I don’t understand… and I WANT to understand

Ferguson, MO is blowing up again. No indictment for the white cop who shot and killed a young unarmed black man.

As someone white, I can look at the evidence as it comes out and “analyze” it.

But the problem is obviously deeper. I want to acknowledge that.

I don’t understand enough. And I want to understand.

This video from Matt Chandler gives me some starting thoughts. He looks at Acts 10 as a text to discuss racism. He readily admits it is hard work. We tend to make steps toward a conversation, but our natural tendency, for ANY race, is to drift back toward what is familiar to us. This is hard work.

I’ve not done well with this, and it may very well be I’m going to goof this up all over again.

Beyond the “facts” of the case. Beyond the rioting that has resulted. There is a problem. 

I am going to try and listen today. But I want more than that. I want to dialogue with significant people I have followed and respect. There will be moments of rage I need to hear.

Efrem Smith has a great piece to help me get started. I would love a dialogue with him.

Rod Thomas at Political Jesus will be cranking it up soon, and I need to hear his raging voice as well. (I say “raging voice” with respect.)

This is hard work.

I cannot be afraid of the work.

Please help me.

Gospel definitions

I am in the first pages of Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology. He opens early on with definitions of gospel because all theology must be rooted in gospel.

He uses N.T. Wright:

The gospel is the royal announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures, has been enthroned as the true Lord of the world. When the gospel is preached, God calls people to salvation, out of sheer grace, leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.

Then his own definition:

The gospel is the announcement that God’s kingdom has come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel’s Scriptures. The gospel evokes faith, repentance, and discipleship; its accompanying effects include salvation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Defining gospel is necessary, and difficult!

The when and where of the Kingdom of God

An extension of the interview with Gary Black, Jr., over at BibleGateway included this blurb from his just released book:

What is important to understand here is that there is no “then” or “when” to the kingdom of God. This reign is a current, progressing, maturing reality, which means Jesus rules today. Jesus is the one who sits on the throne of the cosmos, and all authority, over all things, has been given to him (Matt. 25:3128:18). God is the God of all humanity (Jer. 32:27). God rules today through his Son, Jesus, the king, and he rules over everyone and everything—not just Christians or religious organizations. He is the King of Kings, the ruler of rulers (Rev. 1:5), and the dominion of his Spirit extends to every corner and crevice of the universe at this very moment—a fact even the demons appear to understand perfectly well (Mark 1:245:7James 2:19). The kingdom has come, and there is more to come. Thanks be to God.

It is my continual prayer that I live under the constant awareness that my King reigns NOW… and I need to hear his call. Now.

 

The true POWER of our discipleship in the Kingdom of God

Dallas Willard and NT Wright both ignite my soul for so much more in this life. They do it in a quiet way that doesn’t sound nearly intrusive as others I’ve heard… yet it rings true somehow.

Ortberg in his book Soul Keeping quotes Dallas as saying this:

Your eternal destiny is not cosmic retirement; it is to be part of a tremendously creative project, under unimaginably splendid leadership, on an inconceivably vast scale, with ever increasing cycles of fruitfulness and enjoyment — that is the prophetic vision which ‘eye has not seen and ear has not heard.’

I know. I had to read that several times. Now, every time I read it I begin to weep. Literally.

The Kingdom is powerful and I am so unaware.

N T Wright in Simply Jesus invited readers to reread the Book of Acts to understand “the fact that through Jesus’s followers God is establishing his kingdom and the rule of Jesus himself on earth as in heaven.”

So… why does it not look that way?

Because we don’t “get it.” 

Lord! Help us to finally GET IT!

Understanding the power of the Kingdom right here and right now

One of the things I love about NT Wright’s writing is he uses phrases that scare the living daylights out of people like me who are used to the abuse of those words. When Wright dares to move into territory that sounds a lot like the old “Kingdom Now” theology I studied in college, I get nervous.

Yet, he refuses to surrender vocabulary because someone else misused it. He wants us to understand what Jesus is proclaiming, these are the words Jesus used, so let’s try to recapture the power of what Jesus is saying, rather than get turned off by the abuse someone has heaped on those words lately.

As we discussed Wright’s book in our staff meeting yesterday, the discussion turned toward what we want to see. What can happen is beyond the “epic” language and “epic” experiences we hear about today. As we were talking, the thought occurred to us, “Think of us meeting here, full of the Spirit, talking about the Kingdom, and then someone walking in and out of this coffee shop. Think of the possibility of someone walking in sick and walking out healed… and we would never know about it this side of heaven.

Think about it.

But what do we want? Unfortunately, what we want is to know about it, take a picture of it, blast it on Facebook and hopefully get a TV appearance to talk about our “humble” walk with God. 

It’s what I want. I’m not going to lie.

What if we gave up the ego chasing? What if we gave up the selfie mentality? What if we simply wanted to be transformed in the renewing of our minds and we allowed the Spirit to radiate from us any way he chose? What IF someone walked right past us and the glory of the Lord graciously healed them and we never knew?

Think if we all held that mentality and thirsted for that kind of walk with Christ… the incredible effect that would have on a city… That we didn’t endlessly write about it or book a service at a megachurch to tell thousands of Christians about it… but we just… lived life… Kingdom life.

Think about it.

 

The paradigm of kingdom thinking

One of the more important chapters in Simply Jesus by NT Wright is on Space, Time, and Matter. It’s a mind-bender for me, which I enjoy. The contention is that Jesus wasn’t about telling people how to get to heaven. Jesus was about announcing the coming of the Kingdom HERE… NOW. Not in some “Kingdom Now” type of theology, but demonstrating the actions and words of Jesus show Space, time, and matter as WE think of them aren’t the same when the King interacts with them.

The gospels are not about “how Jesus turned out to be God.” they are about how God became king on earth as in heaven. We need to have our minds truly transformed (Rom. 12:1-2). Paul wasn’t kidding!

It’s WHY we can pray for healing and God CAN indeed answer. It’s why we can pray for nations and God CAN indeed answer. The King has come. The King IS here… pay attention.