stevengworld

When Roundtables Don’t Get Results

March 15, 2017
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“Be slow to speak. Quick to listen. Slow to get angry.”

There’s something to be said about maintaining an open posture with both body and mind. To listen on most occasions means there’s a meeting of the minds coming to the table together to hash things out. Both sides come to talk and come with pre-planned responses to their objector. This is considered common.

Now make the topic of this roundtable discussion about inequality, injustices, racism, classism, or theological imperialism and you’ve got an explosive package that could level any playing field.

For a few years now I’ve began a habit of sitting down with folks who normally don’t look like me that also don’t agree with me. In some cases these people are extremely unhappy with me. Cannot understand how I can be a Christian that believes the Bible and yet points to injustices and calls for unified pushes for diversity in big and small ways. Even when I know the talk won’t go anywhere or might become toxic in a matter of minutes. I’m left with the what now question like they are most likely.

Here’s what I’ve discovered – roundtables in most cases don’t get results. I’m normally the one scratching my head trying to figure out if this talk made any impact, changed one life, or will evoke change. Sadly I’m never surprised by the amount of inaction or timidity. Lions in the convo but lames outside the building.

Be slow to anger and slow to conclusion jumping.

Part of me has to fully fall on my sword in order to trust in the Holy Spirit to work on these lives like he did with me. Other part of me has to wake up from the numbness ‘been there done that’ attitude that has been developed over time. There’s movable parts here at play. There’s noticeable but not easily admitted godly sorrow of idolatry going on. There’s unrighteous anger. There’s facts. There’s personal and preferred allegiances cloaked in the flag of the United States verbally decorated as Christianity. So many movable variables present at every roundtable.

And yet nothing seems to happen. Maybe another conversation. Perhaps some texting or social media interplay. Rarely is there action because these topics are so touchy and in your face. So although there’s no results, I vow to honor the commands of James above.

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Free Will Problem Solved

March 15, 2017
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Titles can be so gripping that it attracts different types of people to come forward to read what comes after the title in order to disagree, agree, or simply say “I figured it wasn’t gonna be worth much.” And yet here you are for whatever your reason may be. So allow me to be straight forward with this gripping title.

I believe I have solved the free will problem in this world as it’s found in the Bible. I say this because I’ve studied this subject much and have read the so-called leading minds in this debate. Often the discussion begins with philosophy, weaves in bible doctrine, and ends with a bang. For many years I’ve followed suit, and until recently, I began to question my approach.

Genesis 1 and 2 layout for us two things: what God created and for what purpose. It was that second thing that I tended to overlook. God created the sun and moon and stars to do their created functions. Do you see? God created the plants to grow, be beautiful, develop, and be food. Do you see? God created Adam and Eve to bear his image, have children, take care of the garden they inherited, and obey God. That was their function. Do you see?

Free will means freedom. Freedom to do what you were created to do. Adam and Eve had free will. Once they sinned, they lost their free will. They were no longer living in liberation. They were enslaved. Bearing children only left them enslaved. Cain and Abel actually lived out their lives being enslaved. Do you see?

All of the talk about having free will often goes undefined and detached to what God created the first humans to do. The new creation state of believers is a wrinkle that doesn’t get put into the equation, and that’s a problem too.


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Justification: A New Look

January 2, 2017
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I merely want to introduce an idea I’ve stumbled upon in the last few days that has a great present-day impact on our lives. Ironically, this idea isn’t an old one but hopefully a helpful one.

When Christians think of the doctrine of justification, often the reality of something negative happening is on the forefront of theological minds. What I mean is that justification centers around the fact that God the Father punished God the Son, Jesus, on the cross for the sins of those who would believe to the point that Jesus cries out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me” while experiencing the separation and excruciating pain.

I would like to introduce the something positive happening that has massive implications for the Christian life.

The doctrine of justification also tells of God the Son, Jesus, stepping in the place of those who would believe in order to secure justice for God the Father and redemption for those he stood in for. This is the new look on justification that isn’t highlighted nearly enough. And here’s why – it seems most Protestant churches joyously prefer to take the lowly position of forever being unworthy, unable to please God (though they have faith and the indwelling Spirit), a love for the tradition set before them by their heroes that did not highlight it, and others I’m sure.

Here are the implications of highlighting the positive: standing in the gap for others who need help achieving justice. This is where things get hairy and we’ll deal with this in the next blog, but I will say this: a justified people are also a justice people.


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When Transcultural Becomes Normalized

November 24, 2016
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In the pages of the New Testament we see starting from Acts through the epistles that Paul wrote one simple thing – a church without an identifier. We read of churches in Athens, Antioch, Berea, Corinth, Crete, Ephesus, Galatia, Jerusalem, Rome, Thessalonica and others. Re-read that last sentence please. Those areas were ultra diverse and yet the Spirit of God never inspired the writer of a inspired letter to pin any particular word that would serve as a label to the church. No identifier to tack onto the local churches.

Why?

I submit to you this truth – God cares less about the eye-catching, innovative sounding, and immovable stance than we do.

