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Justice Awakening with Eddie Byun

Eddie Byun is the Lead Pastor for Onnuri English Ministry (OEM) in Seoul, South Korea and is Professor of Practical Theology at Torch Trinity Graduate University.  He is author of Justice Awakening: How You and Your Church Can Help End Human Trafficking. He is married to  Hyun Lee, and has two children, Emma (who went to be with the Lord) and Enoch Justus. 

KW: How were you awakened to the injustice of human trafficking?

EB: I first found out about human trafficking by reading David Batstone’s book Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–and How We Can Fight It. I still remember the feelings of shock, anger, and sadness finding out about this evil. I was so surprised at how big this issue was globally (with some 27+ million enslaved) and I was also surprised that I had not heard of it before (this was a few years back now). But the moment I found out of this issue, I knew in my heart that my church and I had to get involved in bringing this evil to an end.

KW: What are the circumstances of trafficking and sexual exploitation in Seoul, South Korea where you and your church serve?

EB: Most of the victims are women and girls, although recently more boy victims are starting to show up.  Many are runaways who came from broken homes with abuse being a part of their lives from a young age. And in one of the largest red light districts in Seoul, about 80% of the 400+ females who are forced to work there are orphans. They get up picked up by traffickers through deception or because of debt bondage. Estimates have 350,000 to over 1 million women forced into sex slavery in South Korea.

KW: What is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about this issue?

EB: One major challenge for the Korea is that many people think that these women want to be in the industry, make a lot of money in it, and that they enjoy this lifestyle. But in reality, no girl in any country around the world dreams of becoming a prostitute when they get older. Difficult and dark circumstances have led them to this place and they need the truth of the gospel to speak into their lives.

KW: How has your church been involved in the fight against human trafficking?

EB: There are a number of things that we do as a church to fight against human trafficking. We began a ministry in our church called HOPE Be Restored (which stands for Helping the Oppressed and Prisoners of injustice Escape and Be Restored) which seeks to mobilize our church members to take practical action steps to end human trafficking. One thing we do is pray and find ways to get the church to pray more for these issues. We do prayer walks, create prayer guides, and have seasons of prayer for our church to end slavery.  Another part of ministry seeks to raise awareness through teaching, education, and movie screenings to let the public know about this evil. We also have a networking team that connects people of influence from all walks of life to do their part in this fight, such as police, lawyers, teachers, CEO’s, etc. to utilize their sphere of influence in making an impact where they are. We also serve aftercare centers and provide counseling and mentoring for the victims as well as teach them new job skills to start a new future. There are more things we do that are outlined in more detail in my book Justice Awakening.

KW: What is your hope for you, your church and the larger Body of Christ in the fight against human trafficking?

EB: I think a big mental hurdle for many is thinking that NGO’s, non-profits, or the government are the solution to this problem. In reality, because it is a sin issue, and a spiritual issue, the Church is one that should be leading the charge in bringing about change and solutions.

God’s solution for the problem of human trafficking is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church. It is the gospel that gives true freedom for the core issues that drive this industry. Everyone is enslaved to the sins of lust, greed, or self-hatred and only the gospel of Jesus Christ can set everyone free from the things that bind them.

My hope is that the Church would awaken from its slumber, see these people with the eyes of God, love them with His heart of justice, and pursue it will all that we have. We alone have the true solution to the problems that drive this industry. And I believe one of the reasons why human trafficking has gotten so large and so widespread, is because the Church has been absent in this fight for far too long. This darkness has spread because the light has stayed hidden under a bowl.

It’s time for the Church to rise up and lead this fight, because if we, the Church, are not the preeminent leaders in this fight for justice, then we are letting the world look more like Jesus than we do. It’s time for that to change, beginning today.

If God Provides, Why Is There Still Famine?

A Prayer for the Church

Guest Post by Mark Charles

Below is a prayer a friend of mine asked me to help him for a new hymnal he was edited. The prayer reflects the theme of immigration and indigenous peoples, and our hope is that this prayer helps those who pray it to feel more fully a part of the all “from every nation, tribe, people and language” who are gathered around the throne of the lamb (Revelations 7:9).

A Prayer of Indigenous Peoples, Refugees, Immigrants, and Pilgrims

Triune God
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
We come before you as many parts of a single body.
You have called us together.
From different cultures, languages, customs, and histories. . .
Some of us indigenous – peoples of the land.
Some of us refugees, immigrants, pilgrims – people on the move.
Some of us hosts, some of us guests, some of us both hosts and guests,
All of us searching for an eternal place where we can belong.

Creator, forgive us.
The earth is yours and everything that is in it.
But we forget…
In our arrogance we think we own it.
In our greed we think we can steal it.
In our ignorance we worship it.
In our thoughtlessness we destroy it.
We forget that you created it to bring praise and joy to you,
and you gave it as a gift,
for us to steward,
for us to enjoy,
for us to see more clearly your beauty and your majesty.

Jesus, save us.
We wait for your kingdom.
We long for your throne.
We hunger for your reconciliation,
for that day where people, from every tribe and every tongue
will gather around you and sing your praises.

Holy Spirit, teach us.
Help us to remember
that the body is made up of many parts.
Each one unique and every one necessary.
Teach us to embrace the discomfort that comes from our diversity
and to celebrate the fact that we are unified, not through our sameness,
but through the blood of our LORD and savior, Jesus Christ.

Triune God. We love you.
Your creation is beautiful.
Your salvation is merciful.
And your wisdom is beyond compare.

We pray this all in Jesus’ name.

Originally published in Lift Up Your Hearts, by Faith Alive, 2013.

Top 10 History Books – Part 2

The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle, Richard Popkin 
– This deeply philosophical book covers the modern emergence of skepticism following Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, and the reformation as it flows through to the enlightenment philosophers who tried to provide—once and for all—philosophical grounding for our knowledge. With figures like Hume and Kant, the period from the reformation through the rise of modern philosophy is one unbroken narrative set in a time and place where questions of what we know and how can we know it dominated intellectual debates. This is one of my all time favorite books simply because it pulls together so many different threads of world history and weaves them into a tapestry that makes this period of time come alive.

Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, Margaret McMillan – This national bestseller by 20th century historian Margaret McMillan does a wonderful job of bringing to life the story of how WWI ended, the scramble for postwar influence and the re-making of the modern world in it’s aftermath. WWI arguably re-shaped the global map more than any other modern historical event. I’ve found that we know many parts of this story but not as being connected to each other in a single, unfolding drama—much of which played out during the Paris peace talks at Versailles during the winter and spring of 1919. It is a large—coming in at 624 pages—and ambitious book but, for any lover of history, it delivers from beginning to end.

The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence, Martin Meredith – Another ambitious and extremely large work of history, The Fate of Africa tells the history of the African continent beginning with the independence movements of the late 1950s up through the present. Meredith employs a unique storytelling device of following a timeline of key events while moving from one country and region to another. The overall effect is a rather thorough, clear and compelling recounting of much of 20th century Africa. Meredith is a British journalist and historian who has spent much of his life studying and writing about Africa and brings alive the key figures and events that shaped the history of modern African countries. With Cold War politics, colonialism and its after effects, apartheid in South Africa, genocide, civil wars, dictators and more, Meredith’s book is a superb introductory book to modern Africa, its intricacies, issues and development since independence.

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, Louis Menard – For many years this was far and away my favorite book. I happen to love American history around the time of the Civil War and the rise of industrialization, and in philosophy, I’ve been intrigued by the American philosophical figures who brought us pragmatism and was early on enamored with Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James—key 19th century writers and thinkers. The Metaphysical Club brings many threads together: American politics, Civil War, slavery and abolition, the Boston Transcendentalists, the advent of the uniquely American way of pursuing truth and understanding, and ties them all into broader concepts such as the debates on creation vs. evolution, the growth and significance of paleontology, the increased growth in travel, speed of communication, and transference of global ideas and conversations. This Pulitzer Prize winner is well worth the time and effort to understand the development of ideas in a post-Darwinian world, as well as how ideas both shaped and were shaped by the American experience of the Civil War.

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, Eric Foner – This is one of hundreds of books on Lincoln, but has a unique angle in examining the development of his views on slavery and race. This incredibly well-researched and honest portrayal of Lincoln tells a rather different story than the picture cemented in our minds of Lincoln at Gettysburg or issuing his second inaugural address. Showing how Lincoln’s views on slavery and race evolved against the backdrop of 19th Century American culture humanizes Lincoln and, in my mind, makes him more admirable. The Fiery Trial is a must read for students of Lincoln, American slavery, the Civil War, or how race relations in America have developed over time via key thinkers of twentieth century American politics. Side note: The Fiery Trial is an easy gift to give to any history lover on your Christmas list!

The Foolish Religion

Syriac Rabbula Gospels illuminated manuscript from ad 586. This is believed to be the earliest known Christian depiction of a crucifixion showing the Eastern form of the image at the time.

Guest Post by Michael Caba

The apostle said it: the message at the very heart of his faith was folly, not worth the paper it was written on, at least to some; but to others it was the very essence of genius, the high bar of wisdom and the core of a new spirituality. Indeed, to demonstrate the profound contrasts in the way the crucifixion of Christ was perceived the apostle explained plainly, “Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Cor 1:23-24, NIV).

But why these polar opposite reactions; why was the message of the crucifixion of Jesus viewed by some as nonsense but by others as profound wisdom? More specifically, why did the Gentiles view it as “foolishness”? Modern Christians are quite accustomed to hearing about the crucifixion of Jesus; so much so that we may lose some, or all, of the sense of how odd it was to assert in the 1st century that this event was somehow part of a divine plan. Hence, a second look is in order.

To begin with, those subject to crucifixion, being affixed by a variety of means to upright wood, were often physically tortured beforehand, and, in many cases, psychologically humiliated as well, with final death occurring via a variety of possible bodily failures. Further—and this is one of the keys to understanding the charge of “foolishness”—the overall practice was reserved primarily for the most reviled of society, including criminals, traitors, enemy combatants, and the like. In effect, it was a horrible punishment reserved for the despised, for those with little or no social status, and it was used to warn an observant public of the consequences meted out for certain behaviours.

But why Jesus, wasn’t he supposedly the exalted Son of God; certainly, he had social status didn’t he? And, perhaps better yet, why did the Christians readily proclaim that the death of their deity by such a means was a central tenant of their faith, especially against all the accusations of madness and folly? Didn’t the Christians have a public relations machine that could gauge the opinions of others in order that they might tailor their message to their culture; or had they truly discovered something original that they just needed to report despite its obvious oddness?

To bring the issue into even sharper focus, one of the early church leaders, Justin Martyr, put his finger on the heart of the allegations of folly that were being made against the Christians:

For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the creator of all; for they do not discern the mystery that is herein, to which, as we make it plain to you, we pray you to give heed.

Notice the mystery: a “crucified man” was being given an honoured seat right next to the eternal Creator—the lowest was seated beside the highest—and in antiquity this positioning was perceived as madness. Gods and saviours in the ancient world were exalted and dignified, not humble, much less crucified of all things; and Christians were now confusing the natural hierarchy: their divine Jesus had come to earth, but in a humble manner. Such madness!

On the other hand, perhaps something new had occurred, something that could serve as an example to others. Admittedly, Christ’s death was perceived primarily as a sacrifice for sin, and much more could be said about this offering—briefly, he was punished in our place. But note also these words from the Bible that portray him as an example of humility and service based precisely on his willingness to step down from an exalted position to sit in one of the lowest spots of all, that is, the spot of a crucified person:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:5–8, NIV)

According to this passage, something fresh had broken through, for the exalted was said to have willingly come down to illustrate a life of service and concern for others. In essence, the divine was not only seated high-up but had also come down and was truly concerned for us; and this was, among other things, both an example to follow and decidedly new. In effect, triumphalistic and crusading religion was out, humility and service were in. Madness or genius? You decide.

Why Art Matters

We recently had an Art Sunday at Antioch. Art Sunday is something we came up with our first year of church back in 2006-2007 to force ourselves to think more deeply on how to include art, beauty and aesthetics in the service and message, as well as create an opportunity to speak more directly to the role art and creativity play in helping us know and understand God more deeply.

If God created us in his image, then that must mean we are men and women who have the ability to create. Another way of saying it is that when we create, we are participating in the image of the one who created us. 

Another thing that we do on Art Sunday is collect art from members in the congregation—jewelry, painting, photography, floral art, installation art, etc., and have it on display and for sale after the service. Some of my best memories are seeing people in the church realize for the first time that the mortgage broker that sits next to them in the service is also an incredibly gifted watercolor painter. There is something powerful in people being able to demonstrate their giftedness and thereby have others know them in a fuller capacity. It’s shocking how many people who sit in church services have artistic gifts to offer to the church of which we’re completely unaware of. Additionally, giving the people of the church an opportunity to purchase art in order to not only affirm artists, but to decorate their homes with work created by people in our community is incredibly significant.

This particular Art Sunday we were talking about the connection between reclamation art and peacemaking, and the example Jesus set as a peacemaker–literally as one who would offer bread and wine to the one who was soon to betray him. This was illustrated during the sermon by Paul Crouse, who helps lead the Antioch internship program, with chalk on on a 4×7 sheet of plywood.

If you’re ever planning to visit Antioch, you might want to aim for the month of June and catch one of our Art Sundays and be reminded, along with us, why art matters.

Matt Knisely on Framing Faith + A Giveaway

Matt Knisely is an Emmy Award–winning photojournalist, storyteller, creative director, and artist who loves telling stories of the extraordinary in the ordinary. He serves as the creative director for Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. Matt is cofounder of Good World Creative, a creative cooperative focused on meaningful visual storytelling to help nonprofits tell their story and enhance their brand. Additionally, he consults with some of today’s leading churches, helping them reenvision the power of story and the creative process.

He is also the author of Framing Faith: From Camera to Pen, An Award-Winning Photojournalist Captures God in a Hurried World. His work has been featured on ABC World News, BBC News, CNN, PBS, NBC, and Fox News.

**To win a copy of Framing Faith, leave a comment on this blog post by July 14th (be sure to include your email address) and I’ll choose 3 winners at random.**

KW: What events or experiences led to your desire to become a photojournalist?

MK: For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to a good story and how each story has a profound purpose. Growing up in a family of storytellers, I saw how story had the ability to comfort, heal, enrage, glorify, or vilify.

So along with the fascination of story, I began to find myself constantly drawn to photography. I remember getting my first camera in second grade. It was a Kodak Colorburst 100 Instant Camera—the Kodak version of a Polaroid. I can remember loading the cartridge and pulling the shutter release like an AK-47 leaving the captured 4×3 images strewn in my wake like spent shotgun shells on the ground. Man, I loved that camera!

It was somewhere woven into these early moments of tinkering around with merging the medium of photography with storytelling that I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to help people tell their stories. And not just with pen and paper, but with pictures and sound.

KW: Do you have a favorite photo? Or can you describe what elements make photos especially meaningful to you?

MK: In a day and age where there are millions and millions of photographers and 350-million photos are uploaded every day to Facebook there seems to be something missing for me. Maybe it was the feeling of picking up the small 5×6 envelope with negatives neatly tucked into their special pouch. Perhaps it was the faint smell from the developing chemicals still clinging to each print. Or it might have been the excitement I had when I thumbed through each photograph to see the fruits of my labor.

Call me a romantic, but there is something fantastic that happens when you hold a photo in your hands. It’s intimate. It’s personal and eternal. To me, they took away the romance of photography when everything went social. To me, photographs are lasting reminders of what has come to pass, whether good or bad. They can bring comfort in tough times and joy in simple times. They are, in a sense, a vivid story imprinted on the humble material of paper and plastic. Photographs are a testament to our lives. They are the story of our lives.

Photograph for me is a glimpse of life itself. A split second of eternity, captured forever. It is a slice of someone’s life that is suspended in time exactly as it was in that precise moment. CLICK!

Photographs are timeless, wordless, soundless pieces of our lives. I have a vast selection of images that I cherish as some of my most prized possessions. Just recently I found one photograph that I did not even know existed until combing through photo albums at my parents house. It’s an image that stands above all the rest for me. It’s a photo filled with happiness. I was two-years-old. My dad and I are standing at the edge of the sea holding hands. My how time has passed and how the world has changed. When I look at this image all of the tensions and worries that I may have get swept out into the deep waters, leaving me with all the sweetness of the world.

KW: How has photography shaped how you view and live out your faith?

MK: As a photographer, I firmly believe a life worth living is a life worth recording.

I love capturing moments. Collecting them. Preserving them. Most of all, I enjoy experiencing them, because they bring defining moments of significance into focus. It’s in these subtle moments I see vivid beauty. They also offer a deeper understanding of how the moments in our lives allow God to sculpt us into something beautiful that is our own unique reflection of Christ.

God is at eye level. He helps us make great photos with our lives. Just as we are photographers, capturing images through the lens of a camera, cementing that image for all time, so, too, are we depictions to others of life and love for God. After he released his shutter in the sky, creating us and placing his divine signature on our lives, we became his representations, made in his image as living expressions of his holy presence in humanity.

KW: What can others learn about faith and intentional living through your photography analogies in the book?

MK: One of the secrets to capture the undiscovered is through proper framing. Great framing gives a photo context by illuminating the scene or subject in such a way that the viewer can know where the photo was taken; it’s about drawing attention to the appropriate place. A well-framed image has a way of intriguing and pulling the audience into the story, taking them on a journey and bringing the photo to life. However, if the photographer’s mind is elsewhere and he distractedly snaps an image, the magic of the story is lost and the photo becomes just another snapshot.

The parallel to life is a clear one. If we live our lives distractedly, the magic of the moment can get lost amidst the noise and blur and buzzing of our lives. Framing and then shooting life through a camera lens truly challenges us to bring out the best we can. Otherwise if we continually let go of the moments that are right in-front of us and our lens, we let go of who we are and we lose ourselves.

KW: What did you learn through the process of writing the book?

MK: Writing is a funny thing. You start out writing one thing and end up with something completely different. Just like there are many ways to go through life, by just going through the motions, or going through life being present and truly taking advantage of the world around you. I realized in the process of writing Framing Faith that the present moment is all we have; that the life we are living is about the here and the now. And while, we don’t think about that when the intensity of life is breathing down our back, but it’s a great way to take advantage of our life and to find a sense of peace and calm in the middle of a stressful and chaotic world. I re-discovered the power of being present. I learned to STOP! I Stop scrolling. Tweeting. Instagramming. I learned to put down the phone. To take one minute. To not read. Not talk. I slowed down and discovered faith happens in the subtle moments of life.

KW: What do you see as the biggest road block to living in the moment?

MK: The biggest hurdle is ourselves, because we allow the false priorities that our current culture imposes on us, to dictate our days and cause us to loose sight of what is truly important.

KW: What do you hope people will take away from the book?

MK: Tough question, because anyone who reads Framing Faith will ultimately find something deeper and different than originally intended.

My prayer ever since I typed the first words was that people begin to look for more. Open their eyes wider. Focus. Find coherency. Uncover meaning and display a sense of wonderment in the Story, and moments, God has given them. Like a good photographer, God wants us to look for more, develop perspective, and find the moments right in front of us. He wants us to connect the seemingly unconnected, find what has been overlooked, and worry less about what we do and more about who we become. God wants to turn our lives upside down and use us in magnificent, unexpected, world-changing ways if we can just be present. In many ways I want people to stop looking at life from a one-dimensional, self-centered perspective, and open their eyes to see a fuller, richer, more vivid life, so they can begin capturing the beautiful moments now . . . today . . . immediately. Not to waste one more day letting life pass you by and going to bed with regrets at what was missed.

Eisenhower’s Letter

When I took two weeks to travel Europe several years ago, I really studied the D-Day invasions of June 6, 1944.  Part of the trip that Jon Lemke and I planned was to visit the Normandy beaches where the epic battles took place that signaled the coming end of WWII, and I wanted to know the full history.

It was Eisenhower who was in charge of the joint Allied forces, and the coming invasion of Europe was called Operation Overlord.  It was to be the largest amphibious assault in military history.  It involved an armada of 5,333 Allied vessels.

One of the interesting features of the invasion was the decision that Eisenhower had to make.  The seas were stormy and he had to decide during a 36-hour window whether to launch the invasion or postpone it until June 19. Launching on June 6th was better for the element of surprise and for troop morale, but waiting was better for weather conditions on the sea and in the sky (as many paratroopers were involved in the assault).

Eisenhower made the choice to launch the invasion on June 6. In a famous scene, Eisenhower signaled the invasion with a speech to the soldiers.

What many don’t know, is that he carried in his pocket during that speech a letter accepting full responsibility for the operation’s failure – should things go wrong.

I’ve been thinking about Eisenhower’s Letter today.

Are there risks that Christian leaders and pastors need to be taking?  Are we willing to put troops in play rather than continue to build up and risk nothing? More importantly, are we willing to accept responsibility if things don’t work out.  Do we carry with us a letter like Eisenhower’s?

My conclusion is that Eisenhower’s Letter and risk go hand in hand.  No risk – no letter.

