jesus

Social Justice, Racial Reconciliation and the Gospel Part 1: Justice and the Cross

Blog post written by Joel Stegman

Note: This is part 1 of a series of blog posts dealing with the issues of social justice, racial reconciliation and violence that has burst upon America the last few months. Stay tuned for more!

 

Dominating all spheres of life right now is the violence taking place in America and abroad. Particularly, for us in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the video and story of Philando Castile being shot and killed by a local police officer in Falcon Heights demanded the attention of what can many times be a numb and disengaged country, shocking them into tense observance of what is fast becoming a major issue in America. Or, at least is shocking us into the realization that a problem exists and has existed for some time. The issue is one that at times seems to be narrow, in relation to specific incidents like Castile. At others, it can seem very broad, permeated by fear of violence and lack of safety.

 

Like a messy car wreck that you drive by on your way to work, we have no choice but to face the events – specific and broad – and respond to them. After the initial shock (a place I think we’re beginning to arrive), we make a move to a place where we desire two things: an explanation and justice. Where was and is God in this all? And what is He doing about it?

 

Shows of solidarity on Facebook and other social media has been the response of many, though solidarity with whom varies person to person. Quickly, this conversation becomes about which group of people to blame:

 

What about those radical Islamic terrorists, you know, the ones whose parents read them the really violent parts of the Qu’ran while they’re still in diapers? Or how about those obviously racist police? Hold on – what about the oppressive American government? Actually, those thuggish black people are the problem.

 

Regardless, we’ve drawn a clear line in the sand and said that those whose hearts are filled with “hate” for the good are the ones who’ve perpetrated our circumstances. Those on the wrong side of the line need to be shamed into submission (and of course, we conveniently always find ourselves on the right side of the line). These are all sentiments that have made the rounds on cable TV, expressed themselves in political speeches and have wiggled their way onto our Facebook feeds.

 

In explaining the real issue at hand, I submit that these are easy, lazy and reactive answers, founded in raw emotion.1 Why we struggle so much to answer the question that these answers are in response to – the question of “Who is responsible for causing me to feel unsafe, or causing society to be in such upheaval” – is that, as a society, we have no robust, reasoned concept of evil. It’s the kind of thing that has been marginalized, apparently only existing in third-world countries, Marvel movies or in our imagination. There’s an easily identified “big bad” who is making clear overtones that they want to ruin the world for everyone else.

 

This being our concept of evil, when something awful happens, we try to quickly and clearly identify the person or group who is to blame. However, the bad guy isn’t always easily identified; rarely do we get someone giving us the villainous monologue that we’re used to seeing in superhero movies. So we come up with those lazy answers I mentioned above, blaming a whole group for the problems of society.2

 

When we single out one group as the problem, it means that the opposite is also true: the group on my side of the line is innocent, and is perhaps the saviors. As Yale theologian Miroslav Volf has said, “In addition to inflicting harm, the practice of evil keeps re-creating a world without innocence. Evil generates new evil as evildoers fashion victims in their new ugly image.”3 One group may perpetrate evil toward another, but because we live in an economy of evil, the oppressed cannot be innocent either.”4

 

If that can’t be the answer, where can we place blame for the events in Falcon Heights, Orlando, Dallas, Paris, 9/11 and so many of the other horrific events we’ve endured lately?

 

The writers of the Old Testament devoted much ink to the same questions we ask: “Why? How? What?” Like us today, the Israelites were quick to assign blame to people groups: false gods and the ethnic group tied to them, evil nations and their kings, etc.

We never get a real clear, easy statement of what evil is:

 

“The fact that one cannot really understand evil is itself … a demonstration that evil is an intruder, a force not only bent on distorting and destroying the good creation but also on resisting comprehension. If one could understand it, if one could glimpse a framework within which it ‘made sense,’ it would no longer be the radical, anti-creation, anti-God force it actually is.” 5

 

But with the ambiguity, hope sprung eternal. Throughout the whole of the Old Testament, we get hints that God was planning to come and sort everything out on His own. And in Jesus and on the cross, we see a clearer picture of the problem and the solution.

 

Thus, the whole of Scripture leads to the cross. Jesus himself talked about it quite a bit before he was actually nailed to it, and it was clear he saw it as the final solution to the problem of evil laid out in the Old Testament. Take this passage – including perhaps the most famous verse in the whole Bible – from John 3:14-19:

 

“‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

 

When Jesus speaks about condemnation happening on the cross, he brings into view the idea of a court scene that unfolds on the cross itself: those who turn to Him, hanging on that tree, will live, but those who will not turn to Him are condemned. Since humans and their status are linked to the creation itself,6 then anything associated with those people who do not turn to him – be they institutions, philosophies, governments or whatever – stand condemned and guilty of sin. Therefore, justice occurs on the cross in that it renders guilty and under judgment anything that does not turn to the one who has come to save the world through his own death. Jesus takes all of the sin of the world – not just your sins – on himself so that it can be judged and named as the evil (evil being forces, people and institutions that are anti-God, anti-creation) that it is.

