Seven Revolutions by Mike Aquilina and James Papendrea

Book Review: Seven Revolutions by Mike Aquilina and James Papendrea

Seven Revolutions by Mike Aquilina and James Papendrea

Seven Revolutions by Mike Aquilina and James Papendrea

What if I told you that the world is not in a hopeless state?

What if I told you that there are many similarities between the state of the world today and the state of the world at the beginning of church history?

What if I told you we’re not living in post-Christian times, but rather we are living in neo-pagan times?

What if I told you that in the early days of the Church there were seven major revolutions in thinking and action that took place? And, we are moving into a period of history where the Church must again revolutionize the world?

In their new book, Seven Revolutions, Mike Aquilina and James Papandrea give us a window into the early days of the Church. They examine the history of the Roman Empire, and the writings of the Church Fathers and highlight seven areas where the Church—through active example—changed the very course of history.

Our Christian faith should change the world around us. That’s what it means to walk out the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now. It means that those things that are not as they should be are brought—through our example—back into the order of creation. Where there is brokenness and hurt and pain and suffering, we are to actively bring wholeness and health and healing and life. We are to speak into every area of society and be bringers of the Kingdom into them.

The authors find that the early church brought revolution into the way the Empire thought about the person, the home, work, religion, community, death, and the state. They show us ways in which the early church was counter-cultural even though being so was to bring persecution and death. The early church stood firm in the face of injustice and unrighteousness, and worked to affect change in these arenas.

For instance, in regards to the revolution of community, the authors conclude:

In affirming selfless giving and affirming the poor as worthy of charity (love), the Church rejected the ancient world’s assumption that poverty was the fault of the poor. The Church corrected that world view, providing new perspectives: that there is no hierarchy of humanity; that some people are not more worthy of respect than others, and that a person’s prosperity (or lack thereof) is not a demonstration of their worth.

The authors make a case for calling the culture of modern-day west (led by the United States) neo-pagan instead of post-christian. They illustrate (carefully and with distinction) that the United States isn’t Rome, but has characteristics that are similar to those of the Roman Empire in the early days of Christianity. From that foundation, they build a case for how the Church could again bring about revolution—a shifting from the Empire of Man to the Kingdom of Heaven. They look to the traditions of the Church—the writings of the Church Fathers and the actions of the early Christians—to define terms:

Therefore, when we speak of traditional Christian values, this is what we mean. We mean the protection of human life, which includes support for marriage and the family (as opposed to the apparent conviction of many of our celebrities that marriage is optional); and we mean the protection of human dignity and freedom, which includes ensuring the safety of those most vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and destitution. And these values, which were built over the centuries via divine revelation and historic Christian consensus, must not be marginalized. Freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship. It is also the freedom of religious expression—the freedom to speak and live the faith.

The Church should not co-opt to the ways of the Empire. We are called to stand in contrast to the Empire. We are called, as were the Old Testament Prophets, to call out those things that are not in-line with the Kingdom of Heaven. We are called to highlight those things that don’t look like God’s perfect creation. And, we are called to disciple everyone into the ways of the Kingdom.

Jesus Christ came and offered an alternative to empire. We call it the Kingdom of God, but that phrase in Greek could just as well be translated “empire of God.” Jesus brought us God’s empire and preached it as the Good News—over against the Roman Empire (or any other empire).

—–

FTC (16 CFR, Part 255) Disclaimer: I received my copy of Mike Aquilina and James Papendrea’s book Seven Revolutions from Blogging for Books for this review.

Are You On Furlough?

We’re home.  Back in the good ole U, S, of A.  But what are we doing here?

We are often asked about the coming year.  What does it look like?  Are you going back overseas?  Are you getting a job?  Etc.

So, we thought that we’d take a moment and try to formally answer those questions.

The short answer is we are home and are still on the field.

God has called us into a work that requires both being overseas and being home.  It is a call that includes the US and the rest of the world.  It really is a two-point charge (to put it in Methodist terms).

Here’s how that works.

God has called us into a ministry of coming alongside front-line workers.  In this charge, we head into the nations (or to a location here in the US as we did last year in Longmont, Colorado) and come alongside the workers.  Our mission is to provide manpower for projects, help them sort through their vision, provide leadership development, ask questions, and–most importantly–pray over them.

Lots of prayer.

