Jars of Clay

No…not the band. I am talking about you. You are the Jars of Clay! You can hear about it here – Jars of Clay (Jamie speaking at Jesus is Lord Church in Bloomington, MN)

A Prayer

My church is currently immersed in the adventures of Nehemiah (we are starting a series on Nehemiah for the radio broadcast this week as well). This past Sunday evening we discussed Nehemiah’s response in chapter one when he heard about the condition of the Jewish remnant & Jerusalem. When Nehemiah found out the people were “in great trouble and disgrace” he wept, mourned, and fasted for “some days”. Then he prayed! Each one that attended Sunday evening wrote down a prayer to God as a response to Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter one. These prayers were then read out loud so everyone could join in with the prayers of their brothers and sisters. The prayer I wrote is this (Since Nicole gave up my identity Sunday anyway! – no bitterness though)…

God, I need eyes to see people the way Jesus did. I’m sickened by my complacency. I will never show true love unless I care. I want to be single-minded, whole-hearted Jesus. You ask for my life and so once again I tell you, “It is yours.” I ask for favor God. I have a vision of seeing your kingdom come to the cities. I have a vision of seeing your prayer Jesus of John 17 a reality here. I have a vision to see the global church revolutionized by their understanding of you as Father…that they can know you intimately and walk with you every moment of the day. I desire your name God to be known. Use me in that way I pray. I take comfort that you are the God of Heaven, great and awesome. I echo Paul’s words, “You are able to do more than all I ask or imagine, according to your power that is at work within us. To You, and You alone, be the glory, Amen!”

Some People You Should Meet

For our Consumed Radio Broadcasts we are currently involved in a series discussing a Christian’s responsibility for the poor, needy, and underprivileged. Throughout the Bible, no matter what time frame, situation, or genre, we always see God’s heart for taking care of the poor. Here is just a sampling:

God’s thoughts and provision for the poor in the Law

“For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it.” – Exodus 23:10-11

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.” – Leviticus 19:9-10

“If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.” – Leviticus 25:35

Proverbs

If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. – Proverbs 21:13

Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all. – Proverbs 22:2

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. – Proverbs 29:7

The disobedience of cities and people regarding taking care of the poor in the Prophets

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” – Ezekiel 16:49

You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. – Amos 5:11-12

Jesus’ words regarding the poor

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Luke 12:32-34

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – Luke 14:12-14

In the writings of Acts and the Epistles we see the early church’s concern for those in need.

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. – Acts 9:36-37

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Acts 10:4

“After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance.” – Acts 24:17-18

Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. – Romans 15:25-27

James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. – Galatians 2:9-11

You cannot go to any section of the Bible and miss the heart of God concerning the poor. It permeates all of Scripture. My prayer is that I would not be like the people of Sodom… “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” The bottom line is if I’m not doing anything to eradicate poverty in my world, I am unconcerned because I act upon the things I am concerned about.

I want to introduce you to a couple of people that are acting out their faith and making a difference in the world. I interviewed them for our last two broadcasts. Since we are a bit behind in putting our radio broadcasts on itunes, I wanted to make them available for you here. I have the links for both interviews and websites where you can gather information about what these individuals are doing. I hope their journeys either causes you to think how you can use the creativity inside of you to make a difference, join in with Dan or Donna by supporting their efforts, or both!

Enjoy…

Dan Occhiogrosso

Radio Broadcast (The interview takes place over the internet. Please excuse the quality)

Ball for Lives

Donna Imel

Radio Broadcast (The interview takes place over the internet. Please excuse the quality)

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What I learned about church by running a 1/2 marathon…

I wanted to write this post while my legs were still sore and the blisters on my feet make walking uncomfortable. It doesn’t take a genius based on the title to understand I ran in a 1/2 marathon this morning. For those of you that have known me for a while, you probably don’t really believe I went through with this. I have never enjoyed running…despised it honestly. The only time I ran in my life was during basketball & football practices with a coach screaming at me. But over the last three or four years I have come to enjoy running. Not long distances mind you, but the 2-3 mile runs. So 12 weeks ago I committed to run with Abby & Nicole and today was the day.

As I was running today, this thought crossed my mind several times — “this is what church should be like.” Let me draw some parallels.

