Tag Archives: love

why black lives matter matters

hold up! don’t just skip past this and assume everything that comes next.  please.  i know you’ve heard it already too many times. but this isn’t going to go away if we don’t engage.  

 

because of the climate of our nation that is polarizing so deeply that the “other” side (which ever that may be) is immediately labeled “crazy” and people disengage from dialogue, i’ve got to start with some clarification.

WHAT I AM NOT SAYING

  1.  i am not saying that all other lives don’t matter: i am in no way shape or form advocating for violence against ANY individual or people group.  nor am i saying that other lives matter less. albeit crudely, one fellow succinctly put words to this misunderstanding by tweeting: “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean other lives don’t. Like people who say “Save The Rainforests” aren’t saying ‘F**k All Other Types of Forests’”.  the statement brings to the fore what is being ignored.  if some individuals use that phrase as a justification for violence, it doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater.  
  1. i am not saying that everything associated with black lives matter is all good: it is so important to recognize that those who use this phrase are not all associated and organized together.  the phrase can refer to the principle, the movement, and/or the organization.  if i agree to one it doesn’t mean i agree to all. for example i can use the hashtag #prayfortrump and i could mean we need to pray for our enemies, we need to pray for a presidential candidate to make wise decisions, and/or we need to pray for him to win.  if i agree to one statement it doesn’t mean i agree to all.  I agree with the principle of black lives matter but I do not agree with everything that the organization stands for.  if we are waiting for perfection we will not find it this side of heaven.    
  1. i am not saying that i speak for all black people: i am not a black person.  i won’t pretend that i experientially know what it’s like to walk in their shoes.  yet, my fellow black brothers and sisters have challenged me to speak up.  as a non-black person i am speaking to my non-black friends.  i don’t think i have to convince my black friends that their lives matter.  i am haunted by the words of mlk jr. when he shared “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

WHAT I’M HOPING WE CAN ACKNOWLEDGE

  1. unarmed black people are disproportionately killed by law enforcement.   when adjusting for most recent u.s. population, in 2015 unarmed black people were nearly 4 times as likely to be killed by police than unarmed white people.  i am not trying to villainize the police but rather to reveal the troubling response of us as americans, that there is something lurking in our hearts where this is considered permissible.  if we find ourselves thinking “well, they must have done something to deserve it”, doesn’t this reveal a prejudice within ourselves to not give the benefit of the doubt to a person because of their race?  and even if it were the case, is death the verdict deserved?  is an entire race guilty until proven innocent?  this is not even to focus on blacks being killed by other non-blacks while unarmed and doing normal non-criminal activities.  i won’t even spend time on the effects of entrenched racism (we don’t even have to go all the way back to american slavery but can look at housing policies from the 20th century) that our fellow black human beings must endure to this day.  
  1. black people are made in the image of God just as every other person is made in the image of God.   save Christ, no one person or group has the monopoly on the reflection of his image.  the body of Christ ought to reflect his image more clearly but that may not be the case these days.  each part of the body is not the same but we all need each other.  this does not mean that we are not also all broken with sin.  but this does not take away from the dignity of human life no matter how different from our own.  
  1. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors no matter who they are and no matter how much it will cost us.  Jesus not only told us this, he modeled this…to us who treated him like an enemy.  He interacted with and loved on all people – cross gender, cross culture, cross class, cross creed.  He paid the ultimate cost of his life on the cross to love us.  we have neighbors who are literally dying and in need of tangible love.  

this is why black lives matter should matter to each of us.  

 

HOW THEN CAN WE RESPOND?    L.I.V.E.S.

  • Listen: we must be quick to listen and slow to speak.  especially to those with whom we are unfamiliar, where the temptation is to dismiss without understanding.  let us give one another the benefit of the doubt that this person is not just plain crazy but has reasons coming from their experience. let us treat one another the way we would want to be treated.  
  • lnvestigate: this takes listening a step further to actually check if what is being said is true and not jump to assumptions and conclusions for which we have no evidence.
  • Validate: this is so important and what i am not seeing enough of.  i’m not saying you have to agree with everything a person is saying but we cannot invalidate a person’s experience (and especially not of a whole race) or the pain that they feel…especially if you are not of their race.  who are we to say “no, you didn’t experience that” or “no, you didn’t feel that”?  it is especially unfair for the person in a position of relative power (or associated with power) to tell the person who has experienced pain (at the hands of this power) to lay down their pain while they themselves are unapologetic of the pain inflicted.       
  • Engage: this is where we move from mere lip service to action.  james, the half brother of Jesus, reminds us that it does no good to see a person in need and say they should be filled but do nothing to meet that need.  what does this wronged brother or sister need?  maybe it is to stand up for them where they are not given a voice. maybe it is to empower and encourage them to stand. maybe it is to stand with them in a difficult situation. let us ask them and respond where God has given us the grace to be able to meet that need. where we are unable, let us grieve with them and ask God for more grace and faith to hope for better.          
  • Speak: this should be last as it is often what we are prematurely drawn to do first.  also our words have less integrity the less we have done what comes before this.  but speaking is eventually what we will need to do to confess and confirm what God has put in our hearts.  we must spread the word of God’s kingdom to the unengaged.        

 

ignoring black lives matter won’t make it go away.  our fellow human race is speaking.  we need to listen and engage.  what we can not do is ignore race and hope this all goes away.  

let us remember that in the kingdom of heaven (i hope to be there one day with you) we will be worshipping the One we were made in the image of…and every nation, people, tribe, and tongue will be there.  

how we silence the prophets today

back in the day no one wanted to hear what the prophets had to say. not much has changed to this day.

i’m not even talking about modern day prophets…i’m just talking about the same ol’ prophets’ we find in the bible.  i’m not even talking about nonbelievers not listening to the prophets…i’m talking about believers (since the prophets were talking to them anyway).  when was the last time you heard a message from the book of ezekiel, amos, or even malachi?

why don’t we want to listen to the prophets?  yeah, some of the things they say might be confusing.  but most of what they say is quite clear.  they tell us things that aren’t always soothing to our ears.  they point out the blind spots in our lives. they warn us of things to come if we continue the way we do.  they tell us the truth.  we should be suspect of people who only tell us what we want to hear and should pay attention to people who call us out on our junk.

so what are all the prophets basically saying?  Jesus summed it up when he said “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  the prophets were God’s mouthpiece that continually pointed us back to these two things (bc of our infidelity and our injustice).

growing up in the church, i heard a lot about the first commandment.  this is not at all to say that we’ve graduated from the first and greatest command to love Him with our whole being.  however, there was a marked absence of the fleshing out of the second commandment.  i learned we should be nice to our neighbors and that should be all good.  but upon a closer examination of the scriptures, “my neighbor” is not who i expected and how to love them was much more inconvenient than i realized.  my neighbors are the ones this world considers “the least” (those in need, those forgotten, those rejected).  to love them is costly.

Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish what the prophets had to say but to fulfill them.   yes, Jesus saved us by grace (or else we’d be screwed).  yes, we’re not saved BY good works, however we are saved TO DO good works.

to see if this new perspective i’ve been learning, of God’s concern for the marginalized, was not just my bias, last year i began to actually go through ALL the books of the prophets in the bible (16) to underline the passages concerning “the least of these.”

i’d like to compile and share them all here for reference, but most of all, in hopes that we will truly engage with God’s heart.  please feel free to let me know if i’m missing any (i’m sure i will).

ISAIAH

  • 1:17 = learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,  plead the widow’s cause.
  • 1:23 =Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves.  Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts.  They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them.
  • 3:14-15 = 14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15 What do you mean by crushing my people,  by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord God of hosts.
  • 10:1-3 = Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
    that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth?
  • 11:4 = but with righteousness he shall judge the poorand decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
  • 14:30 = And the firstborn of the poor will graze, and the needy lie down in safety; but I will kill your root with famine, and your remnant it will slay.
  • 14:32 = What will one answer the messengers of the nation? “The Lord has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.”
  • 16:3 =  “Give counsel;   grant justice; make your shade like night at the height of noon; shelter the outcasts do not reveal the fugitive;
  • 25:4 = For you have been a stronghold to the poora stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
  • 29:19 = The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lordand the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
  • 32:6-7 = For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lordto leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right.
  • 35:5-6 = Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
  • 41:17 = When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
  • 42:7 = to open the eyes that are blindto bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
  • 56:3, 8 = Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,  “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”The Lord Godwho gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”
  • 57:15 = For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spiritto revive the spirit of the lowlyand to revive the heart of the contrite.
  • 58:6-7 = “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
  • 58:10 = if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflictedthen shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
  • 61:1-2 = The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenheartedto proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are boundto proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
  • 66:2 = All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LordBut this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

JEREMIAH

  • 2:34-35 = 34 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless pooryou did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things 35 you say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’ Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’
  • 5:27-29 = 27 Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; 28  they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. 29 Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord,
  • 7:5-7 = “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm,then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
  • 22:3 = Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
  • 22:13, 15-16 = 13 “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages…15 Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness?  Then it was well with him. 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the Lord.
  • 34:14 = ‘At the end of seven years each of you must set free the fellow Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years; you must set him free from your service.’ But your fathers did not listen to me or incline their ears to me.
  • 49:11 = Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in me.”

LAMENTATION

  • 2:19 = “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children,
    who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”*

*why was this happening?

  • 4:13 = This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous.**

**sins of the people are seen throughout prophets.  see in particular Ezekiel 18:5-9 (for definition of a righteous person: taking care of the needy is one of the key points)

EZEKIEL

  • 16:47-49 = 47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
  • 18:5-9 (definition of someone who is righteous) = “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.
  • 18:12-13, 16-17 = 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself…16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity,takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live.
  • 22:29-30 = 29 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.
  • 34:3-4 = You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

DANIEL

  • 4:27 = Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

HOSEA

  • 12:6-9 =

    “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, he loves to oppressEphraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.” I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed feast.

  • 14:3 = Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.”

JOEL

  • 3:2-3 = I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.

AMOS

  • 2:6-7 = Thus says the Lord“For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicteda man and his father go in to the same girlso that my holy name is profaned;
  • 3:9-10 = Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria, and see the great tumults within her, and the oppressed in her midst.” 10 “They do not know how to do right,” declares the Lord, “those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”
  • 4:1 = “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’
  • 5:11-15 = 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,  for it is an evil time.

    14 Seek good, and not evil,  that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. 15 Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

OBADIAH

  • 1:3, 5-6 = The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”…If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night— how you have been destroyed— would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleaningsHow Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out!*

*gleanings were the leftover crops that God commanded his people to leave for the poor

  • 1:10-11, 15 = 10 Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. 11 On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them…15 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.

JONAH

  • 4:11 =  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”*

*In the book of Nahum the prophet you will see some of the sins for which Ninevah was judged

MICAH

  • 2:1-2 = Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.
  • 6:8 = He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindnessand to walk humbly with your God?*

*biblical justice often goes hand in hand with the needy being uplifted and the oppressor being brought low

  • 6:11-12 = 11 Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights12 Your rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.**

** wicked scales and deceitful weights assumes that someone is profiting by taking advantage of another

NAHUM

  • 2:2 = For the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob as the majesty of Israel, for plunderers have plundered them and ruined their branches.

*Ninevah as plunderers (those who get rich at the expense of the destruction of others)

  • 3:1 = Woe to the bloody city,  all full of lies and plunder— no end to the prey!

HABAKKUK

  • 2:6-8 = Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own— for how long?—  and loads himself with pledges!” Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.
  • 2:9-11 = “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! 10 You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples;  you have forfeited your life. 11 For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.

ZEPHANIAH 

  • 2:3 = Seek the Lord, all you humble of the landwho do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord.
  • 3:1 = Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city!*

*oppressing assumes the oppressed

  • 3:12 = But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowlyThey shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord,
  • 3:19 = Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcastand I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

HAGGAI

  • 1:4 = “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
  • 1:9 = You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.

ZECHARIAH

  • 7:9-12 = “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts.

MALACHI

  • 3:5 = “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

day 11: identification

Isaiah 63:8-9; Luke 2:1-20

“For he said, ‘Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.’  And he became their Savior.  In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” – Isaiah 63:8-9

“‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,’Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'” – Luke 2:11-14

out of His love, He rescued us.  He had to become our Savior.  but it cost Him so much to do so.  to love us He would have to become us…and take on all our pain.  “in all their affliction He was afflicted“…i have to really meditate on that.

one, in order to become our Savior He had to become a human…the Creator would humble himself to take on the form of His creation…in the midst of all its frailty.  second, He became a child, dependent and weak in the eyes of mankind.  third, he was born into poor conditions, in a food trough for animals, to parents in a seemingly scandalous position, as the father was not the biological father of the child.  fourth, he was born to die…a fascinating insight from fructenbaum reveals that the “swaddling cloths” was probably not the regular baby clothes of a child (otherwise why would it be noted as a sign or something unusual to distinguish this child for the shepherds to find?) but the other meaning of the word: burial clothes.  to add to the likelihood of this interpretation is that stables, with mangers for animals, in these days were actually caves…caves also used to bury people in.  burial cloths would thus be kept in caves.  so when Jesus was born he was wrapped in death…literally and figuratively.  in order to save us jesus would be wrapped in burial cloths and buried in a cave after his death.  He would be laid low so we could be “lifted up“.  what affliction of the human experience did he not know or experience at some level?  then there is a very common misreading of the angels’ announcement…it does not say “peace on earth”, it says “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”  He gives peace not to a land but He gives peace to people.  to think he is pleased with any of us is amazing.  yet He places his favor on us because He offered us this peace even though it meant He would be “afflicted” and knowing that “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” (isaiah 53:5c)

how much must He love us that He humiliated Himself so much to do so?  how can we bring our afflictions to Him, remembering that He has experienced afflictions personally?

thank you Lord that you loved us enough to identify with us

day 10: unshakeable love

Psalm 106:1-12; Luke 1:70-75

“Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!…Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.  Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.  He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and he led them through the deep as through a desert.  So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.” – Psalm 106: 3, 7-10

“as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” – Luke 1:70-75

His love is indeed long suffering and steadfast.  He continues to put up with us…that should be proof enough.  even with all the signs and wonders (10 plagues in egypt) we forget all about Him and complain when we hit a wall (in egypt at the red sea)…even when He gets us through the walls and silences the antagonizers (walking through the red sea)…even when He’s gotten us where we need to be (israel)…even after He’s taken us back again and again (return from exile)…even when He has given His own life to save us (Jesus)…we forget how He loves us.  how dare we say He doesn’t love us.  good thing He’s not like us.  good thing He’s God.  He’s got a reputation to uphold.

how has He gotten you through time and again?  how has He taken you back time and time again?  how has He shown Himself to you?

thank you Lord for your unshakeable love

day 8: coming back

Jeremiah 31:15-34; Matthew 2:16-23

“Thus says the LORD:A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’ Thus says the LORD:’Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country….not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” – Jeremiah 31:15-17, 32-34

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’ But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. – Mathew 2:16-21

jeremiah gave a prophesy that there would be a time of mourning for the people of israel. in jeremiah’s time God would bring his judgment on his unfaithful people by exiling them out of israel to a foreign land for a period of time. yet, there would also come a time when the people would not only return to their homeland of israel but that God himself would unite his heart to his people. hundreds of years before jeremiah, God delivered his people from slavery in egypt to a new home in a land called israel. hundreds of years after jeremiah, as prophesied through him, God would deliver his people from spiritual slavery to a heavenly home. The first time children of israel came up out of egypt the people were given a covenant that they would have to obey to receive the blessings of God. This second time a child, The Child, of israel came up out of egypt the people were given a covenant that God himself carried out for us so that we would receive the blessings of God. the second deliverance was even greater than the first. He would bring us home by making His home in us. His love has put His word into our hearts so that we would really know Him. His love has done the work, the work we failed to do. His love has forgiven us. His love is steadfast.

is there anything we need to mourn over in our lives? how can we meditate on His promises and trust that He has and He will do in us a greater work that what we can not do?

thank you Lord that you bring us back…back to you.

8 lessons from 8 years of teaching in the inner city

in no particular order:

1.  love isn’t just being nice, its being firm  

i’m not one to rock the boat or make people uncomfortable because I don’t like it much myself…but it took being a teacher in the inner city to teach me that love that is deep must discipline.  to love must move beyond wanting the others temporary comfort towards genuinely wanting their long term best.  students i’ve talked to have shared with me that they may have fun with a person that doesn’t discipline but, students actually respect a person who brings order and holds them accountable to a higher standard.

2.  don’t raise your voice…it only makes others raise theirs

it was so shocking for me to see how a class / a student would mirror my own attitude…no matter how much i tried to mask it.  its uncanny, more often than not, if i was happy they’d be happy, if i was frustrated they’d be frustrated, if i yelled they would yell. i learned not to teach “over” my class…if they weren’t listening, becoming silent was much more effective in getting their attention then me fretting for it.  likewise, it was hard not to take things personally when my students came at me with an angry attitude…there was often something unrelated to me that had happened to them in their lives or even earlier in the same day.  i needed to give them the same benefit of the doubt that i would want them to give to me on an off day/period.

3. respect can’t be assumed by position, it must be earned by relationship

I was raised to respect people in positions of authority regardless of whether I liked them or not.  This is not the case with everyone.  Some may have been raised with that value too but have changed by having been burned in life, especially by those in positions of authority that have abused their trust.  With this in mind, I have learned that an important part of my work, if not more important than the work itself, is to work on building up relationships…to keep my eye out for opportunities to acknowledge, encourage, and praise no matter how small the step.  Otherwise they will continue to think I am against them…and so would I.  A single kind word or gesture went so much further than my multiple commands.

4.  sharing a little about your private life can have surprisingly good results

so one day in this crazy period of mine the topic of sex came up.  Naturally, (haha) the kids asked about my sex life.  I told them I was a virgin and was planning on remaining so until I married my wife.  The class erupted in screaming like I had dropped my pants or a bomb in class.  After that my students gave me the most focused and diligent amount of independent work I had ever had from them.  I was so puzzled and still haven’t quite figured this out.  Ok, aside from the fact that my position was so unbelievable (and hilarious) to them, I think they, oddly enough, felt closer to me for some reason…through this awkward revelation.  I’m not saying that people should go telling everyone their “bizness” but I really saw this paradoxical principle that being vulnerable, even for a moment, can disarm others.

5.  its not about the money, its about how the money is managed

I observed quickly that lack of money wasn’t the main problem in the inner city school…in fact i was surprised by how much there actually was (well before the u.s. budget crisis anyway).  i was appalled with how that money was used.  there were a lot of back dealings with senior faculty and staff, HUGE amounts of money laid down for whole sets of books and supplies that we didn’t need nor were discussed with staff.   for example, one weekend the admin decided to buy new student tables and chairs for the WHOLE school (several tens of thousands of dollars), without so much as a consultation or warning to staff.  we just arrived on monday and all the student desks were changed…with desks that were worse than the ones we had before!  they were so awkwardly shaped they couldn’t be used for group work or hold student materials.  as co-department chair we would order the books we needed….months would pass until our students needed their books and we still had nothing.  we’d go to the billings person and they would be like “what order?”  then they would fish through all their papers and find our order form at the bottom of some random stack…while everything for her drill team was ordered right on time.  this was typical before the charter conversion.  good stewardship is so rare.

6.  neglect breeds more neglect

when you work so hard for such a long time at something it is so discouraging to see no change…the same chaos repeated over and over again.  everyday the painters would come to clean up the graffiti…and everyday more graffiti would go up.   new teachers would come in full of passion and leave worn out.   some students would come to class, hundreds of students would ditch class.  it often made us feel like just giving up…like “no matter what we try it doesn’t seem to change anything…so whats the use?”   but one must not give in to the despair they see around them…it makes mediocrity the standard and inhumanity the norm.  the broken window theory really does happen, even amongst professionals…its contagious.   fortunately, the reverse is also true…if you are rooted in a hope deeper than your circumstances, then your faithfulness with the little things now will be unshaken leading to greater fruit in the future.

7.  it takes a village to raise a child

sure one might make an impact as an individual teacher, but what I may have instilled in them might all be undone in the next period that they go to.  or outside the class.  or on the streets.  or at home.  however, through the privilege of experiencing a school conversion with an amazing charter school team, I have learned that when a whole staff (and whatever family members we can get involved) can be on the same page and have a united front, it begins to actually change a sub-culture.   Thanks to Animo Locke II Charter High School for showing me a glimpse of the possibilities when caring and committed people come together.

8. God is the only one who can be with you always in the classroom (and beyond)

that first year of teaching, was truly like walking though “the valley of the shadow of death”.  not only was the pace of work like nothing i had experienced in my life up to that point, the students would fight me to my face – cursing, pushing, standing on top of desks.  the guy who would oversleep for his 11am classes was now up at 5am in the morning with no alarm in a cold sweat and overwhelmed with fear…i would have to face those students…again.  I got my first grey hair, i was losing weight. my friends and family would listen to me kindly, but I’d have to return to my classroom…alone…to a class full of volatile students.  this made me so desperate for God.  who else, would not only know completely what was happening, but be with me any time?  who else could give me the inspiration and motivation to keep on?  Who else could give me peace?  Even after several years of teaching, when a student blatantly disrespects me and bites the hand that is feeding them, God is the only one who could enable me to respond with kindness.  it is only natural to respond to negativity with negativity, it is supernatural to respond with love.  I have only found the source of such crazy love with God.

rev. 2:12-17 -> to have one love

12“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. 14Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

****

WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE TELL US ABOUT JESUS?

v. 12 “him who has the sharp double edged sword”

the sword represents judgment in the Old Testament. if you consider Hebrews 4:12-13 specifically, the double edged sword is the word of God (that makes sense as earlier in revelations a sword is pictured as coming out of Jesus’ mouth) that can judge heart.  Either way its related to judgment, which Jesus has the authority, right, and power to administer.

*we like to think of the bible in the words it gives us of comfort but we must not forget that the words of the bible also serve to judge.  God made us so He of all people, has the right to judge us.  We (I) need to let His word do the work of examining and cutting our hearts, and not be so casual or flippant about it. I got to really hear it and let it sink deep in me or there will be hell to pay.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

WHAT IS GOING RIGHT WITH THIS CHURCH?

In the midst of a very worldly city, the church in Pergamum (which interestingly means “thoroughly married”) still holds on to Christ. They still go to church.  They have not denied him even in the face of persecution and danger.

*its crazy that Jesus says that this church is in the city where he says Satan’s throne is.  that satan feels at home in this city.  its where he rules.  imagine that: the city where you live is where satan lives.  to hold onto ones faith in such a place is hard but good.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

WHAT IS GOING WRONG WITH THIS CHURCH?  WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

The church may be true to Christ, but there are people that hold on to false teachings and evil practices.  As a whole they may hold to Christ but are trying to hold on to other things too that are not of him. they are mixing.  they have other loves and lovers.

* its interesting and scary to me that Satan has his “throne” in a place that is not completely pagan.  it’s a city where he also has crept into the church.  his influence is everywhere, and even undetected where he most should be.  Has Satan’s influence crept into our churches, our lives without us being aware of it?


Both sins Jesus addresses (food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality) are sins of mixing and have to do with not being solely faithful to God.  holding onto him and another is actually not really holding onto him (we cant wholeheartedly serve two masters).

–       Eating food sacrificed to idols – although Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 essentially doesn’t have a problem with it per se, this seems to be a people who still somehow associated it with worship of other things.  So they were in essence participating in pagan worship of false gods.

–       Sexual immorality – the greek word for this word is porneo.  the more equivalent word for it in our English language is fornication which means any sex outside the covenant of marriage.  this covers a whole host of sexual behaviors, not just what society considers “deviant” sexual behavior.  it means having sex with anyone / anything you are not married to.  So this would cover pre-marital sex too.  people do it all the time in this day and age and Christians are not exempt.  in this area for sure the church isn’t blameless.  this sexual immorality could be physical unfaithfulness as well as spiritual unfaithfulness (especially from the context of worship of idols, giving our love to other things)

*physical unfaithfulness – by the grace of God I haven’t physically been unfaithful.  However, that doesn’t mean im off the hook.  Jesus says just looking at anyone lustfully, that im not married to, is the same as unfaithfulness…its in the heart. im guilty. to be honest, i struggle with this more than I’d like to admit.  more than even my slothfulness, this is what i hate most about myself.  i adore my wife, but sometimes my eyes and mind wander.  why is faithfulness so hard for me?   for guys?  for humankind?  the divorce rates loom over our heads, like a fearful echo of a deeper flaw.  i’ve told my wife my problem.  it hurts her.  obviously.  when i see my wife shed these tears it feels like my chest is caving in.  she’s my best human friend and my lover.  but even more than that, it hurts God (see Hosea).  i expect and take for granted that God is faithful to me.  why do I forget this so quickly?  why do I not value faithfulness like Joseph, who loved God so deeply and recognized his goodness so profoundly that it was unthinkable for him to go against God?  i have a problem and i want to change.  one thing i know for sure is that i can’t just make my desires go away; i must fill my heart with a greater person on which to pour my desires…God…the greatest, highest, worthiest that I could give my heart to and indeed the source of all beauty.  God fill my heart up with you, so much that I would want nothing else but you and what you give.

*spiritual unfaithfulness – In what ways am I mixing up my faith? I may say I am Christian but in what ways am I compromising my faith and what He treasures by participating in the impure ways of the world?  Now we know he wants us in the world but what does it mean to not be of it?  as we live in a secular society under a secular government we ought to be good citizens (as God expects us to submit to the governing powers he has put in place to the extent that they do not contradict His law, as well as examples like in Jeremiah 29 where believers live in a pagan society God directs them to seek the shalom (peace) and prosperity of the city).  This does not mean however that we participate in everything.  So what activities/practices/teachings of the world should we abstain from then?  from what the world adores instead of God.  or more specifically, from what draws our hearts away from adoring loving Him. why is that i can get more excited about a movie then spending time with him?  why is that people at church are totally down to hang out and talk but once it’s a prayer meeting people split like the plague has come?  are we more about what the world values or about what he values?  Do I love him most?  What else may I, and as church, be giving my (our) hearts too?

ANY CHARACTER HERE

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THINGS DON’T CHANGE?

He will come to us in judgement.  We ought to cut off whatever is drawing us away from him, or he will cut it off…or worse we will have been cut off without knowing it.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

WHAT WILL HAPPEN FOR THOSE WHO DO CHANGE?

(All of the following interpretations have been found in Fruchtenbaums commentary)

they will recieve:

Hidden manna can mean

–       messianic reference (keener), true spiritual sustenance without labor

–       Christ himself, the true bread from heaven

The White stone can mean

–       symbol of acquittal, not guilty in ancient courtrooms (keener)

–       membership into a private place in the roman world (mcarthur)

the New name can mean

–       promise

–       transformed identity

those who are truly faithful to him will receive all the special benefits of intimacy with Him, the one they have loved most.