God parla “Son”

Check out this glorious gospel insight from Hebrews 1:1-2

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,

2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

parlo Son

Verse 1 says long ago, God used many times, ways, and voices to get his message across to humanity.
Verse 2 says that now God speaks Son. Literally, the construct in the Greek says, “God spoke once for all – to us – in Son.” (for readers who have fun with Greek — the verb is aorist, the preposition is “en”, and there is no definite article before huios speaking to the nature or kind of speech)

A Taste of Hebrews

The book of Hebrews teaches about the Messiah-community here on Earth and how God is speaking the Son language to them and through them. Hebrews unpacks the language of Jesus that the Father speaks through Jewish references, stories, and metaphors. One of the main Hebraic themes of the book is about the new Messiah-community in a glorious “wilderness wandering” similar to the one of the Israelites. The first wandering was a foreshadow and a time when God would woo his bride, Israel, to himself and away from the lovers of Egypt.
Today, however, the difference lies in the fact that Christians are led by the ultimate Moses and ministered to by the superior Aaron from the true Tabernacle. Jesus has emerged from the shadows and become the reality (the “heir” of all things; the ultimate truth the whole world is searching for). The new covenant and new identity binds Christians to Jesus and indelibly writes the Son language all over our lives. This new relational identity in Jesus works through God’s people like never before as Christians walk with one foot in this world and the other in the heavenly sphere because of their union with Son.

What Do You Speak?

As mentioned, God now speaks Son through his new covenant to his covenant people. The new covenant is the last one God will ever make. It is also a new kind of relationship, in that, it is a liberating covenant which permits us to please God a thousand different ways instead of offending him repeatedly. This new covenantalism brings his people (the covenant community) into the law of love to serve God and one another thus demonstrating that God’s presence is with his people. And that is why the Hebrews preacher can declare so confidently that God has fulfilled his promise by saying, “I AM their God, they are my people…” Hebrews 8:10
So, God spoke Son to you, and if you have received his new relationship, he now speaks Son through you. In fact, everyone in the new covenant will speak this new language as they are being conformed to the image of his Son. This is not a theory to try, but rather, a way of life. The Father is expressing Son through us. God is invading this world with Grace. This is wonderful news because it also means we don’t have to make up our own language to try to make sense of this world and life.
Therefore, permit me to spice things up and provoke you with a few questions:
  • When you gather together in Christian community or when you do any activity with your friends, what language do you speak?
  • Is it cruciform and does it resemble “Son”?
  • Does Son language go away when you are with certain groups of people at various times?
    • some friends were recently sharing with us that years ago they felt it was an obligation (“un dovere” in Italian) to speak Son to others around them. However, now the life of Son has so filled them that curious friends and acquaintances frequently want them to talk about Jesus and spiritual things. In other words, those who don’t yet know the Father are asking for our friends to speak more Son!
  • Do you hear the Son language calling out from the communion table, “Justice is done. Come and receive mercy again and again!”? Does that excite you and invite you, humble you and enthrall you all at the same time?
  • How has the Father been teaching you Son lately?

Shalom! and as we say in Italia at this time of year, “Buone Vacanze!”

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10 Redemptive Practices of Social Media

off the wall     In a recent article that I shared with you about social media, I mentioned that my wife and I would be collaborating on a more positive and helpful article regarding our practices and habits with different social forums. Below, you will find a summary of a number of discussions that Sandy and I have had and we hope that our discussions will prove beneficial for you as well.
     Please understand that we as a couple are claiming neither to be experts nor to be the moral authorities on your tweeting or FB activity. Our simple goal in this post is to pastorally share with our people some of the things we have been able to discern and then pass them along for positive and constructive communication within our ministries.
     As I mentioned, you will find our summary of many good and at times, aggravating discussions. Ya, you read that correctly, aggravating. We are married and marriage is one holy, spicy minestrone of two very different people bound together and commanded to make it work. Don’t you just love it? So, here’s the simple rule: if you like something, it came from Sandy…if you don’t, it also came from Sandy. Fair enough. Let’s go avanti!
    1. Communicate a great image — We Christians often forget that our words don’t belong to us but to the one who has redeemed us. What we communicate is a representation of who Jesus is. And, as soon as we share or click-on items in social media, we are communicating openly.
      A practical application of this can simply be found in the automatically generated articles, pictures, game achievements, and horoscopes. We should strive to be alert to what is being communicated. Do these things represent Jesus well?
    2. Avoid foolish arguments that never cease — This is an oft-forgotten biblical injunction. There’s not too much more to add to this one.
    3. Keep it positive and light because it is so easy to forget who is on your friend list. Once our friends list reaches triple digits, we begin to broadcast more than “share”. We may be expressing an opinion that we feel should be heard, but have we passed it through the filter that it could hurt or offend someone publicly? Similar to email, status updates have a major disadvantage — they cannot express authenticity and emotive genuineness. It seems a bit obvious to say, but we should remind ourselves to avoid embattled language and any hints of hatred toward anyone (including those who work at the Casa Bianca). Are we possibly doing damage to our “in-person” relationships? This is one reason that we like private groups because the personal friends that we invite have most likely had genuine interaction with us. They can “hear” our voices in our updates and give us a deeper level of understanding (if not tolerance) because they have already encountered our authenticity in-person.
    4. Post things that count; not items that say “look at me here! … and now! … and again!. . . and now. . . and now again. . . . . . .”  yup. no likes.
    5. Watch the pictures you post. Social media is really capitalizing on photos and videos. Again, remember that we all take for granted just how public these sites are. Once you upload a photo, you have surrendered its rights to the company. It’s no longer yours. Also, more people than you realize may see the photo. To give some examples, we have seen vengeance photos uploaded. This is when someone is trying to get back at another person in some way.  So, they post a kind of  “in-your-face” picture. “Vengeance is mine and not the domain of social media, says the Lord.”  Two other examples could be posting photos that are compromising or immodest and pictures of moments and places that should just remain private within a marriage or family. It will actually take a good deal of discernment and a desire to only share that which is truly beautiful, uplifting, or hilarious.
    6. Build others up — We call this body-building and wrote an article on it here. On social media, we can post comments to let others know that this person is doing a good job. It might be that others don’t see that side of them. This encourages the whole body when we express gratitude. It also challenges people to join-in service to others. We can really leverage the organization of social media for thoughtful and caring activities, too.
    7. Don’t buy the ads. We might think that the adverts are mostly about things that we want. However, it’s not about the stuff, it’s the medium that we’re supporting to get the stuff. Many reports have been written showing that you are the ad. Don’t contribute to the consumption of people. With all of the data that the social mediums are collecting, they will sell you to others if they’re not already doing it.
    8. To FB, time is money – but not to Christ. Time on FB is more of a chance to make money from you or your friends or to gather information to make future money. However, for the believer, time is not money – time is morality. Remember that the time you take to be on FB is time you have taken from someone or something else.¹ Let’s just throw in a verse from Paul here, “Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) In other words, we need to watch our time on things like this because those who care only for their appetites will consume it and try to get us to do the same. In fact, we believe FB will push the envelope more and more in ethics because its revenues are falling. If you are a Christ-follower, you have a moral obligation to devote one of your most precious gifts, your time, to the pleasure and will of God.
    9. Be in community — social media does have an ironic benefit in this area. Social media appears to work best for those communities that have already developed outside of the social medium first.
    10. Bless creatively — utilize Scripture in a positive way. Summarize biblical truths and blessings when you can. Some people just blast verses out there and they come-off like, “I’m a Christian,so deal with it.” How counter-productive is that? Most likely, we all have friends who don’t like it when we are “preachy” even if being preachy was not our intent. If God has done something wonderful in your life, thank him humbly for it and give grace to those who hear.

¹for more Gospel-oriented insights on time, image-presentation, and building real relationships, you can check out Tim Chester’s 7-part series called Will You Be My Facebook Friend? 

Church Body-Building in 3 Steps

Here is a practice that keeps a minestrone from becoming burnt.

How do you talk about others — to others?

At Serenissima, we insist on talking positively about others — to others. We call this body-buildingIn this article, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 simple principles that make a big difference in the health of a church.

Watch What You Eat!

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another! (Galatians 5:13-15 ESV)

image of the number 1 circledIn Galatians 5:15, Paul says to beware how we treat each other using three volatile verbs—biting, devouring, and consuming (destroying). The word devour literally means to eat down. And yes, you can chew somebody up and eat them down even when they are not present. It’s easy, “fast food” if you will.

