Rooted: The Hidden Places Where God Develops You [A BOOK REVIEW]

This is a book that comes out today not only from my pastor, @thebanning , but it really does come straight to you from my church @JCSacramento . It comes from me in a way. 

The only remaining rebellion

riskThere was a time in the not so distant past when disbelief was the great adventurous rebellion. It was a time when everyone said they were Christians and believed in God because any decent person would, which meant the real zealous ones were those who would actually deny God and the ability to experience such a God. There as a time that we are seeing the peak of now when there was a sense of being nearly heroic to refuse participation in 'organized religion' or 'the institution of the Church' or in being faithful in any form.

I keep saying 'there was a time' because this is no longer the case. It no longer takes courage to disbelieve or deny or refuse a life of faith or participation in a faith community. Is this good news? I think so.

The only rebellion left is to live a life pursuing holiness. The only remaining adventurous way of life is one of Christian community. A life of rebellion and adventure requires risk. Any adventurous activity ceases to be so when you remove any sense of risk.

If you choose a life of faith today and going on into the future we imagine ahead of us, you will likely be subjected to attacks upon your choices, your virtues, your beliefs, and your identity. An increasingly atheistic culture will make the life of faith a great adventure and challenge. The life of faith becomes more rebellious by the day.

Stanley Hauerwas writes, "This isn't the end. Its the beginning of God's experiment with your life. What God will make of you, we know not."

It is no wonder Jesus taught that we ought to count the cost before following after him. It will be a life of adventure, risk, rebellion, and difficulty if you are actually up for it.

Ragamuffin Leadership

I was an RA at Anderson University, and I remember the chance to revisit the campus I worked.  Upon the visit, I was able to hang out with the ragamuffins who lived on my floor.  What a great time of fellowship!  I have often said that fellowship is when the mighty descend and the lowly rise, but I also think fellowship happens when the lowly congregate. Anyway, it was wonderful to be with the men I lived close to for a year and see where their lives were then and now.  My mind went back to a conversation I had with a friend of mine on campus.  She said, "Ya know!  They say the floor almost always becomes reflections of their RA."  I thought to myself, "Oh no!  That cannot happen.  Nobody wants that.  One P.C. is bad and crazy enough."  Then I went back to visit them and realized how true that is of ANY LEADER on ANY LEVEL.  If you are like me, you realize how ridiculously humbling it can be.

I went back to find freshmen and sophomores then sophomores and juniors who were IN LOVE WITH THE GOSPEL.  I went back to see the craziest guys on campus then...still crazy...but almost each and every one of them filling some sort of leadership role.  I saw several of them in raw honest accountability groups [ash trays included].  I saw a group of guys who pursued God with all their hearts.  I got to see a group of guys in love with Jesus at the very core of their being but who are looked down upon as the "unorthodox" group.

My last day there, one of the guys came up to me before I left for the airport and said, "PC, I just went to an interview for [a large Christian summer camp], and the guy asked me, 'Who is one leader in your life you have respected the most and why,' and I said, 'PC Walker, my RA last year."  He said it was because I lead in a way that built a relationship he respected, and then it was as though I stepped back to watch them grow.

I had no idea.  I was just getting close to my guys and letting them get close to me...the real me.

No matter what level of leadership you are in...even if you do not think you are a leader (you ARE), WE ALL PASS A BIT OF OURSELVES ONTO OTHERS.  That is the great inevitability of relationships.  We all have INFLUENCE to give and receive, to pass on and take on.  Its as easy as creating relationships.

Evil in the Church

hp photosmart 720 The gospel is lavished and laced with LOVE. If you know the gospel, you know you are loved. If you spread the gospel to others, you spread love. Oh how I long to love. I really wish I loved better...loved more.

It really is hard to love everyone. "Loving your enemy" is and will always be a difficult task, but why are we so quick to run from that challenging call? I am beginning to think it is not that the Church is "no good" at it as much as I would say Christians have been conditioned to not even try. Christians have walked further and further away from the challenge to love OUR dark side of life, and we do it by HIDING. By pretending.

For too long, we have believed and maintained hope by pretending that things are not as bad as they are. We have reduced the church down to a Sunday morning event rather than an EVERYDAY community. We are content to put band-aids on every Sunday, go to 'church', and walk away with gaping wounds nobody is willing to believe actually exist.

Church is no longer an everyday community where we honestly face evil happing in our CHURCH every day; issues like abuse, marital rocks, terminal sickness, cyber-adultery, depression, flat-lining-self-esteem, doubt...sin! We are more and more reluctant to face the issues of everyday, and we leave 'church' to be a Sunday morning EVENT! We have to realize that there IS evil in our church...OUR CHURCH COMMUNITY...everyday community.

If we don't, we will watch the gospel remain a sermon that is a part of the Sunday morning event. There IS hurt, evil, and sin in our church our world. We have to realize that our relationship with Christ is not intended to COVER UP the dark side of life, but rather to illuminate a path THROUGH IT! [Tweet that] We have to realize we are called as the church to be the hands and feet to love and stand before the pain. To take on the dark side of life instead of pretending it is not there. We cannot be afraid of the pain. We cannot hide from the sin, hurt and evil in our church.

We WILL be bloodied by the contact, yes! But we will be the community we are intended to be, the community which goes beyond being pumped with spiritual adrenaline on Sunday morning. Sunday morning is a congregation, but the church is an EVERYDAY COMMUNITY!!

City of Refuge

The cities of refuge have to be one of the most intriguing things to me in the Old Testament. God commanded his people as they were establishing themselves in the promised land by tribe to each have a city of refuge outside the parameters of the city. These cities were to be a place for people who had killed another to escape. It was not a place to go be innocent and free of guilt. It was a place of protection. Why protect the murderer? These places were for them to escape those who avenge the victims. It was God's justice. Wait, what?