 

Thus, the verdict is rendered for those who choose darkness over the light: they are guilty in the eyes of God. And, as the rest of the New Testament details, Jesus, following the cross, resurrection and ascension, will finally come back one day to finish the job and exact the “verdict” he’s already made on the cross. Justice in one sense has come on the cross; in another sense, it moves inexorably toward the world until it arrives when Christ comes back to render the final verdict for sin. The reason that we can even know for sure that acts or racism – and the racist and unjust system in which they are perpetrated – are wrong is because they overflow from a heart that seeks darkness instead of the light.  This means that people looking for justice for those affected by violence or racism should look to the cross to find true justice for the evil done to them. We should start here before moving on and talking about justice in the here and now.

 

I know that in the moment, this may not feel like consolation. In the moment, when all we see is the evil perpetrated by those who seek out sin, it may not seem like much. But there is power in knowing that God sees, and hears, the cries of the oppressed and that his response is the cross. We can know God deems racial injustice evil because he has made that declaration in Christ crucified. Evil stands condemned. Justice will be served.

 

Arriving at the end of the passage, we see that light comes into the world, referring to Jesus and his own coming into the world. Those who come to the light are coming to it from darkness; they are those who do not stay in the darkness they’ve stumbled around in their whole life. The picture is clear: we start in darkness and move toward Jesus, the light. This means that it’s not just a certain group in darkness; for Jesus is speaking to a Jew, one who had been trained to think that the problem was outside him, found in a certain people group. Jesus’ answer is, ‘No, all humans are in darkness; thus, in humanity itself lies the problem.’

The idea of the darkness here seems to fit well with where we’re at as a society. Because we choose not to see the glow of the light of Jesus, we stumble through the darkness, bumping into each other, into hidden pitfalls, and we have no ability to truly articulate the problem because we can’t see it. How could we?

 

This is where the problem of evil finally comes to fruition: we are where the evil comes from. In theological terms, this is called the doctrine of “original sin.” The evil doesn’t lie in a people group. The evil lies in each and every human, and only by moving to the light of Jesus can we move out of the darkness. And to add one more thought on top of everything else I’ve just said, in the same way that one group of people are not the problem, one group of people is also not the solution. Instead of responding to police violence towards black people by by saying that one group of people – in this case, cops – are the “good”, and anyone against them is wrong, we’re in effect responding to one error with another. The doctrine of original sin means that one group of people can’t be the problem; they also can’t be the solution.

The light itself is cast onto everything else, showing us what it truly is. In the glow of this light, the lazy answers I listed above are shown to be just that: lazy. Those answers siphon one group off as the problem. Israel tried to do the same thing. We have to refuse the impulse to blame shift and call some group of people the problem. We need to go to the root as a church, like those seeing clearly because of the light. Thus, the answer can’t be shutting out entire groups of people from our country. It can’t be violence because that is not how God has chosen to deal with evil; He’s chosen to deal with it on the cross.

 

Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, because the death of Christ matters. It is what gives life to men. The cross is the place justice happens – and this is where God was in the midst of these events. Because of our ability to move away from what would have been our condemned status, we can have the freedom to be agents of reconciliation in the world, to be at the forefront of the efforts to reconcile groups to each and to Jesus, the true light.

 

Let’s make that infect our Facebook feeds and political discourse instead of the junk that’s filled so much of it recently. Let’s be agents of that light to the world.

 

Footnotes:

1 This, of course, does not excuse the need for policy and practical responses to these questions. Questions of what the response of the government or practical, state-level answers to these problems–for example, questions of how to find and stop terrorists–of course need to take place. This, however, is not a place to focus on those policy questions.

 

2 Consider two extreme examples. The Nazi movement in Germany is an example of this happening to an ethnic group; Marxist revolution is it happening to the government.

 

3 Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, pg. 81.

 

4 Volf goes on to say that, “From a distance, the world may appear neatly divided into guilty perpetrators and innocent victims. The closer we get, however, the more the line between the guilty and the innocent blurs and we see an intractable maze of small and large hatreds, dishonesties, manipulations and brutalities, each reinforcing the other.” Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, pg. 81.

 

5  N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, pg. 742.

 

6 In Romans 8:20-21, Paul makes the claim that creation itself is tied to humans. The point is that humanity is the key to the problem of sin, death and decay in the world. Adam falls; creation falls. Humans are redeemed in Christ; the whole of creation is now likewise restored. It may be that is what Jesus means when he uses the word kosmos for world in 3:16, which can be used many ways and refer to the whole of creation.

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Being A Man- What Culture Tells Me vs. What God Tells Me

Blog post by: Miles Trump

I’ve had at least 60, maybe 70, surgeries on my throat.

After a while, you just stop counting.

As a child, I was diagnosed with a rare disease called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. That essentially means wart-like growths would coat the inside of my throat, eventually blocking my airway, and that when doctors would remove them with a laser, they would persistently, stubbornly return.

Before each surgery, I tried to play it cool. Tried to be tough. Brave, strong, level-headed. Tried convincing myself that I wasn’t terrified of everything inside this hospital: The weird white cream that numbed the skin on the top of my hand and alleviated the pinch of the IV needle, the people in the masks who would say things like, “We’re almost ready for you,” the too-sterile smell of hospitals that still makes my skin crawl, the warm blankets, the socks with grips on the bottom, the eerily, nauseatingly sweet smell of the anesthesia through the translucent mask.

I was none of the things I pretended to be. I was a frightened, young boy – so unnerved that just about every time the hospital staff wheeled me away from the parent who brought me to surgery this time, the whooshing by of operating room after operating room en route to the one waiting for me would make me vomit out of sheer nervousness.

I failed to be a man, or what I thought was a man, during these moments. Men didn’t puke when fear popped its head around the corner. They looked it in the eye and laughed. I vomited.

Years later, I wondered where, though, did I get these messages about what men in our society do? About who men were? And about how men acted?

From our culture, more than anything else.

I watched entirely too much television growing up – not my parents’ fault, but my own. One thing I’ve learned about TV is that it can be a simple reflection of the goings-on of our culture, our society. Same with movies, music, art, media — all of which fascinated me.

And so, the culture slowly began to impress on me, to construct for me, what a man was.

Culture taught me that men don’t show emotion, unless you’re letting out a primal scream after posterizing someone on the basketball court.

(I was, and still am, too short to dunk.)

Culture taught me that men are never vulnerable, and certainly never act vulnerable, around other people – especially not other men. How unmanly.

Culture taught me that men don’t cry, even though I cried as a child. Another sign I wasn’t a man yet.

It taught me that men aren’t scared.

That men get rich, wear tailored suits and drive nice cars to important appointments.

That men drink, smoke, swear and play by a different set of rules, and it’s awesome. And that when they get together to do these things, their conversations run the gamut of sports, work, women, maybe family — nothing deeper.

Speaking of women, that men have sex with many women, because sex is amazing and the more you can have with lots of women, the better, cooler and more like a man you are.

That, even if they won’t admit it out loud, men think they are higher in the collective pecking order than women.

That men must always be better than the next man, and must care about the next man insofar as he is doing better than him.

That for many (but not all) men, God is separate from daily living and shows up mainly on Sundays and at weddings and funerals.

The list goes on. (You, reader, can likely add to it without much effort.)

I lived most of my life with this general image of a man impressed on me, with some elements sinking in deeper than others. I also lived most of my life knowing this couldn’t be the only design for a man. If so, then what was I to become? Not that.

I grew up attending a Lutheran church, but 2012 is the year I first considered myself a Christian (that’s a story for another time). And these messages between the man culture told me to be and the man God called me to be started to conflict.

Over the course of the last four years, I’ve grappled with this: What does a Christian man’s behavior, along with his inner life, look like? What does he do? How does he think? And how does he act?

And could I possibly be one of those men, despite all the years I’ve spent living in the ambiguous area between trying to fit our societal standards and ignoring the Gospel tugging on my soul?

Yes, God says. You must be this man. And I will help you.

I have learned, or rather, God has taught me, much about what it means to be a man.

I’ve learned I must try to imitate, and be a reflection of, Christ, and try to live a life filled with love, every day. No days off.

I’ve learned it’s OK to express my deepest, most inner emotions, to be vulnerable with others. Jesus wept. He flipped over tables in the temple. He spoke truth to (earthly) power. He didn’t hide his emotions. Why would I?

I’ve learned that, at times, I will be scared, and that God cares about my fears. That God, through His grace, tells me to cast my worries and concerns upon Him, and to be still and know that He is exactly who He says He is.

I’ve learned that my professional life is important, but that my faith in Christ is what I must build my foundation upon.

I’ve learned that my selfish nature, which likely has taken up deeper roots than I can recognize, must die (repeatedly), so that I can live a life worthy of my calling.

I’ve learned that I must confront and repent of my sins, which are not simply a repetitive series of moral shortcomings, but are acts of hostility against a God who has given me so much more than I deserve.

I’ve learned that as God has blessed me with a wonderful wife, I must love her with the deepest kind of love I can summon. That I must love her to the extent I’m willing to sacrifice my life for her, as Christ did the church He loved.

I’ve learned that women, who astonish me every day, deserve nothing less than our utmost respect and admiration. The men in our society often fail at this, and much more, in regard to women.

I’ve learned that, even amid that deep love for my wife, the best way I can love her (and live the life designed for me) is by loving God before all else. And that doing all that I can to praise, honor and glorify Him (and point people toward His son, Jesus) is my obligation.

I’ve learned that I must create conditions in which the people in my life can flourish – spiritually, relationally, professionally. That doing so takes living a disciplined, intentional life where I am no longer the focus, but God is.

I’ve learned that I must care – every day! – about those who are in need, at the bottom, the voiceless.

I’ve learned that I must wake up each day and recognize that Christ died for me and the people around me, even the people whom I don’t like. I must allow this mentality to penetrate not just my mind but also my soul.

I’ve learned that my life might not ever be easy, but it will always be worth it.

Ironically, just like I felt after vomiting from my hospital bed all those times, I still feel like a failure.

If what I outlined above is true, then I fail each day at what I understand a man to be.

But.

The difference now is that I serve a God who will not fail, who cannot fail because failure isn’t in His nature. I serve a God who will help guide me, correct me, regenerate me, convict me, encourage me and love me as I fail.

I still have so much to learn, so much growing to do. I will continue to stumble my way through manhood. But I will do so happily, because I know God, who sent His son to die for me, and who has given me a life and salvation that I do not deserve, will help me along the way.
He’s the man.

A photo by roya ann miller. unsplash.com/photos/Rdsc2L517iQ

Selfishness, Sin, and Forgiveness

Blog post written by Aaron Robertson

Do you ever find yourself in situations where you think: “I’m not going to come out of this one looking good?” Maybe I’m the only one but I regularly find myself in situations where managing my ‘image’ isn’t easy. For me it is usually in situations where my less-than-perfect character is brought to the surface or where my usually well-managed flaws become exposed. Most often it is stress or struggling through relational issues with others that bring out my worst. Life keeps reminding me that I am not as good, righteous, or virtuous as I would like to think.
As much as other people and circumstances can expose these things in my heart, scripture has often been more precise in exposing these things. Philippians 2 is one of those passages that always helps me see my true self. The first five words of Philippians 2:3 are some of the hardest for me to read: “do nothing from selfish ambition.”
Perhaps like me you can read through stretches of scripture and think “I’m doing alright with that.” It is really easy to do with the “do not murder” and “do not steal” passages. As an introvert, when I am feeling like a curmudgeon it is easy to say “I don’t really like talking or people so I don’t need to worry about gossip!” But when I read “do nothing from selfish ambition” all I can think is “oh crap…I screwed that one up.”
If marriage and parenting have taught me anything it is that I am extremely selfish. I thought that many of my vain, narcissistic patterns had already been dealt with when I was younger. However, when my wife and children started messing with my habits and hobbies I found I still have a long way to go.
The truth is that I’d really only learned to minimize the frequency of my selfish moments and I never addressed the selfishness in my heart. The irony is that my minimization of “selfish moments” was only accomplished by living a self-absorbed life ordered around my needs and desires!
Paul could have been so much softer in this Philippians passage. My sinful heart wishes he had been.
He could have said “try not to be selfish” or “as much as possible think about others first.” Paul didn’t take that soft, left-up-to-interpretation approach. He couldn’t leave wiggle room on this because he knows the human heart too well. Paul knows that any grounds left for self-involved thinking will be clung to with fierce desperation. So Paul tells us “do NOTHING from selfish ambition.”
If you are asking “when can I think of myself first?” let me clarify:

  • When pigs fly
  • When hell freezes over
  • Under no circumstances
  • Never ever ever

Those five words, “do nothing from selfish ambition,” are enough to condemn every human heart. I think if we are honest we realize that we all screw this one up every day. The truth isn’t just that we screw up occasionally but that we are screw ups through and through. Selfish ambition is often our M.O.
Paul knows that about us and so this passage is for us. While this is tough to read and impossible to live out, it is precisely because it leaves no wiggle room for interpretation that we should love this verse. There is nothing like seeing our failures to help us see our need for some help.
If Paul had phrased things in a way that left us feeling like we could figure it out on our own, we would be fighting endlessly to do just that. Instead, because there is no escaping Paul on this one, we are left in a position of desperation and helplessness. This is precisely where God wants us because it points us to Christ.

We are screw ups. Every last one of us. There is no figuring it out, no try-a-little-harder, and no chance of leaving behind our selfishness under our own power. We simply don’t measure up.
For you it might not be selfishness. It might be anger. Or lust. Or envy. Whatever it may be for you, when you dig into those issues you end up realizing they all come from a heart of selfishness, just with different symptoms showing up in our lives. Anyway you cut it, we are all living for ourselves and we all fall short of what God asks of us.
God knows this about us and knew that it would take someone besides us to live that out. Selfish ambition can be a path to hell or a flashing neon arrow pointing to Jesus. The Father sent the Son so that we don’t have to live eternity in judgment for our selfish ambition. Instead we can live eternally in Him who forgives and fixes us up.
We rejoice in serving a God who truly does nothing out of selfish ambition. For us, seeing God in all of His glory, power, and magnificence goes a long way towards pulling us out of our own selfishness. The next time you really “screw that one up,” look to the cross. God’s grace is sufficient.
The great news isn’t just that Jesus lived selflessly on our behalf but also that he is actually able to help us live that way ourselves. In Christ and with the power of the Holy Spirit we can die to ourselves and live for others. Just a few words after the challenge to “do nothing from selfish ambition” we learn are encouraged to take on a humble mindset “which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
Humility and selflessness are already ours in Christ Jesus. With His example and the power of the Holy Spirit we too can live that out more and more fully as we become like Him. What great “good news” that we are forgiven for our failings and empowered to be like God.
Repentance and forgiveness are so incredibly powerful for us when we see our sin and learn to go directly to our Savior. We can crucify our selfishness in the flesh and live in Christ. The next time you screw up, don’t beat yourself up. Go seek forgiveness from the one who was beaten up on your behalf.

 

Men of Hope: Preseason

As you all may be aware based on the fact that NFL training camps are starting, students are coming back after “working” all summer and it cooling off outside (wait…never mind on that last one!), fall is upon us! And with the fall at MOH comes the kick off of our year! We’ve got a lot of great stuff planned for the year, and we’re excited to see how God is going to use MOH to bring glory to himself and expand his kingdom this year.

Have you wondered what MOH’s vision and mission are, and how those influence what we do? Or who the leaders are? Or are you just curious about what is going on this year?

To start the year off well and talk about all that we have planned, we are having MOH Preseason on August 27th at Hope East from 9am-10:30am. The basics of Preseason are that we feed you some coffee and donuts and let you know what MOH will be up to this year! We’ll cast some vision forMOH, let you know why we do what we do, present you with some opportunities for ways to get involved with MOH, go through the events we’ll be having, talk about coaching and the blog, and unveil the Bootcamp theme! We’ll have a chance for you to get to know some people who are also interested in MOH, ask some questions of MOH leadership and let us know if there’s stuff you’d like to see MOH be doing!

We really hope you can join us! Please RSVP here on the City so we know how much food to get and how many guys to prepare for!

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Rest More, Kill More Sin: Your Summer Guide to Doing Less

Article by: Aaron Shaw, 6/21/2016

I’ll be the first to say that summer is one is my favorite seasons. When we turn the corner from rainy 40 degree spring to that first 60 degree day with nothing but sunshine, I’m the first one to throw on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and grab my shades and drive into work with the windows down, sunroof open, and music cranked up a bit louder than normal.

I grew up wedged between the ocean and 11,000 foot snow-capped mountains in Oregon. Traditionally people ask me two questions about Oregon: “Is Portland as weird as everyone says it is?” (The answer is a resounding yes) and “Does is rain a lot?”  Yes. It rained it a ton. Almost 300 days of rain a year. We lived about a half hour from the ocean and we would frequent the beach a lot. However because it’s Oregon, half of the times we were there it was cloudy, 50, and misty. It made it less appealing to surf, skim board, or take a jaunt through the water. Instead, you’d throw on a North face fleece, grab your Starbucks coffee, an REI beanie, take a short walk, grab a shell or two, and turn around and head back.

Now that I live in Minnesota I experience more sunshine than I ever have. I did give up my oceans and my mountain adventures, but in turn I got more sunshine, great friends, and was introduced to the delightful season of road construction. Maybe the last one isn’t something I’m super thrilled about, but nonetheless, I enjoy having more sunshine available in Minnesota than in Oregon. Summer is a great time to hang out, be with friends, and even spend a weekend at the cabin. Yet, for me summer can also mean that I’m preoccupied more with the sunny weather than I am with my Bible. In years past, summer becomes my playground for hammocking, beach volleyball, late night DQ runs, and bike rides as far as my legs can go. Even though I’m not married and have the time to do whatever I want whenever I want, there’s still an obligation and responsibility that I believe we as men (and women too) must hold up and exalt above our preferences of a leisurely summer with loosened responsibility. Except, I’m not advocating for anyone to do more stuff. In fact, my plea is that we do less.

