Learning From Others

 

shutterstock_84668287-2.jpgIn the past few years I have had the privilege of going back to school to finish my Masters of Divinity at Fuller Seminary.  One of the most powerful aspects of the school is its commitment to diversity in the areas of
ethnicity, gender, and nationality.  This has created such an incredible learning environment and given me the opportunity to learn from professors, other students, and textbooks that have a wide array of perspectives. It’s easy to become culturally introverted and caught up in the orbit of societal circles that are already in agreement with our own viewpoints. It’s incredibly rare to find ourselves naturally drawn to this depth of diversity; I am glad that Fuller has pushed me to think, interact, and learn by venturing into territory I wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

As an American Christian, I think we have an incredibly introverted subculture. America has become so accustomed to being a global leader that, at some point, we stopped listening to others around the globe. The same is true for American Christianity.  We positioned ourselves (at least in our own minds) as the authority and stopped listening to other expressions of Jesus followers around the world. This leaves us open to blindspots in our attempt to live out the Christian life and the likelihood that we could become unbalanced in our doctrinal emphasis.

Our Christian subculture is still coming to terms with, and may be in denial of, the reality that Christendom in America is declining [1]. All the while, the Global South is witnessing explosive increase in the number of committed Christ followers [2]. We are past due for some global interaction and ecclesiological engagement.  In order to do this, though, we must surrender our pride and sit at the feet of our brothers and sisters who are gaining missional ground throughout the rest of the world.  We must become learners and listeners of the Global South but, I suspect, we will need a little push to break us out of our comfortable orbit. May we start with a simple prayer: “Lord, give us a push.”

Notes:

  • [1] John S. Dickerson. The Great Evangelical Recession.
  • [2] Philip Jenkins. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.
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Happy Reformation Day

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It is the last few moments of the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I am considering the lasting impression of the Great Reformation and the 95 Theses presented by Martin Luther 500 years ago, it makes me wonder what kinds of reform might be necessary today. All good things need course correction from time to time and we shouldn’t act as if we are the exception to the principle.

Luther wrote, “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.” He was well aware of his own capacity to sin and feared the outcome of indulging his sins. May we be aware of our own capacity and never afraid to pray the prayer of David in Psalm 139…

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

Lord, where have we gone astray? Where are we blind? What corrections do we need to make? Search us, try us, expose us and lead us in the way everlasting.

Today’s Moravian Prayer

moravian-seal.jpg“Fill our hearts today with the knowledge that we have a purpose to fulfill, as we come to your throne asking for the confidence and the courage to complete the tasks set before us. As we close another month in this year, help us to walk in your deep love with our brothers and sisters. Bless us we pray. Amen.” May 31,  2016

One Voice

Download the song for free on NOISETRADE.

Some time ago my friend, Josh, and I were working with Crossroads Missions in New Orleans. We started talking about song writing and he told me about a chorus he had written that he used during a chapel time with the mission groups that were coming in [which is most of the chorus that is currently in the song].  I loved the focus on unity – especially in the context of the hundreds of churches, mission groups, and denominations working together during the rebuilding phase in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  My intention was to wrap some verses around the chorus and call it finished but it got shelved.  A couple years later I heard a teaching from another friend of mine about the words “hallelujah,” and “amen.” In summary, he stated that these two words were powerful because, in every language they were found across the globe, they meant the same thing: to praise God and to agree together.   I decided to do some of my own research about it and found this:

  • Hallelujah: Halal means to be clamorously foolish in praise and it combined with the name of God -Yahweh.
  • Amen: To agree, in unison, that something is truth.

This idea seemed to work well with the flow of the chorus that Josh wrote so I began to rework the song to incorporate a response with Hallelujah and Amen in the bridge and ending.  I wanted the song to be accessible lyrically and musically catchy so that it would be easy for people to sing in a short amount of time.  I began working out some lyrics for the verses that would help to explain the context of the response and serve as a connector for the chorus and bridge.  The final result became a congregational worship song that proclaims unity among believers and ends with a built-in response for any culture or language that might sing it!

Recently, a friend of mine suffered the loss of his mother.  He mentioned to me, as an encouragement, that the words “hallelujah” and “amen” are even being sung i
n heaven [Rev 19].  He was moved by the thought of his mother singing this song alongside him as we sang it in the services the week following her memorial.

It is exciting and humbling to see our new church community embrace these songs and to watch God use these them to minister to people in celebration and even in pain. I am thankful that God would use ordinary people like Josh and myself to write new songs and to inspire others to find refuge in His name.

Lord, Have Mercy.

One of the earliest prayers of the Christian faith is the “Jesus Prayer” commonly recited by the Desert Fathers:  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  It’s repeated commonly to remind us of the mercy we are constantly in need of as we live our day to day lives.  It is a prayer that I have been contemplating for a while and have found great power in as I have brought it to mind throughout my day. Lamentations 3 reminds us:

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

While researching it I came across this quick article by Fr. Richard Rohr and thought it was worth reposting.  Also, the song “Lord Have Mercy” by Brady Toops at the end has aided me in singing this prayer and keeping it my mind.  Enjoy them both and may God’s mercy be in and throughout your life every single moment of every day.

Why We Need To Say ‘Lord, Have Mercy!’

By Richard Rohr (Originally posted on Huff Post Religion Here on July 28, 2015)

Is it any accident that the official liturgy begins with Kyrie, Eleison? It is the most common Christian short prayer, which is some form of “Have mercy on me!” In time, I have come to see how important this prayer is. It is at the heart of the classic Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner,” which the Eastern monks recited nonstop whenever possible.

This is not a self-demeaning prayer, nor a self-defeating prayer, nor is it a disempowering prayer. Relying upon mercy, in fact, protects you from the arrogance and pride that wants to judge others, even in your mind. It situates you in freedom from any sense of your own sufficiency or superiority, and affirms a non-need to justify yourself, and thus keeps your heart open for others and for God. It is basically a prayer for detachment from the self, both mind and heart, and its endless games of self-validation. “Lord, have mercy” seeks validation only from God and not from any inner or outer attempts to be worthy, independently “good,” or not-in-need-of-mercy.

Note that when you do not stand under the mercy, your mind almost certainly does one or all of three things: plays the victim, accuses others, or falsely exalts itself. When you honestly ask for mercy, you make all three of these responses unnecessary and, in a way, impossible.

“Lord, have mercy” makes your identity a totally received one (Just like the persons of the Trinity), a gift of grace, and nothing that you need to protect or can claim as your own.

#EXILES

“I, for one, am happy to see the end of Christendom. I’m glad that we can no longer rely on temporal, cultural supports to reinforce our message or the validity of our presence. I suspect that the increasing marginalization of the Christian movement in the West is the very thing that will wake us up to the marvelously exciting, dangerous, and confronting message of Jesus. If we are exiles on foreign soil—post-Christendom, postmodern, postliterate, and so on—then maybe at last it’s time to start living like exiles, as a pesky, fringe-dwelling alternative to the dominant forces of our times. As the saying goes, “Way out people know the way out.”
― Michael FrostExiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture