Good Friday :: We Have Been Made Free

On Good Friday followers of Jesus all over the world consider the death of Jesus. The observation of Good Friday takes on many different forms. In some cases people engage in a solemn reflection of the Lord of all things taking on the weight of evil upon his shoulders for them. Some people begin a full fast that will end at the end of the day or on Easter Sunday, also using that to help them identify with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross.

Throughout the day it is common to observe the Stations of the Cross, those movements throughout the day that takes Jesus from praying in the garden to his death on the cross. I have found this to be helpful as I meditate on each moment leading up to Jesus’ sacrifice. Observing these movements on the way to resurrection help me to not only better know the cost, but see myself along the road as a participant in Jesus being crucified.

While it is easy and right to spend much of the day in solemn reflection on the cross, it is also important that we rejoice in the freedom that Jesus extends to us in his death.

In Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome he writes to them, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). As a follower of Jesus death is the beginning of life. We participate in death with Jesus. We lay down our former lives, lives that are marred with sickness, sin, death, and evil. Part of our observation of Good Friday is about how we identify with the death of Jesus, because we have ourselves died.

Paul goes onto say, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). As we share in the cross of Christ, our former self has died and we are no longer slaves. Good Friday is a celebration that we can leave the bondage that would seek our destruction.

There is something in this Lenten season leading to Good Friday that has brought a new level of clarity to the freedom we have in Christ. What I believe is not simply that chains have been broken, they have been taken away. As the former self was crucified, it was once for all, because Jesus died to in once for all (Romans 6:10). Jesus’ death is once for all time. That means that when we live recklessly in our freedom Jesus isn’t crucified again.

Jesus doesn’t have to forgive us all over again, he doesn’t get back on the cross (Hebrews 10:8-10). Rather Jesus’ message to us is the same as it was to the paralytic man, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning…” (John 5:14).

If we are in Christ, then we are free and that never changes. So as we walk through our day observing the beauty of the cross we must see it both as a somber reflection of our culpability in the death of Jesus, and the joyous reflection of our liberation from sin and death.

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Death to Life::The Lenten Journey

For centuries the church has observed the season of Lent. The season of Lent is different from other seasons of the church year, it is a time for repentance and renewal. The focus of our time in the Lenten season is to identify with the suffering of Jesus, it is a season by which we walk the way of the cross, from death into life.

As we are gathered together this evening, beginning our Lenten season we are called to a posture of repentance, falling at the feet of Jesus admitting our sinfulness and our need for him. Beginning Ash Wednesday, and carrying on for the next 40 days it is a focused time of humility and confession, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

As Lent is our journey to identify with the suffering of Jesus, which calls us to repentance and renewal, the church over many centuries has developed three disciplines that assist us in this spiritual refining. They are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the threefold theme of Matthew 6.

Prayer. Let this prayer time be birthed out of a rich time in the scriptures, it should be a time of repentance and renewal, that we would ask the Lord to forgive us and build in us a clean heart.

Fasting. Be careful of your motives, don’t do this to loose weight. There are different ways to fast, you can drop a favorite food, you can choose to fast a full day each week, you can go on a partial fast for the entire season (except Sunday. Sunday is always a feast day, and celebration of the resurrection).
Give (Alms). Give to someone in need. Give a gift that goes beyond your normal giving, it i.e. be a giving that “hurts”. You should deprive yourself of something in order to help someone else.

Throughout the entire season pray that God will help you maintain your Lenten discipline as you engage in the season. Ask those in your Community to pray for you during the season.

The ashes are representative as a sign of repentance, it is a time for us to collectively as a family of faith mourn our sin and iniquity. As you come forward to receive the Ashes approach humbly, with a contrite heart.
As I stated earlier, our journey in the Lenten season is joining in the suffering of Jesus. It is a time that the church has set aside in each year that we would not simply talk about the “valley of the shadow of death”, but that we would actually walk through it. That taking up our cross and following Jesus would not just preach well, but that is would take root in our life and we would actually call ourselves to do it.

This however is not a time that is about beating ourselves up over our iniquity. It is a time that we recognize the beauty of the road to the cross, and ultimately the cross itself. What I love about Lent is that it can strip us of the false pretenses we try and live our lives in, and open us up to the magnificent power and beauty that comes through giving of ourselves for the good of others.
The Lenten season is about showing us that the power of the Spirit of God is what carries us through each moment of our lives. That Jesus’ suffering and ultimate sacrifice opened the way for us to live each day in great confidence, to face suffering and even death knowing that God our father, creator of the universe, Lord of all is with us.

