Top Three Reads of 2016

December 31, last day of the year, a day to reflect back on the previous year, as we look forward to the next. Many of us are planning for 2107, anxiously planning new years resolutions some we will keep and some we will break by January 31. The end of the year is also a time for list, you know we all love them; “MY TOP 10 ______ of 2016!”

As I look back on 2016 here are the top three books I read that had the biggest impact on me and why:

  1. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith

The racial reconciliation message given to the mass audience is individual reconciliation. That is, individuals of different races should develop strong, committed relationships. There is also need to repent of individual prejudice. These are the means reducing racial strife and division. Missing from this formula are the system-changing components of the original formulations. the more radical component of reconciliation espoused by early black leaders and many of the current leaders – to challenge social systems of injustice and inequality, to confess social sin – is almost wholly absent in the popularized versions.” 

Unless you were living under a rock for all of 2016, one thing we were reminded of is that America continues to have a racial divide in our country, and unfortunately this carries over into the Church. There is a reason there is the often quoted line of: “the most segregated time of day is Sunday service.” Its becoming more and more evident that it is time for the Church to begin thinking through and addressing racial reconciliation. This book impacted me by helping me better understand the issues in the American church as well as how our “cultural toolbox” (the lenses by which we look at things based on our context) affect the way we see or don’t see.

2. The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations Through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus by Zack Eswine

“Mark this down if you can. Silences, not just sentences, form the work of pastoral ministry. Wise pastors are listening preachers.”

I couldn’t recommend this book high enough for those in ministry or those aspiring to be in ministry. It was a refreshing kick to the gut, over and over again. As it reminded me that I can’t and don’t have to do it all; that there is a God and I am not Him. Yes we all know this, but many times we need to be reminded of this truth. Being reminded of what God requires of us is to be faithful and obedient with what He has before us; and that He supplies all we need to be faithful and obedient is freeing.

3. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

“Martin Luther King Jr. called for us to be lovestruck with each other, not colorblind toward each other. To be lovestruck is to care, to have deep compassion, and to be concerned for each and every individual, including the poor and vulnerable.”

This book more than anything taught me how to listen. We are not good listeners in our day, we want to immediately add our commentary, offer unsolicited advice, tell the speaker why they are wrong, etc. Oftentimes loving my neighbor well is simply sitting and listening to them; to their hurts, to their concerns without telling them why they are wrong or what they should do. We all have been shaped and molded by the context that we grew up in, and rarely understand those of different contexts, therefore we must listen with open ears and hearts. This book helped me be a better listener, as I seek to understand that which I do not understand because I did not grow up in that context.

Reading shapes and molds us, helping us to think better and understand more. These three books have had a great impact on the way I think, the way I learn and understand. Looking forward to all that 2017 will teach me.

 

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City of God in Our Cities

FullSizeRender-7“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. ~ Jeremiah 29:4-7


Three weeks ago I had the privilege of preaching in Visakhapatnam, India. This is a summary of my notes from that Sunday. 


All of us here today are writing a story, for ourselves personally, for our families, and as a church. From the beginning of time there is One who is writing a Greater Story, and our stories only have life and purpose when our stories line up with His. He is writing a story that ends with a new heaven and a new earth and peoples from every tongue, tribe and nation gathering around the Throne worshipping Him. And He has invited us into this story to play a part, not because He needs us, but because He loving allows us to play a part. We remember that although we are currently living here on earth, that this is not our home. There is coming a day when we will see the Lord face to face and our dwelling place will be with Him (Revelation 21).

Much like Abraham and Sarah who were called out to a place or land they did now know, we are being called out to a new city a heavenly one; so they had their gaze set on it and did not return to where they were being called out from (Hebrews 11). Our eyes are to be set on that day to be looking/ longing for that day to come.

But in the waiting, we as the Church have a purpose, to be a City of God within our cities. The Church has a purpose in our cities as part of the Greater Story.

Jeremiah 29:4-7

The Lord is speaking to those in exile from Jerusalem, who find themselves in Babylon, a place that is not their home. Much like today the Israelites find themselves not home, and they are going to be there for a while.

So what does the Church do in the waiting?

Be Planted Where You Are

Verse 5aBuild Houses and live in them

This is a long-term command, the Lord is telling them to set up roots where He has planted them. As we remember the words of Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there!” That is be committed to where the Lord has you, finding rest in the truth that it is Him who has placed us wherever we find ourselves. Whether we love the city we are currently in, or want our as soon as possible, He has placed us in our cities for a purpose.

Verse 5bPlant Gardens and eat of their produce 

Not only are we to be planted where we are, we are also to contribute to the society and the culture of our cities, wherever we find ourselves.

Be About the Cultural Mandate

Verse 6 – Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease

In Genesis 1 & 2 we see the Lord create Adam & Eve then gives them the Cultural Mandate in Genesis 2:15 –The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Also connecting with the command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28)

The Lord continues this original command telling the exiles that as they wait for deliverance, to be home, they are to marry and have children; to fill the city with the people of God.

Adam and Eve were to fill the earth and seek to make it look like the Garden; we as the Church in our cities are to seek to fill it and be apart of the Lord’s work of restoring all things to Himself

Be About the Welfare of the City

Verse 7 – But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Welfare = Shalom / peace

 

We as the Church are to seek the peace of our cities. All aspects of peace, that we as the Church in our cities will seek to push back evil. To where we see injustices we will push back for the greater good of the City. That we as the Church in our cities would stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. That we carry out the Great Commission in our cities by brining the Gospel to those we work with and shop with and ride the bus with that all may know Him, the author of peace.

Ultimately the Church is called to be Salt and Light in our Cities so that the watching world will take notice and praise God for it (Matthew 5:13-16).

He has called to Himself making us His own, and is preparing a Heavenly City for us; while we wait for that day He has placed us as a light on top of a light stand in the midst of cities, so that all may see and give Him glory!

While we wait, we must be about the Greater Story that He was called us to, to be a City of God within our cities!

My Dr. PawPaw

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A joyful heart is good medicine,

~ Proverbs 17:22(a)

 

 

 

 

Recently I was asked who are the greatest men in your life that have influenced you, historically, biblically, and current? Over the past few years I have taken time to introduce you to two men that have made a huge impact on my life (PawPaw & my Dad); today I would like to introduce another man in my life that the Lord has used to impact me and teach me tremendously over the years.

This man is my Dr. PawPaw! Appropriately named, and not because as the oldest grandchild it was me that named him, but he is a doctor but more importantly a PawPaw! Sometimes we would see our grandparents at the same time, so “Dr. PawPaw” helped us call them apart! He is one of the most loving and joyful man I have ever been around, and when you ask anyone who knows him or who he has ever operated on they will tell you the same thing. Over the years since he joined our family in 1992 when he married my Nana, I have watched him, admired him and learned a lot from him. Here is a short list of ways he has impacted me and taught me:

  1. Be Joyful – Dr. PawPaw is the most joyful person I know, and this isn’t an understatement. He is always whistling and singing everywhere he goes. If he is taking out the trash for my Nana, he is making up a song “taking out the trash today just for Doris Bay! ” I have had endless songs made up on the spot about me and whatever we were doing, and the family wasn’t the only one, when people here who my PawPaw is they always say, I saw him when I broke my _______ and he was always singing songs about me!  Every time I see him, he will have a new story or joke to share, even if it is at my Nana’s expense that gets him in trouble! I think his favorite joke when someone tells him hi that he doesn’t recognize is: “who is that? Well I’m glad they don’t have a limp!” (he is an Orthopedic Surgeon)  He has taught me to be joyful no matter the circumstances and to spread that joy to others.
  2. Be Humble – My Dr. PawPaw while being a doctor for most of his life he has had the opportunity to do a lot in the surrounding area for the local hospitals and local community, and if you didn’t know any of that and met him he would come across as an average Joe. I’ve never seen him look down on those around him or to think too highly of himself, and never wants any recognition for anything he has done. He has taught me to be humble in everything I do.
  3. Love Others Well – My Dr. PawPaw, loves people, a lot! Its part of what makes him a great doctor and a great PawPaw. He just genuinely loves people. Multiple friends have come with me over to his house so he could examine a knee or an ankle and he didn’t mind checking them out; and he will always later ask me how they are doing. Anything he can do for you he will. I remember when him and my Nana first got married, all of us grandkids wanted McDonald’s for lunch, he said ok took down our orders jumped in his car backed out of the driveway and pulled right back in got out and said, “Where’s McDonald’s?” He simply wanted to take care of his grandkids and was set on doing it until he realized he had no idea where McDonald’s was. He has taught me to not always ask questions as to how or why, but to simply love those around you.
  4. Work Hard – One final thing for this short list of things I have learned from my Dr. PawPaw is to work hard. My Dr. PawPaw is now 92 and just retired two years ago (you read that right). In a day in age where everyone wants to make it to 65 be able to retire and not have to work, he worked until he was 90! Because he loved what he was doing, he loves people and helping people out. And when he is not in the office he is always working on some project around the house, fixing something or building something. He has shown me and taught me that no matter what you do, to work hard at it and enjoy it.

My Dr. PawPaw continues to teach me on what it looks like to be a man, husband and grandpa. To be joyful, humble, love well and work hard in all that you do. And for that I am thankful!