Saturday, May 31, 2014

THE PROBLEM WITH SELF-DEFINITION

Do you ever get confused about what two sides stand for and which way to go? It’s all this or it’s all that. That person is a right-wing extremist or a left-wing liberal. He is a conservative, evangelical fundamentalist or he is an atheist. Optimist or pessimist… Sometimes we look for ways to describe ourselves and build allegiance to parties that most closely express our values.


We also do this with place. It’s the urban jungle or the serene countryside. It’s inner city or the suburbs. It’s Western civilization or Eastern.

Most people will tell you that they are an introvert or extrovert. The introvert is usually considered to be a shy, solitary and private person. The extrovert is usually outgoing, social and more talkative. While some are easily defined by these two categories, there is a third option. Meet the ‘ambivert’. This psychological classification is described as ‘a person having characteristics of both extrovert and introvert’.[i] In fact, it is likely that there are more ambiverts than introverts or extroverts.

In an effort to find balance, we measure where we think we fall on the scale. Self-definition gives us an explanation of who we are. Our dissatisfaction with extremes leads us to often look for a place in the middle.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DUAL CITIZENSHIP

What is New Jerusalem? If there is a new one, we need to understand something about the old Jerusalem. 

The ancient Jerusalem was the center of Israel’s life. It was the holy city where God’s Temple was built. 


This is the city where you could come to worship God and find the center of good government. It has been destroyed and rebuilt more than once by its enemies.

During a time of its destruction, the apostle John had a vision that revealed God’s idea of what will happen when the gap between Heaven and earth closes.


Revelation 21:
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the
throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


John's elaborate description of the New Jerusalem retains many features of the Garden of Eden and the paradise garden, such as rivers, a square shape, a wall, and the Tree of Life.

There is no temple building in the New Jerusalem. God and the Lamb are the city's temple, since they are worshiped everywhere. Revelation 22 goes on to describe a river of the water of life that flows down the middle of the great street of the city from the Throne of God. The tree of life grows in the middle of this street and on either side, or in the middle of the street and on either side of the river. The tree bears twelve fruits, or kinds of fruits, and yields its fruit every month. According to John, "The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." This inclusion of the tree of life in the New Jerusalem harkens back to the Garden of Eden. The fruit the tree bears may be the fruit of life.[i]

Soon I want to take you on a walking tour of the New Jerusalem and point out several features that speak to how we can live in our city now with New Jerusalem values.

You live in the lower city, but do you have an address in the upper city. Are you part of God’s vision for the New Jerusalem? Do you foresee a future when the Shalom peace of God is restored and we walk on those streets?

The writer of Hebrews spoke to people who had discovered that Jesus was the architect of a new humanity. God’s preferred future and plan came with Jesus and is now awaiting fulfilment.


Hebrews 12:
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.


As you enter the gates of relationship with God through Jesus, you become citizens in the City of God. We are called to join God’s work in building a community, a city where God can live with his people.

We believe the day is coming when the Lord’s Prayer will be answered fully. ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.’ The gap between Heaven and earth will close and all is restored to God’s idea for a world without the chaos and dysfunction.

Let us live for that day.



Sunday, May 25, 2014

BUILDING ON THE RUINS OF CIVILIZATION


Jesus spoke to his followers about the volatile environment they lived in. In their lifetime they would see Jerusalem fall in AD 70. They became exiles in their own city.



 John 14:
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 


The Messianic vision includes a new place to live. Where you are now is filled with troubles. There a better place to live and Jesus will return to take us there.

For now, we know that cities are built on the ruins of former dreams. One day we will all die and only the eternal blessings of God in our lives will be forwarded to subsequent generations. God is involved in the rise and fall of cities. We are a people that need to live in our cities expressing the Kingdom values of another city—the New Jerusalem.

There are really two cities existing in the world at this time-- the City of Man and the approaching City of God. Augustine wrote about the differences between the two.

In A.D. 410, a pivotal moment in Western history, the Vandals, under the command of their king, Alaric, captured the city of Rome.
Rome was known as the Eternal City because the Romans thought that it would literally never fall, and the year 410 shook this belief to its foundations and ultimately led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. The world itself seemed to have been destroyed, and everyone sought answers about what to do and what to believe in. Those who adhered to the waning pagan faith were quick to blame the Christians, claiming that the gods had abandoned Rome because many Romans had forsaken them and taken the new faith. These Romans claimed that Christians were not patriotic enough because they asked people to serve God rather than the state, and they advocated forgiveness toward enemies. More important, they said the Christian God had failed to protect Rome, as he should have done, since Constantine had declared him to be the one true God. The angry wrangling between the two communities prompted Augustine to begin writing The City of God in 413.[i]


Like Jeremiah’s people, we are exiles from the City of God called to live hopeful and helpful in the City of Man. We live for the good of our city with New Jerusalem values.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

SETTLERS IN THE WILDERNESS EMPIRE

The history of the world is a story of cities that rise and fall. 

This is a brief history of the Ford City neighbourhood where New Song Church’s main campus is located. In the century of Henry Ford’s worker town we saw expansion and growth through immigration from Eastern Europe. At its peak, the Ford Motor Company had 14,000 employees at this location. The prosperity meant that the new citizens could build homes, churches, schools and a thriving business district.

Along with the growth came the typical issues with crime and social ills. The Chicago gangster Al Capone frequented our street during Prohibition when he illegally shipped whiskey across Detroit River. In winter months, he had an arrangement with a corrupt priest at Holy Rosary Catholic Church. A light in the belfry was used as a signal to let the gangsters know when they could drive across the ice to the Ford City docks.

In 1935 Ford City merged into the expanding city of Windsor. The year 1945 saw a 99-day workers strike when the streets were blockaded and the problem solvers created the now infamous Rand Formula[i] as part of Canadian Labour Law.

Our once bustling main street (Drouillard Road) eventually succumbed to the economic realities of bigger and better homes and shopping in the suburbs. The subsequent vacancy and decay on ‘Main Street’ affected the homes of the neighbouring streets. The 1970s were difficult years where a dark, urban reputation meant that people avoided the area. It was not viewed as a safe place to be. Drugs, violence and poverty replaced the vision of its founders.

In 1993, I stood near the railway tracks on a foggy, summer night and gazed down the ghost town corridor and had an apostolic insight. I thought, ‘What a perfect place to have a church!’ In 1997 our three-year-old church moved in to an old bar.

The Kingdom of God is counter-intuitive to the surrounding culture. When everyone runs and avoids, the people of God move in with hope. We have become an integrated part of our neighbourhood and part of making it a safer and hopeful place to live. The Kingdom of God is entrepreneurial, hospitable and compassionate.

Today we sit at the table with other community builders and serve as best we can. This is an ancient idea we read about in the Old Testament. The prophet Jeremiah records a letter to the exiled people of God who found they were displaced and struggling to find meaning in Babylon, a city that represented all that had destroyed their lives.


Jeremiah 29:
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”


God loves Windsor. That is why we need to love our city and seek its peace and prosperity. We need to seek God for ways to be settlers in the wilderness empire of cities.



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