God sent Jesus to die on the cross for a particular people that would come from every tribe, tongue, language, and nation. Now depending on who you are and the limitations of your verbal comfort, you’ll be okay with the words transcultural or multicultural or multi-ethnic. But I wonder would Jesus hear those terms proudly shouted from pulpits to separate us from other redeemed groups and shake his head in disbelief. Surely he didn’t die and rise so that we’d not be unified. And I really do think these labels tend to further division than they do unity. Let’s go back to first paragraph.

All of those areas had various sized churches meeting with various styled preachers and members and gifts and music and liturgy and tradition. Jesus died for them all and prayed for them all to be one. I happen to believe the same about these 21st century churches – unity through substitution. My hopes are that one day the term transcultural meant to signify what God sent Jesus to do would become normalized. It would actually point to the gospel and not the style of church. That the body would be thought of and not someone’s preference over another’s.

The gospel of God seen in and through Jesus Christ’s actions demands the church understand the height, width, and depth of the particular people he redeemed to be a treasured possession. Oh that this becomes normalized….


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Proverbial Profundity

November 24, 2016
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On this thanksgiving day, I have recollections of past moments with family and close friends. I have the present gathering to look forward to as we eat and enjoy each other’s company. And I have the ongoing Dakota pipeline issue running through my mind that never lets me be at complete ease. All three consume me and led me to this proverb.

“To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice” (21:3).

Thanksgiving tends to consist of our menu desires to usually make it past the chopping block. Television has been so kind as to not present scheduling conflicts that force us to choose between football games. The dessert platter is arrayed with so many options it’s hard to be picky. And usually there’s space for movies, games, small talk, and napping to be had. These are all the things we, humanity, desires. And like I said we usually get what we want.

But what about what the creator of humanity desires? Does his list ever get reviewed, passed out to all, discussed, and then done? Or does such a day exclude the created from obeying the creator?

On days like today, we can (and should) list out all the things we’re thankful for as it goes with the tradition. But I beg to insert something that America and Christians in America have never made a tradition – go do righteousness and go do justice more than you go do sacrifice.

Sacrifice isn’t easy. Please don’t hear me say that is. We always all the time want things to go our way on our timing. So to give a little or not push so hard for your way is a form of sacrifice. But the Lord desires righteousness and justice more than that. Can you fathom what that could mean? Quite possibly it could mean being aware audibly and being visibly and mentally available to hear of needs and go meet them. Those needs can require both the righteousness of God and the justice of the law.

Far too hard to pin down one exact thing we could do. That’s why this proverb is profound. It’s calling for servants of God to go serve in the areas of righteousness and justice for all. I hope this is something we can learn to be thankful for as we take every opportunity to go do it.


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One Issue Voting and Christianity

November 14, 2016
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At one time in my life, I was the one issue voter. I sat under preaching that advocated that approach to the political voting season. I listened to particular preachers that suggested the Christian thing to do was to vote on one issue and only one.

Growing up in the bible belt it’s considered the single most important thing to do. Vote one issue in favor of the Republican platform. Abortion, as I was told, is and will always be the single most influential issue to believers. But then the tide began to shift both in our culture and in my life.

The New Testament gospels tell a story of Jesus caring about all different types of people. And though there was no voting system or infrastructure in Jerusalem, Jesus gravitated towards political zealots and political hustlers, namely Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector. Not only did he spend time with them, he called them to be his early disciples who would later become his apostles. Marinate on that.

Jesus never landed on or pushed or preached just one issue. I’m sure the pushback would be that Jesus only talked about repentance, but that would be wrong. He talked about the kingdom of God and heaven, money, hell, righteousness, and the mission of God. This is critical because followers of Christ shouldn’t go around pushing just one issue.

So where are we left? I’m glad you asked. That question is best answered by this popular verse in the book of Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Here’s how Christians are commanded to live and act every day, every year, every 2 years, and every 4 years. Consider others more important than yourself! With your prayers, time, patience, love, giving, money, food, and votes.

Be encouraged fam.


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Can We Say That?

October 13, 2016
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I had a sweet sister in the Lord the other day ask me if the Church is distorting the gospel by telling everybody, kids and adults, that Jesus loves them. The question kind of shook me upon hearing it initially.

I gave her a knee jerk response but felt the need to weigh in more. On one hand I do think the gospel has been watered down a bit all the way from the children’s ministry up. Then on the other hand, the gradations of biblical love aren’t taught far enough all the way from the children’s ministry up.

This got me to thinking….can we say that? I mean honestly, can we tell children that God loves them differently? Both the parents and ministry teachers?

The love that the Godhead shares is not the same kind of love God shares with the redeemed, which is the same kind of love God shares with his creation. In fact, these gradations of love aren’t even close to each other. Much like the love between a married couple isn’t the same kind of love between parents and their children, which isn’t the same kind of love between parents and grandchildren.

Now the real question for us to ponder is do we have space for this gradation in our gospel message. Can we tell people that Jesus loves them AND explain to them the differences in his love?

