Building bridges in a season of walls

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Jesus gave us one command before he left. It was the last thing He told us. He told us to go. Go into all the world. Go into all the world and make disciples. Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. That is a massive undertaking and it is entirely inconsistent with current cultural trends toward separation and isolation. How can you go anywhere with walls around you, and no bridges to get there? “Going” in a season of walls will take some serious bridge-building or you can’t even get there. We will have to buck the trend. What will help us do that?

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Keep the door open

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I will count Egypt and Babylon among those who know me—

    also Philistia and Tyre, and even distant Ethiopia.

    They have all become citizens of Jerusalem!

Regarding Jerusalem it will be said,

    “Everyone enjoys the rights of citizenship there.”

    And the Most High will personally bless this city.

When the Lord registers the nations, he will say,

    “They have all become citizens of Jerusalem.” Psalm 87:4-6

The quote above from the Psalms of David is one of the most surprising I’ve come across in scripture in a long time. Talk about inclusion! God is counting Egypt, Babylon, Philistia and Tyre among those who know Him? And He is going to register their citizens as citizens of Jerusalem? Imagine David being inspired by God to write this? Can’t you imagine him saying, “Are you sure, Lord? Did someone slip something into your holy water last Sabbath?” David’s been chasing and been chased by Philistines all his career as a warrior/king, and now he’s writing that the Lord is going to make them all citizens of Jerusalem? Put in the names of your most hated enemies and then count them among those who know God and it will have the same effect.

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Kung-fu sheep?

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Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be wary as snakes and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

How often do you read about Jesus in the gospels and then look at what calls itself “Christian” in our culture today and wonder where and when the disconnect happened. And even more importantly, does anybody notice it?

Jesus taught non-violence — even what I would call non-self-defense. Turn the other cheek; go the extra mile; if someone steals your shirt, give them your coat also; return good for evil; don’t exact revenge, be happy when you are mocked, persecuted and lied about, because your reward is great in heaven.

Ahem. Who, as Christians today, really believes any of this? Who is preaching it? Who is acting on it? Come on, we’re fighting for our rights, taking self-defense classes, amassing legal defense, packing pistols and telling the world “I’ve had enough and I’m not going to take anymore.” Unfortunately that’s a movie speaking, not Jesus. Jesus would say, Keep taking it because that is the way I do things. I get my will done in the world in an entirely different way than you would. I have different weapons. I use peace and love and kindness and good. An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth is not what I came to establish. I came to establish mercy and favor that is unearned. I brought something completely foreign to your natural way of doing things. I bring a new kingdom and I have a different set of rules. I follow the law of love. Still want to follow me?

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A quiet kind of revolution

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

th-3Earlier I shared, in this Catch, how almost daily I go help Marti’s fellow leader with Women of Vision care for her ailing husband. A big tennis fan, for the last two days she has been relocating herself and her husband to their second home near Indian Wells, California, so she can attend the BNP Paribas Open. It’s no small feat moving her husband, and his accompanying medical equipment which includes a couple large items necessitating renting a pickup truck. So yesterday, I drove the pickup out to the desert, and on the way back, I brought their housekeeper, Maria, back home. That drive turned out to be a real treat.

Maria is a Mexican born, naturalized U.S. citizen who has nothing to fear because of her citizenship, but she has many friends here from Mexico without papers who live every day with the fear of deportation. These people are amazingly resilient and have learned to take each day as it comes. Some of them even joke about it. They will survive.

Then the subject of religion came up, and that’s when things got very interesting and personal. When she found out I was an ordained minister, a number of questions came up as to what was right and wrong with the church. The ensuing conversation that took up the second hour of a two-hour drive was enlightening and liberating.

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Turning Grace inside out

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“Grace needs to be turned inside out so that we can see what God’s really doing in there.” That is the way Bram Floria, my guest last night on BlogTalkRadio responded to my question about what “Grace Turned Outward” looks like to him. He answered the question by picturing one of those Bulova “space watches,” where the face is transparent and you can see all the inner workings of the watch. Grace Turned Outward is the opportunity someone has of seeing what God’s grace is actually doing inside someone else. It’s the essence of the life on life we were talking about yesterday. It is why our greatest work is to simply walk alongside somebody because God’s grace is showing.

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Life on life

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Ministry – including evangelism and discipleship — is people touching people – life on life. It is not just disseminating information. You can do that with a piece of paper or a book or a website. It is faith working itself out through our lives as we learn from the Word and receive encouragement from each other. It is all our lives lived as an open book. This is really all of it, not just our ministry among other believers but our ministry in the world: life on life, each life as an open book.

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God’s Hall of Fame

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And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (Hebrews 11: 32-34)

Hebrews, chapter 11, is God’s Hall of Fame. It’s full of men and women who did awesome things with their lives, and there was one key element that got them in this prestigious list — one thing that they all shared in common — one means by which the mighty things they did were accomplished, made common by one simple phrase that is repeated over and over again in this brief account of their heroic deeds; it is the phrase: “by faith.” In fact, it would be more appropriate to call it God’s Hall of Faith rather than the Hall of Fame. Not to say these people didn’t become famous, but the things they did that made them famous were done by God; they were simply the means by which God accomplished His will in the world through them. While God did it through them, they did it by faith. Faith was their part of the equation.

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The radical grace of Jesus

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God’s grace is radical. God’s grace is so radical that it doesn’t just change the rules; it does away with the rules entirely. God’s grace creates a fundamental change in the way we relate to God. It rewrites the book on religion and the whole idea of pleasing God. The idea behind religion is to find out what God wants and try and do it to the best of our ability. Whether it’s crawling, or confessing, or obeying, or memorizing, or chanting, or meditating, or sacrificing, or flagellating oneself, none of it means anything in light of God’s grace, because God’s grace does not take into account anything from us. That’s what makes it so hard on one hand and so easy on another. Hard, because we can’t do anything to get to Him, and easy, because He has already done everything to get to us.

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