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Jesus and Systemic Evil: The Faith of the Centurion

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One of the most amazing stories in the Gospels occurs soon after the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 8:5-13; or the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 7:1-10. Read those accounts of this story if you haven't.

When Jesus talks to the Jews about their "enemies" he is undoubtedly referring to Rome. The Roman Empire is THE enemy in the New Testament. And everywhere they looked there were reminders of Rome, reminders of who was in charge, who called the shots, who ran the show. Israel did experience a certain level of freedom and autonomy - but only if they kept themselves in line.

But even so, Rome wanted to make sure that nobody forgot who was the boss. Their coins were imprinted with the profile of Caesar. They used these coins to pay taxes which were collected by fellow Jews who had defected to serve the cause of Rome. These taxes went to support the Roman military machine, including the occupying Roman soldiers in every town of significance.

Roman soldiers were basically the cl…

Jesus and Systemic Evil: Kingdom v. Empire

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As a Christian and a minister I try my best to base my worldview on the life and teachings of Jesus. He is the lens through which I view the world, society, religion, politics, the news, etc. So obviously I've been giving a lot of thought to how Jesus addressed some of the very issues we are facing today.

Particularly I've been thinking about the way of Jesus in response to the protests concerning police violence and systemic racism.

Yikes.

These are difficult waters to navigate, but we must brave the rough waters ahead.

IT'S NOT JUST FOR YOU
I want to begin by drawing your attention to two of Jesus' earliest sermons. His first real "sermon" was delivered in his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30). One Sabbath he got up to read from the scroll of Isaiah. He reads what we would label Isaiah 61:1-2a –
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   …

Justice and the New Covenant

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Needless to say, a lot is happening in our country right now. This past week, I shared some thoughts on current events as they relate to the New Covenant in the blood of Christ and the justice that comes with it. Communion invites us into a new reality, a new covenant, a new way of life fashioned after the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Nine Tips to Discover Your Enneagram Type

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So you want to discover your Enneagram number? Awesome. Welcome to the movement.

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as taking a test. Discovering your Enneagram type isn't like taking a Buzzfeed quiz to find out what Disney Princess you are. In fact, you will notice that taking an online questionnaire is the last thing I mention. Online quizzes should NOT be your first go-to for discovering your type.

The Enneagram, in my understanding and opinion, is different than other personality typing systems. Yes, the Myers-Briggs, or the DISC, or the Strength-Finders tests can all give you a good overview of who you are. But those tests and systems tend to be more descriptive than proscriptive. Here's what I mean. The Enneagram is not just a personality typing system. Think of it more as the art of self-discovery and transformation. It doesn't just tell you who you are, it tells you who you don't want others to know you are. It reveals the masks and defense mechanisms you&#…

Four Things Our Churches Need to Bring Into the Future

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As churches across the country and around the world wrestle with the question of opening up their in-person worship gatherings, I think we all need to take some time and ask ourselves three questions.
What are some things that we need to leave in the past?What are some things from the past that are worth bringing into the future?What are some new things we need to focus on or implement? There is value in remembering and honoring the past. There is a legacy of faithful men and women on whose shoulders we are now standing. We each can look back and think - if it weren't for this person / these people, then I wouldn't be where I am today in my journey of faith. Last time we looked at beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that we need to leave behind in the past. Today I want to think for a bit about what from the past is worth bringing into the future.

TL;DR - 1) family, 2) serious Bible study, 3) confession/forgiveness, and 4) big-T Tradition

WHEN YOU'RE HERE, YOU'RE FAMILY
Ol…

Five Things Our Churches Need to Leave Behind

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As I begin this post, I want to make one thing clear. Our churches are not re-opening. I've been guilty of using that phrase, too, but I don't think we should talk like that anymore. It belies a sense of location-based organization, like a business or school or restaurant. But as the classic AVB song reminds us, U Can't Go 2 Church - 'cause the church is you. I pray that our churches haven't closed. We've just been scattered for a bit.

So when we come back together as a body for that all-so-important one to one and a half hour worship gathering on Sunday mornings, what is that going to look like? It's going to be different for sure in the immediate future, what with social distancing, sanitation guidelines, etc. But I'm not talking about that. When the dust settles and the real threat is over, what will it look like?

I think there are things that we need to bring with us into the future. I think there are some new things that we need to implement or im…

The New Testament in Four Parts

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Have you ever read the Bible straight through? Congratulations! I hear your room in heaven will have a little more square footage.

For some people, that is your thing. I'm happy for you! I really am.

Full disclosure, I've read through the entire Bible once. And yes, I still consider myself a Christian. You see, I think there is a problem for modern readers. The Bible isn't laid out or organized in a way that makes sense to us. I understand that the Hebrew Bible is actually arranged differently from the Christian "Old Testament." It's still not in chronological order or anything.

I'm not writing today about the Hebrew Scriptures, though. I want to focus on the New Testament canon. Sometimes it can be difficult to even read through the Gospels, much less the sustained sequence of Paul's letters. Each Gospel was written for a different purpose, occasion, and audience. Each of the four was written by a different author with a slightly different agenda an…