Nowadays, it seems like there is something terrible happening in the world whether it is within our nation, in other countries, or even in our own neighborhoods. The information we receive on a daily basis primarily consists of humans treating each other in cruel and unusual ways. Unfortunately, we became desensitized to the evils of our world, and accepted that humans will continue to hurt each other in unimaginable ways.
In the book of Luke we see that Jesus begins his ministry in an extended time of prayer and fasting in the wilderness. Luke 4:14 explains that Jesus returned and reintegrated into society “in the power of the Spirit.” One of the first sermons he gives includes a reading and claiming fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah 61:1.
Lately, I’ve been having trouble feeling connected to God. Not in a typical “dry season” that I’ve been accustomed to feel in the past, but more so that of the traditional ways I’d invest in my faith (QTs, bible studies, prayer times, etc.) feel inauthentic and unfruitful. My hunch is that it’s due to the dissonance I feel with my personal values of faith in Jesus, and some of the claims made by broader, Western Evangelical Christians across the nation. It doesn’t take much to see how polarizing the conversation can be (i.e. immigration, refugees, police brutality, racial equality, etc.). That’s not to say that my personal beliefs are better or worse, but it helped me realize that the ways I usually connected with God felt too introspective and removed to reconcile the tension I feel with what’s going on around the nation. I’m realizing that as the things I care about change, the ways that I connect with God are too.
With 2019 well under way, the brand-new U-District Popup Services are officially going weekly in February! This is a new and exciting experience as Marketplace multiplies into two services to meet the needs of a constantly changing congregation. Although it may be challenging and outside of our comfort zone, I am excited to see where God is leading Marketplace as it enters this community.
There is a reason this marketplace movement is called working for justice. Justice is hard work. In our lifetime, it will be tiring, never-ending work. But the good news is God is fighting alongside us, and in fact, He has already won! So why bother? Why care? Because by participating and persisting in the hard work, God’s glory and ability to finish the work is that much more awe-inspiring.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth. -Acts 1:8
These were Jesus’ last words before he ascended to heaven. I don’t know about you, but if I could choose my last words, I would choose them pretty deliberately. I believe Jesus did just that. In fact spreading the Gospel was so important to Jesus that his first words to his disciples were to spread the Good News:
When you think “influence”, who is your immediate frame of reference?
If your answer lies somewhere on the spectrum of CEOs, celebrities or social media influencers, I’m with you. And it’s easy to mythologize the notion of an “influencer”. We usually think of them as people who are insanely smart, talented, powerful, decisive, or [insert awesome innate quality here].
Football is a big part of my family, and it’s a big part of my Dad’s faith story. He and my Mum were often asked to speak to various sports teams, youth groups, and other ministries about their testimonies. Sports metaphors were almost always used, and this one was my favorite one that my Dad did…
My Dad would start out by reading this passage:
I was part of a christian fellowship when I was in college. I didn’t really know what that meant in the beginning, like a bunch of christians hanging out together. One day a friend sent me a message that someone in the fellowship was struggling financially and they were asking if other students could donate money to help out. In the end, they exceeded more than the goal amount and we were able to give this as a gift. It was one of the first times I was able to see and be a part of this kind of generosity.
I love how one of the names of God is Jehovah Jireh, or “The Lord Will Provide.”
I struggle with money. Some days I worry about having enough. Other days I worry I am keeping too much for myself and therefore idolizing it.
I am glad God is a good Father and He has provided for me even when I have not trusted Him to do so.
What comes to mind when you think about leadership? Often times we tend to equate leadership with those with the most power, charisma, influence and vision. We’ve been condition to believe that what qualifies a leader is their experience, titles, education and accolades. Gifted leaders are ambitious and outspoken and driven. When it comes to thinking about leaders and leadership, the truth is, the last thing we tend to think about is ourselves.
When I think about what drew me to seek out Jesus for myself, I can’t help but be incredibly thankful for the community that truly embraced me in the depths of my darkness. That despite all of my flaws and insecurities, there were people who showed me a Jesus-like love that I’d never experienced before. Now think about if we, as a church and body of Christ, were to exude this same type of love, and not just to our friends and family.
When I was a teenager, I’d get up every morning focused on loving people that day. After all, the greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40). While I desired to please God with my life, I think my love for others was also motivated by a desire for control, security, and self-worth. My identity was centered on being kind and loving toward others and my sense of wellbeing was rooted in my ability to help people. And until more recently, I would give of my time and resources to others almost boundlessly.
God in His infinite love sent His Son, Jesus, to earth so that humans might have the opportunity to have relationship with Him. God didn’t love us from a distance. He didn’t just write a letter or send a text with “Love you!” God, through Jesus, literally became human and stepped into our world so we might know Him and experience His love—up close and personal.
Through the gift of Jesus, we may infer that God believes love is most powerfully experienced through personal engagement. Obviously, God gets the award for being the “most personally engaged” being—ever, for all of eternity. But friends, He also asks us to take His example and be similarly engaged with one another!
What is God calling me to? What is God’s purpose for my life? If these weren’t the million dollar questions, then Rick Warren would have never written “The Purpose Driven Life”… which I totally bought and read believing I would finally hold all the answers to life’s greatest questions… turns out the book just made me ask more questions. (Insert “Womp Womp” emoji here).
In seasons like these, I don't know how to believe. I see brokenness in the world, and I see pain and sickness and darkness in loved ones, and I don't know how to believe that God is good. I don't know how to believe that God is in control. I don't know how to believe that God loves and cares about every single person in the world.
I've asked God: Why? What are you doing? Where are you?
“14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” - John 10: 14-17
Learning and discerning what the voice of God is in my life has been one of the easiest and most difficult practices in my faith. I would say that I spend a good portion of my prayer life, in corporate and private settings, encouraging the making of space to listen to God and see what God has to say. Even with this, I constantly feel like I still need to make more space for God to speak so that I can practice learning what His voice sounds like. I don’t know about you, but I have a very strong internal voice that resounds in my head- often criticizing decisions I make or making me second guess who I am.
In the beginning there was creation - creation on a level so great and awe-inspiring that it gave existence its very meaning. And it is this very action that kicks off everything that we know and believe about our life, purpose, and salvation. So it's no stretch to declare that creation is inextricably tied to our identity in Christ. When we create (whether it's art, words, ideas, numbers, movements), we exercise our God-given ability to do the work of expressing His glory to the audiences in each of our lives. It can be as prominent as a public mural or as practical as a piece of code; anything that serves to display the original beauty of God's creation is an act of worship that works to fulfill the potential outlined for us as His beloved.
Yet there are so many external and internal factors that try to suppress our creativity - here's just a sample:
2018 for me was overwhelming… it was exhausting. From political unrest to heart-breaking headlines to the vast black hole that is social media; how are we supposed to handle the chaos and burdens that surround us on top of our priorities of God, family/friends, and school/job?
When Marketplace went through the `Emotionally Healthy` sermon as part of the Movements’ series, the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead was a memorable image being freed from death/bindings of sin; and flourishing in the abundant life that Christ promised (John 11:38-44).
Do you ever feel lonely? I do when I have to eat alone at times when I’m traveling. The worst is eating alone at a restaurant, which I really try to avoid. I’d order something to go and eat in my hotel room than do that.
What if I told you that it is possible to not feel alone even when you are alone, physically?! Impossible. But it is possible with God, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always with us and is our strongest supporter, as we see in John 14: 16-17: