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    Elders' Blog - Entries from August 2014

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    WedWednesdayAugAugust27th2014 Jesus, Ferguson, and Kossuth
    byDon Whipple Tagged Current Events Race Suffering 2 comments Add comment

    What comes to your mind when you see a middle-aged or older man driving a scooter on a street where you are driving your car? What do you think when you see an obese person walking through the mall hooked up to a portable oxygen tank? Do you feel a bit of satisfaction when you drive by the fender bender and discover you were right (another international student learning to drive!)? What is your unspoken response to the server or cashier with tattoos, glow-in-the-dark hair coloring, lip rings, and too much cleavage?

    What have you been thinking about a young black man being shot multiple times by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri?

    Frankly, I do not understand racism; at least I don’t think I do. But I do understand judging people quickly based on a profile of values that I have chosen to embrace both through training and ignorance. The guy on the scooter is annoying and should have learned after his first DUI. The obese person is simply reaping the consequences of poor self control. The fender bender is another reminder of my personal superiority in something as eternally significant as driving. The cashier should have worked as hard as I have, and then she wouldn’t have to settle for such an obviously unsatisfying lifestyle. The young black man walking down the street? I don’t know what it was, but he must have been doing something that explains why he was shot and killed. If we simply wait for the facts to be gathered and presented, I am confident that they will somehow support my perspective and bias. We just have to wait for more information before we make any judgments. These responses I understand.

    The real conflict for the follower of Jesus in these things is that his response to people was nothing like ours. Matthews’s gospel records 3 occasions when Jesus responded to crowds of people with compassion and good works directed at their point of need (9:36; 14:14; 15:32). His response was immediate, helpful, and determined. Regarding the hungry crowd that should have been smart enough to pack a lunch but didn’t, Jesus said “I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” He could have ordered a study to determine the greatest causes of hunger, commissioned a task force to design a plan to be sure this doesn’t happen again, or some other response to get at the root of the problem. Instead he saw people who were hurting and needy, yet bearing the dignity of the image of their Creator. I think we can easily say that if Jesus walked down the street of Ferguson a few hours after the shooting he would have immediately found ways to help, serve, support, grieve with, and love people whose lives had been so severely torn apart by the tragic. He may have been the guy distributing bottles of water to the rioters and the law enforcement officers.

    So, Christ follower, answer the question. What have you been thinking about a young black man being shot multiple times by a white policeman in Ferguson?

    Two quick and somewhat counterintuitive (for the typical white upper middle class evangelical culture that we so quickly embrace) responses that God highly endorses and expects of those transformed by his gospel. First, stop judging and withholding God’s grace to others by determining to act lovingly toward anyone and everyone whom God brings into your life. That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t wait for or demand an explanation. He acted in kindness and love. Second, learn to pray like the psalmist did in Psalm 10. Ask God to teach you to allow the pain and injustice of this world to grow a heart of passion that cries out to him for righteousness and salvation of all who are oppressed by sin. I’ll come back to asking God to break someone’s arm (10:15) in another blog in the near future.

    The guy on the scooter? Slow down, move your car behind him, and smile while you lovingly protect him from the jerks lining up behind you who may not care about him like you do. And then pray that Jesus will be magnified and God’s righteous kingdom will come. When that happens, we may all have the fun of riding scooters!

    The black man in the street? The police officer whose life has changed? Grieve with them like you would if your son had died or your husband had just been involved in a horrific tragedy. Stop waiting for the facts. Stop conveniently ignoring the brokenness and needs in front of you. Do something kind. Say something truthful. Reject the profiling mentality that says you or someone has the answers. You don’t. The justice system doesn’t. The news channels don’t. You have to wonder sometimes if churches like ours and Christians like us do. Jesus provides the answer and models it in his active and non-profiling compassion. You and your good works in Jesus' name are the answer!

    I dare you to find a person of color and out of your love for Jesus ask them to help you understand your response to Ferguson.

