Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A new economy

Came across this insightful message from theologian Walter Brueggemann that sweeps through the book of Isaiah and is particularly pertinent to the economic situation we find ourselves in. Give it a listen. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

What would it look like for followers of Jesus to take up the huge task of developing a new economy using the principles found in Isaiah? What changes need to take place for Kingdom-economy to emerge in our neighborhoods and cities?

Download the July 13 message from http://www.marshill.org/teaching/index.php.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Embracing Weakness

If you're like me, you've done plenty of things in your life that you're ashamed of. Some of these things are humorous to us now because we were so ignorant back then. But what about the things we struggle with now, today? What about those habits we haven't been able to kick after all these years? If we're so wise, why aren't we able to stop doing the very things we don't want to do?

This was Paul's struggle, which he describes in a very confusing way in Romans 7:14f. Here in the middle of his letter to the church in Rome Paul enters into what I would call a time of confession. After writing about Jesus and the freedom found in him, it seems as if Paul comes to the realization that he's not experiencing the very freedom about which he is writing. And what's keeping Paul from experiencing the fullness of this freedom? Himself. He admits that he wills to do one thing but he ends up doing the very opposite. When it comes to living a holy, pure and righteous life, Paul keeps blocking himself, getting in his own way.

We don't know what Paul's struggle was...but that's not important. What's important is that he finds the courage to tell the people he's writing to that he doesn't have life figured out, that he still messes up, that he's not yet fully the person God created him to be. Paul admits to all who have read his letter (including us) that he's weak. This is the Apostle Paul for goodness sake. Aren't our leaders supposed to be strong and righteous and have it all together? Apparently not in God's kingdom. Rather than hiding his struggles and appearing to be someone he's not, Paul shines a spotlight on his struggles. He does not do this to boast about himself but to point to the hope he has in Jesus...which takes us to the cross.

What took place on that Roman execution stake nearly 200o years ago has many layers of meaning, one of which I'd like to explore for just a moment. Jesus, the Son of God, who has the power to raise people from the dead (Lazarus), is stripped down, beaten, and nailed to pieces of wood to be put on display for all to see. If anyone understood the power he had at his disposal, it was Jesus, yet he appears extremely weak on the cross. After hanging for a while, Jesus breathes his last breath and dies. It appears that weakness has won.

Friday...Jesus dies. Saturday...still dead. Sunday...what? You mean he's not in there? Have you talked to the gardener? Where did he go? Even the closest of Jesus' disciples are surprised by this demonstration of power. The resurrection, among many other things, reveals to us that on the other side of our weakness is the power of God to do the miraculous. Our weakness and God's strength are two sides of the same coin. I might even go so far as to say that in order to experience the power of God working in and through us, we must first experience weakness.

So in what ways are you experiencing weakness?

If you're in the midst of weakness, my simple word of encouragement is "DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE." If the Gospels are right that on the other side of death - the ultimate weakness - is resurrection, then your situation is not too big for God's involvement. Embrace your weakness. Talk to God about it: get mad, cry, shout at him - whatever you want. He can handle it. You may even want to name your weakness. But no matter what your weakness is, hang on! God's strength is not far away.