The challenge of Paul comes from the two prior verses where Paul says, “…in love, serve one another.” (v.13b) And that’s the trouble, there’s no way that we can be lovingly serving one another and ungraciously gnawing on each other at the same time. The gnawing always wins and there’s very little to nothing left in the relationship. You know what I’m talking about if you’re picking something from the past out of your teeth right now. It takes more effort to resist taking the “occasion for our flesh” and serve others in love by what we say about them. I’ve been in church settings where the favorite pastime is cannibalism! And that, fratelli, is some unholy minestrone! Continue reading

Rival Hosting 2: Stressed-out Martha

Luke 10:38-42

Martha is anxious and troubled about many things, says Jesus. Here’s my question,
What does she have to be troubled about?

There’s no dishwasher, no microwave, no playlists to queue, no cellphones ringing, no status to update that she’s “…cooking for the King of kings. How about you?” Copy. Tweet. Like.

She’s not taking pictures, chasing toddlers, or printing out a new recipe. The floors are made of hardened clay so they’re naturally a bit dirty. She has a simple broom, but no vacuum and the broom is faster anyway in such a small house. She doesn’t have dish soap, so it’s always rinse cycle and there’s a certain relaxing bliss to being ignorant about germs. The furniture and utensils are simple so she’s not using her fine China. Can she even find China? It doesn’t matter because their internet connection is perpetually down so there’s no stream of superfluous information. And she’s not living in the Age of Distraction, but Martha is inventing multi-tasking which hasn’t even been named yet.

How many things could she possibly have to be so stressed-out about?

If Martha, being so troubled by the simple stuff of life-back-then, were living today — she would implode. She would never make it! Give our world a try, Martha!

All the more desperation is necessary, therefore, to recover the life-rhythm of allowing Jesus to host his Gospel of grace through our homes. If it happened to Martha back then, I don’t think we are better-off now.

 

Galilean_kitchen
note: for more information about this picture and Galilean kitchens, click here.

 

Food and Ministry: Problem 3

Ghanaian_food

I don’t even know how to spell it, but it sounds like “watch-it” and our Ghanaian church family members were excited about it. I’ve had Fufu, tasted red-red, and enjoyed plantanes & rice but watch-it was new. For weeks, we had been talking about our inter-cultural meal (read: awesome potluck) that we were planning and they wanted me to try their favorite dish. The day came. Their enthusiasm was high along with my anticipation — and the first bite…. well … ya …  I had to watch-it. It was completely foreign to me; an acquired taste in the making.

As I was working my way through that first bite, one of the brothers said, “Pastor, I like it with piccante sauce.” My eyes lit up as I mumbled through my watch-it, “Hmm…ya… div-me-thum-o-that … hmm… lots…ya… kee-it-comin.” Then, our dear sisters asked me, “Pa-pa, do you like it?” To which we westerners all respond, “It’s different, a bit unexpected.” And then they had a good laugh. 

So, would I eat watch-it again? Yes, because I like my brothers and sisters much more than I like the dishes that appeal to me. You might be saying, “But, it didn’t appeal to you!?” And you’re right. The dish appealed to them, and so it is part of their joy and identity. If I don’t watch-it, I’ll miss the ministry to the Africans because I’m only comfortable with the food of the Italians. 

Problem #3: Culture Comfort

Culture comfort with our food basically says that I’m not willing to try food that isn’t what I’m used to. The point is not just to try different, international foods but to see who those foods are connected to. A good bit of a person’s identity is wrapped up in their food. It is like a chain of links. If you reject someone’s food or type of food, you reject their culture. If you reject their culture, then you reject a part of them. 

Ministry Impact

Over the years of eating and ministry, we have noticed that more of our African brethren struggle with this problem. What happens when we concentrate on eating only the foods that are comfortable to us is that we communicate that we are just fine with keeping exclusively to ourselves. We actually begin to close down our thinking toward other groups of people and we strive to maintain our own cultural identity even more. Through the different “tastes” of food that we don’t like, we start to think of the people in this way too. We will say things like, “I don’t understand them” and we will seek to avoid the awkward experiences again. Therefore, even how we eat and share our food will stop being missional. Once we build our comfort zone, we will see others as invaders in our lives and not included. Then, to protect our comfort zone and identity, we will have to sneer at the intrusions or sneak away from them. 

Recommended Solution:

Try different foods that people make and offer you. Try the plates for the people. Go missional with food and see those tastes as gateways into people groups. Train yourself to be open to others and their cultures through food. Watch-it on purpose.

