Salt & Light – Disruptors

hqdefaultYou are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. — Matthew 5:13-16

Salt and light are disruptive. Jesus intended for His followers to be disruptive to the nations, culture, society and people He called them to. Jesus was a disruptor. When He said peace, He meant peace with God. When He said love, He meant keeping His Father’s commands. When He said life, He meant dying to the one they were living. When He said come, He meant get out on the water…leave your tax collectors table and upset your previous way of life.

When Jesus “comes in” it’s disruptive. How can absolute life, all-power and love without condition — enter a dying, sin-stained and self-absorbed world without shaking things up? This world is characterized by the desire to be accepted, celebrated and adored. But Jesus was never accepted, celebrated and adored for long. His “Triumphant Entrance” on Palm Sunday turned into His “Bloody Cross” not too long after. His teachings, healings and miraculous provision regularly led to being driven from town at the threat of beatings and death.

This place is not our home. We’re called to be disruptive, counter-culture and other worldly. If those outside of Christ’s Kingdom are finding permanent refuge and a place of constant affirmation in us, could it be we’ve lost our flavor? Could it be our light is being covered by a basket? We don’t have to try to be controversial. We are simply called to hear and follow Jesus. Our persistent and consistent fellowship and followship of Him will alter us, the way we engage others, and the way we see this world and function in it.

The constant question we must ask ourselves is, “Do I long to be a man or woman of the people? or Do I long to be a man or woman of God?” The way Jesus loved, lived and looked at things was not popular. In the end He was killed for choosing the Father’s will over the people’s will. What would today look like for you if you surrendered to being salty and bright?

For Joseph of Arimathea a wealthy business man and Pharisee, being salty and bright meant stepping out from the shadows and the flavor of the day shared by his contemporaries. He went to Pontious Pilate the Roman President of Syria and begged for the body of Jesus. Pilate commanded the body to be given to him and when Joseph received the body, he cleaned it and prepared it for burial by wrapping it in linen cloth and laying it in the tomb he’d purchased for his family (Matthew 27:58-60). This was not popular with the Romans — he would have been seen as a sympathizer. This was not popular with the Pharisees — he would have been seen as a traitor. And it likely was not even popular with the disciples — he was not considered one of them.

So why would Joseph risk his livelihood, safety and family name to do something that wouldn’t be celebrated by anyone? Because in that moment when his heart heard and responded God, he learned what it meant to be salt. He learned what it meant to be light. He learned what it meant to be disrupted and to become a disruptor to the nation, culture, society and people to which he had been called.

These calls to stand out as light and to bring a different flavor as salt are not self-contrived. They are directives from God. We live in the world but we don’t live as a product of the world. We live in a posture of readiness. We live with our proverbial necks extended and ears turned, watching and praying. We live ready to be what the King calls us to be. We live as Salt and Light — ready to be disrupted and ready to be disruptors.

perfect God. perfecting people.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Awestruck

12-black-fridayAs we come to the conclusion of the Advent season, a time when we wait and prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, my prayer is that we would be awestruck. Awestruck is to be filled with awe. Jesus left those that truly encountered Him with that one shared experience.

This season is the perfect microcosm of what happens everyday in our hearts. We have a potpourri of distractions and “noise” when our affections and amazement should be fully turned to celebrating the incarnate God’s entrance into this world and our daily lives. I’m not writing to rail on Christmas and the way its celebrated here in the West. But we would be blind if we didn’t realize that commercialism and consumerism works incessantly to hijack this season and its significance.

The plain truth is we’re all worshippers — not just those who have acknowledged Christ as their redeemer. Can any of us deny that we live each day pursuing, desiring and serving, something or someone? — in constant pursuit of peacefreedom from anxiety and a sense that everything essential is in place, purposea sense of fulfillment in and from our daily activities and praiseworthinessa sense of identity and worth. This season more than others reveals our heart condition. We were designed to look unto God as the essential object of our worship but now we look unto a plethora of gods. In a season that’s entirely about Jesus we can be distracted by everything else. And in our distraction we find ourselves pursuing things that leave us empty and wanting, rather than the One who can meet our deepest needs.

Sin and the fall of mankind in the garden turned us awestruck, unceasing worshippers from the Creator and left us pursuing an innumerable amount of little gods in creation. Harold Best, Dean Emeritus, Wheaton College defines worship — “We are a continual outpouring of all that we are, all that we do, and all that we can become reverencing, pursuing and serving a god of our choosing or the God who has chosen us.” Creator and creature were designed to be tied together in mutual love, communion and work. We were designed for free, full and constant exchange between Creator and those made in the image of the Creator. Love to the continuation of love…giving to the continuation of giving…adoration to the continuation of adoration.

