I voted!

When your mission is to win at all costs…you have already lost.

Originally posted at the Do Everything In Love Community Facebook page

f you support Trump…you are my friend.
If you support Biden…you are my friend.
If you support any other candidate…you are my friend.
Whatever your political perspective, I can call you friend.
When you present your perspectives and arguments (whether I agree with them or not) with thoughtfulness and integrity, then you have won my respect and my listening ear. And in doing so our friendship grows because we can understand each other better.
But when your communications (whether we agree or not) are filled with unfair, untrue, and unkind words — shallow memes, name-calling, demonization of others, dubious “facts” and more — you are still loved, but you have probably lost some portion of my respect and your words become like white noise in the background.
And for those who claim the name of Christ as part of your identity…when you do such things you have compromised your witness, your testimony, and your opportunity for meaningful dialogue.
When your mission is to win at all costs…you have already lost.

 

Reaction from Readers

From JB — “Is racism a perspective? I’m not sure that ever wins respect or a listening ear with me. Solid post otherwise, but wondering if there are red line topics?”

          My response to JB — “That’s a good point, Jeremy. Yes, I do suppose that there are some red lines for which it would be very difficult to maintain even a sliver of respect or desire to listen — racism, human trafficking, pedophilia would be a few examples, perhaps. These are not the things I was thinking of as I was writing the post and I’m not sure I would include them in thinking on perspective. When I was thinking of political perspectives I had in mind issues for which there tends to be two or more “valid” political perspectives, thoughts, or ways of approaching certain issues. I’m going to think about this a bit more….thank you for this question and input. It’s important.”

From ASG — “I agree with every word!”

          My response to ASG — “Thanks!”

From JMB –– “Thank you for saying it so well! I have been greatly troubled watching friends who say they are Christians and then show an entirely different “face” on Facebook. It is one thing to speak up or out against things for which you do not agree or try to change social injustices. It is yet another to spread lies, gossip and hatred through memes (probably made in Russia or elsewhere) which divide us as a nation, family and our friends. I was unfriended by a believer because I called them out on it. We had been real friends for thirty years. While it hurts deeply that someone would put political posts and opinions over a friendship, after watching “The Social Dilemma” I totally get how they can be misled and confused in these crazy times and I forgive them for that. ❤

          My response to JMB — “Sorry you had to deal with that situation, but I so appreciate your forgiveness response. It’s not easy….”

 

 

 

 

I voted!

What does a Christlike approach to politics look like?

Originally posted at the Do Everything In Love Community Facebook page

What if I told you I voted for Trump? What if I told you I voted for Biden? Or, what if I told you I didn’t vote for either? Would your opinion of me change based on this information, even in light of whatever your previous opinion of me might have been?
Why?
Would you simply assume that I was “that” sort of person…or would you want to know my reasons for my choice?
It’s so easy demonize the faceless “Trumper” or the unseen Biden backer, but what about when people we love have differing views and ways of coming to political decisions? Do we have space for that? Is there room room enough for this sort of grace in our relationships?
Or are we willing to sacrifice friendships and family for the sake of political partisanship, imperfect platforms, and less-than-Christlike candidates?
What does love require of us in the political realm?
What does a Christlike approach to politics look like?
I don’t know all the answers, but I suspect it involves a great deal more grace, sacrifice, and surrender than we might realize.

Reaction from readers:

From RCH — “Excellent article. People r much more important than politics. We have friends and relatives extreme on both sides and we have learned from all of them cause we listen. No arguing involved.”

          My response to RCH — “Listening is an important skill to practice…”

From KB — “Honestly? I would silently judge you. Intentionally set that aside and then choose to be gracious towards you. I mean honestly, we question anyone who doesn’t agree with us. The question is if we can love them and be gracious anyway.”

          My response to KB — “Sure, you are right. There is certainly some internal reaction with every decision we see people make. I’m not sure there is any way to avoid that completely, or to train ourselves otherwise, except perhaps to be completely apathetic to every facet of life on earth. Like you said, though, outward behavior in response to these internal reactions is in our hands; the result on conscious, controllable decisions to act one way or another. And, perhaps we might add, the observable fruit of these conscious decisions are part of the Spirits work in our lives.”

From TKT — “Needed to read this. Thank you.”

          My response to TKT — “I needed to write it…thank YOU.”

From JMB — “I have found these times to be quite trying in some cases. While I have friends (and family) who purport to be Christians on the outside, I see another side to them in what they post on their facebook pages, particularly in memes which are rude, crude, mean and hateful. I was unfriended by someone I have known for 30 years (from our church family) because I openly opposed a meme as such, which I knew to be a false statement, and said so. It was a sad time for me that anyone would put a politician or political views, which seem to change every four years anyway, before a lifelong friendship, but it happens.

I think sometimes, they unfriend or block as a quick “shut the door” or “hang up the phone” effort to stifle anyone who speaks against their beliefs and once it is done, it’s permanent. There are, in fact, many ways to stop someone from commenting if you don’t like what they have to say. Social media has thrust us into a whole new realm of morals and values which we are still learning. I have moved on and for some in the same category, I now just scroll on by. I have found that no amount of truth can change someone else’s thinking. They have to find the truth themselves and it’s not always easy to find, because we all get caught up in the shiny, bright things of this world and the velvet words of a politician.

Thankfully, I still have some friends who openly disagree with me, but we have wonderful deep conversations of which we both learn new things about it. I guess that is what being adults, and being kind, compassionate and Christlike is all about! Thanks for your words S.E. You are always making a good point of life today! ❤ ❤ ❤

From DD — “Political choices do have ramifications. Particularly on people that are not ‘like’ you. So yes it is very important to me how my community vote in this election. In times like these, it is huge reflection to character and values. I cannot in good faith turn a blind eye to the administration while people of color suffer, people of different faiths suffer, people of different sexual orientation, or people of different economic statuses.

I get triggered with this idea that people say God is in control regardless of results. For believers, didn’t God give everyone the power of choice? Don’t your choices have ramifications? Yes, go and vote like your life depends on it, bc actually people’s lives do depend on it.
          
          My response to DD — “I agree D, the vote matters greatly and ought to undertaken with great humility and taking into deep consideration the need and situation of the greater population — not just my own little world and what is best for me. I also see how that the further we alienate ourselves from those with other perspectives (held with integrity even though we may disagree) the wider the division grows and the more the country is fractured, torn, and broken. It cannot continue…the breaking off of relationships is not the path of healing.
I have never been one to believe that God determines, or directly controls the outcomes of, things such as elections. I have never proclaimed any President to be “God’s choice.”  As you said, the choice is ours, as a nation. God moves, at least in part, through Gods people, which is why maintaining relationships is so important. Little gets accomplished when politics turn into shouting matches or when the issues remain politely unspoken. But when respectful conversations take place, when room is made for differences of opinion, then changes of thoughts and attitudes can, and will, take place.”

 

 

“Participants in the kingdom of the world trust the power of the sword to control behavior; participants of the kingdom of God trust the power of self-sacrificial love to transform hearts.
The kingdom of the world is concerned with preserving law and order by force; the kingdom of God is concerned with establishing the rule of God through love.
The kingdom of the world is characterized by judgment; the kingdom of God is characterized by outrageous, even scandalous, grace.”

Greg Boyd

How refreshing, like rain clearing the sky of the noxious smoke of raging wildfires, to see someone refuse to make fun of, throw jabs or insults at, or demean a political opponent in the midst of his time of vulnerability…. it was… what’s the word?… it was… kind.
And, likewise, I hope for a quick and speedy recovery to this man and his wife, and all around him who have also been infected.
Politics need not be filled with rottenness…
“With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”   –James 3:9-10

 

Originally posted at https://www.facebook.com/deilcommunity 

Christians should not be surprised when they are persecuted for their faith; they should be [concerned] if they are not.
This persecution should not come from a lack of Christlikeness or from a shortage of visible fruit from ones life in the Spirit, but rather from an overflow of such things in our attitudes, words, and actions.
Unfortunately, in our world today persecution due to these things is as likely to come from those within the church as from without.

 

Borrowed from a friend with a slight modification and addendum–

Originally posted at https://www.facebook.com/deilcommunity 

Two different versions of freedom

Two different versions of freedom

Originally posted at the Do Everything In Love Community Facebook page

What was said — “So let’s run the race marked out for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents, fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire…”
What is written in Hebrews 12:1b-2a — “…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…”
Hmmmm……where should I fix my eyes? On Christ or the American flag and our American heroes?
What was said “… the author and perfecter of our faith and freedom…”
What is written in Hebrews 12:2a — “…the author and perfecter of faith, who, for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hmmmmm……author and perfecter of what, exactly? I’m fairly certain the freedom being spoken of here is more “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and less enduring the cross.
What was said — “…and never forget that ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,’ that means freedom always wins…”
What is written in 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 — 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Hmmmmm….there might be two different versions of “freedom” at work here.

 

 

Part Two — Read Part One entitled “What Worship is Not”

Sending and gathering, and the choices we make in both, reflect our relationship with God, our life of worship in community, and our neighborly love and compassion.

Worship IS praise and glorification of God

God’s purpose, according to Revelation, is that people of all nations would come to love, obey, worship and glorify the living God for all of eternity…When Revelation pictures every creature in the whole of creation bringing honor and glory to God (Rev 5: 13), we see the ultimate goal of the Missio Dei in which the church is caught up.

Dean Flemming, Rediscovering the Full Mission of God:  A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing, and Telling, Kindle location 244.

Brent D. Peterson rightly notes that “God’s creation of people to become one by the Spirit as the body of Christ has one goal, one end, one purpose—doxology, the praise and glory of God” [Created to Worship, 17]The purpose of worship is  not for participants to “feel something” or even to leave with a feeling of having “been fed.”  In contrast, the kenosis (emptying, surrender) modeled by Jesus becomes our posture of worship; that we empty ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1) before God.  In worship we seek more of God and less of ourselves.

Worship IS gathering of family

Heal us and we shall be healed, help us and we shall be helped, for you are our joy…All by myself I was praying these ancient lines that were exclusively framed in terms of “we” and “us” and “our people” (as is the Lord’s Prayer, of course). A few days later I attended a large Christian worship service. There, the focus of every song was on God and me: “I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice” … “Just as I am, without one plea” … “Here I come to worship, here I come to bow down.” Hundreds of us were worshiping side by side, a sea of voices resounding together, and every one of us was pretending to be all alone.

–Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life, Kindle location 828.

The individualization of worship plays out in many ways, one of which is the songs that are sung.  The shift from hymns to praise music brought with it a shift from singing about God to singing to God.  At the same time lyrics on slides removed the musical notes from view and with it congregations that sang in parts. Last Sunday I sat in a service where at least half of the people in the room didn’t sing at all.  None of these things in an of themselves are the problem, but rather reflect “Jesus and me” form of Christian practice.

“The process of being a Christian,” writes Peterson, “must be learned in community” [Created to Worship, 28] He is right, but I would go even a bit further. One of the things I appreciate most about Asia, is the way in which church is viewed as even more than community—it is family. The sharing of the gospel, writes Dean Flemming, “leads to establishing transformed, worshiping and obedient communities of faith. It is a call to belong and behave, as well as to believe. God’s people are to live their life together “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27) [Rediscovering the Full Mission of God, Kindle location 2705.]  The community that lives life together is, in a very real way, a spiritual family. As family, when it comes to “indigenous expressions of worship and community,” writes Leonard Sweet, “participation trumps excellence: all geese are swans” [So Beautiful, Kindle location 4310.] Active participation in the family is to be valued above performance excellence.

 

Worship IS a transforming process

…this transformation is not so much about going to church every Sunday or reading our Bibles daily. It is not about saying prayers a certain way or singing the right songs. All these things can be important parts of worship if we allow them to shape us and focus us into the type of people who then go into our world and make choices that bring life and love rather than death and hatred. This is where McManus’s words ring so true. The acts we traditionally attribute to being worship prepare us for the spiritual act of making choices!

–Rob A. Fringer and Jeff K. Lane,  Theology of luck : Fate, Chaos, and Faith, Kindle location1551.

Our lives are defined by the choices we make, and the choices we make are very much determined by the kind of people we are, and the kind of people we are is very much shaped by the family or community of which we are a part. Walter Brueggemann wrote that “Sabbath is a bodily act of testimony to alternative and resistance to pervading values and the assumptions behind those values” [Sabbath as Resistance, Kindle location 394].  The choice of true worship—Sabbath—is to a choice to resist the values and assumptions that bear down on us in every other part of our lives.  Peterson writes that in worship we become more “fully human…to have one’s will and desires aligned with what God wills and desires for creation” Rediscovering the Full Mission of God, Kindle location 394].  In other words, worship transform humanity into people who reflect the image of God.

For Peterson the entirety of worship, but particularly the sacraments are divine-human events and encounters in which God heals individuals to become more fully human… gift to the church for communal worship that serves as a command and promise” [Created to Worship. 151]. The sacraments serve as symbols and reminders of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will do in the life of the Church, the Body of Christ.  Of importance is a reminder to all the Church that God has, is, and will send out his people into the world.  “God breathed in the church [and] the church is sent empowered by the Holy Spirit to be doxologically (in praise) broken and poured out before the world” [Created to Worship. 151].  Sending and gathering, and the choices we make in both, reflect our relationship with God, our life of worship in community, and our neighborly love and compassion.

Worship is at the heart of the Church, flowing directly from its identity and purpose.  It is both a responsive event, as we respond to all that God has and is doing, and a formative event, as we are shaped and formed into the people who are and will continue to carry out the Missio Dei as the Church gathered and the church scattered.

