Monday, December 30, 2013

Reading for the Grand Story...

Dear Friends,

This coming year (2014) I am planning to be paying attention to the Narrative / History in the Bible while following the 1 year Bible program.  What that means is If I do not have time to follow the non-narrative or Historical parts of the Bible reading this year... I will not worry about catching up on those parts of the reading.  I will go back and really try to take in the amazing Story / History as presented in the Bible.  I invite you to join me in this... we are all part of God's story and the better we know the God of history the more equipped we will be in seeing God work in our own personal histories and stories.

Join me in this... and let me know that you are joining me in this...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why I am a Christian, Part Three

It is one thing to choose to follow Christ. It is another thing to encounter Christ in the midst of following Christ. It is quite another thing to find that God’s loving agenda is at work and that it is to conform our character more and more towards God’s redeeming love. See Hebrews 12:1-14
Having come as far as I have on the journey of faith following Jesus, I find more and more, a growing awareness of my humanness and my human flaws. And I find a growing gratitude in my heart for God’s redeeming grace to challenge, correct, redeem, and refine my character. I continue to watch my capacity to love grow, and I look back and perceive how hardhearted I was in the past, even as I know that God continues to work in me in the present. This action of God that continues to work in me and on me is more persuasive than any argument for or against faith because I know, that because of my choices and God’s work in me and my character, that I belong to God.

I am a Christian because of God’s redemptive power at work in me, for which I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why I am a Christian #2: In my journey in the Christian Faith I have encountered a love that is much bigger than my own heart. An ocean of love. What I now know as the true source of all real love. It is a love that embraces all people everywhere. I first encountered it in my baptism. Later in what some people call the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I learned to access it more frequently through a tradition in the Orthodox Church called "The Jesus Prayer". I found a love that never leaves me and the wisdom to live in it through a little book called "The Practice of the Presence of God" by brother Lawrence.

Now encounters and even God's love for me and everyone else in no way automatically make me mature enough to love like God loves. But I find I am stretched a little more in that direction every day.

Ephesians 3:14-21 is a prayer that Christians would enter into and know the love of God. Immaturity at this point is the cause of a lot of people having problems with the church. We teach and show people how much God loves... and then disconnect from it in some way. Still this love sustains me every day in a grace that calls me to love more deeply everyone around me... and in the world at large.

"Love is the only power on earth that can turn an enemy into a friend". Martin Luther King Jr.
Here are links to 3 books that have been useful to me in my journey:
The Practice of the Presence of God
Disciple by Juan Carlos Ortiz
Strength to Love by Martin Luther King

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I am going to start a simple series of posts of "Why I (john tw) am a Christian". I am not aiming for the popular apologetics that is aimed at proving the Christian faith is reasonable and evidence based... I believe others have done that better than I could do. But rather I want to make explicit some of the gems that I have found in living into my faith that has made my life the good of what it is and has become.

1. I have found that God pursues meeting me in the deepest places of pain in my heart and personal history and then works to transform and give meaning to that suffering. Like the cross of Christ. There is nothing in torture or suffering that we would choose for... Only in God's hands can real evil or suffering be transformed into a life giving force of grace. As the Prophet Isaiah said: "He gives beauty for Ashes, The Oil of Joy for mourning, and a Garment of Praise for a Spirit of Heaviness".

This is my experience of walking the Christian life out. It is only possible to experience this kind of life giving grace if one is truly open and honest enough to face one's personal pain and willing to turn to God for help.
This grace of inner healing and forgiveness is an experience that is shared around the world by Christians and is essential to the future of our communities.  I can not think of a better example of this than what is found in the struggle for healing and justice as expressed in the book -- No Future Without Forgiveness by Bishop Desmond Tutu.
The simplest door into this experience beyond the healthy initiation rite of baptism is found in this little book -- The wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen  .

Monday, June 03, 2013

Reflections on the Movie "After Earth" moving towards the real question of Character Development.

I Went to see the Movie After Earth with Andy A Hernandez and another friend. For the younger folk there was too much talk between father & son... and not enough action. The trailer sold the movie as more fast-paced than it really is...

I was fascinated by it trying to tackle our relationship as human beings to fear.
Later I realized that it seemed to have a stoic kind of anti-emotional response that connects with L Ron Hubbard's teaching in Dianetics:

or is it just taping into a larger vision of the Hero myth and a coming of age story.

I liked the movie because it puts character growth back on the big screen as something that matters. This is also true for the movie Karate' Kid and its remake. Also there is a concrete effort to pass on a legacy from Will Smith to his son. Jealousy and advantage... in Hollywood can be the color of coffee.

What matters to me most is how we as Christians approach teaching people to live transformed lives. Christ does not walk the path of the Roman triumphant hero... but that of a Suffering Servant. If victory means facing your fears and over-coming them... Love & Compassion require even more strength.

In the movie the father keeps calling his son back to his mind and his senses. We as Christians draw on something deeper. The Holy Spirit of God.

If any handful of Christians would live into the grace found in the prayer of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:14-21. Then... We would not be retreating from the challenges in the world... we would instead be positioned to be in that great company of those who overcome and stand in this world through faith -- Hebrews 11.

I agree with Martin Luther King. What we really want is "soul force"... the grace of God at work within us constraining us and carrying us through our fears. This can transcend what the mind knows or the heart feels because we enter into a sustaining fellowship which is rooted in the love of God. I John 1:

I find it interesting that this movie openly displays the deep wound that exists between so many men and their sons. Something that the church needs to explore and provide much more solid answers for... I am looking forward to reading Gordon Dalbey's new book: Sons of the Father: Healing the Father-Wound in Men Today to draw on the wisdom he has to offer on this topic:

In contrast to Iron Man, The Hulk, and Spider Man... Will Smith plays a man of Character & Integrity rooted in the history of experience and and learning. When was the last time you saw a real call for discipline of any sort on the big screen? Sadly some of my friends said they would have rather seen Hangover 3 or Fast & Furious 6. Wake up People... who you are on the inside is who you live with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year... and this is also who you share with everyone else. Maturity matters. Generations matter. And We Need to Pay attention to the struggles involved in growing into mature & wise adults.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My favorite passage of scripture on Character development is II Peter 1:3-11.  It is worth noting that much of what is popular out in culture ends with "Faith or Confidnece" as the end goal... when actually that is only the beginning of growing in character.  Much of the wounding in religious communities comes from a core lack of humility in our culture.  Confidence or Faith not brought into maturity by discipline and action.  It is interesting to note how concerned the Apostle Peter was about this before he was martyred.   See Peter's emphasis on this in verses 12-15.  Who we are is what we live on the inside 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Growing on the inside is learning to have a life.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Download Here
 News Letter 

It is very exciting to have reached a goal of turning the need to afford our own textbooks for school into the asset of being able to be book stewards and dealers.  This Newsletter covers some of the details of this progress.

And Here are some prayer Requests:

– Jude's mother loses strength each week, pray for wisdom and encouragement for Jude and her mom. Her brother has lived a year since he was diagnosed with cancer, and is doing fairly well.  Each day is a gift!

–We are praising God,  It is both a joy and a challenge to be granted a whole new level of spiritual authority within our networks. Pray that we would use this trust and authority to strengthen the Body of Christ.  What a privilege and joy it has been to serve God in our small part of LA for almost 20 years...and the grace and work continues...

– For the Book Collective to be learning stewardship well in the face of deep personal need – particularly the disciplines of giving, saving, investing, and thinking in terms of the greatest good rather than just personal need.

– Praising God for the provision of a van!