With the departure of winter and the summer months now in full swing (or 4 months of bad sledding if you choose to look at it like that) we have more sunlight, more outside freedom, and traditionally (for some) more free time. The refreshing nature of summer comes at a time where we need time to recuperate from the crazy fall, winter, and spring. But some of us use that extra daylight or extra free time to do more stuff. I was convicted many times this past month by multiple people, and then God, for not resting well this past year. I hardly took a day to myself or structured in more than a few minutes to myself in a given day. From 6am to 11pm, I was always doing something. Sabbath became somewhat of a foreign concept. It can sound really productive or give a vibe that showcases my “importance”, but overall it is not good.

It’s actually sin.

Not truly resting in God and taking time to become refreshed (like God was AFTER the 7th day in Genesis 2) is pride. It’s saying that we don’t need to take the time to slow down, make time, and commune with the Father. I know we are all busy people with schedules, agendas, people to provide for, and children to take care of. But I still think it’s fascinating that the first thing God makes Holy throughout the creation in Genesis is not people, is not the Earth, however, is time. God ordains time to be Holy.

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” -Genesis 2:3, NIV

If God makes time Holy, it must be important. I think that if we lack in understanding the importance of time and the depth to which God desires us to come to Him for rest, we miss a large part of who God is. If God rested after creating the universe, how much more do you believe we need to rest? Personally, I’ve taken this to heart and found myself much more joyful, satisfied, and refreshed. Yet I didn’t achieve this by simply adding in spiritual disciplines like in prayer or Bible reading on top of my current life. Instead I started to cut my social time, spend less time on my phone/computer, wake up earlier, work less than 50 hours a week, start to say ‘no’ to certain opportunities, and start to value my time with God. I made it a priority to actually do less stuff. In turn, I forged for myself 2 hours a day in my schedule where I don’t do anything with anyone and make that time I would spend with God. Whether I’m painting, reading, praying, listening to worship songs, or going for a solo walk to Stone Arch Bridge, the 2 hours of “God time” I’ve made has been nearly revolutionary. In the New Interpreters Bible Commentary about the Sabbath in Exodus, Walter Brueggemann explained the necessity of rest:

“How is it that a covenantal work stoppage (Sabbath) bears witness to this self disclosing God? The answer is given in the motivational clause: Israel rests because God rests.  This God [YHWH] is not a workaholic. Yahweh has no need to be more secure, more sufficient, more in control, or more noticed. It is ordained in the very fabric of creation that the world is not a place of endless productivity, ambition, or anxiety.”

God wove rest into the very fabric of our creation. Trying to be productive all the time deters the ability to seek God, feel God, know God, and ultimately abandons our ability to truly be image bearers of God. If God rested, so shall we. To deny this is to deny the essence and nature of God and thus undermines Him by our attempts to exalt our time, desires for production and consumption above God’s ordained requirement to be still and know who He is. Walter Brueggemann continued,

“The work stoppage on the Sabbath- the breaking of the vicious cycle of production and consumption is a sign for all the world to see.”

This is the true meaning of rest in Christ Jesus our Lord and King- that we may not seek His will in hopes to perform and please Him, but that we rest and be filled. That we all quietly retreat to commune with the Father in simply just being. If we are stressed out, busy, finding our time slipping away from us, or losing grips with our spiritual compass, taking some time to rest could be the greatest gift God has offered us. Through rest I know we find our ultimate joy, ultimate satisfaction, and supreme direction for our lives: to know God, to be known by God, and to love God! To take time to be away from working, people, and school can free our minds to be with God. To put a stop to our work or play, sit before God, listen, pray, and worship gives God glory. God fills us when we come to Him. We are not human doings, we are human beings. Thus, we should embrace our existence of “being” and be.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!” -Psalm 46:10, ESV

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Jesus’ Answer to Anxiety

25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

-Matthew 6:25-32

I am a father. On August 21, 2015, my wife gave birth to our first child, our daughter Anna. Seeing my daughter born was one of the most – if not the most – exciting moments of my life. It may also have been the most terrifying.  Being responsible for an utterly helpless, completely dependent child has changed the way that I see the world. My wife and I are no longer solely concerned with providing for our own needs. We now have both the responsibility and honor of taking care of a child – in a world that is different from the world I grew up in.

How can I protect her without being overprotective? In what ways will my character affect her – both positively and negatively? What will this world be like in twenty years, or even forty years? Will she come to know and love Christ? These new questions are without answers, and they have lead to new worries that I’ve struggled to learn to deal with.

This led me to the passage above, and particularly the beginning verse 25 and the ending verse 33. In verse 25, Jesus gives us the seemingly unreasonable command not to worry.  Really? Don’t worry? It’s helpful to read on to understand where He’s going with this.