Workers on the front-line consistently tell us two things.  First, they’re tired.  Second, they feel like the church in the West has forgotten them.

We see our work as one that attempts to answer both of those comments.  “On the field,” our objective is to give them space to rest.  It’s to ask the questions that will help keep them on the field.  It’s to simply “be” with them.  To drink tea with them.  To talk with them.  To love them.  To pray with them.

Our second charge is to come back to the West and tell the stories.  To help the church not forget them.  To remind the church of the work that God is doing around the globe and ways in which they can partner with that work.

So, here’s where you come in.

We firmly believe that God has called us into a season of “telling the stories” throughout 2014.  We are looking for churches, small groups, schools, living rooms, coffee houses, etc in which to sit and talk about the work that God’s doing around the world.  We would love to come and visit you–wherever you are–and tell the stories.  We’d love the opportunity to share with you about the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and the things we’ve seen God do.  We’d love to share with you about some amazing people in some amazing places doing some amazing work.

If you’d like to chat about scheduling a time for us to be with you, then click over to the contact us page.  If you’re interested in coming and visiting with us when we’re in your area, then check out our schedule page to see where we will be and when.

So, no, we’re not on furlough.  We’re just walking out our calling step-by-step.  Join us on the journey!

Michael Speaking at First Presbyterian, El Paso, Texas.

Michael speaking at First Presbyterian Church, El Paso, Texas

Lent 2013: Just a bunch of Pharisees and Sadducees

As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.

A reading from the Gospel of Luke.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

— Luke 15:1, 2 (NIV)

Scandalous.

At least that's what the religious leaders thought. This man, Jesus, eats–is relational–with sinners. The vilest of vile people are invited to dine with this so-called Rabbi.

These people that Jesus was hanging out with were not individuals that would be in the best liked category. Prostitutes. Tax collectors. Outcasts. Lepers. The blind. Throughout the gospel narrative Jesus positions himself in such a way to be either at dinner with these people, or being interrupted by them.

And, when we examine these stories through our 21st Century Christianity lenses, we often look at these Pharisees and Sadducees and can't imagine how they could be so dense to diss Jesus. What must they have been thinking to make fun of Jesus for going to those outcasts of society.

But, don't we do the same?

On Sunday, we were at church here in Central Asia and watched as a couple from a very Muslim nation (that sits to the east of the Middle East) joined with that fellowship. They are from a nation where we see immense growth in the church, but where Christians are regularly persecuted. Yet, Jesus is there, and is dining with the outcasts. But still, elements of the Christian community in the West want their own nation to go to war with the nation of these new Church members.

Suddenly, the Pharisees and Sadducees don't look all that ridiculous to us.

Or, we do things like count the number of Christians–those who believe that Jesus is indeed the only way to God–in a particular nation, and exclude those who don't fit an “evangelical” definition. We assume that since they don't see this relationship with God in the same way that we do that they are somehow less Christian–or not Christian at all. We've become just as exclusive as the Pharisees and Sadducees.

As an example of this, Rick Warren, caught some flack yesterday for calling on his Twitter followers to fast and pray for Conclave–the selection of a new Pope. Why? Why is it ok for us to call for prayer and fasting for a national leader, but not for a Christian leader?

We're ok when Jesus acts–or asks His followers to act–in a way that fits into our worldview, but when they do something with which we're not comfortable, or consider “unsafe”, then what do we do? Do we–like Nicodemus–come to Jesus by night? Hidden beneath an invisibility cloak so as not to be seen by our friends?

What happens when we walk into a congregation and our fellow believers are worshipping differently than we do? Do we consider them to be less Godly than we?

As I've read the Gospels, I've come to believe that the problem with the religious folk of Jesus' time wasn't their traditions per se, but was that they worshipped their tradition more than their God. Their method of worship had become an idol.

Within each of us lies this same tendency. This belief that our particular arm of the Body of Christ is somehow better than the other arm. That our liturgy–or lack thereof–is better than their liturgy–or lack thereof. That our bass guitar is better than their absence of a bass guitar. That our nationality is better than someone else's nationality. That our temporal safety matters more than someone else's eternal safety–and completeness of life.

The Kingdom doesn't just come to those whom we think it should come. The Kingdom is for all–every tribe, every language. It isn't just for those who would not make us uncomfortable in our church.

Sometimes (oftentimes?) when we read a passage like this one, we like to go to the “Jesus redeemed a wretch like me” place in our heads. We think, Jesus came not for the Pharisees and Sadducees, but for the outcasts, And, thank God, He did. Yet, He also came for the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Nicodemus' and the Joseph of Arimatheas. He came for the Herod's and the Caesars. He also came to redeem the wretch like me who belittles another Christian for not fitting into my mold of what Christian should look like.

Let me challenge you. Take a moment and ask God to show you how you define–not that dictionary definition in your head, but the one you would never say outloud but would live out one in your heart–“outcast”. Is it homeless? Prostitute? Drug addict? Mentally or physically challenged? Orphaned? Muslim? Black? White? Hindu? Anyone not western evangelical?

Then, take some time to ask God to give you HIS HEART for those whom you consider to be “outcast”.

Finally, do as Jesus did. Welcome sinners and eat with them. Let your life be a light to them. Let it shine that they might see the way into the Kingdom.

 

Being the Church

This past Sunday a group of us (most of us actually) from our school decided to do something different for church.  We headed to a beautiful area in Colorado Springs called Red Rock Canyon.  Our order of service went like this:

  • Worship by reading aloud the Psalms of Ascent
  • Prayer for people needing/wanting prayer
  • Message from one of our own: Dan Blanton
  • Prayer for healing
  • Communion
  • Lunch
  • 2.5 Hour Hike

It was a fantastic time of worship and prayer and communion.  It’s the image of communion that I most like–dinner with friends.  And so, we didn’t go to church.  We were the church.

Here are a few pictures from our time together.

Dan bringing a message on God's love.

Dan bringing a message on God's love.

Our Church

Our Church

Our Family

Our Family

Our friends, fellow students, and breakfast partners, Don and Barb Roome

Our friends, fellow students, and breakfast partners, Don and Barb

Caleb and his new best-friend, Jacob

Caleb and his new best-friend, Jacob

Steph climbs the quarry steps

Steph climbs the quarry steps

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." -- Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." -- Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

Children are the Church of Today

This week in our Crossroads Discipleship Training School, we have Paul Hawkins teaching on the Character and Nature of God. Within his teaching today he made the following statement:

We have to stop viewing children as the church of tomorrow. They are part of the church today!

Often, within the church, children are looked at as the “church of tomorrow”. Yet, because children haven’t had time to have their spirit-man totally desensitized to the voice of God, God can often speak to and through them more easily than many adults. Thus, it is important that we not view children as the “church of tomorrow,” rather we make them a part of the church today. We need to teach them to cultivate their abilities to hear and obey the voice of God.

The Psalmist points out that out of the praise of children and infants, God establishes strongholds against the enemy (Psalm 8:2).

In Joel 2:28-32, we find sons, daughters and young men specifically mentioned as a part of those on whom God will pour out His Spirit.

Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 18 that they should become as little children. Children have a keen ability to hear the voice of God and to trust His word (they haven’t been taught to do otherwise). Jesus wants us all to be able to hear God’s voice and then obey what He says. The challenge then is that we must (as Nathan Kilbourne pointed out in our final Lenten blog) unlearn all the things we “know” about God, and move from a knowledge of God and into a relationship with God.

Lent 2012: 6.3 — Pressing on to the Altar

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

My heart is moved by a noble theme as I recite my verses to the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. You are the most handsome of men; grace flows from your lips. Therefore God has blessed you forever.

Mighty warrior, strap your sword at your side. In your majesty and splendor–in your splendor ride triumphantly in the cause of truth, humility, and justice. May your right hand show your awe-inspiring acts. Your arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.

Your throne, God, is forever and ever; the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of joy more than your companions. Myrrh, aloes, and cassia perfume all your garments; from ivory palaces harps bring you joy. Kings’ daughters are among your honored women; the queen, adorned with gold from Ophir, stands at your right hand.

Listen, daughter, pay attention and consider: forget your people and your Father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Bow down to him, for he is your lord. The daughter of Tyre, the wealthy people, will seek your favor with gifts.

In her chamber, the royal daughter is all glorious, her clothing embroidered with gold. In colorful garments she is led to the king; after her, the virgins, her companions, are brought to you. They are led in with gladness and rejoicing; they enter the king’s palace.

Your sons will succeed your ancestors; you will make them princes throughout the land. I will cause your name to be remembered for all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.

— Psalm 45 (HCSB)

Today, we go to a wedding. But, not just any old wedding, we’re talking a royal wedding. This wedding will make Di and Charles or Kate and Henry look small–insignificant even.

Psalm 45–what I consider to be one of the most poetic Psalms–is a wedding song. Solomon is getting married. The world is watching. All eyes are on the event that is about to transpire.

The aisle has been flowered. The king stands at the altar. All of earth and heaven wait.

A hush falls on the people as the royal wedding march begins.

And, so it is now.

The hush has fallen as the King awaits His bride–the church. All of heaven and earth waits with anticipation for the moment that the Royal Wedding march will begin.

Yet, the Bride is still being prepared.

Still being made ready.

Still being sanctified–set apart.

Still being called out from the nations of the earth.

And all of heaven and earth wait. In quiet anticipation. As the Bride is called to forget her people and her father’s house. She is being called to cast of the things of her old life, and put on the things of her new life (Ephesians 4, Colossians 3). She is being called to press on to holiness.

And, so, once again, we find ourselves planted firmly between the now and the not yet. Between the church door and the altar. Between a call and a desire to holiness and holiness itself.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ my Lord., for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

— Philippians 3:7-15 (HCSB)

Two 1Q 2012 Announcements

At the end of last year, we knew that God was planting us in Edmond.  As a part of that planting, He led us to a fantastic united Methodist congregation called Acts 2.  The church is built on the foundation of Acts 2:42.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42 NIV)

We have been immensely blessed by this congregation and its Pastoral staff.  Our Senior Pastor, Rev. Mark Foster, is a fantastic teacher and has a huge vision for the Kingdom of God.

In our first meeting with Pastor Mark, we chatted about the history of our family, Led By The Word, and Acts 2.  It was evident that there was a commonality in focus, prayer, and Kingdom world-view.  We wanted to be a part of it.  We also knew that God was telling us to come alongside and serve in whatever capacity the church wanted/needed us to serve.

Since then, we have had further conversation about what that service would look like between now and our anticipated departure for YWAM on April 5.  Two things have bubbled up.

We are happy to announce that we will be leading a trip to Omaha, Nebraska between March 4 and March 10 for up to 15 members of the Acts 2 family!  We are super excited about this trip.  We will be working with the Missouri River Conference of the United Methodist Church in the inner-city of Omaha.

We will be ministering in a variety of venues including senior citizen’s center, interact programs, food pantry, and community gardens.  The concept is to bring to light Social Justice issues that exist just off the church’s doorstep.  This is a fantastic opportunity for Acts 2 to see new ways that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in our own parishes.

Secondly, we will be leading a weekly series through February and March on prayer.  We will be discussing prayer throughout the Bible, as well as tools/techniques/resources available to us for prayer.  We hope to culminate this time with a week of 24/7 Prayer that will be ended with a Seek-and-Soak gathering.

Please, join us in prayer for these events.  We are so grateful to serve this fantastic community!  Pray that as we do so, we will be open to hearing God’s voice and will lead God’s people deeper into relationship with one another and with Him.

If you would like to help us financially with the trip to Omaha ($1,170 ($390 each for Stephanie, Emily, and I)), then jump over to our Partner With Us page.

Searching for a Home

We’ve been in Edmond now for 3 Sundays. We have been on a hunt for a church which we can call home. This process is difficult at best.

Searching for that place where we can plug in and be fed, while being able to give away that which we possess of the Kingdom is hard to do. Yet, as we go on this search, we approach it as we do everything else. We approach it with a prayer:

“Father, show us where You are working, and how we can join in.”

We don’t want a place where we can just sit. We want place where we can learn, and where we can teach. Where we can serve. Where we know our children are able to grow in the Kingdom, yet are also are free to share what they possess of the Kingdom. We want a place where the heartbeat of the church (from top-down) is to bring the Light to dark places. Where no one is afraid of being “hands and feet”, or of what that means the face of the congregation will be.

We aren’t interested in “seeker-sensitivity” or “cultural relevancy”. We are interested in Kingdom truth. We are interested in knowing God and making Him known.

Please pray with us as we continue on this journey. Pray that we may clearly know where the Father is working, and that we may join in with that work.