#‎AltonSterling‬ ‪#‎PhilandoCastile‬ ‪#‎Dallas‬

Some of my thoughts on the recent violence...

I cannot even begin to know what solidarity means with the African American community when simply getting into your car to go somewhere could mean death because you're only Driving While Black/DWB. We need to do better in this nation for Black lives. I cannot imagine having to tell my sons or daughter that simply because you are not white you will be treated very differently by some in law enforcement. That part of basic drivers ed is about handling police (because they are a totally unknown quantity with any encounter or stop) beyond basic respect. That sudden moves or even no moves may be your last day on the planet. That others would be considered more valuable, even in their criminal activity, than you would, even if you've done nothing wrong. That we still think the militarization of government agencies is a good thing for any lives is amazing to me.

I've been a partner in helping plant two immigrant churches of people from Africa and South America. My past two congregations had a certain level of diversity. As a child of God I believe the church must be the new neighborhood. I believe in tearing down walls between people. Its a part of being the new people of God that is such an emphasis in NT. We are holy bubble-poppers! Not shills for our state nor ethnic tribe. We can appreciate the state and tribes but they must be subverted to second place. Particularly for those who have used power to prop up their tribe through the state's weapons and policies in the past and present.

If you do not know the way of peace you will believe the lie that killing will somehow balance things out. You cannot kill your way to peace. Every death creates seeds for future violence. Jesus life and teachings show us how to break the cycle. Church its time to stop playing and propping up the violent ideologies of the world. Pray, fast, get uncomfortable and start engaging your neighbor as Jesus. Give your life for others, in that, Jesus said you will find life. ‪

#‎AltonSterling‬ ‪#‎PhilandoCastile‬ ‪#‎Dallas‬

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Sex and the Body

Embracing not only God's love for all he has created, but at the most immediate level, also the universality of sin is how we learn to love one another outrageously.

The denial of the universality of sin impact on our bodies and sexuality is the fundamental issue that fundamentalist-conservatives deny and the GLBTQ Christian thinkers deny.

One, because they can claim extreme holiness (complete) in traditional marriage, the other because they are either reacting against number one; or are, two, claiming the same fundamentalist-conservative extreme holiness for all covenant-couplings.

Both reject crucial scriptural revelations about the work of sin in our bodies (and this include the arrogance in Western reasoning), which is not fully redeemed UNTIL the universal resurrection. In other words they are the "word-faith" "name-it! claim-it!" about our bodies as regards sex. Same coin, different sides. This is also true and enabled by a blind cultural uptaking regarding identity categories of CIS, LGBTQ, etc. into their theological arguments. Same coin, different sides.

If a true third-way is possible it will be rooted in the affirmation of our "not yet" state in regard to the body and sex as fallen and not fully (at best partly being redeemed) redeemed until "the life of the world to come." Jesus makes this abundantly clear in his response to the Leverite Marriage question, "they will be like angels...no marriage" in heaven.

The universality of sin also must inform the structures and posturing around the false-holiness of the right and left. All we're doing in American culture is switching which team we cheer and punish. That is not true justice, nor does it make for reconciliation. The "owning" of universal brokenness and sin is a real work that we have all been avoiding through identity-language games.

Now this does not solve what do you do then as a church regarding people not experiencing, nor choosing a behavior that aligns with the classic/traditional applications. But it should at the very least turn down the heat and show a theological-practical new direction.

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Initial Reaction Reactions to Orlando

My first reactions are grief for/with those who have lost loved ones, and anger when lives are cut short and a prayer to God "come quickly Lord Jesus!" This world is a warzone because of human and spiritual freedom misused. A spiritual and physical warzone. Believers are to fight - but not with weapons as the New Testament makes explicit. Rather love, truth and grace, prayer and worship.

I am disheartened by:

(1)Those who jump on their left/right political bandwagons about solving evil that is in every human heart.

E.g. ban guns or

ban all Muslims or

make saints out of people - who are image bearers BUT saints-in-process at best or

demonize people, or

Hilary/Trump/Johnson is right! or

love is a simply a "feeling", etc. etc.

