THESE PEOPLE

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An abandoned daughter discovers her Heavenly Father.
An angry ex-con encounters authentic friendships.
A controlling mother learns to let go and let God.
A one year clean woman mentors a struggling drug addict.
A relationship destroying alcoholic gains new tools and makes amends.
A recovering sex addict finds new purpose and is set free.
A guilt-ridden religious woman experiences grace.

Who are these people?

These are the people Brennan Manning celebrated when he wrote, “There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.”

These are the people Jesus had in mind when He said, “I have come to heal the broken-hearted.”

These are the people Jesus said are the greatest because of their humility and commitment to one another.

These are the people Jesus would call the Church.

Yet…

These are the people most churches reject, ignore and outsource to other agencies.

These are the people most churches marginalize, judge, undervalue and under serve.

These are the people most churches hope go somewhere else.

Yet…

These are the people who are bringing huge blessings to my church.

These are the people who are showing us that God is still in the miracle business.

These are the people who are showing us how to be transparent and brave.

These are the people who are showing us the importance of accountability and genuine friendship.

These are the people who are showing us that we are all in recovery from something.

These are the people who are showing us that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

These are the people who are showing us that everything is Grace.

These are the people that God is with, and if we are with them, then we are with God.

Yet…

Why are so many fleeing the church?

Because the church has rejected “these people.”

These are the very people Jesus said he would judge us by how we treated them.

These are the very people Jesus said that when we serve and love them, we will be blessed.

These are the very people Jesus said that when we serve and love them, we serve and love him.

We too often want the world to change when in reality, the church must change.

Until the church becomes transparent, inclusive, safe, brave, courageous, messy, grace-filled, humble and willing to sacrifice, serve, strategize, prioritize and make a high commitment to serve and be led by “these people”, then it will continue to shrink and be benign.

We too often want the world to repent, when in reality, the church must repent.

If the church is not serving and welcoming and allowing “these people” to lead, then it is really not the church, but more a building, more an exclusive club.

At my church, “these people” call themselves Celebrate Recovery, and they are leading the way towards blessings, miracles, redemption and an intimacy with God that is rarely seen.

Thank you for your example in humility.
Thank you for your leadership in transparency.
Thank you for your commitment to grace.
Thank you for re-introducing us to the presence of God.

May there be a revolution of “these people.”

“It is impossible to meet God without abandon, without exposing yourself, being raw.” Bono

Twitter @celebraterecvry

http://www.celebraterecovery.com

Contradiction, It’s Where I Find Me

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Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Success is promised, but tempted to flee
Strength is waning, never been so strong
Screaming out truth while surrounded with wrong

Heart breaks for broken, yet it’s harder than stone
Surrounded with people, feel so alone
Wisdom is clear, but it’s not convenient
Standards are high, yet fittingly lenient

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Grace is free, but for others there’s a fee
Focused on the prize, eye on the goal
Culture sidetracks, stuffing this God-shaped hole

Disciplines obsessive, lethargies overtake
Foundations unyielding, yet easy to shake
Purpose focused, never in doubt
Roadblocks surround, quick to pout

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Beauty disguised, ugly reality
Full of creativity, overcome with exhaustion
Frustration rules, leaning towards resignation

Days so long, life so short
Feelings rage, demanding to sort
Wealth of opportunity, a catalog of choice
Volume getting loud, muting my voice

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Obsessed with acceptance, don’t care if they hate me
There’s chatter of courage, yet fear rules the day
Conviction is high, unless there’s a price to pay

Morality important, it cramps my style
Aim is focused, yet missing by a mile
Souls transparent, never wanting to fake
Portraying translucent, diagnosis opaque

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Hiding pride, shouting humility
Spirit shrivels, heart breaks
Finish the race, whatever it takes

“Smack in the centre of contradiction is the place to be.” –Bono

We, people of faith, often times feel like we have to have it all together in order to feel like good, successful Christians.

We, people of faith, often times feel like we should have no doubts, no temptations, no frustrations and at the same time, have an endless amount of strength and faith oozing out of us.

We, people of faith, often times forget what the scriptures show us about the life of one of the most amazing Christians to ever live.

Let me share with you two examples:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” (The Apostle Paul) Romans 7:15

(“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ”  The Apostle Paul) 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

The Apostle Paul, stuck in a contradiction, it’s where we find him: Tempted, discouraged, weak, and that’s why we need God’s Grace and not religion!

What Will Be Said?

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WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

A generation blinded by wealth where poverty cannot be seen.

A generation who talks about feeding the hungry while paying for Weight Watchers because they can’t stop eating.

A generation that believes in sheltering the homeless, as long as they’re not near their over bloated homes.

A generation that worries about their growing status and expanding pleasures while children are worried about empty bellies and fragile futures.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

A generation that is more globally aware than any other generation yet is obsessed with celebrity reality shows and stock market results.

A generation that is technologically brilliant yet socially stunted.

A generation that knows things ARE getting better but is afraid to finish the job.

A generation that is torn between self-indulgence and self-righteousness.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

There is enough food for everyone.

Churches have more roofs than there are homeless.

Most diseases that kill are preventable.

The lack of education is fixable.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We prayed for the poor while building bigger barns.

We preached for justice while closing our eyes.

We fought sex trafficking while watching pornography.

We judged the homosexual while worshipping our idols.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We ignored building God’s kingdom while building our own.

We gossiped of our brothers and sisters while singing songs to our Creator.

We multi-tasked and networked while sitting alone.

We opened our mouths to poverty while closing our wallets to solution.

BUT WHAT COULD BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We tithed, creating a mass of wealth that stunned the world and ended extreme poverty.

We adopted the orphan, ending the foster system as we know it.

We supported organizations like International Justice Mission, declaring that the end of slavery would happen on our watch.

We sponsored children around the world ensuring them an education, antiviral HIV drugs and an introduction to faith.

WHAT SHOULD BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We decided that the gates of hell would not prevail and good would win over evil.

We decided that the most important part of a church service is what happens once we leave the parking lot.

We decided that it doesn’t profit to gain the whole world but lose our soul.

We decided that God is close to broken hearts and crushed spirits.

WHAT DO I HOPE WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We shunned consumerism and found joy in minimalism.

We ignored the American dream and pursued God’s pleasure.

We simplified our lives so that others could simply live.

We preached always and occasionally spoke words.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.”
―Bono

God in a Box

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Henri Nouwen once said, “We cannot expect God to speak to us in our narrow corridor of thinking. As scripture shows us, He may speak to us through a saint or a sinner. Through a conservative or a liberal. Through a man or a woman – or a young child. Through an old person or a young person. Through an educated or an illiterate person… Through a local person or a foreigner. We have at all times to be ready to listen with an unprejudiced mind and heart.”

I was thinking about my life and how God has spoken to me through so many diverse voices, with differing opinions and backgrounds, yet they have all compelled me closer to the heart of Jesus.

From a liberal sociologist named Tony Campolo, to a conservative preacher named Franklin Graham, my heart has broken for the poor.

From an Irish rock star named Bono, to an agnostic brilliant business man named Bill Gates, my urgency to end extreme poverty has increased.

From an alcoholic priest named Brennan Manning, to a 90 year old saint named Mother Rose, I have been overwhelmed by the gift of Grace.

From an African American, born in the ghetto, named Ricky Bolden, to a 75 year old, rich white man named Doug Coe, I will forever be burdened and invested in the inner city.

From a conservative business man named Jim Copeland to a more liberal mother committed to public health around the world, named Kim Dixon, my life has refocused on the rights of children and women around the world.

From an Albanian Roman Catholic nun named Mother Teresa to a cancer research doctor named Scott Todd, my life is now compelled to show up, look extreme poverty in the face, and defeat it.

I have a very close friend who is gay and whenever I am with him, I leave having a deeper passion to follow Jesus and a more convicted heart to serve the marginalized and forgotten in my community.

The important question for people of faith today is this: Can we see past the surface, the titles, the labels and see the wisdom underneath.

When John the Baptist came to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, he was described as a locus-eating, leather-wearing, adultery-condemning prophet.

When Jesus walked this earth, he was described as a party-going, wine-making, heart-healing, sin-forgiving savior.

John would have been labeled a conservative and Jesus would have been labeled a liberal.

Jesus told the pharisess, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” Instead, you said, “John has a demon and Jesus is a glutton”.

The gospel came looking two different ways, but they could not see it.

WHY? Because the Pharisees had put God in a box.

The strength of FAITH is the diversity of God’s wisdom.

That is why people should travel, so you can see the image and creativity and vastness of God.

The Pharisees are not the only ones who have put God in a box.

I think, in America, we are in that danger today.

In order for our faith to be rich and our hearts to remain soft and pliable, we must continue to be overwhelmed by the vastness of God.

Jesus was not an American, he was not a Californian, he was not a republican or a democrat and he was not a Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal or Baptist.

He was not a member of the NRA, Greenpeace or the local moose lodge.

He did not have a preference of musical worship style, because his worship had to do with spirit and truth.

He was anti-war, anti-revenge, and anti-hate.

He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars, and give to God what is God’s!”

He was the creator of the universe and it was his idea to make the stars and the moon and the seas and the mountains.

RED, YELLOW, BROWN, BLACK and WHITE, they are all equally precious in his sight.

Every color, creed and culture is a part of his image.

He loves our enemies and he prays that the terrorist will find salvation like the terrorist Saul who became a champion of Grace.

He loves YOU even when you walk away.

He loves ME even when I choose my own ways.

Jesus is bigger than any of our big ideas and heaven will be a much different place than our middle class, American ideas.

When Peter quotes the Prophet Joel in Acts 2 and says, “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” He meant ALL!

It is Jesus + nothing!

Not Jesus + politics.
Not Jesus + denomination.
Not Jesus + lifestyle.
Not Jesus + American.

Let us allow Jesus to be bigger than any of our big ideas and run towards his radical, counter-intuitive, compassionate Grace.

May we pray the prayer of Pope Francis:
“And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.”