Lent is a time that exposes us to idolatry in our lives, and pushes us to reconcile to God. It should help us to not receive the grace and mercy of God in vain, by recognizing that “He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf.”
Lent is also a time for us to bask in incredible act of saving that Christ has done. It is a time when we repent, but also joyfully acknowledge the beautiful reconciliation that has come, because of suffering and death. It is a time to be assured of the salvation that Jesus has brought into our lives and into the World. It is a time that we recognize that marvelous light has burst forth from death.

Let me close with these words from the Apostle Paul:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,“In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

Ash Wednesday::Season of lent

ashwednesday-graphicAsh Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent, time carved out in the church calendar to consider and reflect on the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on behalf of all creation. For centuries the Church has practiced the observance of Lent. It has been a time to practice and observe repentance, identify with Jesus in suffering, and deepening our understanding and thankfulness for the reconciliation, restoration and redemption found at the Cross.

Traditionally Ash Wednesday is observed by a full fast, then 40 days (minus Sunday’s) of fasting. During this time we use the discomfort that comes with the Fast to, in a very mild way, participate in the suffering of Jesus and grow in our recognition of what he did on our behalf. You will notice that there are more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. While this is certainly a time of reflection and contemplation, there is also an element of celebration. Therefore each Sunday the Church would gather the fast would be lifted as to not hinder the activity and celebration by the church body.

Lent is a beautiful time in the life of the believer. It is a time that can help us grow in our relationship with the Lord, and with each other. Part of our commitment as a church KALEO Communities will be observing Lent. We will be joining Bread & Wine, another local church, in observing Ash Wednesday. You can join us as we move into this magnificent season of the Church year.

Ash Wednesday February 10, 7pm Warner Pacific University.

Community Not Competition

One of my favorite places to frequent in Portland is a shop called Pips Original Donuts and Chai. They have an incredible product. Bitesized donuts made right when you order them, so they are hot when they are served to you. Six different handmade Chai tea drinks, each uniquely concocted and delightful. They have collaborated with a local coffee roaster, Extracto Roasters, and prepare all of their coffee beverages with great care.
Now you may be wondering, “am I reading a food article right now?” The answer is no, but I want you to know how good the product is. It is incredible, but that is not the main thing that keeps me coming back, day after day (when I say I frequent Pips it might be an understatement). What has me keep coming back each day, what makes me tell everyone I know about one of the tastiest treats in Portland, is actually the embodiment of their business philosophy.
Community Not Competition.
It is incredibly inspiring to watch not only how the staff at Pips interacts with people who come in everyday. Always genuinely happy, always friendly, joyful, helpful, and patient even when the line is out the door and down the street.
Shortly after arriving in Portland I had the pleasure of meeting Nate, who owns and operates Pips alongside his wife Jamie. We talked about Portland, and all that he had seen throughout his life as he has lived there. He then began to tell me about how he works with other business owners, coaching them toward their goals and dreams. He shares the story and philosophy of how Pips does business and it is without prejudice.
It’s not just that I heard Nate say these things, I have seen it. It is not an uncommon thing to see Nate sitting down with a business owner who is trying to figure out their niche. He listens to where they are at and then provides whatever help he can in the journey, even to the point that I have seen him go back behind the counter, grab some of their product (bottle of Nutella, or small container of candied bacon), hand it to them and say here try this maybe this will help. It is also a common thing for them to pump other businesses on their social media outlets.
What I have realized is that hearing and watching all of this unfold before my eyes gave words and handles to something my heart has been longing for, for a long time. What I believed about how the local church should operate in any given city, is to work for the good of the city. Realizing that we are all a part of the same family, we have one Father, one God who unites us together in His family (Eph 4:4-6).
The church, in all her beautiful expressions, should embody the idea of community not competition.
This can be particularly hard, when starting a new church. It is easy to get lost in how many people you are engaging, how many people are participating, and how many people simply identify with what I am working toward.
What I believe, however is that we need to have a Global view of the Kingdom, when starting a new church. It is not that, I believe we shouldn’t have multiple expressions of the church, I do, but I believe that our view of the church must be bigger than one expression in one neighborhood. Call it crazy, but I think that what made the church so explosive in various times throughout history, was a vision that saw the church reach the nations. It pushed the church into places it may never have thought it would be.
I am also convinced that having a more global view of the church breeds a certain unity among church leaders in a city. It helps us to connect to a city in ways that we never thought possible, because we can inherently do more together than we can a part. It is why I believe Jesus prays so emphatically for the unity of his people (Jn 17).
Let us not strive to silo ourselves out into our individual “christian” communes but strive for a united Church, a Holy Catholic Church, if you will. A Church that is united in proclaiming the victory of Christ in every city it exists. A Church that shows the unity of the family of God. This is how people will know that God is not just present and active, but that God is good and unifying.
May the peace of Christ dwell on you and in the Church uniting all things to himself. Amen.