Shared Mission

As I was standing in this crowd of 600 people at the starting line I felt like I was a part of something much bigger than myself. As I looked over the crowd, I noticed all different types of people. I developed a system to rank the seriousness of a runner based on the length of their shorts. The more upper thigh exposed, the more dedicated and veteran the runner. I, of course, had on a pair of Nike basketball mesh shorts so you know where I ranked in this system. There were men, women, young, old, lifetime runners, and first-timers like me. But there was one thing that we all had in common – our mission. This mission was to finish the race in the best time you (individually) are capable of. That honestly was it. I’m sure there was 5-6 out of the 600 that were in it to win, but most people didn’t even think about snapping the tape. They just wanted to do their personal best.

Vulnerability & Brokenness

There is nothing like being physically broken to make people vulnerable, real, and authentic. I saw a guy dehydrating and his friends helping him to a drink table. My personal favorite — I saw a woman jump into the woods about five feet from the running path and relieve herself while her husband or boyfriend stood their waiting. What if the church was like this? Not in regards to bodily functions, I prefer public restrooms. But what if people truly were able to be real, authentic, and vulnerable with their fellow brothers and sisters? No games. No personas. No fakeness. Just real. At times raw. Then the church can come around the broken, give them a drink. Take them to the healer. Restore their weary bodies.

Encouragement

This mission of doing your best caused us runners to encourage and exhort one another. Miles 4 to 7.5 was a stretch of road to the turn-around, with miles 7.5 to 11 coming back that same road. This was the only part of the course where you could pass each other. As I just crossed mile 5, a man that must have weighed 87 pounds was running the opposite way. This crazy cat was already at mile 10. But as he ran by those in my little pack, everyone began to cheer him on. It was amazing! It was like we were feeding off of this guy’s unbelievable pace. At about mile 5.5, I passed a guy coming back the other way. So he was like 4 miles ahead of me. But as we were running by each other, he looked at me and said, “Keep it up.” For some weird reason, this encouraged me. As I ran, I picked up this sense of responsibility to try my best to encourage those I passed or passed me with a smile, a “keep it up” or something. At the finish line, many of the real-deal runners were standing there, cheering on the novice like me. It was like they wanted us to finish. Maybe run another race. Join their fraternity. We were welcomed into their world.

At about mile 9 I simply hit a wall. This frustrated me because just last week I ran 11 miles and didn’t stop. But I just knew that if I didn’t walk for a minute or two, something bad was going to happen. So I walked for a little bit and then began to run again. For about the last 4 miles I must have walked a good 1/4 to a 1/3 of a mile. At mile 12 I was running behind these two girls and the one girl told her friend, “Go on and finish without me.” Her friend said, “Are you sure?” She replied, “Yes, I’ll see you at the finish.” So right before the friend took off, she turned around and said, “You aren’t going to walk are you?” “No, I won’t.” And then the friend took off running. As I ran by the friend left behind, I jokingly said, “I’ll walk for you.” About two minutes later, I was doing just that…walking. I just needed like a minute to walk so I could finish the last 3/4 of a mile. But as I took about two or three steps into my walk, I felt this hit on my back and the girl who was left behind says to me, “If I don’t walk, you don’t walk. Let’s go.” So I ran the last 3/4-mile with a complete stranger. We talked, laughed, and encouraged each other to the finish (until she decided to take off running at the last second and smoke me!). But I must say, this stranger helped me finish the last leg of the race. I had a goal of running the 1/2 in 2 hours. I finished in 2 hours and 43 seconds. If it weren’t for the push from my new friend, I wouldn’t have made it.

As I was coming up towards the finish line I first spotted Heidi in the crowd, then Dan, then Gretchen & the girls, then Amber, then Abby, and finally Garrett. “Wow”, I thought, “My church is special. They encouraged me. They share their lives with me. They are real with me. We are living missional lives together. Thank you God. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of something special.”

Communion

One Body
I found the following post from one of our board member’s blogsite so powerful, I had to put it up here. I agree with him 100%.

From The Journey

If the symbol of immersion in baptism is critical, then why would we not guard the critical symbolism of Communion, one cup and one loaf? Or have we actually establish a cultural adaptation of Communion that accurately depicts our setting. It seems that we are very much like the little individual cups in the tray. We are all sitting in the same room, and yet never touching. And the sterile little wafers I have seen in Communion services, sterile, individualized, neat, definitely not portraying the messiness of real life.
I understand the reasoning for not having the single cup, [definitely not hygienic] but then again, if we can change the symbol for pragmatic reasons in Communion, can we also do the same for baptism?
It grieves my heart to see how we have taken the most powerful symbol of the community of faith and changed it to the sterile modern very individualistic version seen in so many churches today.
And yet we wonder why there is so little true fellowship in the church. Maybe believers are simply living out the model they are seeing and experiencing every time they participate in a Communion service?