    ThuThursdayAugAugust21st2014 5 Dangers of Technology

    [Guest post by current elder candidate Mikel Berger]

    Last week I shared 5 Opportunities for Technology that I’ve found in my life. But we need to remember that there’s not a good thing in this fallen world that can’t somehow be corrupted. So while there are many blessings that can come from technology, there are also potential dangers.

    1. Exodus 20:17 says that we shouldn't covet our neighbor’s stuff. While Facebook can allow us insight into how to love and care for our neighbors, we can also be tempted to think everyone has a life that is way better than ours. Their kids are way cuter in their first day of school pictures. Or maybe they got more likes on their Ice Bucket challenge video. There are no new sins, but be on the lookout for new areas where old sins can creep up.
    2. Speaking of Facebook. How do you define a friend? Do you really have 734 true friends like Facebook says you do? The Scriptures have a lot to say about friends and how we treat one another. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 is one example. Don’t settle for a huge number of shallow relationships at the expense of the deep kind of friendship that Christ enables.
    3. Distractions. You made it to item #3. So you are at least somewhat capable of staying focused for a few minutes. Technology gives us a constant stream of things vying for our attention, be it an email notification, a text message alert, or our calendar begging us to move onto the next thing. Don’t be so quick to move onto the next “urgent” thing that you can’t focus on the important thing that needs time to develop like extended times of prayer and Bible study.
    4. It seems that there are always three phones I’m thinking about. There’s the one I have that I tolerate. There’s the one I used to have that is junk. Then there’s the phone I love. That’s whatever one is coming out next week. The cost of always having to own the next best thing is not only dangerous for our hearts and souls but also for our bank account. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).
    5. Many celebrities are on Twitter and the constant access to their daily actions and thoughts can lead to a sort of idol worship. Even if you aren’t tempted to tweet your undying love to Justin Bieber, you're probably not exempt. For you, maybe it’s more of a “celebrity pastor” that you regard higher than your pastors, or even God. You’ll spend more time reading their latest blog post than the very words of God.

    Those have been some of the challenges I’ve faced in my life. Pray for me. I’ll pray for you too.

    WedWednesdayAugAugust13th2014 5 Opportunities for Technology
    byMikel Berger Tagged Sanctification Technology 0 comments Add comment

    [Guest post by current elder candidate Mikel Berger]

    We live in a time and place when technology has an increasing influence on our daily lives. These technologies present opportunities to benefit our understanding of who God is and how to love and care for his people and creation. The technologies can also present challenges that Christians need to think through with discernment.

    Here are just a few of the ways I’ve found modern technology to benefit my Christian life.

    1. Paul received numerous letters from his brothers and sisters in Christ and many of his letters in response are preserved in the Scriptures. Today we can keep up with many overseas missionaries by reading their blogs, receiving an email newsletter, friending them on Facebook, or video chatting with them on Skype. Learn more about Kossuth missionaries and find out how you can reach out to encourage them.
    2. Speaking of Paul’s letters, they often end with some very personal and practical requests. I’m friends with many of you on Facebook and have found it is a great way to keep up on the everyday parts of our lives so I know how to pray for you individually and specifically. It has also been awesome to see someone post that they need help with a task around their house or someone to cover a shift in the church nursery, and within minutes multiple people jump in to serve. Use Facebook to guide your prayers and serving.
    3. Many believers in the past never held a copy of the Scriptures in their hands, and if they had they would have been unable to read it. Apps and websites like YouVersion allow us to have access to the Bible in multiple different translations for free on our phones, which are always with us. We can quickly search and study God’s word in the spare moments between meetings or while waiting to pick up the kids. I also really enjoy the ESV Daily Podcast to be able to listen to the Scriptures.
    4. Electronic books on the Kindle or a Kindle app allow us to access the wisdom of pastors and other teachers. Not only are new books and commentaries available, but many older, historical works are available for free.
    5. We can use technology not only to connect to God, the Scriptures, and our brothers and sisters in Christ but also to our local community. I’ve enjoyed following the hashtag #greaterlala on Twitter to find out about what people in the Greater Lafayette area have on their minds. It’s one instance of a modern day marketplace with an open discussion of ideas similar to what Paul visited in Acts 17:17.

