The German pastor was executed by the Nazi regime at Flossenbürg concentration camp on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before the United States liberated the camp. When he died he famously remarked to another prisoner, "This is the end — but for me, the beginning."
Over the years, I’ve been given by some the mini-reputation as a leader in the field of justice. At first, I took it as a compliment and of course, I still do because I care a lot about justice. I know that people mean well. But I care about justice not just for the sake of justice. I care about justice … because I care much about the Gospel.
And sometimes, when I hear folks talk about justice in the church, I cringe …
I cringe because if we’re not careful, we’re again compartmentalizing justice rather than seeing it as part of the whole Gospel; We need to see justice as a critical part of God’s character and thus, our discipleship and worship.
Just like we shouldn’t extract the character of “love” or “grace” or “holiness” from God’s character, such must be the case with justice.
People often ask me, “What’s the most critical part about seeking justice?”
We must not just seek justice but live justly. Justice work and just living are part of our discipleship. Justice contributes to our worship of God. Justice is worship.
Ched Myers, Sara Stratton, Chris Grataski, and Sasha Adkins describe how they are connected to their local watersheds.
After reciting what we call the Lord’s prayer one Sunday, I got to thinking about how many times I’d said those words. Thousands? But how many times have I actually thought about what the words mean?
If we pay attention, it’s a prayer that makes us very uncomfortable.* These words of a peasant Jewish rabbi from 2,000 years ago challenge so much about the way we live — all of us, regardless of what religion we follow. If we’re honest, most of us don’t like it and have no intention of living by what it says.
Which presents a question: Isn’t it a problem if we pray one way and live another? Shouldn’t our prayers reflect how we actually try to live?
Along those lines, perhaps we should rewrite the Lord’s prayer and make it conform to what we really believe. In that spirit, here’s a rough draft of what it might sound like if the Lord‘s prayer was actually our prayer.
Seen on a rural hillside: “Under Construction.”
Someone had added, in letters almost as large, “No equipment, no budget, no crew and no work, but we have the sign.”
For the vast majority of Christians, this sign sums up their philosophy of discipleship.
In their determination to not be ‘saved by works’ they have cultivated a historically isolated, theologically sterile, spiritually impotent ‘faith’ that I can only describe as ‘Christian inertia.'
In this cultivated obliviousness they have forgotten, perhaps deliberately, that we are “created to do good works in Christ” (Ephesians 2:10).
They have somehow come to believe that ‘being a Christian’ is all about having the sign; being transformed (Romans 12:2) by the living word of God, far from being a thriving daily reality, has become an abstraction reduced to a bumper sticker or slogan.
“Faith is recognizing that if at Christmas Jesus became like us, it was so we might become more like him,” wrote the well-known preacher and activist William Sloan Coffin. He goes on to add, “We know what this means; watching Jesus heal the sick, empower the poor, and scorn the powerful, we see transparently the power of God at work.”*
Christmas really is about seeing the power of God at work, but far too often pastors and churches fail to tell this story. Oh sure, we preach about Mary and Joseph, Jesus being born in a Bethlehem manger, and the Magi following a star to find him and offer gold, frankincense, and myrrh. My fear is that the story has grown familiar and routine. We have forgotten its power and no longer see its challenge.
In Matthew’s Gospel, the Magi seek out Jesus after hearing of his birth. In order to find him they ask King Herod where they can find the new king. This, of course, is news to Herod who is surprised to learn that his title has been claimed by a baby. Herod consults his advisors and then reacts with the expected calmness of a leader anticipating a conflict, which is to say his response is not calm at all.
This story is an announcement that Jesus has arrived to challenge the powerful. The Messiah was not born meek and mild.
Share the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.
The phrase is usually attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and is often invoked by the timid Christian, the too-cool hipster Christian, and basically every Christian ever who is afraid of evangelism.
Ed Stetzer—president of LifeWay Research, speaking from the Q conference on Tuesday—said there are two problems with that statement: it’s not true, and Assisi never said it.
“We don’t want to separate those two because biblically we can’t, and statistically we don’t,” Stetzer said.
John Stott died this Wednesday. He was 90 years old. What many people don't understand is that he was the most influential 20th-century evangelical leader in the world, with the exception of Billy Graham. Stott became the Anglican rector of All Souls Church in downtown London at the age of 29 in 1950, and he stayed there for his entire ministry. But from his parish at Langham Place in the city's West End, and right across from BBC headquarters, John Stott spoke to the world with 50 books that sold 8 million copies. He also traveled the globe , speaking, teaching, convening, mentoring, and bird watching -- a personal passion.
Perhaps the most telling thing about this man is all the personal stories about "Uncle John" that the world is now hearing, from many Christian leaders around the world who were profoundly influenced, encouraged, and supported by John Stott. And secondly, how such a giant in the Christian world remained so humble, as testified to by those who knew him who say how "Christ-like" he was.
My favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings are the Ents -- an ancient race of giant living, talking, breathing trees in J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional land, Middle Earth. I have a little confession to make: Whenever I hear a reading from Isaiah 55 where it says, "The mountains and hills before you shall burst into song and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands," I always picture the Giant Ents from The Lord of the Rings. And then I picture these clapping trees from Isaiah holding little Hobbits in their branch arms in what ends up a willful conflation of Middle Earth and Major Prophet.
Was the cry they heard a kestrel’s or a distressed gull
or a passing soul or one not wanting to, a disciple
asked as fog burned off the harbor and left the water
glazed with fire: Jesus roused from dozing lightly. Sun
turned the shore rocks ocher. A bee thrummed near;
they watched it hover. John, who squatted to mend a net,
said he once saw a crack open in midair through which
a shadow appeared, some darkling creature from
its dark lair, up across the wall, as if watching, and no light