A better question is can we tell people that Jesus died for them….


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A Disciple to the Demographics

October 13, 2016
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Compassion boiling over best describes my emotions as I write this blog post. And for good reason. The Spirit put it there.

I am what some could call a statistic. I have an average income; am part of an average age; live in an average neighborhood; display the average characteristics of a Black man and so on. I fit into several demographics. The type of demographics that are used to identify people groups that need all sorts of help and less sympathy.

The flip side of the coin is that I am what some could call a Christian. I have through the rhetoric of evangelicals over the last 4 years realized one key thing. Christians avoid the sinners in the margins of demographics.

Folks in churches talk all the time about believing and obeying Jesus. It sounds really good. Here’s what Jesus talked about – “I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners” (Matt 9:13). Yet it seems as if the safe and righteous people are the ones Christians flock to. Leaving the sinners in the margins left to their own devices.

Let’s be honest for a second. If we are afraid to talk to demographics that don’t benefit us, then we really don’t believe and obey Jesus. Cause if we did, we’d announce to our friends that we were sent to go not to the righteous or safe or beneficial, but to the sinners in the margins of the demographics.


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Newmanity and Gospel Balance

September 3, 2016
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In the Orthodox tradition, the gospel that’s been proclaimed consist of a personal salvation and reconciliation with God. This personal relationship language has hovered over the waters of Western Christianity for 2 centuries at least. Some could argue longer and I just might agree. The logic goes like this – sinners can have a personal relationship with God because Jesus died for your sins.

It sounds great and fair and honest and biblical. But that really depends on who you’re reading and listening to. Nowadays in the orthodox protestant lineage, the starting point seems to be Martin Luther and his 95 theses. Usually that’s an okay starting point depending on the subject. But what has gone unnoticed from the traditional gospel message is the lone ranger problem in the church that either resides inside the community on Sundays or inside their homes.

Paul gives a great description of the gospel he preached in 1 Corinthians 15. But that’s not the only place he describes the gospel he was faithful to give. He tells the other side in Galatians 2, Ephesians 2:1-22, and Ephesians 3:6. These passages help to give us a gospel balance. Atonement and reconciliation make up the gospel message. Yes the Son of God died for the sins of the world and yes the Son of Man reconciled the creatures and earth to God.

This is a big change from those who call for us to always go back to the Protestant Reformation where supposedly everything that was wrong was made right. Not so. Sorry reformation friends. Many things were wrong then and remained wrong after the movement swept through Europe. In my humble estimation the biggest wrong that remained was the fact that reconciliation happened vertically and horizontally due the substitutionary atonement.

Why is this a big deal now? As long as folks are getting saved by this traditional message, why try to fix what doesn’t appear to be broken? To that I say this, sinners who became saints at an honest confession and repentance have failed to live out the biblical reality the Bible speaks to about their entire lives. I truly believe that this imbalanced gospel has led to churches dividing over age, ethnicity, and culture. But knowing that we’re all reconciled to each other makes us see other believers as insiders of the same family instead of disconnected members of some other family of God solely because they attend a different church.

It’s time for the newmanity gospel folks to act like Jesus atoned and reconciled more than just us and our preferences.


My Starting Transcultural Point

July 27, 2016
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Most times I feel like even mentioning the term “transcultural” I’ll spend so much time trying to explain the term, I’ve used up the mental capacity to be curious beyond that point. Over time I’ve had to learn this. So I’ve developed a new starting point to arouse the intellect of questioners as well as those on the outside listening in.

Anybody remember the Jewish temple setup? Now I admit this sounds awfully odd to start with one main dominant group in order to explain transculturalism, but indulge me a bit here. So, this temple was a massive structure divided off by walls. On these walls, there were signs of warning to the group able to read them. The outer section contained all the Gentiles, male and female. The next section contained Jewish women and children. The closest section to the insides contained Jewish men who were respected, educated, and religious. But the main section that mattered was the holy of Holies where the Jewish priests got to enter into.

From these divisions we find racism, classism, economic elitism, and the like. These were well-known to all in the society. Folks knew their place and didn’t seek to step outside their bounds.

Let me describe it a bit differently. Whenever discussing Whites in America, it’s automatic to speak of the rich class, middle class, lower class, redneck class, and trailer park class. From these labeled division, we find the same issues from the Jewish temple breakdown. Inheritant in both examples are what transculturalism seeks to eradicate in order to wholly erect in a more powerful, beautiful manner.

On the cross, Jesus by dying tore that temple down destroying all of its societally enforced demarcations. And ever since then, his actions have been ignored, questioned, or played down as not important. But this is where I choose to begin because it shows how in this 21st century we deal with variations of the same 1st century societal ills. However, one life-changing part gets left out the equation far too often. The Son of Man died to destroy the demarcations of man while saving the same men affected by it and the men effecting it.

Reread that last sentence until it begins to make sense.

Just maybe you’ll get insight into why I start here, and why I think you should too if you care to fight and risk for the very thing that Jesus died for.


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