Where to find myself in Bonhoeffer’s story.

18951182_10155519444883442_4132200671926882046_nAs a part of our “The Cloud” series I recently taught our faith family a bit about the life and teaching of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The talk mentioned a bit of the religious and political climate that led to Germany embracing Adolf Hitler as their Führer.

As I read about Bonhoeffer’s life and the forces he confronted, I began to wonder how he would respond to the events, issues, and leaders in my lifetime.  My guess is that Bonhoeffer is claimed by all sorts of folks with varying views.  I’ve heard one person apply his life, resistance, and moment in history to the Obama administration and another apply it to the Trump administration.

The challenge with Bonhoeffer is that he is so accessible to so many. You can read about his life, his passions, his beliefs, his story – and everyone seems to find something they can embrace.

He is theologically conservative and firm on who Jesus is, the importance of Scripture, the essentialness of the church and the priority of following Jesus right here and right now into eternity.

But he also was a champion of some causes that often seem to be more focused on by those who prioritize social justice and acting on behalf of the oppressed. Issues like racism, pacifism, non-nationalistic tendencies, and a more global perspective.

Therefore, the temptation is to make him in our own image. It’s easy to read his story and try to apply it to our own political issues of the day. We apply our own perceived Hitler to Bonhoeffer and feel like we are following in his footsteps. We should read his story and seek to apply it where we can in our issues of the day. However, I don’t trust us to do it truthfully or well. We must have the humility to see ourselves in the German church of that day. Some opposed Hitler and the Nazi’s (Confessing Church) and others hitched their wagon to Hitler (the “German Christians”). Perhaps, we need to relate ourselves to them more than to Bonhoeffer.   A number of the churches and the leadership were closely aligned with the politics of the day and followed their leader above following their Lord.

Some were more desirous to grow their national and personal kingdom more than having a vision for God’s kingdom. 

So, instead of quickly applying Bonhoeffer’s story to our own political biases and enemies, I think it’s vital to ground ourselves in Scripture and the life and teachings of Jesus. To learn to truly follow after Jesus even when the path gets uncomfortable or challenges our own views.

I reckon we need fewer Democrats and Republicans with party platforms and more people who declare with their life and their words that Jesus is King. 

Random Access Mind

So I wanted to just throw out some stuff I’m thinking/reading/doing. I’m trying to make this blog/writing more of a discipline so here ya go…cottage pic

  • I’m currently at the cottage, of some friends, near Fremont, MI. They are generous and allow me to spend some time up here for a few days each Summer. I try to do some reading, thinking, processing, and planning while here. I try to get out on the kayak and slowly make my way around the lake. My favorite moment is sitting in the middle, of this little lake, and being still…  Can ya feel the serenity?  It is a moment in which everything slows down and things are put back into perspective.  I’m thankful to my wife and family for blessing this little getaway for my soul.
  • My wife and I went to the Duran Duran show in Detroit. I have been a Duran Duran fan since I was around twelve years old. Their music videos completely mesmerized me as a middle school kid. I remember an older teen coming to our house trying to play the “Union of the Snake” single backwards on my dad’s turn-table. Nothing.  Ha!  Anyways, we had a fantastic time and Vicki and I made a commitment to go do fun stuff like that together more often.
  • This past Sunday I changed my message to speak to the prejudice/race discussions going on in our country. I found it difficult to share, because I love my faith family and I desire for every single person to go on the journey of wrestling with the issues of the day together. Our world has increasingly become polarizing and unfortunately being able to put ourselves in the shoes of one another is difficult. I hope the message was an opportunity to reflect and an invitation to join Jesus in bringing people together. Jesus is the great reconciler who calls us to be His reconciliation people!
  • Getting excited about the new Watermark site.  I love being involved in starting things and dreaming up new endeavors. I like rallying people together for something needed and new. The new Watermark site will begin in September and then have a more public launch in October.  This Sunday we are going to have people check out the space we are going to gather in (The Trillium) off Van Wagoner and West of 31.  I am most excited to hear that the emerging launch team is praying for family and friends to come to know and follow Jesus.  To learn more about this – CHECK THIS OUT
  • Praying for the Haiti team as they are serving with our partners in Haiti. 🙂

Anyways, thanks for stopping in!

7 Letters Resources

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I have thoroughly enjoyed studying and teaching through the seven letters to the churches in Revelation found in Revelation 2-3. What makes the teaching even more meaningful is that I was blessed to learn about each city/church this Summer by traveling to each place in Asia (western Turkey). The trip was outstanding, the teaching was challenging, and I was able to go on this trip with my father.

Below are some of the resources I have used for this series (besides the Bible):

1) Traveling to Turkey on a Biblical Study Tour with Brad Gray. This trip was a spiritual, intellectual, and physical experience. I highly recommend going on a trip with Brad. It is worth the investment. I hope to take a group of Watermarkers to Turkey or Israel someday for a trip like this!  Here is Brad’s info and trips.

