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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thoughts on Revolution

Recently I finished reading The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus. It was as I starterd the chapter entitled The Barbarian Revolt that I realized that 3 of the last 4 books I read had a common underlying theme of revolution. The other two books were The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claibourne and Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crisises and a Revolution of Hope by Brian Mclaren. I appreciated each of the books and was challenged by each in one way or another.

Brian's book, Everything must Change, challenged me to rethink the message of the kingdom of God in terms of how does the person and message of Jesus offer an alternative in addressing the pervasive issues of our day. Brian takes a macro-view of the world system and envisions how the revolutionary message of Jesus provides a framing structure for a different kind of world. In many ways this book challenged me to think outside the traditional confines of religion and consider how the revolutionary message of Jesus can be aplicable today. It was pretty heady, but very readable.

I was first encouraged to read Shane's book, The Irresistible Revolution, as I was complaining on a message board how much of the evangelical church seems to be ineffective at engaging the dominant culture. I was grousing about how with one major issue the Republican Party seems to have bought and paid for the blind support of much of the evangelical church for policies that to me seem to be counter to the heart and message of Jesus. With the Party seeming only giving lip service to moral issues like abortion, it seems like they have paid very little for such political support. One of the respondents on the board wondered if I had read this book by a young mean who with several others have moved into an economically desolate part of Philadelphia to live out the message of Jesus. Last December I finally picked up the book.

Besides chronicling Shane and his friends work it presented many challenging discussions about how to put feet on the teachings of Jesus. Shane's experiences range from working on the Bush Quail campaign as a Young Republican to later infiltrating the Philadelphia Republican Convention and speaking out for the poor. He shares about his experiences at Willow Creek Church (one of the largest evangelical churches in America) to camping out at an abandoned Catholic Cathedral with hundreds of homeless women and children. I found just the range of his expericenes for such a young man to be almost unbelievable - working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, standing in solidarity with Iraqi Christians in Bagdad as bombs began to fall, reclaiming empty lots in the urban wasteland of Philadelphia planting gardens, and proclaiming Jubilee on Wall street and giving away thousands of dollars to the poor, just to name a few.

The way he sees Christian action motivated by the love of God and the teachings of Jesus is in actually following the sermon on the mount, not teaching about it. It is in seeing Christ in the poor and serving them that we actually learn from them what it means to follow Christ. One of my favorite chapters expressed the vision of the kingdom of God overcoming the world as "growing smaller and smaller until we take over the world. Humility and loving people is transformative in the culture as a whole, as well as in ndividuals lives. This is so different from the power paradigm of the world that spawned the religious right. This book spured my heart to join him in this irresistible revolution, by taking up the life of an ordinary radical.

In the "economy" of God Brian's book would be considered "macro-economics" looking at the big picture. Shane's book I would consider "micro-economics" geting down to fine details of the day to day ordinary revolutionary. I needed the third book, The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus,to clearly show me why I do not live the radical teachings of Jesus. Erwin helps define for me the the invisible barrier I approached as I considered how to put these thoughts and the ramblings of my heart together and produce action for the kingdom of God. Is my faith civilized, or do I have a barbarian faith that is willing to risk everything to follow the heart of my King?!

This barbarian faith that holds its alegiance to Jesus alone, has gotten me into trouble on occasion. One time not to long ago I was teaching and I made the statement "I am not a citizen of the United States, I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I have one allegiance." During the week I had some civilizing done to my statement by my friends and mentors, so that at the next meeting appologized and soften my outrageous, barbarian statement. But the truth is Jesus taught us to have one alegiance, the kingdom of God. All others either pale in comparison or are outreight idolatry. Both Brian and Shane talk about this in their books. Brian actually does an excellent job at analysing the various responses to imperial power based on the responses of accomdation, revolt and withdrawl seen in Jewish society in the days of Christ. The way of Jesus is to live in this world as part of a kingdom not of this world.

All anyone has to do is look at me and you will know that I am not your typical revolutionary, but I follow a revolutionary, visionary, king and his seemingly barbarian way. It is a way that calls us into danger, seeking to loose our life rather than keep it. It calls us to a way of humility and love. It calls us to take up our cross - the death instrument of the empire for all revolutionaries - and follow the one who prayed for the forgiveness of his executioners. For me the challenge is to bring alive this barbarian, revolutioary faith in my daily life. God calls me to love and serve people not as a ministry, but as a life. Civilizing influences all around tell me to stop, think twice, don't risk it all to live for Jesus in his kingdom.

I loved all of these books. If I was going to recomend one that you should read today, it would be The Barbarian Way. After that it's a toss up. To me Everything Must Change was an easier read. Although his thoughts were heady his narative style was inviting. The Irresitible Revolution was a longer read but was full of many stories that encouraged me to re-think how to repsond to many of today's issues, especially in the realm of social justice.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Just Doing It

I recieve a weekly email devotional from the American Bible Society. The devotional is based on quotes from Detrich Bonhoeffer's books. Dietrich was an early 20th century theologian, pastor and leader in the Confessing Church Mvement in Nazi Germany. He was executed by the Thrid Reich in the final days of World War II. He is considered by many to be a twentieth century martyr. To read more about him go to the Wikipedia article on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

To learn more about The American Bible Society or sign up for one of their devotionals or other resources go to

January 30, 2008
From American Bible Society
Seize the Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Just Doing It
"We are again asking about good works instead of doing this work ourselves in such a way that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing." - THE WAY TO FREEDOM

Putting God's Principles into action
We can speculate about how we can act meaningfully and purposefully in our world. But finally we need to do what lies right at hand. If we are open to grasp the opportunities that come our way, we will have ample things to do. This does not mean we should act haphazardly. There may be things that we need to say "No" to, but we cannot fail to do what clearly must be done.

What the Bible is saying
When you do good deeds, don't try to show off. If you do, you won't get a reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to the poor, don't blow a loud horn. That's what show-offs do in the meeting places and on the street corners, because they are always looking for praise. I can assure you that they already have their reward. When you give to the poor, don't let anyone know about it. Then your gift will be given in secret. Your Father knows what is done in secret, and he will reward you. - Matthew 6:1-4 (CEV)

Giving, expecting nothing in return, is a state of being that can only be graced by God's Spirit.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Email Bible Reading Plan

This year I decided to see if I could find an email based bible reading plan. I found They have many plans to chose from. You can also chose from several translations of the Bible. I decided I was going to read the Bible through in a year and read a section of the gospels each day. So, I signed up for two lists. Check it out by clicking on the link above. You can start any time.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Common Cupboard - " A Pooled Resource"

There are three foundational principles that were adopted when my wife Deb and I and our two friends Barbara Chandler and Harry Walden started Common Cupboard. During the next month or so I hope to share them with you and expand on them. They are serving people in such a way as to "demonstrate God's love", the "cupboard's "invisibility" to those we serve, and being a "pooled resource" or - to coin a phrase - a "common cupboard".

For those of you who are not familiar with Common Cupboard, it is a food pantry with a twist. The cupboard is a place from which followers of Jesus and local congregations draw to reach out to someone with a need. Typically we provide about a week's worth of groceries to be given away free, without cost, and with "no strings attached" as a way to demonstrate God's love. The groceries are typically picked up and delivered to people's homes. Some people receive groceries for one or two months due to a crisis situation, others may have an ongoing need.

Common Cupboard came about because we occasionally came into contact with people who could use a little help. For whatever reason – possibly a family crisis, unemployment, or illness – they had difficulty meeting their needs. Often they were single parents or people who due to illness or a fixed income just needed a little help. You know people like that too. We helped out the best we could by grabbing an extra bag of groceries at the store, or going to our own pantries or cupboards and giving what we could to help.

After a while it dawned on us that if we "pooled our resources" of money and groceries, along with donations from community businesses and organizations, that we could create a "common cupboard". In so doing we could help out a lot more folks while equipping others to reach out as well. We figured that individually we might spend $100 to help a family with some groceries. However, if we could create this "pooled resource", this "common cupboard" by having partnerships with food banks, community organizations, local businesses, churches and common hearted individuals then the same $100 could help 6 or 7 or more families.

Being a "pooled resource" is a key principle of the cupboard. When we all give in some way it is amazing what can be done. There are many ways to do this . One way is by organizing a food drive in your church, school, or neighborhood and bring the non-perishable foods to the cupboard . Another way is to give time to work at the cupboard. And of course, there is pooling our money together by donating financially. Actually pooling our money is the key way we finance the cupboard. Currently these finances provide about a week's groceries to 80 - 90 families. If we include our grocery outreaches we often touch over400 individuals a month.

We stock the cupboard through several means in addition to our local food drives. We have partnerships with Food Lion & Panera Bread in Indian Trail that donate food directly to the cupboard. We also obtain items from Second Harvest for a small maintenance fee per pound. And we are always looking for other means to get free or low cost food with which to stock the cupboard. Our costs to obtain food is relatively small, but we also have to maintain a facility complete with shelves, refrigerators and freezers enough to store the nearly one and a half ton of food we currently receive and distribute in an average week.

We are non-profit, and since we have no paid staff we have only the operating expenses and food costs. So we are able to serve all these people monthly for about $16 or $17 per family. And the "magic" of it is that as we serve more, it will take less and less per family to provide the roughly week's worth of groceries we give.

Currently there are faithful followers of Jesus serving through the cupboard from about 15 congregations. We are not supported by a denomination or corporate grants. We receive the vast majority of our funding from people like you and me. Although there are a few common hearted people who give on occasion, 90% of our funding comes from a small number of regular givers and one local congregation.

For me there is an additional value of pooling our resources. It lies in the power of giving away groceries that I helped purchase. Because this is true I can say "I am giving this food to you freely, because God loves you!" Or, "Let me and my church help you with that need!" I'll share more about this in later posts but this ties the first two principles - "demonstrating God's love" and the cupboard's "invisibility" - together with being a "pooled resource" creating a powerful impact on the people we serve.

I strongly believe in these 3 foundational principles - "demonstrating God's love", the "cupboard's invisibility", and being a "pooled resource". They each play a key part in the cupboard fulfilling the larger mission of "Equipping Saints to Serve". This is what the cupboard and Common Heart is all about. I will share more about these principles as I continue this series.

Common Cupboard is supported by your tax deductible donations. If you want to contribute, there are three ways to donate. You can drop your gift in the donation box at the cupboard, mail a check to Common Heart / Common Cupboard, 507 Galesburg Dr., Monroe, NC 28110, or donate online through Pay Pal by clicking the donate button on the side bar of this site.