Food and Ministry: Problem 2

Jesus_feet_house_of_simon

“I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet…You gave me no kiss…You did not anoint my head with oil…he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Jesus (Luke 7:44-47)

How we conduct our meals and share our food does reflect on how we practice and give the Gospel. The passage above is from the account where Jesus is invited to Simon’s house. In the end, Simon does not have the good news of forgiveness (his meal conduct illustrated that), and Jesus does have the good news of love and forgiveness (his meal character revealed that). Both how we eat and who we eat with are ministry practices of grace.

Problem #2: Food-Pride

What’s the last meal that you sat down to that left you saying, “Hmm, that just wasn’t all that good?” The last meal like that which I can remember had chicken involved — I think it was chicken (kind of tasted like chicken). Now, I can whip up a great bowl of cereal or a tasty bag of chips, but cooking isn’t my forte. Eating is my forte. I’ve studied and practiced it for many hours over the course of many years. And, living in Italy is like eating in the big leagues. 

However, one hindrance in utilizing our food for ministry that I’ve encountered is that of a certain food-snobbery. The Italian kitchen does have bragging rights. Each region merits an appreciation for how it takes every-day ingredients to a whole new level. But when it is made evident at a meal that the pasta wasn’t cooked to the optimum consistency or a certain sauce lacks an ingredient or the after dinner coffee just doesn’t have the taste like mamma mia’s coffee — we are entering the realm of personal acceptance and gracelessness

Ministry Impact

Through the years of ministry, we have noticed that more of our Italian brethren have struggled with this problem. What happens when we concentrate on the standard of the food is we are communicating that we are just there for the superiority of our culture. Often, the message is subtle but it is there that you are not one of us. Anybody can practice this when they take too much pride in the food they have prepared and how they have prepared it. A meal that shares the ministry is one of inclusion. As Christians, we need to communicate that our table is open. Grace shows favor, welcome, appreciation, and forgiveness (pretty much like Jesus). Using food as an instrument of pride shows exclusivity, superiority, and how to be a jerk (pretty much like Simon).

Recommended Solution:

We should humble ourselves before others — through food. This means allowing the food to be what it is. If food becomes the focus, then simpler is better here or we will really close the doors on future opportunities to bring friends to Jesus because we want them to praise us first.

See the meal as a means of acceptance and of being equals at a table. The Christian church is greater than any one culture and our tables can model that. Talk more about the qualities of the persons at the meal than the qualities of the recipes and ingredients of the meal. Enjoy the people God has made more than the food or how it has been prepared.

 

Food and Ministry: Problem 1

Continuing on with this small series of food & grace

How we practice our meals, eat together, and share our food are all reflective of how we are striving to reach out to others and to cross-over to different cultures with the Gospel. Quite often, these efforts will also reveal where we are missing something in our understanding or lacking in a certain area of grace.

Problem #1: Slowing Down

I’ve had a breakthrough! Through the years, I’ve been criticized for being a slow-eater. But now! Now, I’ve realized that I’m a normal-eater being chided by hyper-fast eaters. It turns out, my eating pace is just right for where I live — viva l’Italia! Not only do I feel better; I feel vindicated. Food-justice has been served.

Four hours of cooking and fourteen minutes of eating. Ever experienced that? And, when there’s not time to cook, four minutes of cooking for the same fourteen minutes of eating. It’s called fast-food for a reason. Seriously, you can’t take or have communion in a drive-through. We might as well call it fast-fuel because that’s how we’re using it.

Ministry Impact

Through the years of ministry, we have noticed that more of our American brethren have struggled with this problem. What happens when we eat quickly is we are communicating that we are just there for the food. Relationships take time, and relationships can be forged through mealtimes. However, if we don’t utilize our food as a means of grace to bless others, we are communicating that we’re at the table for our own agenda and we need food to get that done. Slowing down will naturally keep us at the table for others.

When food is a gracious ministry tool, we strive to share in an experience with one another and to practice Christian community. If our habit is to eat-and-run (done with our shared experience within 30 minutes), we really miss out on a great deal of ministry opportunity that comes from spending more than an hour together.

Recommended Solution:

I highly recommend sharing meals together in courses. Italia has a great model for this: start with appetizers (antipasti), then firsts (i primi), seconds (i secondi), sides (contorni), and sweets (i dolci — don’t ever forget this one!). Variations are fine. Remember, it’s not about the quantity of food more than it is the quantity of time. Courses help to slow things down which will provide more opportunities to nurture things that last — our souls.

—–
Two more problems to come…I’ll try to spill the beans on cultural tendencies only and not mention anyone by name — maybe.

Spill_the_beans