Our Journey to Portland.

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Mt. Tabor Park overlooking the cityscape.

Over the past year Kristen and I have been discerning how the Spirit of God was leading us. Just before the birth of our son, God was making it clear that it was time to prepare for something. Although I was sure what it was, I was not ready to face it. In mid-January it was very clear what the Spirit of God was directing us to do, it was time for us to step out and plant a church.

For me this was quite scary. I knew what that would mean, and although I knew that the Father would care for us and provide everything we needed to accomplish the task, I held a level of unbelief. However as Kristen and I worked through this I came to my senses and received what the Lord would have for us. I knew that our call to plant a church would take us to an urban unreached area of the U.S.
As we began to understand the leading of the Spirit further, we never imagined where He would lead us. Portland, OR.
In a stroke of genius one morning as we were talking about what the Lord was doing in leading us to plant a church, Kristen says to me, “what about the Northwest?” As any good husband would respond, my reply was “are you nuts?” See that was not my plan. My plan was for us to head to California, I had it all worked out, and although in any church plant there are big elements of faith involved moving to California had the least possible risk in my mind.
As I stepped back from the conversation and began to ask the Spirit to lead and guide our family, it was very clear what we had to do. We were going to the Northwest to plant a church. Now growing up under the influence of the wonderful decade of the 90’s much of my tastes have been shaped by music, style and culture that have come out of the Great Pacific Northwest. Needless to say how the Spirit was leading us intrigued me greatly.
As we looked at the two urban areas of the Northwest, Portland and Seattle, the Spirit simply began to burden my heart for Portland. The glaring need for the Gospel in the city became incredible evident. The need for the church in Portland was magnificently clear.
Through a chain of random relationships I was connected to people in the Pacific Northwest, and Portland to begin exploring how the Lord would use us there. We made our first visit ever to the city in April 2014, and that was the final confirmation for us. We knew that this was where the Spirit was leading us, and we knew that we had to come and make disciples there.
As we walked the streets of Portland, saw the people there and experienced the culture our hearts burden for the people. As Jesus send out the seventy-two he said: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2). I don’t think that this scripture has ever been made more real to me than while I was in Portland.
The harvest in Portland is so ripe, but the laborers are so few. The city is so wonderfully close to the Kingdom. People there are spiritually sensitive, they have an incredible love for humanity and justice. To introduce the Gospel into this and see it take root, is the beginning of something magnificent for the Kingdom of God.
So this is the adventure we are going to embark on in 2015. Kristen and I will be moving to Portland, to start a church. We will move to Northeast Portland, and begin to embed ourselves into the Mt Tabor area. We covet your prayer and support in this adventure. You will be able to keep up with what we are doing through the website: http://www.kaleopdx.com.

Be the Church pt.2

Because I don’t think that one post will do the topic justice here is part deux.

In this post we will talk about the scattered nature of the church. First, I want to start off by saying I think the need to distinguish between gathered and scattered comes from a western context, and is not as clearly depicted in scripture as we might find. Of course there are clues for us that the church existed in a gathered/ scattered form, but as discussed in the post last week I believe that the Church is always gathered in some form.

What is presented in the New Testament is the idea of a church in the city, that is dispersed throughout the city. For example, Paul’s letters are addressed to “the church in [insert city name here]”. Now it is very possible that in some cases that letter would have been shared in the gathered presence of the believers, or it might have been passed around from house to house being read by the church.

I point this out to say that even in the cities where the church was more decentralized than the next it was still one church. The phenomenon in a western culture/ context are the variety of churches that exist in one city, that largely don’t interact with one another. Now I am a product of this. It has been the only form of the church that I have known, but I have become more convinced in the last few years that for the church to REALY be the church in a western context we have to see a great ecumenical movement.