You will notice that the things Jesus mentions not to worry about are needs not wants. In fact, He mentions nothing about our wants. In this, Jesus is telling us that God will provide for our needs but He may not provide for our wants. So Jesus asks us to trust Him, calling us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”.

What does that look like for me and my worries about my family? My natural response is spend my energies creating a safe environment to protect Anna – to keep her safe, to protect her from “bad” things (however we may define that), and to make sure her financial needs are provided for. But ultimately I know that won’t give her what she needs most deeply. True security comes from God, from trusting God and seeking Him. I need to learn to be faithful to Him, and to become a God-honoring husband and father. In doing so, I hope that I will learn to trust that God will take care of the needs of my family.

Blog post written by Ryan Satrom, 2016

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Canvas of Impossibility

Article by: Michael Bolland, March 23rd, 2016


 

 

I’m not sure I know anyone who, when it comes to a desired success, puts themselves intentionally in a position where their likelihood decreases.

I was always taught to set myself up well for success.

With education, I was told that in order to get a job and live a sustainable life, I needed to get training and knowledge in the field that I would go into.

With athletics, I was told that I needed to prepare at the highest level and in the smartest way possible leading up to a game or competition to put myself in the best position to win.

With finances, especially as a 23 year-old, I’m told to invest and delegate my money wisely to set myself up well for later in life.

With health, the message is that the better I take care of myself in my youth, the more likely my older years are to be full of good health.

These are good teachings, and I would stand strongly by any of them; however, this concept stands completely in contrast with the means to which God displays His sovereign character.

 “Who is like the Lord our God,

the One who sits enthroned on high,

who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”

(Ps 113:5-6)

John Eldredge, in his book Wild at Heart, mentions something profound about the nature of God: “It’s not the nature of God to limit his risks and cover his bases. Far from it. Most of the time, he actually lets the odds stack up against him.” As examples, Eldredge brings up David against Goliath as well as God’s victorious reduction of Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300. Then, Eldredge goes on asking us to consider God’s plan to spread the Gospel: “It’s not just a batlle or two that God takes his chances with either. Have you thought about his handling of the gospel? God needs to get a message out to the human race, without which they will perish forever. What’s the plan? First, he starts with the most unlikely group ever: a couple prostitutes, a few fisherman with no better than a second-grade education, and a tax collector. Then, well, he passes the ball to us!” This is nothing short of incredible, and it touches on my point that I’d like to make about God: God doesn’t display His character on the back-drop of the slightly improbable, but upon the canvas of the seemingly impossible. As we look back and see His mastery, we are left to think nothing else but that God had to be responsible. Consider Jesus’ explanation of the kingdom of God from Mark 4:30-32: “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on the earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

Seeing the “largest of all” knowing that it bloomed from the “smallest of all” prompts us to believe that God’s hand had to be over this transformation. God is uniquely capable of taking the smallest, weakest, most frail, and seemingly useless and turning it into the largest, strongest, most sustainable, and most powerful of things. Furthermore, Jesus couldn’t have been more right in his description of the kingdom of God because from what seemed like only handful of pestering Jews, God built an unstoppable worldwide movement called the church of Jesus Christ.

Gamaliel, a Pharisee, in Acts 5:38-39, said: 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. The origin of the gospel being spread is obviously significant to God. He wanted to make sure that there was nothing left in question as to how His message was being moved forth.

Was this message of human origin or was it from God Himself? The nature of men who were God’s messengers—“unschooled and ordinary”—did the opposite of disprove the message’s claimed origin: it actually enhanced the evidence. As I look back and think about the mustard seed of an origin that Christianity had and sift my memory across the face of its history, I’m left in awe of Him who painted and orchestrated it all.

Who among the gods

is like you, Lord?

Who is like you—

majestic in holiness,

awesome in glory,

working wonders?

(Exodus 15:11)

God has been painting a picture of His glory for a long time in the face of the impossible—quite literally, He always has been. Upon the canvas of dark nothingness, the Creator breathed Creation into existence:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:1-2)

Then, God invited us to do what he always has been doing: displaying His majesty as a God who lives in glory, love, perfection, and complete satisfaction in Himself:

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27)

John Piper put it well when he said: “He made humans in His image to image something, namely Himself. So, our existence is about showing God’s existence, or specifically God’s glory. Which, I think, means God’s manifold perfection: the radiance, the display, the streaming out of his many colored, beautiful perfections.”

However, it wasn’t long before the fabric tore; we chose to give ourselves a different purpose. Instead of being a lighthouse that properly let ships know of the shore, we decided that it was better off that ships kept their attention on us.