2) Guidebooks: A couple good guidebooks help you walk through the site, learn more of the background, and present some interesting information. I’ve used “A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey” by Fant and Reddish. I also utilized “Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor” by Mark Wilson.

3) Commentaries: I used a number of commentaries, but I enjoyed “Revelation” by Ben Witherington III and “Revelation” by Mark Wilson the most.

4) Book: “The Seven Cities of the Apocalypse” by Roland Worth is an outstanding book that puts together a wide variety of resources to explore each church community being addressed in the letters. This book is out of print and pricey, but I used one from a library. Yeah for libraries!

5) Websites: Ray Vanderlaan has good stuff on Israel and Turkey on his site: “Follow the Rabbi”.  I like to explore sites through pictures at “Bible places”. Another site/publication I enjoy is Biblical Archaeology Society.  Mark Wilson has a website with some information at “Seven Churches Network.”

All of these resources were very helpful, but the most impacting was the trip to study the letters in the places they were written to. The trip pulled together the passion, the pictures, and the information into a transforming experience. The best part of the trip and the study was that I experienced God, His love, and His mission.

I am thankful to my church family for giving me the gift of time to travel this Summer to experience God and His story in this way. I am grateful to the group that I traveled with, for the impact on my life. I am also thankful for my father who traveled with me, and helped make the trip possible. Finally, I am blessed to have a wife and family that encouraged me to go and experience this (even though I was gone a couple weeks).

You can watch the “Seven Letters” teaching here (with follow up questions for small groups).

Christmas Wishes

          “You’ll shoot your eye out kid!  Merry Christmas!” These were the words from a department store Santa to Ralphie, in “A Christmas Story”, when he asked for the elusive “Red Rider BB Gun” (with a compass in the stock). I think many people find themselves wishing and longing for something in the Christmas season.

The longings and wishes may be things we want to receive, but I think they are often deeper and unspoken. The real Christmas wishes don’t make any paper or electronic list. The deeper wishes take up space in our hearts and sometimes gather in the pit of our stomach.

Perhaps some of these deeper wishes sound like…  “I wish I wasn’t alone.  I wish I could go back to when my life was good.  I wish I could experience peace in the midst of the craziness.  I wish I wasn’t afraid.  I wish I could have a do-over.  I wish…..”

The first Christmas was an answer to these and other longings.  The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, was wished for before there was a Mary, Joseph, and a baby lying in a manger. There is a book in the Bible called, “Isaiah”.  Isaiah was a prophet (heard from God and revealed to others what God was saying) who wrote promises from God about what was going to happen.

When this was first declared by Isaiah, the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, were divided into two kingdoms.  The northern Kingdom still went by the name Israel and the southern Kingdom was called Judah.  It was a complex world with many threats.  In this complex and dangerous world,  the northern Kingdom of Israel, and another nation, combined forces to take over Judah to make them join their coalition.  They surrounded the city of Jerusalem, in Judah.  They planned on taking it over and setting up a ruler who was friendly to them and would go with their plans.

In this environment, God showed up and encouraged the kingdom of Judah, through the words of Isaiah.  God was offering a sign that the King could choose faith over fear.

God seemed to be saying, “In this time of being overwhelmed and ganged up on… In this moment of hopelessness and feeling alone in the world… I will give you a sign – a glimmer of hope – a promise for better days.”

How would the people know that their deepest longings would be satisfied?  In Isaiah 7:14 it proclaims that the virgin will be with child  and His name will be “Immanuel”, which means,“God with us.”  God promised that a child would be born and within a short period of time, God’s own presence would help Judah remove the threats around them.  But overtime, this sign expanded beyond hope for the moment.  This sign was also seen as promise for the future…that God would bring about a virgin birth and that this child born would be the King – the very real presence of God to rescue.

So, people began to wish that things would be different and they longed for the one to come who would be called,  “Immanuel”. They wished for the day that God would be with them and live among them.  Around 700 years after this promise, Jesus was born and is called “Immanuel” (Matthew 1:20-23).

Perhaps the deepest wishes and longings we have, are answered in the one who is called, “God with us.”  When we bring our Christmas wishes to God… He doesn’t merely give something… He gives Himself.

What longing and desire do you carry in the pit of your stomach?  What wish do you want more than anything?  Consider that these have their answer in the one whose birth is told  in the Christmas story.

What are you wishing for?

Christmas is marching toward us. This is a time associated with wishing. It is a time of hoping that things can be different.

In this season someone might be wishing for…

a toy

a job

a second chance

a relationship

a healed body

a sense of peace

 

The first Christmas was a much anticipated moment with the wishes of many people wrapped up in the Christ child.

So…

This Christmas… what are you wishing for?