This past Sunday in our morning worship services, I was asked to lead us through “Closer,” a song by John Mark McMillan (the “How He Loves” guy). I really love the songs McMillan writes and I’ve been chomping at the bit to do more of them in our services. That being said, I had never really heard all of the song before I learned it for the service, since my only real exposure to this song was when it used to play in the countdown video before services. When I finally heard it all, I heard just how complete its message and its prayer were.
In particular, the bridge section holds very poignant lines:
“Son of David, don’t pass me by cause I am naked I’m poor and I’m blind”
To provide some context, these lines are referencing the story of Bartimaeus from the book of Mark:
Mark 10:46-52 New International Version (NIV)
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
The language is very similar between the Gospel’s telling of the story and McMillan’s song. But what does this mean to us?
By calling Jesus the “Son of David,” Bartimaeus was basically calling Him the Messiah right there just from hearing that He was walking by (probably because Bartimaeus had heard stories of Jesus from passers-by on the road). One commentary I consulted pointed out that Bartimaeus was so confident in the declaration that, when Jesus asks him what he wants, he doesn’t even respond with the typical “If you can” that many of those in the gospels who ask for healing use. He simply states that, “I want to see.”
Also, blind people in first century Jerusalem were beggars; fated by the cultural interpretation of their condition to depend on the grace of others, wearing little more than a cloak and maybe one or two other garments to protect them from the elements. It is poetic, then, for this blind man to depend so wholly on the grace of a man he knew to be the Messiah. For Bartimaeus, there was no question of “If.” His Messiah was walking by and he was going to give him sight-restoration, a new life. A sentiment that McMillan’s captures and perfectly applies to his own personal cry for a real God to come closer to him and restore him. It is a staggering faith declaration that I find myself at a loss for words for which to accurately comment. I daresay that our faith is so easily shaken that we find such a declaration intimidating or impossible to fulfill. But maybe if we were as honest with ourselves and God as Bartimaeus was, then it would just seem like the obvious next step-that God will draw closer and restore us because that’s what he does.
I’d like to take a moment to thank my community for all of the love and support for the Haiti Team and for their families while they traveled last week. Your prayers were felt by everyone there, and here. I personally received several calls, texts, Facebook messages, etc. from our community just asking about the team during the week as well as checking in with my family to see if anything was needed. Many of you have heard that each of Carl’s previous trips to Haiti have been marked by tragedy of one degree or another. The love and support shown was a huge blessing and I’m excited to say that this trip broke the cycle of the ‘most unfortunately timed events during a Haiti trip’.
While the team was away, my communication with Carl was sparse, but during one conversation early in the week, I could tell that he was fighting discouragement. He had a specific agenda for his trip (some stated goals and some just in his mind) and things were not falling into place as he would have liked. It was hard for me to hear even the smallest measure of disappointment in his voice; he (and so many others) sacrifice so much for these trips. I tried to encourage him that success for this trip may very well be that everyone/everything is ‘stable’ while he’s away. These were far lower expectations than what he left with and I’m not sure he was satisfied with my attempt at encouragement.
The next day though, he texted me first thing in the morning and said very simply, “I miss you. I love you. Thank you for letting me do this.” I knew… I knew right then and there that he would be OK for the rest of the week. I knew that we would be OK here without him too. I reminded him that he was created for this. God had called him for this purpose and he had agreed to follow. How could I NOT support that! I also reminded him that God has called me into a specific purpose as well and that I get to live that out every day through ministry here at E3. Living my calling isn’t only tangibly seen for two weeks out of each year. I couldn’t ‘Go’ where God calls me to go without my partner’s continued love and support. So I thanked him for letting me do this.
They say that there are those who are called to ‘go’ to Haiti, to Guatemala, to Uganda or to ministry right here in Tallahassee, and there are those who are called to send/pray/support. What a privilege it is to be called to do both! Aren’t we ALL called to do both? To follow God wherever He leads us, taking the gifts He has given us, to do the work He has called us to do, and then to send others out with our love, prayer and support, as they do the same.
Christians love clichés. Unfortunately a lot of them are not biblical, or they are outright heresy. Take for instance “The safest place is in God’s will.” a platitude that implies physical and emotional security, a heretical expression that has turned many followersinto spiritual fatalities. This is because when the winds of adversity blow, they feel abandoned by God.
I’m not sure where this Christian axiom came from, but it stands in stark contrast to the reality of following Jesus. For over two thousand years, millions of Christians have been persecuted for their faith; the Bible is filled with accounts of Christians being stoned, whipped, and even executed for proclaiming the Gospel. Even Jesus was crucified for declaring the Good News-was Jesus no in God’s will?
On Saturday, one of our Gospel partners in Haiti posted a blog titled, “So, We Were Robbed.” This caught my attention for two reasons: one, they are friends, and we have been partnering with them since the earthquake in Haiti, and secondly, E3 had just sent down a team on the same day.
You can read Kathy’s article here:
So, We Were Robbed by Kathy Brooks
A friend described to us a time when his company was embezzled for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He said it was the “best thing that could have happened to them.” he explained, by the grace of God…we came together, formed a strong team and eventually became a wildly successful business…reaping good things all over the planet.
I’m not ready to say that. exactly. but i get it.
Tuesday night, this past week, We had unexpected company around 1 am. We were robbed. Four men made a poor decision and climbed the wall and broke into our home.We awoke to the sound of knocking on our bedroom door and our very brave, 17 year old son, crying”Pops, I need you to open the door” hands tied behind his back, gun to his head.
There was a chaos of activity as the four young men plunged into our room waving knives, yelling for money and swooping up all the electronics in their path (between the three of us we kind of had a lot of them: ipads, phones and computers!)
I really don’t know what happened in that instant … But there was an underlying peace between us…we could see each other’s faces, Which was a gift. I could see that my husband was not scared, I could see my son was steady. we were ok.
Not really sure how long they stayed in the room, plundering. ( felt like hours) We had very little money. That was disappointing to them. We opened the safe, we opened our bags, we even opened the 2ndstorygoods box, just not much cash there. They went through filing cabinets, clothes drawers flipped the mattress and even the bed frame, searched the guitar case..but didn’t damage Beaver’s guitar! Halla!
But they never got violent..no more than waving their gun and knives at us. Especially when they heard us praying or singing worship songs in Kreole. That was so interesting. There was real fear, almost terror in their eyes ..they immediately turned to threaten me and said ‘stop! stop that!
Crazy stuff. it was weirdly encouraging that it was so disturbing to the one guy with the big knife. He was clearly a believer. Maybe more than me! There wasn’t a shred of doubt that when we prayed, something was happening. he didn’t like it. I wanted to sit him down and say…He is a good good father, He knows you and knows why you are scared. Let him hold you. ( as I write this i KNOW it sounds insane)
If I let my mind go to the what “if’’s” I was terrified. and there were those moments . What if they use that knife on my husband? what if they harm my son? what if they try to take me with them? But as long as i kept my mind on what actually “Was’ and not let it drift to “What if” there was a place of peace.
That could be a good thing to remember. like always.
Being the proactive person that I am, I found myself praying for my healing before they even left the room. I began praying for our community here in the city and our sons and daughters in the states, that would hear about this incident..praying God would do some “pre-healing”. I’m not even sure that is a thing.
Finally they left, we wrapped our arms around our son, we wept.
Then we got dressed, got in the car drove to our people. (we have the BEST PEOPLE)
As soon as I had a phone in my hand I phoned Brandon our oldest son. (Oh! the place of the oldest son. Beware all you firsts out there! you might be babies this year, but you carry the family on your shoulders) I tried to gently unpack the events of the night. Our first born reached out and took it from me. He handled everything stateside from there.(everyone should have a kid or two, or six)
After hearing the news from his older brother and taking some time to process with Holy Spirit, son posted that morning: “Jesus is taking over the world. He has a really interesting way of doing that. Today I see it a little more clearly. What a loving God”What a loving God. The kingdom advances in the most sneaky sort of ways.
So this is the way we choose to frame this event. What a loving God. for all the “what if’s” that didn’t happen. What a loving God. For the men behind the masks that didn’t violate us. What a Loving God.
And we re going to Label those four men, they forced themselves into our home, I think that gives us the right. We call them called by God. We call them Sons. We call them image bearers of the Christ. We call them home. (I actually named them Matthew, Mark Luke and Joe for prayer purposes. )
At one point “Joe” the guy with the gun, reaches over and picks up the glass of water on my bedside table and hands it to me…tells me..you need to drink. I did. he then takes the glass and like a mama would, brings it to Kevs mouth to drink (being as his hands were still tied behind his back and all) then he took it across the room to Beaver.
So he, Joe, is like done. We saw his kindness. We saw his true self. We no longer call you thug. We saw behind that mask.
We have no false ideas that we are in ANYWAY able to walk through this except that the prayers of many are carrying us. you know who you are. You heard about this family and what happened and you paused and thought deeply and prayed so, so well. we are held by you. Christ in you.
And to the City of Gonaives and the country of Haiti we say. We’re not going anywhere. It is an honor to live in this place. You have loved this family well.
It is hard to imagine living through this scary scenario, a frightening experience that will forever change their family.If you know Kathy and Beaver, this righteous defiance in the face of the enemy is not surprising. They have been a light in a spiritually dark place for a long time and they have a peace that transcends all understanding.
I’ve recently become a covenanted owner at E3 and have spent some time trying to use the gifts God gave me to help our community grow even more healthy. Part of that journey has been helping the leaders of our next generation ministries. E3kids is a dynamic and critical element of E3. For many of these young children it is their first experience in developing their relationship with God and His plan and gifts for them. It is a critical responsibility and it is quite evident that the staff of E3kids take that responsibility seriously and implement their responsibility enthusiastically, competently, creatively, and with the knowledge skills and abilities required to make this program truly a vehicle for promoting God’s work.
The teachers are unique individuals with different skill sets, personalities, and teaching styles, yet each of them demonstrate an enthusiastic commitment to their children and it is quite evident that their children respond to them in a manner that reflects this commitment. Elizabeth Wilkes, our E3kids Director, is very committed in providing the support and resources for the teachers and is very open to doing anything that would improve the program and see it going forward.
One cannot spend any time with the staff of E3kids and not be impressed and feel the commitment and pride they have in the program and what they do. What’s even more impressive in that they are all volunteers. I hope you all understand the “gem” you have in the E3kids staff and I have told them, and will acknowledge this in the future. I hope you will do the same.
Because E3kids is dynamic and ever-growing, it is in the process of completing an action plan resulting from a comprehensive assessment of the program. It is quite ambitious and members of the E3 family have the resources and skills that could be used to assist in their endeavor to complete this plan. Please consider this opportunity as you determine ways to support E3. Contact Elizabeth Wilkes, E3kids Director at Elizabeth@element3.org if you are interested in finding out how to use your talents or resources to enhance this ministry to the next generation of Christ followers. To receive a copy of the E3kids Assessment or a copy of the E3 Kids Action Plan contact Elizabeth Wilkes.
As we each use the gifts that God has given us then are small expression of the local church will continue to grow in health and glorify God. I’m glad to be part of it with you.
Well, we are off and running through Philippians! Last Sunday, I tried to introduce us to this concept of “koinonia”, which is a really rich Greek word in the New Testament. Paul in particular is in love with this word, and he uses it constantly in the letters he writes to his young churches around the ancient Mediterranean. As I mentioned on Sunday, “koinonia” goes way beyond the concept of church “attendance” or even church “membership.” Koinonia is a word that indicates fellowship, community, but also a business partnership. In Paul’s view, there’s no koinonia with people who just “show up” on Sunday; there’s no koinonia even even with people who just “write a tithe check”. Koinonia combines ALL of these concepts and goes way beyond them as well.
Around E3, we have a two concepts that try to help us live out this concept of “koinonia”. First we don’t have “members”; rather, we have owners. As Mark has said repeatedly, “membership has its privileges, but ownership has its responsibilities.” We take seriously the idea that the staff and Wise Council of E3 cannot do this by ourselves. We need all of you: your “time, talents and treasures.”
Secondly, we have a concept and a meeting called “All In”. These meetings occur 3-4 times a year, and for about 45 minutes we talk in a very raw and unfiltered way about life at E3: how we are doing on key metrics, and what has the pastoral staff fired up and/or concerned. It’s designed for those of us who are pursuing (or already committed to) koinonia at E3.
So I have two thoughts for you:
1. Are you an “Owner” at E3? Are you prepared to get in the trenches withstaff and Wise Council (and other Owners) and make this place great? The process is not all that complicated; I encourage you to drop me a line and find out how you can start (or continue) the process.
2. Are you “All In”? We are about due for an All In meeting; keep your eyes and ears open for the next date (should be in late April or early May). Show up, roll up your sleeves, and dig in.
Take it away, Lenny. click here.
the site: www.thisisericcase.com
the twitter: [at]ericcase
A friend of mine once asked me, “Don’t you think it’s funny how we base so much of our faith on letters that Paul wrote to highly dysfunctional churches?”
Seriously: have you ever read these letters? In most of them Paul is really angry and upset with these communities of faith that he started: he asks the church in Corinth if they would like him to show up with a stick to beat them with or with “kind words”. He sarcastically asks the opposition in Galatia to just considering castrating themselves rather than circumcising themselves.
(By the way, have I mentioned that Paul is a real piece of work?)
But a couple of Paul’s churches stand out. He doesn’t seem to have too much of a problem with the church at Ephesus, for instance. He doesn’t seem to tweaked with the churches in Colossae.
And then there’s the church at Philippi.
Scholar Dallas Willard once said that when you read the letter to the church at Philippi you get the sense that the community was “living out of a different order of things.” Paul’s letter to this community is so different then other letters: he gushes over them with Thanksgiving and joy. (Even though he’s writing them from prison!) To put it succinctly, in a lot of ways, this church is “getting it right” in Paul’s eyes.
But that being said, the book of Philippians is also highly challenging: Paul calling this church to a new and extremely challenging way of life in the midst of their cultural context.
So what does he have to say? What are the challenges that he’ll lay down for this little community of faith? Well, for the next six weeks we are going to dig in to the letter and see where God, through Paul, wants to take that church, and by extension, ours. We invite you to join us for this journey through the book of Philippians.
Meet “Bobby Rez” a new guitar for me (yes, I name them… all of them).
Basically over the last few weeks and months I’ve been saving some money here and there, and selling (and then buying) a few items on eBaythen buying Eventually I had accumulated enough parts that I could put together a guitar.
The only problem was, I’d never done anything like this before; I pretty proudly proclaim, “I play ’em; I don’t build ’em.” My soldering skills are fairly lacking, I don’t always have the patience necessary to fit and re-fit parts. I am usually guilty of the “ready, fire, aim” approach to construction.
But I wanted to do this, and I wanted to do it specifically beginning this past weekend.
As I’ve proclaimed for years, Easter is really a season: it’s about much more than just a single day. Easter, for me, is meant to be a prolonged meditation on the resurrection, and part of new life means creation and engagement.
As peopleof faith, it’s easy to sit around and complain when the “culture” turns against us, but from my point of view two things are glaringly apparent: the first is that we will most likely always live in tension with the larger culture; our King is not found on this earth, and is not American (or British, or African, etc.), and our ultimate authority is not any earthly king, but Jesus Christ. Inevitably this means that we will eventually come up against any earthly culture, and if we’re not coming up against it we need to (a) be grateful for an apparent but temporary respite; but also (b) be wary that we have not sold our souls too much to our larger culture. So discovering that our culture is not so accommodating to our churches and way of life isn’t really that big of a deal to me.
The second thing, however, is that at the same time we can profoundly influence the world in which we live. We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking of a victim mentality: that “culture” is “out there,” acting on us and affecting us in sometimes unpleasant ways. But strictly speaking, culture isn’t really like that: culture exists all around us, and we are always a part of it. It’s the air we breathe, the things we make and buy and the shows we watch and the music we listen to. But rather than think that we are passive consumers of all of these things, I like to think that, because culture is all around us, we can always influence the world byproducing things of our own. As writer Andy Crouch points out, the only way to change culture is to make more of it.
What I’m saying, in a very roundabout way, is that this guitar project is a spiritual act for me. Culture isn’t just intangible things like words and rules, movies and music. Culture also consists of the physical objects a people produce.
And I produced a guitar.
It’s not the most perfect guitar, but my finger prints are on it (Levi’s too; it was a project that we did together, which was another spiritual act of fatherhood); my time is in it.
I started it Saturday night, on the eve of the resurrection. We worked on it a little on Easter Sunday, and then finished on Monday. I wanted to bring something new into the world in recognition that Easter is about New Life. In a way, I know that wood and steel is not that profound, but then again, I think that many of the most significant acts in the world don’t appear all that profound. I know this guitar won’t change the world, but it was an Easter project that I undertook, and I’m the better for it.
What about you? What will you build this Easter season? What new thing might God be calling you to? Growth Group facilitation? A Global Outreach trip? An act of invitation to a co-worker or family member? Leadership at E3?
Let’s make some culture.