*Crash*

Imagine a puzzle strewn about the room—some pieces hidden, some upside down, some bent, some scratched. There’s no way we can tell what the puzzle was supposed to display. We need to be found, turned right side up, bent back, and painted upon what has been scratched off! There’s something missing to this story though, and I want you to feel it.

Forgive me, but I’m asking you to empathize with puzzle pieces:

The pieces hidden are those lost in darkness without a Light to illuminate their purpose.

The pieces upside down are those without an eye to their Conductor to know what to sing.

The pieces bent are those without Aid to walk straight and upright.

The pieces scratched are those marred without a Healing Touch.

Collectively, the puzzle is us—helpless, out of tune, lost, purposeless, and needy. It is in this void that we taste once again our God’s glorious artistry:

“‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

It is the greatest relief to all mankind that God interacts with us in our incapabilities. In the case of salvation, this is a particularly precious intervention. Though we departed from our honorable and privileged purpose of imaging God to live in the feebleness of self-glorification, God graciously grants us an offering of a redemptive return to fulfillment of our purposeful existence. This return, which was impossible for us, was made possible through Jesus Christ. We were dead, so He died that we might rise with Him and be born again into the purpose God had for us since the beginning.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29)


Written by Michael Bolland. Michael attends Hope and is involved with the Men of Hope ministry. Michael is an intern with Athletes in Action, a ministry of Cru that focuses on athletes and discipleship. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2015 with a degree in Mathematics. He currently lives in Minneapolis.

Find Michael on Facebook: Michael Bolland

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Welcome to the NEW Men of Hope Website and Blog

Welcome to Men of Hope

We invite you to use this site to get to know Men of Hope, stay updated on current MoH events, and interact with our community through the blog.

“Men of Hope exists to connect the men of our community with one another, to help them comprehend what it means to be a Gospel man, and to challenge them to follow Christ in all areas of their life.”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Brothers, it is our desire to connect with each other in order to strengthen and encourage, so that we are not so easily entangled in sin. More importantly, we want to journey together in the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Christ, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart. All the while, seeking to greater comprehend Christ, his work on the cross, and His unparalleled love for us and the world.

As Hope continues to grow it becomes increasingly more difficult to stay connected and feel like you are a part of the larger community. It’s harder to find opportunities for genuine conversation and connection with other guys. We hope that this website and blog will be a step in the right direction and provide an accessible platform for us to connect with each other and have some of those conversations.

“I love to read, discuss theology, keep up on current events, figure out how my faith can be applied to my cultural context, and laugh at crazy stuff on the web. I am addicted to playing board games and following sports. I love my wife and want to learn how to lead my family well. I want to help people get to know their Savior, either for the first time or with greater intimacy than they could have imagined. I believe that life is an adventure and I hope that this website/blog is one small way that we will get to journey together.” -Joey

“I came to Hope by accident. It was the closest church I could walk to during the winter during college. 3 years later, I found myself interning at Hope and involved with all kinds of ministries. I have a passion for men’s ministry, discipleship, worship, theology, and simply getting to know people more than their names and professions. At 22, I’m still considered to be young in the church world. However, I’ve found that I can connect with many men here at the church despite my age. My hope is to help connect more men who are both inside and outside of the church with God. To be able to seek the supremacy, the majesty, and the incomprehensible love of God together is my dream. Taking on the blog is an honor, a privilege, and a joy. I pray this blog and website acts as an exalting force for God’s name and brings us together under His ultimate grace.” -Aaron

This blog is for the Men of Hope: the college students, working professionals, dads, and everyone in between. We are men who desire to know our calling in the Kingdom. Through struggle or victory, we faithfully exalt God in all we do. We value friendship, authenticity, truth, encouragement, and worship. We see this blog as a chance for men to share their stories to build each other up, and praise God for the work He is doing.

We hope you enjoy it!
Joey Kalan and Aaron Shaw

Søren Kierkegaard And A Parable For Our Time

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In the early 1800s, Danish theologian/philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote a parable describing the sense of safety a man gets from having a lighted lantern on a carriage ride. He went on to explain how the lantern prohibits the ability to see the stars. In our day and age, we don’t use lanterns very often, but we have no shortage of devices that give us the same illusion of safety while obscuring our view. Continue reading “Søren Kierkegaard And A Parable For Our Time”

Fishes And Loaves Part 3

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In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus immediately follows the feeding of the five thousand by asking his disciples a question. “Who do you say that I am?” This did a coincidence. To use a sport’s analogy, this is an uncontested layup. “All right guys, I just miraculously fed a multitude in the desert. Who am I?” To his credit, Simon Peter gets the answer right. “You are the Christ of God.” Continue reading “Fishes And Loaves Part 3”