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Written by Phil Monroe Wednesday, 27 November 2013 00:00

Thanksgiving is that time of year when we get together with family to enjoy good food, maybe a football game, and to be thankful for God’s provision during the past year. Sometimes, though, we don’t feel all that thankful. Yes, we recognize that God indeed has given us many good things, things like food, water, salary, housing, and the like. We acknowledge that we have no rights to demand these things. We acknowledge that there are many who are far worse off. Given recent events, we can imagine how much more blessed we are than those who suffered a direct hit from a typhoon in the Philippines.

And yet, despite our knowledge of grace and mercy, there are times when all we really notice are the broken things in our lives—our bodies, our families, our communities.

I confess this is my state this Thanksgiving. I won’t bore you with the details but I struggle to stay focused on the many good things God has given me.

 

Written by Phil Monroe Monday, 25 November 2013 00:00

Recovery? Healing? Restoration? What words do you like to use when describing the process of getting better after a traumatic experience? The words I just used convey information as well as movement. They evoke feelings about what happens after a crisis.

For those of you continue to contend with a troubled past, ponder this: How do you communicate that you are better but not so much better that you have no more bad memories; that you have no more nightmares; that you are not triggered into panic when you see someone who abused you?

What words do you shy away from?

   

Written by Todd Mangum Friday, 22 November 2013 00:00

John F. Kennedy Shooting

I don’t always cry at sad movies, but sometimes I do. I almost always cry when I’ve watched one particular movie, though — and this one less than 30 seconds long. I’m talking about the infamous “Zapruder film” that inadvertently recorded the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

I was alive at the time, but just a baby; thus too young “to remember where I was” when I heard the news — though I understand that some sociological studies have confirmed the phenomenon that people who were old enough commonly really did remember exactly where they were when they got the news that the President of the United States had been shot. It’s testimony to the entire U.S. populace that day experiencing something like large-scale PTSD.

   

Written by Todd Mangum Wednesday, 20 November 2013 00:00

Overcome Pride

I am a blessed man. That’s the truth. I have received from the Lord’s hand far more kindness and protection, more prosperity and success than I deserve. This I know. And to this I testify without qualification. 

I also work in a field in which arrogance is common.

It’s true that we train ministers at Biblical Seminary, and missional ones at that; so that the emphasis on taking up one’s cross to follow Jesus (INTO the world no less) provides subject matter that calls for sacrifice, service, and humility. 

It’s also true that a seminary is a graduate level academic institution. It’s in the academic arena where arrogance seems naturally to arise. This is the place where highly intelligent, highly accomplished people form carefully crafted critical assessments and forward sharply honed arguments. One of my mentors, a true scholar and founding faculty member at Biblical, once warned me matter-of-factly, “Arrogance is an occupational hazard of this business.”

   

Written by Todd Mangum Monday, 18 November 2013 00:00

Pride in the Gospel

Addressing — attacking! — human pride is at the very heart of the gospel. (See my last blog for my initial run at this thesis.)

This I see, but this can also scare me. Because pride is a bigger problem than we think, methinks.

Five observations that can send a little chill up my spine (how about you?) . . . :

1. God despises not just overtly proud actions but pride of heart.

Look at Proverbs 16:5, for example: “The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.”  (Cf. Prov. 16:18.) So, I guess that means the Lord is allowed to make even the private thoughts one may have to oneself fair game for discipline? . . .   Eesh.  (By the way, Jesus doesn’t lighten up on this point one bit; if anything, He screws the point even tighter — see Luke 12:1-5.)

   

Written by Todd Mangum Friday, 15 November 2013 00:00

Pride in the Gospel

In a number of ways, the Lord has been confronting me recently with the problem of pride. Probably any Christian seeking to love God and who knows themselves will eventually confront the unpleasant recognition of pride lurking in the corners of their own heart. Lately, I’ve run across pointed rebukes of pride in my devotional scriptural reading, it’s surfaced in some of the teaching and preaching I’ve been preparing; and then some personal life circumstances have forced me to peer into the matter more closely and more seriously than I expected or wanted.

I’ve come to believe that pride is at the center of the gospel. And by that I mean: overcoming pride and its toxic fruit is not just one of the things addressed by the gospel. It’s at the center of why there is a gospel at all.

   

Written by Kyuboem Lee Wednesday, 13 November 2013 00:00

Life in Germantown

I have found that missional engagement with the world requires a biblical prophetic imagination that enables us to see the world anew. The prophetic imagination doesn’t, however, simply descend out of a transcendent, idealized realm when we open the Scriptures in our secluded, ivory tower studies. It is forged out of a dynamic discourse between our messy context and the text of God; an ongoing wrestling between our lived, concrete situations and the ancient words that reveal the God who created and rules over our world here and now.

Take Genesis 1, for instance. It is the account of a Creator who methodically takes on chaos and desolation in the course of 6 days and utterly triumphs over them. The first 3 days, God orders what was a big, huge mess into separated, differentiated spaces or realms. The next 3 days, God populates each of those spaces with living beings. The end result is the complete defeat of chaos and emptiness, and a world that is beautifully and triumphantly ordered and teeming with joyous life. Humankind is created on the last day in God’s image and placed in this world, as a sign of his victory and life-giving rule over creation, and the whole thing is declared to be “very good.”

How do we read this account in the context of inner city Philadelphia?

I live and minister in the Germantown neighborhood, where since 10 years ago I have been a part of a church-planting effort. Germantown used to be populated by children of German immigrants, but like so many urban neighborhoods in America, experienced white flight and the resulting economic collapse in the latter part of the 20th century. There are rumors of neighborhood renewal, but Germantown’s historic high school was recently shut down, a victim of the troubled Philadelphia School District’s deep financial hole. Many blocks have long been made up of Section 8 (government-subsidized) rental properties and abandoned structures, and many of their residents have lived for generations under the national poverty line.

For many years, I helped to run a summer street camp for the neighborhood kids. Along the way, I realized that most Bible curriculums didn’t speak to our inner city context—they usually assumed a middle-class, suburban audience. So a friend who also ran his own camp in North Philly and I collaborated to produce our own Bible curriculums that had our neighborhood children in mind. The first Bible book we worked on was Genesis. For the lessons covering creation and fall, I produced two illustrations—one for the very good creation that God had always intended for his image-bearers, and another for the alienation that have corrupted every dimension of life and kind of relationships that we experience.

Life in Germantown

“The Fall” portrays chaos and desolation. Before God's work of creation, and after the fall, the place is like a warzone, with crumbling, burned up shells of houses; trash and debris spilling out and filling up all the spaces; graffiti and vandalism everywhere; the church is shut up tight like a fortress; the corner store is abandoned; the only economic activity going on is a corner drug deal; a man is a shell of himself; a police helicopter is flying overhead—the place is a police state, where fear rules. The kids could identify with this because they've seen it and lived it in our neighborhood.

Life in Germantown

But they could also identify with the other picture that portrayed shalom, the state of the world when God is done with his work of creation, his good design for the world. The houses are in good condition for people to live in; people live in safety and in harmony with each other; there is no fear when they interact with each other, only friendliness; kids are playing on the streets and thriving; the streets are clean and bright; the church is open to the community and there is neighboring (missional engagement!) going on right on its doorsteps; the corner store is open for business and employment. Kids see this picture and they resonate with it too because they know what a good community looks like. They've lived through this too, and their heart instinctively longs for shalom.

The gospel of Jesus Christ tells our neighborhood kids that God has once again defeated the powers of chaos and death and brought in order and life because God’s own Son took on all the dark powers and utterly triumphed over them on the cross. One day, God’s people will have shalom, the “very good” creation which we lost but which we have regained in Christ. In the meantime, we can experience his victory as we see people, families, communities, and cities be transformed from places where chaos and desolation reigns to places of life and order. We can have glimpses—not the full thing, but real, substantial occurrences—of the kingdom of God that Jesus has secured for us. God’s good design for his creation will be realized fully one day; but we can taste it and see it today in our inner city community.

This kind of reading can, I believe, help us become a better missional community of Christ in our contexts. The gospel that has transformed us is also at work transforming this fallen world into a redeemed world. The church’s imagination will need to be captured by this biblical vision so that we might faithfully, courageously, and joyfully engage our hurting, chaotic, and desolate but also joyous, God’s-glory-reflecting, and groaning-for-redemption world.

About the Author

Kyuboem Lee

Dr. Kyuboem Lee

Dr. Kyuboem Lee serves as Adjunct Faculty at Biblical Seminary. He is the founding pastor of Germantown Hope Community Church in Philadelphia, and the General Editor for the Journal of Urban Mission

   

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