Our worship does not stop and start. Our constant worship ebbs and flows, takes on different expressions, is conscious and unconscious, intense and outwardly expressive, quiet and undetected but it is continuous. When we sin worship does not stop it turns to another object. Repentance is the turning of our worship from a little god back to the only One worthy of it. We will worship the Creator, seeking Him and living in His truth or we will worship the creation seeking peace, purpose and praiseworthiness where it can’t be found.

My sincere prayer during this season and as we enter into the new year is that we would become awestruck. Jesus left those that truly encountered Him with that one shared experience. May we like the Apostle Paul declare with our hearts and lives — “everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.” (Philippians 3:8,9) Awestruck.

perfect God. perfecting people.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Straight Outta Nazareth

unknown-1

I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Nazareth many times on our glocal trips over the last five years. The largest city in the Northern District of Israel, Nazareth is a richly diverse place known as “the Arab capital of Israel.” Nazareth is also known for The Church of the Annunciation, where hundreds of colorful mosaics given by nations around the world cover the walls. Each depicts the angel Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary and/or Mary with Jesus as a baby. It’s stunning to see Jesus in the eyes of these diverse artists from around the world. China has rendered a depiction of a Chinese Jesus. Mexico’s depiction has a brown-skinned, Mexican Jesus, and the theme continues throughout the walls of the Church and into it’s courtyard, as each artist portrays Jesus in the predominant ethnicity of their home country.

While many of us envision Jesus as “one of us,” He was treated as anything but that, as He came from Heaven and during His short earthly existence. The curly haired Jesus, with the olive complexion, knew what it was like to live as an outsider. He spent the first years of His life as a refugee in Egypt as His family fled to avoid Herod’s infanticide. They returned to the tiny town of Nazareth where Jesus likely felt the cold stares reserved just for the new kid.

The people of Nazareth were primarily farmers. Nazareth would have had a population of around two to four hundred people. Nazareth itself seems to have been held in some contempt in 1st century Palestine. It was a nondescript dot on the map with not much to offer, overshadowed by nearby Sepphoris, the luxurious Greek-style capital of Herod Antipas.

Jesus was uniquely qualified to feel both the sting of being an outsider within Nazareth and the sting of being a “nobody” from Nazareth. Nathaniel gives us insight into the widely held view of Nazareth in John 1:45-46, when Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “‘We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth. Nazareth!’ exclaimed Nathanael. ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ ‘Come and see for yourself,’ Philip replied.”

Jesus knew what it felt like to be the outsider — to experience isolation as a refugee rejected by others. Jesus knew the sting of prejudice, marginalized because you were from the wrong place and with the wrong people. However, Jesus, as both God and man, also knew more than any to ever walk this earth, what it was to have inconceivable power and privilege and to willingly lay it down. He knew what it was to have power and joyfully serve the will of God with that power rather than His own desires.

Philippians 2:6-8 shows Jesus surrendering His privilege to serve the purposes of God where it reads, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

Whether we feel privileged or powerless, we have a unique calling in this world and the plans of God. In both cases, Jesus has experienced what it’s like to be “one of us”. He is the one who surrendered privilege to serve a purpose greater than His own well being. He’s also the one who was spat upon, wrongly accused and murdered by a corrupt political and judicial system. In spite of the injustice He faced individually, Jesus surrendered His divine privilege and used His lowly human form to rescue us collectively, fulfilling a debt none could pay.

Whether we see ourselves as “Straight Outta Heaven” (privilege and power) or “Straight Outta Nazareth” (lowly and powerless), we desperately need each other. Those of us Straight Outta Heaven lose our souls and the opportunity to be like Christ each time we ignore the suffering of brothers and sisters Straight Outta Nazareth, choosing instead to leverage power and privilege to serve ourselves rather than the needs of others.

Conversely, those Straight Outta Nazareth who see and rail against the power and privilege of those Straight Outta Heaven by demonizing it and justifying our hardened hearts towards those who have it, like them, risk the loss our souls.

A willing pursuit of relationship with those least like us plays an active role in “our” redemption.  As humbling as it is for those of us Straight Outta Nazareth, relationship allows the privileged and powerful to see life through our eyes and walk a mile in our shoes. This selfless pursuit is often the only opportunity those Straight Outta Heaven have to hear Christ’s call to serve the needs of others rather than protecting their position and perceived power for their own gain.
When we both humble ourselves and honor God by pursuing unity in diversity, we benefit in ways we may not have imagined, but Christ intended. We bring glory to God by showing the world what it is to be in this world, but not of it. We are here to be a City on the Hill, illuminating the image of the One who went from Straight Outta Heaven, to Nazareth, the grave, to the right hand of the Father, transcending every border to invite all into a relationship with Him.

perfect God. perfecting people.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment