The Waiting

pedestrian-wait-signAdvent – the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.

Advent is a season of waiting on the coming of Christ… and this Sunday was the first Sunday in the season of advent on the Christian calendar. The next 3 weeks as we anticipate Christmas, we anticipate the day that God came down to rescue you and me, love came down to set us free!

Celebrating advent is all about celebrating the coming of the Messiah. Jesus was born as the incarnate Holy One… God in the flesh! So, as we wait to celebrate His birth this Christmas… We are celebrating the incarnation of the God of the universe.

This past Sunday we spent our gathering time as a church at The Family Support Center and I was reminded of something… The church is to be the NEW incarnation of God. God no longer is subject to the incarnation happening only 2000 years ago, He puts His life and spirit in us to be the incarnate son of God 24 hours a day and 7 days a week all over the world! Therefore, as we left the building this Sunday to be the incarnation of the true and living God to a world in need and God has called us to love and serve… I’d say we started the Advent season off perfectly.

As we wait in anticipation and celebrate His coming on that first Christmas… One Community Church became the love and presence of God to a village of women who need to see and feel the love of God.

Stay watchful this entire month as we continue to celebrate advent as a family waiting on Jesus to make his presence known in all the earth in and through His People, His Church! We no longer have to wait for Him to make an impact on the world, He wants to do just that through you and me!

Peace

Ferguson and Racism In America

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You can and will find racism in every corner of our nation and this world. It goes both ways, it’s complicated, it’s difficult, and there is NOTHING easy about how this plays out in our current and historical landscape.

Racism is de-humanizing because it assumes someone is better than another. It can be based on color, class, nation, profession… racism is alive and well.

Justice is needed in Ferguson, MO… All around! One act of perceived injustice is not the reason to bring more injustice into the world. Those who advocate for justice seem to be speaking out for Michael Brown, his family, and the black community… much of the outcry I agree with, but where is the outcry for the white/black business owners who are losing their businesses forced to watch years of their hard work going down the drain?

Houses are burning, cars are burning, people’s lives are being destroyed. And yet, some cry out for justice in one area while simply saying violence is not the answer?

Justice Is Needed in Ferguson… All Around!

I get it! People like me get the benefit of the doubt… I’m a white middle class male who has never been harassed at a traffic stop or simply walking down the street. I have a privilege I didn’t earn, all because of the color of my skin… I have no idea what it’s like to be profiled because of my skin color and I sympathize with those who do. I have many friends with a variety of backgrounds, colors, and personal histories. I know their stories and the pain of judgement cast on them based on ONE thing about them or their past that does not define them!

We STILL have a race problem in this country, and followers of Jesus should care that it exists and do everything we can to see this change in our communities. However, siding with ONE segment of the community in this situation is not the answer. Injustice is happening on every side of this situation and we need to be objective in our cry for justice and our concern for others.

I’m asking people to listen and seek to understand all sides. What if Michael Brown was  your son? I can tell you first hand that losing a son is horrible… and I don’t care if you think he did something to deserve the cops attention… death and dying in NEVER something we should celebrate in an 18-year-old. It’s the end of what God calls good. It’s the end of human redemption, and it’s the end of a special community for people like Michael Brown’s parents. I have not read all of the evidence and have little faith in those in power these days to show me all of the evidence anyway, but simply put… no matter the evidence he didn’t deserve to die. Death is final and sometimes final comes to early.

On the other side… what about officer Wilson who by all accounts seems to be a pretty level-headed individual who never shot his gun before this incident? What about his life now, his family… much of the animosity he has received is leveled at him because of racism! Don’t believe me, there are plenty of people in this country who dislike any form of law enforcement and assume all kind of things about them simply because they ride in a police car and wear a uniform. They are profiled by many as being a certain kind of person and that is classic racism! Just ask Ice Cube and NWA about their song “F@$k The Police” or Ice-T’s “Cop Killer”. We have all kinds of negative slang words for police officers including, “PIG” or “The Fuzz”.

Racism is human, it’s not one color’s problem, it’s not one people groups problem… it’s a humanity problem, and it’s been around forever. We are all broken on some level and need Jesus to enter that brokenness ASAP! Even Jesus dealt with racism and classism… He was judged for seeking to end it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ by it’s very nature invades humanity and seeks to end his/her/your/my brokenness.

In the story of the good Samaritan many assume Jesus is saying we should be good to people when they are in need of help… but the story is really told because a racist lawyer in the crowd asked who his neighbor was, and Jesus tells the story to reveal that the neighbor whom the God of the universe asks us to love runs the gamut from the people we know and love easily all the way down to our enemy! The Samaritan was the enemy of the racist lawyer and his fellow Jews and Jesus confronted their racism by declaring that we are called to LOVE everyone, even your enemies… because LOVE wins.

What Is Love… Jesus said it this way in Luke 6:32-36 The Message

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

35-36 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.”

Whatever side you stand with, make sure you call out the racism on that side and declare like Jesus did that LOVE wins and seek to partner with him to right the wrongs. No matter how warranted we think someone’s anger or frustration, Jesus makes it clear that the gospel stretches beyond that anger and frustration and brings peace. Peace and shalom are needed in Ferguson, they are needed in America, they are needed in the world, they are needed in your backyard… make it happen and be the instrument through which change and peace come!

Christian or not, read this reality of how things are through the lens of Jesus Christ. We are all “outsiders” at some point in our lives… thank God He NEVER sees us that way and is always in pursuit of us seeking to reconcile us back to Jesus ending the spiritual race and class war.

Ephesians 2:11-18

11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. 14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

May we all walk in the ONENESS and the true humanity that Jesus desired while declaring from the cross, “It is FINISHED”, ending the hostility once and for all that existed between God and man… ending the hostility that exists between one another! Do you want justice? Do you want peace?

Be a PEACEMAKER!

Last Thing… Ben Watson of the New Orleans Saint’s summed up the situation so well by saying,

“I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”

Read Ben Watson’s entire post here.

Peace

Tony

Facebook… The New Memorial

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Some people say they would like to “visit” their memorial service to hear what people have to say about them. What would people say? What are the emotions like in the room? Who would come, and who would skip it?

Never before have we lived in an age of connectedness to one another. Social Media has ruled and reigned the last decade. No matter your poison… MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, insert your favorite social media option here, these platforms have opened up new ways to socially connect and interact with one another.

I’m learning that in death it’s no different… I’ve lost a few friends during this span of being so connected by social media, I’ve even lost a child… and I’m most fascinated and comforted by something that I’m calling Social Media Memorials.

We have all seen the outpouring of love from all over the globe upon the deaths of people like Nelson Mandela, Robin Williams, and Michael Jackson on our social media news feeds. These men had a profound affect on people’s lives, and the world turned to their Social Media outlets to speak the words they never could say to these men or at their memorial service even after their were gone from this life.

Only a select few people get to speak at memorial services, the rest of us can write notes or tell stories of the person who has passed away, but how will those stories or notes find themselves in the hands of others who might benefit from the information?

These days, because of our social media connectedness more people know about us (or at least the us we willingly share on said social media outlets) and therefore have more access to information that really matters. This is why the social media as the ultimate “memorializer” (I just made that word up!) is such a great thing. Even if you don’t like social media for any number of qualified reasons, you have to respect the fact that anyone in your circle of friends can share how they knew you and how your life has impacted theirs upon your death. This joy is no longer reserved for the few people standing up at your memorial service, Facebook has become the new memorial… In fact for weeks and even years after you are gone, people can visit your pages on random days, birthdays, and holidays and offer love, grief, and virtual flowers as if they were standing at your grave talking to everyone gathered together to celebrate your life… It’s beautiful if you ask me : )

In the case of my friend Paula Glenn, people are able to visit her Facebook page and share with the watching world the kind of impact she has had on her life while she was still with us. Reading her Facebook Memorial on a daily basis has made it abundantly clear to me and anyone reading it that her life has been impacting countless people for the Kingdom of God. Her Facebook has become a beautiful reminder of the great things God can do, and will do through the people who are willing to follow Him and desire to make His name known in all the earth.  Paula Glenn’s life is a shining example of what living, loving, and following Jesus is all about, and we can thank The Social Media Memorial on her Facebook page for a small glimpse into the impact her life has had on The Kingdom of God.

May her life continue to impact people all over the world, and may her death remind us all to live life on purpose and above all else choose love!

Peace

https://www.facebook.com/paula.m.glenn

You’re As Cold As #icebucketchallenge

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All of our social media feeds are crawling with person after person pouring buckets of ice cold water on their heads. Celebrities, normal folks, and even kids are getting in on the gag. It’s the Ice Bucket Challenge deemed to help raised money and awareness for the ALS Foundation. Like you I don’t know a ton about the disease, but one thing has become clear… it’s a life taker. Not just a life killer (that eventually happens) but it’s a stealer of the very life the people who are diagnosed with this disease once knew. Slowly but surely their lives are deteriorating. Limbs eventually become useless and soon the body stops being able to do ANYTHING for itself. Therefore, the life of the person diagnosed is not the only one lost… often family members are forced to take care of their loved ones full time, and this changes everything for many families faced with this disease. Worst than that… it’s heredity!

I’ve seen people complaining about their news feeds being full of this ice bucket madness… why are they upset exactly? If your life is so wrapped up in your own little world and the 3 hours you spend on social media a day is ruined because everyone and their brother is doing this silly little publicity stunt… I say so what and it’s about time you get a little wake up call…

Others are pointing out that ALS foundation uses embryonic stem cells for its research and therefore they become supporters of abortion and we should stop sending them money. I respect that view, but I disagree with their premise. Abortions originally started and continues to this day to be a Eugenic toward minorities and those deemed by the powers that be to be less than worthy… not as a way to collect stem cells. I would even argue as long as abortions are going to remain legal in this country (which I completely disagree with) at least use this tragedy for something good like research that HAS saved people’s lives. In other words, if the last thing we were waiting on in this country to make abortions illegal were the strong pharmaceutical companies wanting stem cell research to continue from the cells of aborted babies, I would then suggest donating to ALS is not such a great idea… but we are light years away from stem cells becoming the reason abortions are still legal in this country. Late term abortions are still legal for crying out loud and that has nothing to do with stem cells. It’s about Eugenics!

If you are sick of the ice bucket challenge, pour some cold water on your own head and take a social media break and get over yourself. The ALS organization has raised 42 Million dollars since the challenge has been given which is only 40 Million MORE than they raised in the same time period last year. WOW, 40 Million will not cure this disease, but the awareness  has been raised (for now) and money is going to a good cause that has been seriously under resourced since the disease has been on the medical communities radar.

Thank you for doing the challenge, donating, or not whining about those who are doing it and killing your news feed with self serving videos of their family having a little fun in the name of raising funds for a good cause.

One last note… I wasn’t sure about doing the challenge myself because I wondered what the ALS community especially those who have it thought about the whole publicity stunt on social media and people doing it just to get their face on Social media sites and not donating the $100… then I read a few blogs and saw this video which helped me understand that raising awareness of something so destructive can NEVER be a bad thing.

Check out this story to see what a family with ALS thinks and struggles with on a day to day basis

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/for-anthony-with-love/133001

Peace

 

Do Something… Thoughts on the Crisis In The Middle East

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The situation in Iraq and Syria led by the militant group ISIS is terrible, tragic, unthinkable, unfathomable, inhuman even… you get the point. Militants killing people because of their faith in Christ, families being tortured, and children losing their heads as parents refuse to deny Jesus as their Messiah and the One true God! Still hard to believe that it’s really happening!

If you’re like me you want Justice.

If you’re like me you realize, you can do NOTHING to bring justice so you do the only thing you can do… PRAY!

Please pray, ask God to intervene… ask Him to bring this evil situation to an end, comfort those who mourn, ask Him to carry the burden of all that are involved in this ongoing situation, and pray that people all around the world are drawn to Jesus Christ because of the sacrifice these Christians are making for His name sake Jesus.

But then do something!

Do something in your community to bring justice to a broken world. Don’t let the feeling you have for justice fade because you can’t physically do something… you can! People may not become martyrs in your community today, but there are plenty of people who are in the middle of their own injustice and those nightmares are their reality and that reality is more than they can bare alone!

I went to visit someone in jail yesterday… and I realized I can do more to help those who are broken.

Do something

Join a church or a non-profit in your community in their endeavors to bring love and justice to a broken world… even if you don’t believe the same as they do… certainly you can believe in their desire for justice!

Do something

Don’t just say that it’s awful and thank God you live in America… please don’t just enjoy America’s freedom.

Do something

I’m motivated now more thane ever that my role as a pastor is meant for more than preaching on Sunday’s and raising up leaders in our church… our world needs love, and they need justice, and many in our communities are not walking in the doors of our churches anytime soon, so we must be the hands and feet of Jesus and bring them this love and justice instead of hoping our bait gets them “in the doors”.

Do Something this week, next week… find something that God is already doing and join the party.

Micah 6:8 (AMP)

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God”

Do Something

Do Justly

Be Love

Be Mercy

Peacedon-t-keep-calm-just-do-something-about-it

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