In thinking through what a theology of worship ought to look like, I do so from with varied images in my mind. There is the image of the church in which I was raised, now comprised of an increasingly aging congregation struggling with changes in society and changes in the church.  There is also the image of my current stateside home church—a large, fairly wealthy congregation with creative “worship environments” that run with clocklike precision and professionalism.  Finally, there is “J”, a young chuch planter in Asia who meets weekly with one new Muslim-background-believer (MBB) and his friend, who is not yet a believer, to read Scripture, discuss it, pray together, and encourage one another. What is worship and what should it look like?

I often tell people when I am stateside that the rapidly changing U.S. context is increasingly similar to my rapidly changing Asian context.  In fact, the principles of ministry in each setting are virtually identical, even as the way they are carried out certainly vary a good deal. As we begin to think through what a healthy theology of worship ought to look like, it seems, there are some basic principles found in all three of the above images I have shared as well as around the globe (even as a snapshot of worship in each location will certainly reveal many variations). 

Debates over what worship is and what it ought to look like often reflect any number or theological (both practical and theoretical) misunderstandings and shortcomings because the way we approach “worship” in the local church setting flow directly from our understanding of the church—its purpose, place, and identity. Three important aspects of such a poor theology of worship center around three important ideas of what worship is not.

 Worship is NOT performance and music

Why is it…that the church’s worship and liturgical life is not more Refrigerator Door and less Rembrandt? Hillsong’s Darlene Zschech is a Picasso of praise music. Matt Redman is a Rembrandt of praise music. But why does every praise song have to be a Hillsong, Integrity, or Maranatha production? Why can’t we feature creativity that looks and feels more like a refrigerator door than a copycat “classic”? Why can’t we embrace more kitsch and schtick and less slick?

—Leonard Sweet (Kindle, 4299)

There is an important difference between pursuing excellence in worship and pursuing excellence in performance.  The aging congregation mentioned above sings with gusto and enthusiasm, although the song leader had a mediocre voice at best and most of the congregants are off tune.  It’s not a great musical performance but it’s excellent worship.  The large, wealthy congregation, by contrast, enjoys concert-level-quality musical performances on a weekly basis; so good, in fact, that many enjoy the music silently rather than join in.  When J meets with his MBB friends on Tuesday morning, they sometimes don’t sing at all!

It is important to note from the beginning that worship cannot be reduced to a level of performance excellence while at the same time refusing to acknowledge the dangers of being either too concerned or too unconcerned with the actual carrying-out of the worship experience.  To go a step further, is it easy to notice that often times in the local church, the definition of “worship” often centers around music. Music is one means by which we can worship, but music is not, itself, the definition of worship. 

 Worship is NOT marketing and evangelism

…being missional is not a matter of taking overseas short-term mission trips, of having a program of missions, or of changing the style of a worship service.

Schwanz and Coleson, Kindle 374

Being missional—embracing Missio Dei and living it out in our world—is one of three core values in the Church of the Nazarene, the church in which I was raised and still call home. For many local churches in the recent past, one of the key questions asked with regard to worship planning was “What can we do to get more people in the seats?” (Or something of that sort). Getting new people in the doors of the church and providing them a “worship experience” that would keep them coming became a priority and was thought to be part of the way in which the Great Commission was being fulfilled, according to Brent Peterson in Created to Worship.  Worship, however, “becomes less than it ought to be anytime our focus shifts from love and honor for the Almighty to an event designed to attract the masses” (Peterson, 20).

The worship time and space of the local church is not the primary (or ideal) space in which the people of God ought to engage the “unreached” or “unchurched” world around them. Sure, some people may be attracted to the authentic and meaningful worship in which the church engages, but this is not the primary purpose of worship. If we plan our worship for the purpose of meaningful and authentic worship of God these things may well happen. We might even pray that such things would happen.  But if we plan our worship with the “outsider” as our primary target, we will likely miss the mark of meaningful and authentic worship of God.

 Worship is NOT outcomes-based

Worship is not about our feelings. Jesus, in his ministry, often confronted religious leaders and those who held religious authority and power.  Of primary concern, according to Robert Fringer and Jeff Lane, in Theology of Luck, was that “Israel’s religious rituals have become actions meant to appease God so God will overlook their sin…they are not actually worshiping God, because their motivation is not love or relationship but selfish gain (Fringer and Lane, 655) In short, whenever worship turns from God to me—what I want or what I get out of it—then it ceases to be worship. If I only worship when I feel good, or as a means to help myself feel good, then I have strayed far from its true meaning and purpose.