(2)All the trotted out false equivalency (AKA: equivocation) arguments against Christians. These are old. "Well this could have just as well have been a Christian!" Except you will not find in the teachings of Jesus (who is the fulfillment of all the OT in Christian teaching) a call to kill ANYONE! PERIOD. FULL STOP. Even in Hebrew Bible there is a progression by the time you get to the prophets where the old law/Torah is being altered significantly (don't have time to unpack that).

(3)Then there are those who denounce calls to pray. Prayer is one variable of many that influences our world. To deny the power of processing through prayer, let alone any spiritual realities behind evil and violence is claiming far more than anyone actually knows. If there had been more prayer and less "rash acting" the hate level on all sides would be lowered and perhaps 49 people would alive today.

So what does one do? Avoid answers that demonize another segment of society for starters. Name (pray and talk it through with others if need be) your anger blinding you to violence in your heart no matter how justified you think it is.

Love outrageously.

Look past categories of spiritual, religious, atheist(lot's of real state violence here too). Reject the ancient ethnic categories and modern reductionist of categories of orientation - both are tools of division and creating false identities that rob us of humanity (ironically claiming to give us more of our "humanity" back through division).

Love outrageously.

Give your life FOR life, not an ideology. The ideology battles are not worth it, they always make someones life just a little less human.

Society is changed by real relationships and tearing down walls. The ideology mongers in our media and political establishment need wall-builders to flourish. Jesus calls believers to tear down walls - not erect new ones with our ideologies and cheap-trick "solutions".

BTW this article I found quite good: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/owen.jones.right.about.homophobia.wrong.about.religion/88237.htm

And this from Nabeel Qureshi

"As an ex-Muslim who loves America and my Muslim family, my heart is hurting beyond expression. Today we witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history: 50 tragically killed in an ‪#‎Orlando‬ gay bar. The authorities announced the details just a few minutes ago: it was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a devout American-born Muslim who had pledged his allegiance to ISIL. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/florida-gay-nightclub-shootin…/) Mateen's father has said the shooting had "nothing to do with religion," and that his son may have committed this crime because he saw "two men kissing in Downtown Miami a couple months ago." But no one goes on a killing rampage for seeing two men kiss. Clearly there's more to this that his father doesn't see. I do not blame him, though. His son has just died, and he's not in a state to think clearly. We ought to be praying for him. None of us can think entirely objectively, especially on the heels of a terrorist attack charged with so many political controversies. The rhetoric and agendas are flying, even though the dust has not yet settled. Gun control? Homophobia? Islamophobia? As we are clouded by agendas and struggling to react, two opposing positions are coming to the fore: "Islam is a religion of peace and Mateen's actions therefore have nothing to do with Islam," or "Islam is inherently violent therefore we must see all Muslims as latent threats." As an American and a former Muslim, my heart is torn by these two poles of rhetoric. Those who take the first position are endangering my country by overlooking the very real cause of Jihad, which are the teachings and history of Islam. Those who take the latter position are endangering my Muslim family and friends, loving and patriotic Muslims that are as innocent and American as the rest of us. The fact is, the vast majority of Muslims are loving, peaceful people who would never want to hurt any American or homosexual. I know this because I was deeply rooted in the Muslim community, and not a single Muslim out of the thousands I knew were violent or harbored violent tendencies. (The community I am referring to is in Norfolk, Virginia, with Sunnis, Shias, and others attending the same mosque. It was an open-armed and diverse Muslim community.) Regardless, Islam itself has always taught that gays should be executed. Muhammad commanded: "If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done." (Sunan Abu Daud 4447) Imams who have been trained in these Islamic teachings are teaching in our communities. Just three months ago, an imam who is well known for proclaiming Muhammad's teachings on homosexuality spoke in Orlando. In a prior speech about homosexuals he was noted to have said, "Let's get rid of them now." (video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBlwxqqAprQ; news article: http://www.wftv.com/…/iranian-doctors-planned-tal…/185803158) The imam spoke at an Islamic center that is less than 20 miles from the site of today's atrocities. Some American-born Muslims, such as Omar, are taking teachings like these at face value, listening to their imams and following Muhammad. How can we understand this dilemma? How do we not react against all Muslims despite the fact that Islam has always taught such violence? My answer is simple: truth and love. This may sound trite or fanciful, but I am not advocating a whimsical or baseless love, which would never stand in the face of Jihad. I think we must respond with a love grounded in truth and self-sacrifice, reflecting the person and heart of Jesus Christ. We need to acknowledge the truth about Islam while holding that in tension with a respect and love for Muslims. (If you want more on this, I wrote a book on the topic after San Bernardino, ‪#‎AnsweringJihad‬: http://www.nabeelqureshi.com/answering-jihad). Orlando marks the beginning of a new phase in our nation's history: The worst mass-shooting on American soil is now an Islamist terror attack. Our country has to respond, and it will respond. I pray that those of you who have taken the time to read this (thank you) will be a voice for responding with truth and love."