    Those are just a few of the ways I’ve found technologies to be a blessing from God. What other benefits have you had? Let me know. You know where to find me online.

    And check back next week when we’ll look at some potential dangers to our theology.

    ThuThursdayAugAugust7th2014 Why We Need Art
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Art Beauty 1 comments Add comment

    [Guest post by Drew Humphrey, Minister of Family & Communication and current elder candidate.]

    Have you ever tried to grab water? It’s quite difficult.

    I can still see the look on our oldest daughter’s face when, as a toddler, she would stare intently at the water coming out of the faucet in the bathtub, attempting to discover its many mysteries. Inevitably, it would only be a matter of time before she would reach her hand toward the pillar of liquid and carefully attempt to squeeze her fingers around it. To her great disappointment, it never worked. She never could grab that water and carry it around the house like I knew she wanted to. She just got wet.

    Whether we realize it or not, we spend most of our lives trying to grab water. Not literally, of course, like a toddler. Instead, we try to grab water by wrapping our hearts and minds around experiences and realities that seem constantly to elude us. Whether it’s trying to come to terms with a deep and profound sense of joy or a searing and disorienting sense of heartache—we’re always reaching, always straining our fingers, always trying to make sense of things. And most of the time, we’re about as successful as my daughter in the bathtub.

    But what if there was a way to grab the water? What if we could—if not fully, at least partially—wrap our fingers around that elusive reality and lay hold to it?

    I believe we can. I believe there’s a way. It’s called art.

    Makoto Fujimura, a renowned artist and a devout Christian, observes in an essay appearing in his book Refractions, “The power of art is to convey powerful personal experiences in distilled language and memorialize them in a cogent manner.” He goes on to say, “The Creator God has given us creativity and the arts so that we may ‘name’ experiences, just as God commissioned Adam to name the animals in the Garden.” Or, to put it in the vernacular of our present discussion: art allows us to grab water.

    Let me give you two examples.

    If you ever talk to me about movies, you’re likely to hear me rave about The Tree of Life. And while there are many reasons I like the film, the main reason by far is that I have found it to possess an uncanny ability to name an experience that is otherwise mysterious and elusive—specifically the sense of identity that comes with living life in the context of family. Tree of Life gives me a “distilled language” (to borrow Fujimura’s phrase) to wrap my mind around something I wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

    Another example is a song that I’ve been listening to, even while writing this very blog post. Take a moment to watch this, and see if you can see how this artistic expression captures the paradoxical nature of true joy:

    Here’s the amazing thing: as soon as you ask yourself the question, “Why is this so dark and gloomy?” you’ve already begun to enter the mystery. Doesn’t that song resonate with your own experience of joy? Doesn’t it communicate the biblical reality that joy in this life is often mixed with sadness? Don’t you walk away having grasped something that you likely wouldn’t have been able to grasp simply by having someone come up to you and tell you, “Joy and sorrow are not incompatible”?

    For the vast majority of Americans, art is simply a convenient source of entertainment, release, and distraction (think: television and radio). But Christians should see art as something more—as a way to “grab the water” of what it means to live in a world that is both magnificently crafted and horrifically marred. Our interaction with art should drive us to engage reality more closely, not provide us with a convenient escape. It should help us wrestle more intensely with the fallen world around us, not pull a sheet over it so we can ignore it. It should give us a way to probe the haunting depths, not leave us splashing idyllically in the shallows.

    We need art in our lives. Not in the same way that we need Jesus, or the Scriptures, or the ministry of the Spirit. But in the sense that we need food and shelter and relationships. Art helps us realize our humanity. And why wouldn’t it? After all, our humanity is crafted in the image of a supremely creative Artist who is skillfully and beautifully making all things new.

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