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Family Verse

This is Sam Palencia, one of Antioch’s summer interns. Sam is an amazing artist and does custom lettering for all sorts of projects. You can check her website out here.

This is a project Sam did for our family of Colossians 1:9-12, our family verse:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 

Blessed to have such amazing Antioch interns.

Blessed to have so much artistic talent around Antioch.

Blessed to have good friends with generous hearts.

Tithing and the Pursuit of God

One of the things that has been a challenge for me in the Christian world is hypocrisy and how certain subjects get abused and end up becoming a barrier to community. For me, money is toward the top of the list.

It’s not my favorite topic to talk about but the leadership at Antioch asked me to speak on a theology of money and stewardship this week. Below is my best shot at a comprehensive treatment of tithes, firstfruits and offerings. I also tackle some common objections: “Isn’t tithing abolished with the Old Testament law?” “Shouldn’t our money go to people not pastors?” and “I prefer giving to non-profits, not church.” If you’re able to watch the below, I’d love to hear what you think. You can email me at ken (at) antiochchurch (dot) org.

Rediscovering Worship

[Partially adapted from Chapter 14 in Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things]

One of the key insights of the Protestant reformers was that worship didn’t happen only in church—it happened during the week as well, when believers worked as bakers and builders to the glory of God. And one of the enduring legacies of the Catholic and Orthodox churches is the care and craft focused on worship in church, from ritual to liturgy to the very architecture of the church itself.

Unfortunately, today many American Christians are caught between these rich traditions, not benefitting from nor being transformed by either. We can often equate worship narrowly with Sunday morning music. At times we’ve lost the scriptural depth that speaks to how we approach and worship God through our everyday actions.

Isaiah 58 is a case study in how God defines worship—and it might just change the way we understand both worship and justice. It stands as one of the few passages in Scripture that directly challenges and confounds some of the very actions we deem most righteous and good: prayer, fasting, and seeking God.

The whole of Isaiah spans the Assyrian and Babylonian exile and this particular chapter was written to the community of Jerusalem after they had returned home. The people were in the middle of an economic depression, trying to resettle themselves and rebuild their community. Families were broken, relationships were fractured, and trade wasn’t booming. The Israelites were refugees returning to their homes, unsure about their future and their ability to even survive.

We begin with God speaking to Isaiah:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them. (Isaiah 58:1-2 NIV)

Despite their seeming eagerness to come near, God wanted them to know there were serious sin issues. Yet in the verses that immediately follow, Israel spoke back to God, defending themselves against the charge of sin. In fact, Israel had a complaint about God’s seeming lack of attention regarding their fasting.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’ (Isaiah 58:3 NIV)

The Israelites were humbly praying and fasting, seeking God and trying to reestablish their relationship with Him. But God wasn’t responding, and He was about to tell them why:

Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists. (Isaiah 58:4 NIV)

The Israelites neglected each other as they prayed and fasted and asked God to deliver them from the difficult issues that came from having lived in exile. Israel was approaching worship as a way to get what they wanted: God’s attention and blessing. That relationship was shortcircuited, however, when Israel failed to reflect God’s character either to its own society or to the surrounding culture.

When we focus our worship on what we want, we’ll become nothing more than consumers.

Israel was going through the motions of worship—fasting, praying, and so on—without any foundation or motivation beyond their desires. They were seeking God daily in order to be blessed by God, yet God was asking them to worship in order to be a blessing to others.

Israel’s behavior was so distasteful to God that He railed against their broken sense of worship:

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord? (Isaiah 58:5)

Couldn’t we easily substitute our familiar, post–New Testament worship practices, like fasting, singing, worship nights, and Christian concerts, into that verse? Do we fast to manipulate God or to humble ourselves?

It’s crucial that we understand the kind of worship God desires. He told Israel in the next several verses of Isaiah 58 what sort of worship pleases Him:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-7 NIV)

God seems to be saying that the purest form of worship, the worship He finds most pleasing, is justice. If so, does that change the way we think about the word worship?

What if Sunday morning was the prelude to what the church does during the week? What if musical worship was the warm-up to the melody of our justice throughout the week? Isaiah 58 seems to be suggesting that God is more concerned about how we spend our scattered time than our gathered time.

The real impact of the church will be felt, for better or worse, where it connects to the messiness of the remaining 166 hours in the week.

God’s concern about how we spend our scattered time means we can’t enter fully into relationship with Him unless we are living justly. The next few verses of Isaiah 58 speak directly about God’s desire to restore the relationship broken by injustice:

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. (Isaiah 58:8-9 NIV)

The end of this section is particularly powerful: “He will say: Here am I.” God’s desire is so strong for us to love our neighbors and promote shalom that injustice is an insurmountable barrier to healthy relationship with Him.

As Isaiah 58 nears its conclusion, God continues to promise His people blessings that were contingent on the people’s actions.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:9-10 NIV)

God wanted the nation of Israel to “spend themselves,” to give their lives away for the hungry and the oppressed.

If pursuing justice is a necessary component of worship, does that change the way we should think about worship pastors? Anyone hiring a worship pastor expects that he or she can play a musical instrument, sing, and blend various styles of music together in a way that will please the congregation. Those are valid concerns, but are those ultimately worship concerns?

With the way Isaiah 58 defines worship, there is a sense in which everyone is a worship leader. If every Christian in the world were living with exactly the same amount of faith as you are, would God applaud? When your neighbor is looking for something better out of life, are you providing a true alternative?

Your worship is your leadership. It is your influence. It is your mission. Your worship is how people will perceive you and it is ultimately where people will follow you. Does your life inspire worship?

In many ways, Isaiah 58 boils down to this: to give our lives away is true worship. Like Israel, we are a people of exile, in desperate need of restoration. Our world is in ruins around us, but God promises that in true worship “ancient ruins” will be rebuilt and that we will “raise up” the foundations of many generations (v. 12). We find our greatest joy and fulfillment by worshipping God in right relationship, as we pursue His purposes in our broken world.

Perhaps today it is time to take the simple step of asking God what He would have us do, even as we sing in worship. Jesus says in Luke 19:40 that if we are silent about God’s glory, the very stones will cry out in praise. God doesn’t ask merely to hear our songs in worship—He asks us to hear His song that is meant to be sung among every tribe and nation, among poor and rich, among healthy and sick.

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.

Messages from Antioch Church

Below you'll find Ken's latest messages at Antioch Church in Bend, OR. Searching for a specific video? Visit Antioch's Vimeo page to find more of Ken's messages and other videos from Antioch.

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