The Danger of a Single Story

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The Danger of a Single Story

The Danger of a Single Story

Recently I listened to a TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie. She passionately reveals through her experience in Nigeria prejudice because of both ethnicity and gender. She is an alarm to our world to injustices because we do not understand other peoples’ experiences. If we listen only our own cultural stories and ignoring other people’s stories huge misunderstanding can occur and lead to very dangerous consequences. 1

Have you experienced misunderstanding by someone else? Or can you think of a time that you have been misunderstood? If we are honest, we can think of experiences on both counts. This is common for all people. For Christ followers the walls of misunderstanding need to be challenged. They can actually hinder the expression of our faith. They can contradict what we say we believe and hinder our voice in the world.

Peter is one of the founding leaders of the church. Even he had misunderstandings that God had to confront. The story is found in Acts 10. Two people with huge walls between them because of their cultural history were about to encounter the God who brings down barriers. Cornelius is a Roman soldier who is part of the controlling power of the time. Peter is a follower of Jesus who is Jewish and under the power of Roman rule. Jews and Romans tended to despise each other. Romans found Jews to be troublemakers who refused to swear allegiance to the Roman emperor and often cause uprisings. Jews viewed Romans as oppressive to their way of life and worship. But God had a different plan. Cornelius was not just any Roman. He was a Centurion used to power and in charge of other soldiers . But he was also respected because of his empathy for the Jewish people, his reverence for God and his concern for the poor. He was an exemplary man. Peter was a Jewish fisherman who kept to the Jewish purity laws. He ate only Kosher food and kept away from pagan influence. To violate that would be seen as impure and go against his Jewish heritage. When God gives Cornelius a dream and Peter an unsetting vision everything changes. Cornelius is willing to get spiritual guidance from a Jew. Peter is willing to welcome a Roman into his house. Because of this the Gospel is experienced by both of them. Cornelius is introduced to Jesus saving work and experiences the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. Peter experiences the expansive revelation that Christ is for everyone.

God is still about removing barriers and reconciling people to each other. In doing so He upsets conventional barriers and misunderstandings. What about us? What disturbing is the Lord allowed in our personal lives? Not everything upsetting is sometime to overcome or avoid. Sometimes the very thing that upsets us is the thing God is using to remove our misunderstandings. Here is a wild thought; what if the upsetting things happening in our country (and world) are actually things to wake us up to a new understanding of others? What if God is upsetting the status quo so that WE change and adapt?

For Christians the good news is that Jesus came to remove barriers between God and between people. He is a reconciling God. Jesus is the means of creating new communities of love acceptance and belonging.

Here are some questions to consider:

·      What new understandings about the Gospel can we acquire through encountering

people who are ethnically different and whose worship differently?

·      How is God presently breaking down ethnic, economic, gender or other cultural barriers? How are people resisting God in these areas?

·      How can we put ourselves in places where new understandings of other cultures and what it means to live for God can happen? 

1https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en

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Spiritual Awakening

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Spiritual Awakening

When I was in high school I would do just about anything for some money. My parents didn’t have much to spare with five kids and a dog. They gave me what I needed, but I wanted more. I wanted had to have music and clothes to buy, I needed gas money and wanted to go out with my friends. One day, I was offered a job at a local trucking company on Friday evenings filling tires with air and checking for flats. In one night, I would earn more than twice as much as working in my Dad’s gas station in a week. The challenge was the job went from 9 PM till 2:30 AM. Most nights I would share a ride with someone from the company. One night, though, I was travelling alone. It was 3 AM in the morning. I kept fighting sleep. At one moment, I saw lights from another car heading my way. Startled, I realized I was driving in the wrong lane. Now I was wide awake. The road up ahead was divided by concrete divider. I jerked the car a hard right and avoided a potentially hazardless situation. The rest of the trip home was filled with an adrenaline filled alertness. I had just experienced a real awakening.

 

Life has many awakenings. It could be a pain in my body that is unexplainable and a doctor’s report that something is seriously wrong. It could be an accident that caused damage- especially if it was my fault. It could be financial challenges or relationships that break apart. All of these wake us up that something needs to change. Unfortunately, some ignore the “oncoming car” and the consequences become more tragic.

 

There is an oncoming car. It is the collision coming in so many people’s lives. What will it take for people to wake up and see that the direction of their lives is headed in the wrong lane? Some may see the problems and ignore them until it is too late. When we have been in the midst of hard situation we can be tempted to say, “wake me when it’s over”.

 

God is not passive in the situations we face. He comes to free people from anything that hinders them from thriving as human beings. He comes to awaken us, our churches and our communities to the vision he has for them. He intends good and not harm. What will it take for God to awaken us? First it begins with prayer. In prayer we align our lives with His. In prayer we believe for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. In prayer the Spirit of God will bring a spiritual awakening. The Bible says, 

“Awake, O sleeper,

    rise up from the dead,

    and Christ will give you light.” Ephesians 5:14

 

Please join us as we pray for a spiritual awakening.

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Good News

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Good News

Did you ever have a day when everything seemed right with the world? When everything seemed good. It didn’t last, did it? What would it look like if that good day would last forever? What if you hear it about a way that could happen? Wouldn’t you want it? That would be good news!

The Gospel of Jesus is what every Jesus follower believes. Gospel means “good news”. We all could use some good news. Everyday we hear about bad news. Its seems we are all addicted to it. We hear a shocking story and want to hear more. Why are we so intrigued with what politicians and celebrities do? In some ways they affect use. The way the culture is going, the way leaders lead, trends and movements influence the environment we live in. But good news is different. It doesn’t just pique our interest. Real good news is like a breath of fresh air.

Good news is personal. When Jesus was approached by a man names Nicodemus, he got right to the heart to this man. (See the Gospel of John 3:1-7) Nicodemus inquired about Jesus at night, so as not to be seen my his religious peers. He had a gnawing question. “How can I live a righteous life?” This was THE religious questions at the time. It may not be yours. He was asking what Jesus was all about. “What are you about?” a gang member asked a pastor walking in the inner city. What would you say? This could be a tense fearful encounter. The pastor simply said, “I’m all about Jesus.”

Nicodemus was a seeker. He wanted the truth. How can I be all about what God is all about? That would be like saying today, “What is the best way to live to have a good life?” For the religious leaders of Jesus day, living righteously was closely tied to laws given by their ancestor Moses and ultimately what God required. Right living was their highest priority. You may have discovered that right living comes with frustration. We can never get it quite “right”. We fall short. The good doesn’t last. The answer must be out there somewhere. So we try all kinds of ways to get that good day feeling to last. Jesus peered into Nicodemus heart and found what he was missing. Jesus does the same for us. He needed a spiritual restart. Living a good life starts with the spirit. Something within us has to drastically change. A vacation or a raise may help for a while, but lasting change comes from within.

Spiritual living, living the good life, does not begin with us. We are not the center. Neither our good intentions nor our disappointments are the center. Jesus comes to recenter us. It begins with God’s Spirit doing something new and fresh in us. Jesus says, “You must be born again. You must be born of the Spirit.” Start over- let God’s Spirit breathe new life into your Spirit. We all need this. Our hearts can become crusty, selfish and even self-righteous. Jesus comes and makes us right as we trust him with our lives. It’s like a huge load has been lifted off our shoulders. This is very good news. This is like a breath of fresh air. I don’t know about you by I need that every day. The Lord is the center. To live a good and right life begins with him.

Pray with me. ”Lord Jesus I thank you for the good news. I receive again your fresh life-giving Spirit within me. Make my heart new. Take the heaviness. I belong to you and by the Spirit live a good news life. I will go out with this being my faith declaration. Amen.

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Living with Limits

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Living with Limits

There are a lot of popular ideas that say we can rise above our limits. There is the truth that with God we can overcome much in our life. But we still live within limits. We have only so much energy, so much time and can only be in one place at time (although I try). Scripture says to live remembering that “the end of all things is near”. We may think this idea of limits is limiting. Actually it is freeing. When we consider our limits we tend to focus on what is important and are less likely to get sidetracked. When we live knowing that there is an end, it does not need to bring us down. It frees us to let go of everything superficial. Jesus said what when we make Him a priority our lives will be filled with joy. Living in the reality that Jesus is our focus, that Jesus is the source for all of our strength and love, makes us aware that we cannot afford to waste one day of this precious life. We can live above and beyond the stress and distractions of every day. What happens, then, is that every moment becomes energized with more and more of God’s presence and we are motivated more and more by God’s purposes.

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