It’s time toUnknown move beyond the hatred, divisiveness, labels and polarization that became the norm during the US election cycle. We were never destined to find our identity or a savior in a candidate or political party and we’re not called to find those things in our president or this current administration now. Some are still mourning, while others are continuing to defend and gloat.

We must move on and get to the work we’ve been called to.  Our work and calling is not building an empire or personal kingdom in this world by alining with a political party or worldly ideology, neither is it to condemn and curse this world and hide until Jesus returns.  We are here to be a disruptive agent, a refuge and a relevant hope.

As a disruptive agent we should be decisively and glaringly counter-culture. To be counter culture at its roots means to love and care where our culture hates and demonizes; It means running towards those who the majority says to reject; It means drawing attention to unjust laws, practices and systems that advantage some while disenfranchising others; It means giving voice and value to those who have been silenced and dehumanized; It also means confronting and speaking to power on behalf of those who lack the know how and access to do so. In doing these things we begin to look and act like a 21st century Jesus.

As a refuge and relevant hope, we’re embracing the reality we’re not here for ourselves but we are here for others.  Jesus said the greatest among us must be a servant (Matthew 23:11). We have to embrace a world-view that says, I am here at this point in time to have my gifts and passions employed by the King of Kings not a natural king.  For the entrepreneur that means moving towards social entrepreneurship where sustainable enterprise is imagined and created not simply to make money but to reach and transform lives and communities. One example is Becca Stevens and Thistle Farms, who among other things make natural bath and body products while training, employing and providing housing for a staff which is comprised of women who are former inmates, drug addicts and sex-trafficking victims.  For the executive, social-worker, dentist, medical professional, teacher, chef etc. being a refuge and relevant hope means no longer seeing our skills and professions solely and simply as a way to make money but seeing them as a way to serve others and meet needs through volunteerism and community service.

Being a disruptive agent, refuge and relevant hope means churches must be reimagined.  The Church can no longer exist simply as the place to gather a couple of times a week for the purpose of helping us get through the week.  The Church must become the missionary.  The Church can no longer be the place that exists primarily or exclusively to gather in community and celebration of Christ’s work in “us” but we must be the place where people are trained, equipped and mobilized to engage the culture and society in which they live. The Church must realize its role as the agent and ambassador existing to embrace the most vulnerable and challenge the most powerful on behalf of the King. The Church must release disciples into society rather than existing as a place to hide from society. Throughout history the church has not primarily been just a different kind of place but a different kind of people. May we realize that call and mission now more than ever.

perfect God. perfecting people.

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Fearless Love! by Michael Dixon — Perfecting Marriages

images-1“There is no fear in love, for perfect love cast out fear…But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

Keith Sanford of Baylor University surveyed over 3,500 married couples and analyzed the words couples chose to describe a past argument and the feelings and behaviors of each partner during the disagreement. What he found was that every argument, covering everything from dirty clothes on the floor to the meaning of life, came down to two fundamental concerns: (1) one person feels that he or she is being unjustly blamed or controlled because of something that has nothing to do with the argument and/or (2) one partner feels neglected, and this causes the other partner to think – “You don’t really care about me” or “You are not as invested in this marriage as I am.”

In other words, the research revealed that most fights are driven by two things: a perceived threat or a perceived neglect. In 1 John 4:18, the Apostle John narrowed it down to one thing, fear. Fear of being accused, fear of being neglected, fear of being controlled, fear of losing control, fear of losing connection — fear causes us to try to preserve our life by defending ourselves or by withdrawing from the battle entirely.

It’s been said that, “Our thoughts determine our actions, our actions create our habits, and our habits construct our destiny.” The challenge is not just to have good thoughts, but for our thoughts to move from an action which we do occasionally into a habit that we perform daily. When we habitually operate in fear, we will try to protect our own rights and preserve our lives. The focus is all on what “I” am getting out of my relationship. The greater question is, what is God getting out of our relationship? Matthew 16:25 says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” NLT We have a choice, do it our way and ultimately lose what God has for us. Or we can do it God’s way, which means dying to self, and eventually we will possess an abundant life of love!

Perfect love means mature, fully developed, complete love. The word for love here is agape love, which is unconditional love. We must “know” the agape love of Christ. To know His love means that we must experience it. In other words, we will have to operate in the love of Christ, not just talk about it. We will have to walk it out. We can not walk in love if we don’t experience difficult, frustrating, disappointing and unlovable situations.

As you express love towards those who you may feel do not deserve it, you become more like Christ, because He loved us when we did not deserve it. You become fearless…not afraid of not getting what you believe you deserve. You don’t attack others demanding your way, or withdraw because you feel neglected. No, you can press into God and release love because you are getting immense love from Christ and that’s more than enough. Give and you shall receive…pressed down and running over. The more love you release, God promises that you will reap it…if you do not quit. The love your heart longs for can only be experienced through sacrifice. Love never fails. Keep loving!

perfect God.  perfecting people.

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Why Black History Month?

This month America celebrates Black History.  African-Americans have contributed greatly to the growth and prosperity of the United States.  Unfortunately, apart from an intentional effort, Black history is often lost and overlooked.  In many of our nations public schools Black history is taught, only during Black History Month.  Even the most robust curricula often reduces the contributions of African Americans to three parts: a softened version of Slavery, a truncated version of the Civil Rights Movement and a handful of black inventors. When we observe Black History Month, we embrace the opportunity to learn about a past and a people of which we have little awareness.  This lack of awareness supports the distorted perception that the greatest contributions of Blacks in America is limited to sports and entertainment.  Black History Month presents an opportunity for followers of Jesus to follow the mandate in Romans 12:2 to renew our minds and be transformed by that renewed mentality and world-view.  A European-American dominated view of our world devalues the intrinsic worth of other cultures and inhibits the impetus to love all people as God does, with no partiality or bias. We all have blind spots and need a means to humbly seek to be as whole and God-honoring in our perspectives as possible — black History month is one such opportunity.

photoSharing and revisiting the contributions made by African-Americans to the creation of American wealth, innovation and Democracy, humanizes America, after having experienced and continuing to experience the dehumanizing effects of discrimination.  History provides a record and a counter-narrative to false theories born out of American slavery that defined African-Americans as a different species and lesser human beings.  Slavery in the American South not only said that blacks were subhuman—it also said, as a people we didn’t have a full and culturally rich past.  These widely spread and widely believed falsehoods have had, and are having effects on the collective psyche of all Americans. February is a balm of sorts, albeit one that needs to be administered for more than a month, that helps remedy this destructive social and national ill. Why is this important? Because history informs our collective memory as a nation.  History tells us what to remember and what to forget, and in turn contributes to our collective identity.

As an African American Pastor of a Christ-centered community, rapidly growing in ethnic and cultural diversity, I see this month as an opportunity to emphasize ethnic diversity as an expression of God’s glory.  By God’s grace we will one day occupy a new heaven and a new earth that puts an emphasis on the supremacy of Christ and not one ethnicity or culture (Revelation 7:9,10). As Christians we should be actively pursuing that present and coming reality in our churches and daily lives now.  No single ethnicity or culture can fully reflect the infinite beauty of God’s image. He gave us difference to help us appreciate and experience His splendor through diverse expressions.

So I challenge you to splash some color into your view of American history this month. Don’t dismiss someone or someones because they think differently or have had different experiences.  We need diverse people, speaking truth and perspective into our lives.  Only diverse views of the nation and it’s history can widen the narrow ones that keep us trapped, closed and too often divided in this country.  We need and have benefitted from each other far more than our record of history has lead us to believe.

perfect God. perfecting people.

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