation for a purpose, and I am excited. As I have been celebrating and processing the night a quote from a book I read a long time ago keeps pricking my heart. From Jim Cymbala’s book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire he writes something like,

“You can tell how popular a Pastor is by who comes to a church on Sunday morning to worship. You can tell how popular a church is by who comes to Sunday School classes. You can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to a prayer meeting.” (emphasis mine)

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit stirs us in such a way that Jesus becomes more popular than both our church and our pastor(s). May this wave of the Spirit catch us all in the current. May the Holy Spirit be pleased to blow through us and move forward the boundaries of the Kingdom for his glory. But the Holy Spirit is like the wind, he blows where he pleases… so who knows?

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I am not sure if you are aware of a discussion happening in some remote corners of Memphis right now but in response to an article in the travel section of the NY Times that you can read here: http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/travel/31next.html some Memphians are discussing who knows Memphis better- folks outside the city who visit or folks who live here? What seems to be behind this question is that Memphians do not know their city and, by implication, do not really care about it. As a Christian it is my desire to not only promote a love for Memphis but also call fellow Memphians in the church to love their city more. To “know” Memphis, in the Biblical sense- if you will. The Word of God through the prophet Jeremiah resonates in my soul when he says, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

As a member of the people of God in exile, waiting expectantly for the City of God that will one day be our permanent home in the New Heavens and the New Earth, I take this call seriously. I want to seek the welfare (or peace- shalom) of the city where the Lord has put me and I want to lead others in this call. I want to know Memphis better, displaying my love for her, and as I get know her learn how the specific ways God has gifted me can contribute to her welfare. This is my call as a member of the people of God and is in line with what Matt talked about in his last post. 

Like the One we claim to follow, we are a people who do not just have a message but we are the message. The gospel is a lifestyle and is proclaimed  most clearly in our faithful response to the Lord’s mercy by being faithful ambassadors where we live, as we seek together the welfare of our home- Memphis, Tennessee. Know your city, Memphians. Yes, “know” her in the Biblical sense! That we may be faithful members of the people of God who, in view of God’s mercy, apply the mercy of God to all of life. What are ways you can think of that we can “know” our city more, leading the fight for the welfare and peace of Memphis as we love our city?

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Yesterday, Sunday, February 8th, we looked at Luke 4:14-30. It is Luke’s account of Jesus’ first “sermon” in Nazareth. I had intended to finish with a quote from Miroslav Volf’s book Against the Tide:

Imagine that you have no job, no money, you live cut off from the rest of society in a world ruled by poverty and violence, your skin is the “wrong” color-and you have no hope that any of this will change. 

Around you is a society governed by the iron law of achievement.  It’s gilded goods are flaunted before your eyes on tv screens, and in a thousand ways society tells you everyday that you are worthless because you have no achievements.  You are a failure, and you know that you will continue to be a failure because there is no way to achieve tomorrow what you have not managed to achieve today.  Your dignity is shattered and your soul is enveloped in the darkness of despair.

But the gospel tells you that you are not defined by outside forces.  It tells you that you count-even more, that you are loved unconditionally and ifinitely, irrespective of anything you have achieved or failed to achieve, even that you are loved a tad bit more than those whose efforts have crowned with success.

Imagine now this gospel not simply procaimed but embodied in a community that has emerged not as a “result of works” but as a community “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10).  Justified by sheer grace, it seeks to “justify” by grace those who are made “unjust” by society’s  implacable law of achievement.  Imagine furthermore this community determine to infuse the wider culture, along with its political and economic institutions, with a message that it seeks to embody and proclaim.  This is justification by grace, proclaimed and practiced.

This is the kind of community we long to be. This is good news.

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This movie and the mission of MTR are AWSOME. God is moving in the City of Memphis, and His people are responding. I love Memphis because people here are thinking creatively about what it means to use their gifts for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God and the spreading of His righteous reign. Keep praying for the Lord to be moving in Memphis and that his people, you and I, would respond faithfully to His work and His leading! May we learn more what it means to “love what God loves and hate what God hates” as we seek to be faithful followers of the Risen King in the context where the Lord has put us- Memphis Tennessee.

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