God knows our revenge is always more emblazened and severe. God protects from unequal severity of revenge. The murderer, though in refuge, remains under judgement for his wrong. That is until the acting priest dies. (ps, another interesting reality is that the cities of refuge were always maintained by the priestly tribe. The mission of the cities of refuge should be the mission of pastors, ministers, and followers of Jesus.) Like us, they were under judgement until our High Priest died to free us from under the burden of judgement.

Yesterday, I was contacted by a ministry to my neighborhood (Oak Park/Tahoe Park). The ministry is called, City of Refuge Sacramento. While it is not a hiding place for murders, it is a place to reach into a community to which high crime and poverty is attributed. It is a ministry which attempts to infiltrate in community to make efforts toward this freedom out from under the burden of the judgement.

[vimeo w=500&h=281]

CIty of Refuge - BT FInal from Better Together on Vimeo.

How Faith-based is Your Organization?

What a strange descriptor for organizations! How can I really call my organization 'faith-based'? What would really qualify it as such? Does my organization... - have assurance of things it hopes for - have a conviction for things we cannot actually see - have a relentless trust in God that goes beyond our projected goals and budget - trust more in God's providing than its own talents, gifts, and leadership - say "God's grace and gospel are sufficient for me" before saying "insufficient funds" - trust the Holy Spirit is accomplishing great things with or without us - take risks that can only be described as faithful - step out on nothing to land on something - come to the end of things with an awe that it actually happened the way it did - give more credit to God than the team

How "faith-based" is your organization?

Lions and your Community

Have you ever seen a national geographic or animal planet special on lions? Somewhere I once heard that lions sleep away the majority of their day.  That sort of fact makes me wonder how they can be name the king of the jungle. It may have something to do with what I’ve seen on National Geographic. I have watch as a lion, now in hunting mode, waits in the grass, watching.  They are skilled hunters.  They sneak!  They wait! They watch! They are present even when the prey does not ever know.

When the moment is “right”, the lion runs after the herd.  Still he does not just run in and nab anything.  The lion is a wise hunter.  He chases the herd for a short time, creating a stampede.  Even still, the lion waits.  He watches!

What is he waiting for?  What is looking for?

He’s looking for the weakest one.  As the herd runs, the lion waits for the weak one that cannot keep up with the rest. He looks for the one unaware of the impending danger.  He wants and watches for the one unable to keep up with the protection of the herd, of the group, the pack.

Once the one begins to trail behind the rest, unaware of the impending danger, the lion pounces, attacks, and devours in a matter of seconds.  The actual attack is short and quick.  The prowl is the real wisdom of the entire thing, because while the lion prowls, the prey is too comfortable and unaware; it is unprotected by its own apathy and naivety.

The lion may appear lazy and a non-threat, but it is that sort of assumptive naivety that the king of the jungle preys upon.

1 Peter 5:8-9 reads, “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

We have a very present enemy who longs to keep individuals away from the heart of God.  If we really care about those in our community we will realize a couple things.

1. We cannot isolate ourselves from the community or the group. 2. We cannot allow other people to isolate from the group.

We have an enemy who prowls like a lion waiting for the one that isolates themselves from the group, the one who is unaware of the danger and he attacks that one person.

No Christians in Your Community

Part of being a Christian in a culture is simply engrossing yourself enough in that culture that you know enough of its needs, its celebrations, and even its hurts. Part of reaching any culture or community in any capacity is having an educated understanding of that culture. It seems many Christians are without regard for their local community. We are prone to get in our car (parked in the garage), drive to work, and return to our garage to go straight into the house without any interaction toward or for our neighbors or our community.

Though this is the practice of most Americans in general, it is a physical example of an attitude that runs within us.

Though it is an attitude of most Americans, it cannot be the attitude of missional Christians.

Our attitude must be one, which desires to love our communities enough to reach them from an integral and sincere place.

Chris Huertz said, "Remember your community and celebrate the local--most people know more about happenings in Libya and Japan than our own zip codes."

That place within you has to be one that understands what is going on in the community around you. It means being able to answer two questions:

1. Where does my community hurt the most? 2. What can I do to help meet that need?

Answering those questions require our attention to some details we often overlook. We have to read those incessant community bulletins that flood our mailbox. It means we actually attend the community events in the local park, farmers market, community centers, etc.

It means we take notice of the ways our community is struggling by asking questions of our city officials and local organizations. These are the people who can likely tell you exactly where your community struggles or hurts most.

Be involved in your community. Care enough about your community.

It is the first step toward being a Christian in our culture.

NBC's Community Speaks of Religion

"While claiming to have no religion, you were actually devoutly worshiping yourself, and now that your god has high cholesterol, your want to kick Pierce's god in the balls." -Professor Ian Duncan on NBC's Community

What is with a few of my favorite television shows taking on the conversation and thoughts of religion and faith? Whether it be Glee's "Cheesus" episode or Community's religion episode a couple weeks ago, religion seems to be on the mind. Whether you agree with the portrayals of Christianity and general religion (you likely don't and probably shouldn't), it is important to pay attention. There perspectives portrayed are very similar if not exact reflections of common perceptions held in our culture.

Though you may not agree with the perceptions portrayed, take heart that the discussion is right in front of us. Take heart that our culture's interest is at least piqued.

How can this spark opportunity in your day to day for conversation?

*I have been LOVING the quote above, and it is my thought that Community is one of the most underrated comedies on television right now.