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Dan Betzer

I grew up listening to Dan Betzer's Dan and Louie Bible stories. Loved it. Today I looked up Dan's church, First Assembly of God in Fort Meyers, FL, being that I am now literally up the road a little ways.

Dan is still preaching and I learned something else. He started broadcasting years ago on WNAX. The bio says out of "Sioux City, IA" which was the "big city" just down the road from Yankton, SD, However, WNAX was/is actually based out of ...Yankton, SD my hometown. The bio simply used the larger city nearby.

Now I am curious to learn more about Dan's connections to Yankton and Sioux City. Fun Florida spiritual discoveries.

Here's a good example of Dan's preaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ1YRfSFtWU


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Five Points of Bitterness Common in the Missional Church -Dan White

Shel: This is SO SO good! Enjoy:

Forging communities on mission has been a refreshing and exhilarating experience. I’m a strategist and futurist by nature, so I have the propensity to convince myself I’ve sized up all the challenges that will come my way, before they come my way.

There was one issue that I was not prepared to run into so regularly and widely… bitterness.

Over and over again, our team has collided with the thick smog of bitterness that saturates many conversations and any intentional gathering related to Christianity. I’ve studied up on Post-Christianity but nothing could ready me for the discipleship challenge of very real and raw people being riddled with bitterness and cynicism.
Outside the Tent

For as much theological space and diversity our community embraces, for as relational as our ethos is, for as organic as our church ecclesiology is, we’ve found no way around colliding with deeply entrenched bitterness. I had a bit of a fantasy that because we were unlike institutional, hierarchical, consumer-oriented, more conservative expressions of church we would avoid this reality.

But bitterness travels.

Our bitterness goes where we go and it paralyzes our energy for mission and community. Any team pioneering ministry outside of evangelicalism will suddenly find themselves outside the “Big Tent.” It’s out here in this wide open terrain, that does not appeal to church-shoppers, that you will meet countless people who’ve seen, experienced or been through Christianity. They carry massive wounds from that experience. For them the church was crueler and colder than expected.
Our bitterness goes where we go and it paralyzes our energy for mission and community.

The Prevalent Poison

A missional church must come to terms with the overwhelming number of people that carry a burning-bitterness. In many ways, their inner turmoil towards the church and its extensions are justified. There is no erasing the experiences that they lived through. Many of these angers have been untouched but quite possibly have been stoked by others who are just as turned-off and angry.

I am so thoroughly convinced that bitterness and cynicism is the most prevalent poison in our times. When we are hurt, dashed, and royally let down, a villain is erected. It becomes a sub-conscious controlling figure that clouds our choices, opinions and spiritual trajectory.

Bitterness slowly burns a consuming mark on our outlook of the future. Emotional disappointment, if unaddressed, renders us perpetually frustrated and disillusioned even if the scenery changes.
5 Common Points of Bitterness

Here are some tangible and personal points of bitterness we’ve discovered in the city we love. In no way am I trying to stereo-type or demonize. In some ways, this is an over simplistic presentation. I find it a privilege to be in the presence of people who are genuinely skeptical. Still, these are real-life touch points that our missional church has encountered up close and personal.

1. Bitterness Towards Leadership

A Christian leader really let them down, dashed their hopes, made promises they never followed through on, used power for personal gain, treated them like a number, or gave them bad counsel. Their experience with Christian leadership colors their whole feeling towards authority.

Missional Challenge: For as gracious, hospitable, trusting and peaceable that your current leadership might be, often times you will still be viewed through that skeptical lens created by bitterness. Their radar is on high alert looking for signs that you are not who you say you are. Often they are expecting the other shoe to drop, feeling spiritual abuse is just around the corner.

2. Bitterness Towards Christian Parents

Parents gave them a faith of obedience that gave little space for exploration, mystery and independence. Their parents went to church regularly and even had leadership roles but were judgmental, unloving and selfish.

Missional Challenge: There are sores around this paternal relationship making it hard for them to cozy up to church, because in some way it symbolizes the faith of their parents.

3. Bitterness Towards Structure

Institutional Christianity may have tried to push them through an assembly line to produce a cookie-cutter Christian man or woman. Church seemed forced with subtle manipulation. If they had doubts, there was no room for them. If they had questions, there were glares directed at them. The black and white presentations of the church did not fit with the complications of everyday life. The Christian music, events, sermons and Christian lingo seemed like a sheltered sub-culture.

Missional Challenge: These realities make people skittish about any type of intentionality; meeting on a regular basis, regular teaching, regular stewardship, rhythmic community or purposeful mission. It is hard for them not to establish a posture of overreaction to protect themselves against previous oppressive modes of church.

4. Bitterness Towards Stifling Theology

The Theory of Evolution was called heresy, woman were relegated to children’s ministry, God was a detached Almighty who controlled everything including suffering, the Bible was a rule book, God was first feared then followed, a personal relationship with God didn’t seem all that personal. There are embedded visceral emotions connected to this brand of theology that they perceived alienated them.

Missional Challenge: This is not a god they want to be associated with at all. Recovering a better image of God is hard because of their ingrained response to the God of their youth. They are a bit embarrassed to be aligned with God even though they are drawn to him.

5. Bitterness Towards Community

Christian friends let them down, they got offended, and then found no reconciliation. Their expectations were never met and they were perpetually disappointed with a lack of intimacy. It seemed liked few ever reciprocated when they reached out for connection.

Missional Challenge: Being connected with Christians seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. Their first position is one of distrust that keeps them cautiously distant. Unknowingly their thoughts on community are filtered through idealism and expectations no one can meet.
A Space for Recovery

Time does not often heal these issues. In many cases, time builds deeper tracks for bitterness to ride on.

Missional Communities need to become incubators of grace, patience and carefulness for the sake of long term healing. Eventually, you will need to address bitterness within discipleship. You cannot dance around this issue for too long because it eventually will sabotage partnering with God and each other.

Underlying cynicism often creates a spirituality that is afraid of connecting to actual people doing actual mission. Bitterness legitimizes keeping a distance from loyalty, giving us space to stay critical.
Underlying cynicism often creates a spirituality that is afraid of connecting to actual people…

To the degree that we are unable to admit we are bitter is the degree that we are impaired in our clarity of vision. When unearthing this, we might find we don’t want to let go of something that we feel justified to hold onto. In many ways, bitterness can get all intertwined in how we’ve identified ourselves being “against certain things and certain people”.

We desperately need to help each other pick through the clutter of past worship, bible-studies, sermons, relationships, and spiritual experiences to find something of value. We need to gently and patiently coach each other to forgive, to let go of grudges and discontinue our railing against the villain in our emotional memory.

This work cannot be avoided or we will fragment and choose an autonomous spirituality that doesn’t root in actual flesh-and-bone community. It becomes very difficult to submit to Jesus if we cannot make peace with the past. It becomes very difficult to work peaceably for His Kingdom if we are constantly bated by the present Christian buffoonery that assails overhead.

Cleaning the slate is mission imperative.

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