Since leadership and responsibility are closely tied, maybe I can say, “No risk – no responsibility.”  Therefore, if responsibility - then risk.

It is easy to do what has always been done.  It is easy to huddle up.  But if leaders are going to take the responsibility to care for churches and lead them through current realities – there will be risk.  Turning the ship into the wave or leading people into the uncertainties of the future necessarily involves decision, commitment and risk.

I’m probably out on a ledge with this whole conversation, but I feel compelled to think about responsibility and risk.  If I don’t, it seems like I’ve abdicated leadership and am simply politicking.

(Here’s a picture of Eisenhower talking to paratroopers just prior to the D-Day invasion.)


Reggie Williams: What Should Christians Learn from Bonhoeffer?

What should Christians take away from the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer? from :redux on Vimeo.

Pro-Pro-Pro in Israel-Palestine

Guest Post by Todd Deatherage

Pro-Israeli, Pro-Palestinian, Pro-American, Pro-Peace. For five years, we’ve been trying to live into these words at The Telos Group. If they are to be more than a slogan, we have to own them even as we learn more deeply what it really means to dedicate ourselves to the common flourishing of Israelis and Palestinians.

For those who’ve long dedicated themselves to a traditional “pro-Israel” or a “pro-Palestine” position, our approach sounds either foolish or dangerous. We’ve been called both. And any who are skeptical or cynical about finding ways to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be forgiven. The pessimists indeed command the facts. This is a conflict that has defied solution for more than 65 years. There’s been too much war and violence, too much hatred, and too many missed opportunities.

And in that time, there’s a lot that’s been broken that can never be restored. Lives have been lost that cannot be brought back. It would indeed be naïve to suggest that all these wrongs can be made right and a peace can be achieved in which both sides feel that they have obtained the justice and affirmation they seek. But it also fatalistic to suggest that the darkness is so pervasive that it is beyond any measure of redemption or healing.

Many Americans care deeply about the people of the modern Holy Land and about events that take place there, and not all are willing to resign it to perpetual conflict and unending cycles of violence. At Telos, we’ve committed ourselves to the proposition that Americans have a role to play in transforming the conflict, one that begins by understanding the way in which we’ve imported it into our own political and religious culture. The result is that the corollary to a pro-Israel position is often an anti-Palestinian one. And pro-Palestinian activism is often anti-Israel. When manifest in these ways, both have one thing in common: a zero-sum, winner-takes-all approach in which for one side to win the other has to lose.

In all humility, we would suggest that this ‘us vs. them’ paradigm has ended up serving the conflict more than it has contributed to its resolution. Either we find a way to affirm the inherent human dignity of all the people of the Holy Land and accommodate each side’s legitimate connections to the land and national aspirations, or we will indeed need to resign ourselves to unending violence. And those pessimists will indeed retain the facts and will, tragically, be right after all.

The work of Telos is to contribute to the creation of a new paradigm, one in which Americans get to know real Israelis and Palestinians, respect them as individuals, and take in their stories.  We encourage Americans to listen to a variety of representative perspectives from both sides. This includes Israelis who love Israel and support its continuation as a safe and secure homeland for the Jewish people. It includes Palestinians who yearn to live in freedom with dignity and human rights.  It also includes others who by experience, temperament, or ideology find it hard to make much allowance for the other side. Even they will have useful things to say, important perspectives, and they deserve to be heard.

But in the end, we’ll return again and again to those who are doing “the things that make for peace,” either by directly addressing issues of the conflict, or by working to transform their own societies in ways that encourage responsibility and respect for human rights and universal dignity. These folks are heroes of the conflict because though they live amidst the ruins, they wake up each day and pick up their metaphorical hammer, ready to build a new reality. They are purveyors of hope, and we can never tell their stories often enough.

In many ways, there is nothing new in our approach. It’s the gritty work of real peacemaking, and in that way we believe it’s connected to the deepest truths of the universe about how we are to find ways to live together in spite of our deepest differences.

But Telos has taken some hits in recent days for the work we’re doing. There are some who believe our pro-Israel, pro-Palestine approach is nothing more than slick marketing, covering a more sinister (and one-sided) agenda.  Not only has our methodology been questioned, but so has our funding.

We are indeed sincere in our attempt to “own” our lofty slogan. And we make no apologies for welcoming financial support from any who will affirm freedom, security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

In fact, we invite all Americans of good will to step into this space, and we are grateful to have been joined in this work by such a diverse group of friends. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of no religious persuasion. Political conservatives and progressives. Foreign policy experts and social justice advocates. Business and cultural leaders. These are unusual suspects, doing unusual things. If we are to have a chance of success in transforming this conflict, we need a broad-based and diverse movement of Americans all who would legitimately define themselves as pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-American and pro-peace.

Pursuing Justice Now in Paperback

Pursuing Justice is now available in paperback! You can pick up a copy from Amazon here: Pursuing Justice or download free small group and study resources here.

Top 10 History Books – Part 1

The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany’s Bid for World Power, Sean McMeekin – There is more to learn about World War I and how it shaped the globe and contributed to much of the turmoil in the Middle East over the last century than most of us would realize. I’ve studied this period through lots of books but this one is unique in giving the German and Ottoman angle, rich with historical figures and crafted in a wonderful narrative format. I had the pleasure of reading this book while traveling through Turkey and traversing many of the places at the center of the story of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. If you’re a student of the Middle East, World War I, or interested in understanding how many of the modern clashes between Islam and the West developed, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this book. [Reference A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East for a rather famous and award-winning look at similar issues told from the British side and set primarily in London and Cairo rather than Berlin and Baghdad.]

The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, Ulysses S. Grant – I’ve been intrigued by the Civil War about as long as I’ve loved the subject of history. I remember as a kid watching the TV mini-series The Blue and the Gray with fascination as many of the places were familiar (I grew up for much of my life on the East Coast.) In my mind, there is no more fascinating figure in the Civil War than General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was a straight-forward and unlikely leader who regularly struggled with alcoholism. His matter of fact approach to life translates magically into his memoirs and has long been regarded as a classic in the genre. Many speculate the literary beauty may have been enhanced by Mark Twain who had a hand both in encouraging Grant to write and editing his writing. Twain was to say of the work, “I had been comparing the memoirs with Caesar’s Commentaries… I was able to say in all sincerity, that the same high merits distinguished both books—clarity of statement, directness, simplicity, unpretentiousness, manifest truthfulness, fairness and justice toward friend and foe alike, soldierly candor and frankness, and soldierly avoidance of flowery speech. I placed the two books side by side upon the same high level, and I still think that they belonged there.”

This is one of the most intriguing autobiographies I’ve read.

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Adam Hochschild – In this award winning book, historian Adam Hochschild (Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918) accomplishes a rare feat by providing an in-depth telling of the rise of colonialism in Africa while also giving an extensive history to the formation of the Congo Free State under King Leopold of Belgium. He also seamlessly weaves in larger than life names and places like Livingston and Stanley, The Nile River, Joseph Conrad and The Heart of Darkness, and the subject slavery—both as abolished in the English world and still taking place via Arab slave traders coming inland from the East Coast of Africa. It’s difficult to describe just how remarkable this book is—how equally fascinating and appalling it is as it moves from talking about how the rubber tire created demand for rubber from the Congo, to high society philantropy in Europe, and to the absolutely cold, calculating, maniacal exploitation and destruction of human life in the heart of Africa by King Leopold. I don’t know of another book that tells so many stories while telling one unified story as this brilliant work does.

Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired, Benson Bobrick — This is the story of how the Bible in English came to be written. It set with larger than life figures such as John and others set in London and across Europe. The book includes some of the biggest names of the era—John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Henry VIII, Mary Tudor to name a few—and brings you into some of the biggest debates of the era—the nature of scripture, the power of monarchy, the reformation, and the role of the church. The story of how the Bible was translated into the English language, and its affect on the history of the world (the English Bible was the Bible taken around the world by many settlers and explorers) is an interesting and crucial part of church history. Given the setting and cast of characters it is an easy and intriguing story to read.

A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Mary Ann Glendon — This very unique piece of historical writing takes a look at the framing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While much of the book focuses on Eleanor Roosevelt and the committee of delegates from multiple countries who spent two years debating and crafting the document, it also brings in the larger context of World War II, the drive to have a sustainable international entity that could survive (unlike the earlier League of Nations), and begins to usher us into the beginnings of Cold War politics. For students of justice or the invention of human rights, this will be an absolute delight.

Who Will Save the World from You and Me?

Photo Credit: Leonski, Creative Commons

Guest Post by Paul Louis Metzger

Have you ever met people with messiah complexes? Such individuals are scary. They often end up making a mess of things as they throw their good will around.

Unfortunately, I am often tempted to cultivate such a complex. I have to catch myself trying to help people who appear to be weaker and who seem to possess less resources than I, but yet who have not asked for my help. I am often blind to the fact that they are often relationally richer than I am and could help me in significant ways. Instead of trying to solve their problems for them, I need to share life with them, if they will take me.

No doubt you have heard stories of charitable endeavors where projects were started overseas but to no or negative effect. An African friend, Michael Badriaki, shared with me a story of how a European country provided genetically modified seed for African communities to use, even though they were told by the Africans that the seed would not grow, and it did not. Michael also shared with me how Westerners have built latrines in African communities, even though they were told the latrines would not be used because of uncertainties and fears regarding where the human waste would end up. The latrines have since gone to waste. The Westerners should have listened to the tribal peoples to see what they themselves claimed that they needed.

This overriding tendency on the part of the West is sometimes called “white man’s burden”: the propensity of many white Westerners to do good to people around the world by ruling over them. Such imperialism often parades with acts of charity. But the underlying motives are not charitable. As Michael says, many Westerners used to come with machine guns; now they come with briefcases—and with cell phones made with minerals they have mined in Africa at great profit to themselves.

I am so glad Jesus the Messiah did not have a messiah complex. If he did have such a complex, he would have fallen when tempted by the Devil and would not be able to save us. I believe Jesus’ time in the wilderness helped prepare him to listen and pray and wait on God rather than take matters into his own hands.

It is important that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil for forty days prior to his public ministry (See Luke 4:1-2). The temptation was not an obstacle, but an opportunity for strategic spiritual growth and development. I believe Jesus went through severe testing (Luke 4:3-12) to prepare him for the challenges that lay ahead. Jesus had to die to any presumed messiah complex in order to be the true Savior of the world; those with messiah complexes end up destroying others because they possess the grand ambition to rule over them rather than listen to them and serve them.

Although Jesus passed each test, Satan never gave up. He planned to reappear at an opportune time and try again (Luke 4:13). The tempter’s aim was to get Jesus to seize control rather than depend upon and obey his Father’s will disclosed in Scripture and listen and live among the people in the midst of their suffering. Jesus had to experience what they did.  As the writer of Hebrews made clear, Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). If Jesus were to be prepared as the Messiah to save the world, he needed to be delivered from various perks that reward strength and comfort over against weakness and suffering.

Those with messiah complexes come to save those around them; but like the religious leaders in Matthew 23, they end up making the beneficiaries of their good will twice the sons of hell that they are (Matthew 23:15).

Unlike messianic pretenders, Jesus has no delusions of grand military, economic or political conquest bound up with surpassing strength and a powerful personality. He operated far more robustly and strategically by holding firmly in humble dependence to God’s Word. In view of Jesus, humility, not hubris, is the mark of missional engagement.

It is striking how Jesus used Scripture to combat the Devil at every turn. Jesus did not depend on clever forms of argument or charisma and passion in his responses to the temptations, but Scripture. What do you and I resort to when we are under duress? Do we think we are invincible? Do we struggle with messiah complexes that favor ingenuity to the exclusion of prayerful and fast-filled dependence on God’s Word? Satan would have it that way.

In his testing of Jesus, Satan used various forms of temptation that address needs and desires such as the provision of food (Luke 4:3-4), ambition (Luke 4:5-8), and protection (Luke 4:9-12). It is recorded that in two of the temptations, the Devil challenged Jesus to prove he is God’s Son and perform miracles that will benefit him (Luke 4:3, 9): instead of trusting in God for his provision, Jesus was encouraged to turn stones into bread; he was also encouraged to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple so that God would deliver him.

What would have happened if Jesus had fallen for the tempter’s tactics? No doubt, he would have eaten well if he had turned the stones into bread (Luke 4:3-4). He would have received riches and honor and glory if he had bowed the knee to Satan (Luke 4:5-8). He might even have been protected, or at least would have protected himself, if he had thrown himself from a very high place (Luke 4:9-12). But Jesus would not have been able to save the world, only harm it, just like the various messianic pretenders; such autonomous acts aimed at saving the world have always led to the world needing further salvation. The only way to help is to depend on God, not oneself. Jesus demonstrated that he was the one and only Son of God, for he alone constantly depended on God, not himself.

All of the temptations in Luke 4 seem logical. After all, Jesus needed food to stay alive and accomplish his work and attain his goal. And wasn’t his goal to reign over the nations and kingdoms of the earth? Satan offered to get him to the top of the world by taking a shortcut—all Jesus had to do was bow the knee to him.

But what good would such actions of following the Devil’s advice ultimately do? Jesus would have disobeyed his Father, just like God’s son Adam in the Garden and God’s son Israel in the wilderness over forty years. No matter how many miracles Jesus could have performed, no matter how magnificent he could have revealed himself to be, it would all have been smoke and mirrors since he would not have been reflecting God’s character and obeying God’s will as God’s Son.

Jesus is God’s one and only Son. Even so, we are tempted to take matters into our own hands to try and prove we are God’s sons, too. Rather than respond to God’s call in obedience, we are prone to manipulate circumstances and seek to control our own destiny, and the destiny of others. In the short term, we may look as if we are doing all right when we are self-sufficient. But self-sufficiency does not reflect relational trust in God, but trust in one’s self. Such self-reliance does not save us, but puts us, and those around us, in greater jeopardy.

A colleague once told me that an unguarded strength is a glaring weakness. It is important that we submit all our strengths and talents and gifts to the Lord; otherwise, we will take matters into our own hands and try to save the world. Self-sufficiency is the bane of missional engagement. Self-sufficiency along with a sense of superiority lead us to provide solutions to people’s struggles that do not fit their situations or resonate with what they believe they really need. It only aggravates their problems as they bear the burden for our sin of self-sufficiency and pride.

Messiah complexes get us into so much trouble, as we take matters into our own hands. Whenever you are tempted to engage in such thinking and behaving, you should ask—who then will save the world from me?

Can you think of situations where you have fallen prey to pride and ended up with a messiah complex in your public missional engagement? What was the aftermath? How will you guard against such pride and arrogance in the future?

Kilns College Snapshot: Fall 2014

I’m not sure if you know it or not, but one of the coolest things going down these days is Kilns College. Soon you’ll be hearing about the new Master of Arts in Innovation & Leadership set to begin in Fall 2015. In the mean time, check out the cool graphic below showing the on-site and distance students in the Fall cohort for the Master of Arts in Social Justice degree!

The Life I Crave

Photo Credit: Snowpeak, Creative Commons

Guest Post by Emily Hill

“We are going to have to give up our lives finally,
the longer we wait the less time we have
for the soaring and swooping life of grace.”

I recently came across this quote by Eugene Peterson and was captivated by it. If I could have any superpower I would choose the ability to fly, so the imagery of a soaring life of grace resonates with me. But I think it goes much deeper than that.

I crave it.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to live richly and authentically. It’s a popular discussion among my friends and family and it’s certainly a hot topic on the internet and in self-help books. How do we embrace our humanity and live fully as God intended?

I’ve noticed that even those of us who are Christians—who believe they are created by God and follow God—don’t always have a full understanding of what that really means. We often have just as many questions about how to live life to the full as those who don’t proclaim Christ. This situation leaves us more susceptible to the culture around us than we realize and we frantically search for answers and live with a deep, constant longing for more.

But the answer isn’t found in a self-help book or a checklist of behaviors. The quote by Peterson provides a clue. You’ve heard it before: we need to give up our lives.

“Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) But what does that mean?

In our modern culture, we usually assume that ancient worldviews are ignorant and unscientific and that our current worldviews are more enlightened and accurate. However, in his book on the Psalms N.T. Wright argues that the modern Western worldview is actually based on the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism. Thought adopted for different reasons in ancient and modern times, the view holds that God or gods are remote and unengaged with humanity. Therefore, the world and our individual lives are part of an independent system operating entirely of its own accord.

Think of your friend who doesn’t really consider God in their day to day decisions, or even big decisions. Or the celebrity or politician who build their careers and wield power without regard to God. Why would they? If God doesn’t exist, or if he doesn’t sustain our physical, spiritual or emotional lives, then his existence doesn’t have any bearing on how we shape our identities or pursue life. Such a view is pretty easy to maintain in middle-class America where we are often able to maintain a feeling of control over our lives and the outcomes of our actions.

In contrast, the scriptures reveal a God who cares and is intimately involved with his creation every day and on every level—he didn’t just create us and walk away. Psalm 139 is a great example of this. Verse 5 says, “I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going.” (The Message)

Wright explains that the biblical worldview is one of creational monotheism. Jews and Christians rejected the idea of disengaged gods and believed that the one God who created the universe remains in active relationship with it. They believed that God had promised to return to his people and bring his perfect rule to earth and that through Christ and the work of the Spirit he had done just that.

Though I would say I hold to the biblical worldview—and I’m guessing you would too—upon more reflection, the ideas of Epicureanism throughout our culture continue to affect how I define myself.

Everyone and everything around me is shouting for my attention. It tells me that I need it to be happy, satisfied and significant. I need to have a certain education, dress a certain way, have a successful career, live in a certain neighborhood, have certain friends, a perfect family, and eat at the trendiest restaurants. As a woman, it’s also essential to be thin with radiant skin and shiny hair. Then everyone will love me and I’ll be fulfilled.

Advertisers in our culture deliberately try to point out (or create) a need that I, as a consumer, didn’t know I had, then tell me how their product or service can meet that need and make my life better. Can you name some other messages? Can you see how they have shaped your identity and affected how you live your life?

We need a counter-narrative if we are going to be able to battle these messages that surround us.

Romans 11:36 says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (NIV). Jonathan Wilson argues that without a robust understanding of creation in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ we are left without a solid foundation for our identity. He writes:

We are not truly and fully human until we believe that we are God’s creatures and trust in Christ to remove our inhumanity, free us from all that makes us less than human, and bear away the consequences of our refusal to acknowledge our creatureliness and trust in God for life…when we do not recognize that humans have their identity as human by virtue of our creatureliness before God, we become susceptible to other bases for our humanity.[1]

We need to give up our own self-constructed identities and look to Christ for what it means to be truly human and how we experience life most fully. Karl Barth wrote, “The nature of Christ objectively conditions human nature and the work of Christ makes an objective difference to the life and destiny of all men.”[2]  The sum of Jesus’ actions perfectly reflect God’s intentions for us and call us to find our true identity in God’s life and work.

So what do we learn about our identity and fullness of life by looking to Christ?

We see that Jesus lived for and loved the Father above all things. His destiny was not of his own making but was determined by obedience to the Father. We also see that Jesus lived for and loved others. Jesus gave himself for others. His love was not general, but specific, and did not depend on others loving him first. In these things—seen in many actions large and small—Jesus enacted the kingdom of God and pointed to the new creation.

Christ reveals that humanity was created and intended for the new creation in the kingdom of God. The purpose and proper end goal of the world is the new creation and this understanding changes everything about how we live as individuals and in community.

When we recognize the purpose of creation, and therefore of ourselves, we can live according to that end by participating in the life of Christ, in dependence on God, and bearing witness to the kingdom of God in all its fullness. As we orient ourselves to the new creation we find peace. Not just a surface-level peace of mind but the deep peace and joy of shalom found in community with God and with others.

This is the counter-narrative. Seek first the kingdom.

I don’t build my own identity and life, and I don’t find life in the next big thing. It is in surrendering my own perceived and self-constructed identity to the true humanity found in Christ—living for God and for others—that I find freedom. That is how I experience the rich, meaningful, and soaring life of grace I crave.

[1] Jonathan Wilson, God’s Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 41.

[2] Karl Barth, Christ and Adam: Man and Humanity in Romans 5 (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1956), 88.

Daniel Hill on Finding Full Life in Christ

Daniel Hill is the Founding and Senior Pastor of River City Community Church, located in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.  The vision of River City is centered around the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development.  Formed in 2003, River City longs to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. His first book, 10:10: Life to the Fullest, was recently released.

KW: What are some of your life experiences or ministry experiences that made you realize something is often missing in our Christian lives?

DH: I grew up being exposed to a wide variety of Christian traditions. Having the opportunity to visit so many different kinds of churches shaped in me a larger picture of God, which I’m grateful for. It also gave me the chance to see how common it is for Christians of all stripes to feel that something is still missing in their faith.  From the outside looking in, many of these traditions seemed quite different from each other. I saw it within conservative, fundamentalist churches, as well as in charismatic, Pentecostal churches. I saw it within seeker-oriented, mega churches (I was at Willow Creek for seven years), and I saw it in justice-oriented churches with a significant emphasis on liberation theology.

I met wonderfully devout people within each of these circles who loved Jesus with all their heart, yet still struggled with this persistent sense that there was more to life in Christ than what their current reality reflected.

KW: Why do you think we fail to confront our questions and longings in our faith?

DH: For most of us it comes down to one word: fear.

We fear admitting that something is missing will expose us as some type of spiritual fraud.

We fear that this admission will call into question whether we ever had faith in the first place.

We fear that God will choose not to forgive us for saying it out loud.

We fear that God will not even really be there.

We fear that God will be there, but will remain intentionally evasive because of something we did.

We fear that we will give our all to God, yet discover only disappointment on the other side.

The most repeated command in the entire Bible is “fear not” – 365 times as a matter of fact! And while that may be a helpful card to play next time you are in the middle of an intense Bible trivia game, its importance goes far beyond that.

We see throughout the Bible that whenever God is ready to take a person to a new level of faith, the initial response is fear. That’s understandable. To fear the new or the unknown is the natural instinct of fragile human beings. God understands that.

But God doesn’t want us to stay there. Fear sets limits and ultimately (and tragically) prevents us from stepping into the 10:10 vision of fullness of life. Faith in Christ is the only force strong enough to pull us through our fear and allow us to authentically confront our questions and longings.

KW: John 10:10 contains such an amazing promise— why do you think we struggle to find life to the full?

DH: Part of the struggle is once again located in fear.

I think your book Pursuing Justice is a great example of this. I love the subtitle — The call to live & die for bigger things. It gets to an important spiritual reality: in order to truly embrace new life, we are going to have to first die to something else. It’s part of the Resurrection cycle in Christ.

But if that’s true, then there is just no way to get around the command to “fear not.” When Jesus calls us to join him in the pursuit of justice, we will be required to face fear in the eye. It might be the fear that comes when a privileged person has to stare down their reality as they enter into solidarity with those on the other side of injustice. It might be the fear that an oppressed person feels when counting the cost of speaking out against the resident power structures for the sake of the Gospel. There is no way around the presence of fear.

The other part of the struggle comes from a limited theological vision.

Even the best of our traditions carry limitations. It’s inevitable that the tradition(s) that shaped each of us accurately emphasized certain Biblical truths while neglecting other crucial ones. The imbalance that this creates differs from one tradition to the next, but the challenge remains the same. A limited vision of Christ means that only part of us is able to grab onto part of Him. If the fullness of us is going to bear witness to the fullness of Christ, then we need to expand our theological vision.

KW: How is finding full life in Christ different than finding full life in a self-help book?

DH: In Matthew 20 Jesus tells his disciples “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” He then establishes this as the baseline for them as they learned to evaluate true greatness: “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (v26).

Dr. Cornel West is a thinker whom I greatly admire, and one of my favorite quotes comes on the heels of a great riff he does on this verse: “Don’t confuse success with greatness.  Success is measured in terms of a Lexus and trophy wife. Greatness is measured in terms of service.”

This summarizes the distinction I see between the 10:10 vision of full life given by Jesus, and the vision of full life given by most self-help books. Personal fulfillment (or what he refers to as “success”) may come as a byproduct of following Jesus with full abandon, but it’s never the primary goal. Instead, the goal is to become a transformed, Spirit-filled person who graciously serves. That is the Jesus definition of true “greatness.”

KW: What is God’s picture of life to the full?

DH: Hebrews chapter 11 is the most eloquent and comprehensive description of faith in the whole Bible, and I believe it is the best source material for answering this. I use the phrase “Faith in 3D” to summarize the foundational elements of faith and fullness of life found here:

Dimension 1: Faith & Fear. As alluded to earlier, there is no such thing as experiencing great faith without first experiencing great fear.  They live right next to each other.  They are permanent neighbors in our heart.  Jesus will lead you out of your comfort zone and into the unknown, and you will have to rely on him at every step of the way to navigate these new realities.  With each new chapter of faith come new experiences of the abundant life in Christ.  But with each new chapter also come new fears.

Dimension 2: Faith & Intimacy. The heart of faith and fullness of life is intimacy with God. It is what everything in the Christian life both leads to and flows from. It began in the Garden, when God asks Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”  That pursuit continues through the prophets, the kings, and the priests, and culminates with the Good Shepherd, who says, “I’ve come to get you.  Follow me and you will experience the fullness of life.”

Dimension 3: Faith & Mission. We follow a risen Savior who is alive and active in the world. “Mission” is the language of being sent by faith to join in that redemption through both word and deed. Ephesians 2.8-10 represents one of Paul’s most famous treatments of faith. He finishes by saying: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We will never fully know the life we’ve been created for without learning how to “walk in” the good works that we have been created in Christ Jesus to participate in.

KW: What would you say to someone currently sitting at the crossroads of a safe faith and a full, life-giving, holistic faith?

DH: I often repeat the wise words of Gary Haugen on this topic: “Here is one choice that our Father wants us to understand as Christians – and I believe this is the choice of our age: Do we want to be brave or safe?  Gently, lovingly, our heavenly Father wants us to know that we simply can’t be both.”

I think he is right on. There is a fundamental choice we each have to make when it comes to our faith in Jesus. Do I want a brave faith, or a safe faith? We just can’t have both.

And as my justice-oriented friends have been really pushing me on me lately (thanks #killjoyProphets!), even that quote is often a reflection of a great degree of privilege. If we actually have the luxury of choosing between safe and brave, then we are living in a far more comfortable existence than most of the world. People in vulnerable situations rarely feel safe, so brave is the only kind of faith that is even available to them. That is just one more reminder of what has always been true – safe is not the goal in the life of a believer!

At an intuitive level we already understand this. Fullness of life just doesn’t sync well with comfort, safety, and status quo. One of the bravest Christ followers I have ever met is Dr. John Perkins, the founder of CCDA. He says it more eloquently than I ever could in his book With Justice for All: A Strategy for Community Development:

“God never calls us to do something we can do in our own strength. He always calls us to get in over our heads-to move out to where we’ll have to either depend on His power or sink… Ever since God first called me, I have lived on the verge of panic. I’ve always been in over my head. I’ve always been doing things I knew I couldn’t do. I’ve been like Peter walking on the water-always on the verge of sinking because he was doing something that took more power than he had. If he took his eyes off of Jesus-off of God’s power-and looked at the storm, he would sink.”

Antioch Residency Program: Spend a Year With Us

June is internship high season at Antioch, with summer interns well on their way in ministry projects and community events. This time of year also brings another round of applications being sent from all over the nation as the start date of the Antioch Yearlong Residency Program gets closer. Since its beginning in 2011, the Residency Program has graduated 18 interns and we’re excited to begin the process of welcoming another cohort this fall.

Antioch’s Yearlong Residency Program is an opportunity for college-age, seminary and transition year students to spend twelve months exploring the world of vocational ministry.

By spending an extended season in the Antioch Internship, yearlong residents have the chance to gain meaningful ministry experience, leadership development, further education, and to invest themselves in the Antioch community.

Yearlong terms begin in the fall (late August), winter (mid-January), or summer (June). We are currently accepting applications for the fall term.

It’s an opportunity to spend a year seeking God and participating in the work of His local church. It’s a chance to discover who it is He’s made you to be. And it could be a season of serving, growing, and of learning to give your life away. Here’s what some of our current year long interns have to say:

I have learned so much about Christian authenticity, leadership, and servant-minded missions. I have been challenged to trust God, serve the needs of others, and been humbled by the wealth of caring community at Antioch Church. - David Miller, Pastoral & Community Intern

The yearlong internship at Antioch is teaching me the significance of committing to the local church. To value, love and invest in the people that make up the Body of Christ — serving alongside each other as an expression of Christ in the world. - Emily Chant, Missions Intern

The yearlong internship has been an amazing growing experience that God has used to teach me more about things I thought I knew well and has given me opportunities to do things that I knew I needed to learn much more about…I am now beginning to see that I know just enough to know that I don’t know enough, and I need to be humble enough to learn and grow. - Matt Bane, Justice Kids Intern

Questions? Get in touch with Internship Staff at If you’re interested in learning more or are ready to submit an application, check out our website!

When I Grow Up I Want to be a Shepherd

Guest Post by Mark Charles

I imagine that is what my grandfather said when he was a young boy growing up near Blanco Canyon in New Mexico. I remember him telling me stories about when he used to herd sheep as a child. That is until he was ‘enrolled’ in school. At a young age my grandfather was removed from his home and sent to a boarding school. There he was forbidden from speaking Navajo, practicing Navajo traditions and culture, and even learning from his elders. He was made to pick an English name and a birthday. Everything that was ‘Navajo’ was pushed aside and replaced with what was ‘American’. He no longer was given the option of becoming a shepherd when he grew up. He was forced, at an early age, into a whole new world and this world had little value or patience for who he was or where he came from.

In an effort to give their children the best possible chance of surviving in this new world, my grandparents encouraged them in English and in their education. At the same time, they also heavily deemphasized the Navajo language and traditional way of life. As a child, I saw my grandparents nearly every day and for several years, as they grew older, I practically lived with them, sleeping at their house nearly every night. But they rarely spoke Navajo to me and only told me stories when I asked, which was not very frequent. As a result, I never considered becoming a shepherd. I never considered moving back to the Reservation. I thought I was to take the path that led deep into this ‘new world’ that lay before me. I graduated from Rehoboth Christian High School and enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). And I have to admit, upon leaving for college I had no plans of ever returning for anything more than a brief visit.

But nearly 12 years later, I moved with my family from where we were living in Denver, CO back to the Navajo Nation. Ever since I left for college and especially as I began raising a family I began to realize how important it was to understand who I was and where I came from. I wanted to understand and speak the Navajo language and to become familiar with our culture and traditional way of life. The world is becoming more and more integrated and assimilated; television, radio, the internet and the global marketplace are bringing people together in ways that were never imagined even 25 years ago. Unfortunately, as we are being drawn ‘together’ we are also being stripped of many of the things that make us different and unique; things such as language, cultural traditions and dress.

Kids on the Navajo reservation are sitting in our trailers and hogans watching TV and surfing the internet and being bombarded with the same ‘ideal’ images for body, clothing, careers and life styles as the kids in Beverly Hills, Manhattan and Miami. Our Navajo children look around and see the unemployment and depressed economy of the reservation and quickly realize that learning to herd sheep, speaking Navajo and knowing their clans will be of little value in this new global economy. So they learn the same thing my grandfather was told, that things which make us distinctive and unique are supposed to be shed and tossed aside in an effort to ‘fit in’ and succeed.

This is exactly what happened to me, and after I realized it I was incredibly grateful that I still had a chance to reverse my course and offer my children something different. So my family and I moved back to the Navajo reservation and were given an opportunity to live in a one room hogan out on a sheep camp located on a dirt road six miles off of the nearest paved road. For three years we lived there with no running water or electricity. We had a dirt floor and an outhouse about 50 yards away. Sheep, cows and horses frequently grazed right outside our door, and we lived alongside and at the mercy of the elements (wind, cold, heat, rain, snow and mud).

Since graduating from college I have been trained and began working as a computer programmer and data analyst doing technical support, database design and web programming. And while living in Denver I started doing contract work for companies remotely, outside of the Denver area. Most of the time, I would telecommute over the internet and occasionally would travel to visit my clients on site. Prior to our move back to the Navajo Nation, I tested and discovered that I could receive a digital cellular signal at our hogan. This meant I would be able to keep working for my clients; by connecting my cell phone to my laptop I could use it as a modem and get on the internet at DSL speeds (I call myself the Verizon Wireless poster child). Once I was on the internet, I could perform all of my assigned duties for the clients I was working for, or at least in 3-4 hour segments, which was the battery life of my laptop and cell phone. But I was also able to charge them in our car if a longer work session was necessary.

I found this arrangement worked out extremely well and was delighted that I could give my children the experience of growing up in a very traditional Navajo setting while still demonstrating to them that we could also actively participate in the global marketplace. I especially remember one afternoon, I was returning from herding sheep. It was the first time I took them out by myself, and it felt like a graduation of sorts. I recently had completed a computer contract, and we were beginning to wonder where my next project would come from. I had my cell phone with me and as we came up over the hill, I saw that I had received a voicemail. A previous client of mine had called to let me know they had some additional work for me and were wondering if I could begin working for them again soon. Some of the work would require travel, but much of it could be done from our hogan. I remember at that moment feeling a surge of pride, hope and purpose. What a wonderful privilege it was to be able to raise my children in such a culturally traditional and rural environment and yet still have the opportunity to work in such a technically advanced and competitive field.

About a year and a half later my family and I moved from our hogan to Fort Defiance. Our current house is still located on a dirt road, but now we do have electricity and running water. I am still doing contract work and have clients around the country that I consult for on a continual basis. My oldest son attends Dine Bi’olta, the Navajo Immersion school here in Fort Defiance. At his school, Navajo is the primary language of instruction, and he is learning daily about the culture and traditions of our people as well as math, science and reading skills. We regularly travel back to our hogan and occasionally pull him out of school so he can participate in activities with family on the sheep camp and around the community.

I see all of this as a valuable part of his education and understanding of his identity. He knows and sees that daddy works on his computer and often has meetings with people around the country and even the world. He also knows that at times I need to travel to do my work, but frequently I am able to do it from our house in Fort Defiance or even from our hogan out at the sheep camp. And this is exactly what I want him to learn. I want my son to know that he can live on our reservation, participate in a traditional way of life and spend time talking with and learning from the elders of our community while at the same time also participating, competing and succeeding in the new global marketplace.

I miss my grandparents and often wish they could have lived long enough to see the full circle I have traveled. I know my grandfather would be proud of where we live and how we are raising our children. And I think he would agree with me when I say that I am convinced that the future leaders of our Navajo people, our country and the world, will not just be those who have successfully navigated and mastered the academic and economic paths laid before them.

But they will also have a deep understanding of their own identity and a strong connection to the communities they come from. These leaders will know who they are both within, as well as separate from, the global marketplace.

They will know how to navigate through it, but will not allow it to define them. And their children will have the opportunity to say, “When I grow up I want to be a shepherd.”

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