As I read the scriptures it seems to me that the church is most effective in a more decentralized form. When you have pockets of the church all over the city there seems to be a greater opportunity for the Gospel to permeate every part of the life of the city. This is where the ecumenical part comes in. As the body of Christ we have to work together, we need to keep the main things the main things and work toward seeing the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

We have a few examples from scripture that highlight what I am talking about. In Luke 10 Jesus sends out the seventy-two to go out into the places where he was going to go. Before Jesus sends them out he taught them the things that they were going to need to know to accomplish the mission he would give them. He gave them specific instructions to follow and sent them out two by two. A few things we need to catch here: 1. Jesus modeled and taught them what they needed to do, 2. Jesus gave specific instructions about what they should do in their adventure, 3. Jesus sends them out in pairs.

The church is a sent body of believers. There is a time for us to learn what we need to do, this happens by walking shoulder to shoulder with someone doing what they do, walking where they walk, and hearing from them the teaching they have. It is a time for a transmission of knowledge and action. We should go out knowing exactly what we need to do, and we should always go out in the context of community.

In Acts 13 the church in Antioch what worshiping, and God send to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the mission. They were leaders of the church and it was time for them to leave. Because the church was united they were able to hear the direction of the Holy Spirit, and although I am sure it was difficult for them, they were able to send them out.

For us to see real kingdom movement, for us to actually BE the church we have to unite in Christ, gather for equipping and training in the mission that is before us, and then send people to go and do the work. The church gathers, it is always gathered, but the church also scatters. We have to embrace both and realize that the two are not mutually exclusive but work in harmony with one another. We cannot scatter as lone wolves out in the wilderness, we have to travel in some sort of pack. When we gather it should be pointed in helping us refuel, and be equipped to back out into mission.

Advent: Baby Jesus

When Christmas rolls around I often consider all the things we sing and say about the baby Jesus during this time of year. As cliche as it is to write about all of the things that are wrong in a lot of what we say and think about Christmas here it comes.

The incredible thing in God becoming man and moving into the neighborhood, is that he subjected himself to the whole process. He was born just like you and me, he had to go through puberty just like you and me, he worked, sweat, cried (contrary to the popular Christmas hymn, baby Jesus actually cried), he grew tired, he became hungry. Even historical accounts outside of the bible it is recognized that Jesus was in fact a man. And while different sources might say different things about Jesus I believe that he in fact was/is God incarnate.

Consider this story for a moment:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1.18-25 ESV)

You have this girl who at least in the biblical account had never known a man intimately has been told you are pregnant and you are going to have a child that will save the world. Then you have this fellow who was going to be married to this girl and finds out she is pregnant (by the way they haven’t had relations yet). This guy was a stand up fellow because he didn’t want to shame her, so he was going to quietly divorce her, and then comes the angel.

It’s funny to me that most interactions with divine beings there is almost always this opening line: “don’t be afraid.” Not having seen an angel personally I can only surmise 1 of 2 things, either these guys look pretty terrifying or when they show up you know somethings about to go down. Yet in the New Testament the angel seems to be more about the deliver of a message of peace, or a word of comfort.

I think that this is what is ushered in by the coming Christ, peace on earth good will toward man. The beauty of Jesus coming into the world is that the opportunity for the restoration of all things is at hand. We can come to a place where we don’t have to live broken any more, we don’t have to be afraid because the truth of the Gospel is that everything is going to be okay!

We may not know all the answers, and we may not have it easy but what is true in the midst of all the turmoil and heartache and indifference is that it is all going to be okay in the end. If we come to the point that we believe Jesus came to restore what was broken, and redeem us out of the turmoil of the world, and trust that he is going to make this all okay, then we will be a part of this incredible kingdom.

This is the Gospel, this is the purpose of an angel coming to speak to a girl and a boy about their new family, this is the story of God redeeming all things back to himself through a baby born in the lowliest of conditions that everyone everywhere would know what it means to be caught up in the divine embrace as a child of the creator of the universe.

God is making all things new again, he is redeeming his broken creation and he is calling us back to himself. So this Christmas, lets think about this baby in a different way, lets embrace the purpose for God coming down to earth moving in and living daily life with each one of us.