In the chaos of faith, rebellion and obedience

Humility and Ultimate Power

Posted by justicetabernacle on April 17, 2011

this morning i got to hear a good ole fashioned palm sunday message.  the message came out of matthew 21– focusing on how Jesus, the King, Son of david, God Himself, came into the city of jerusalem on a donkey- and not only a donkey- a baby donkey. it could not have been done any lower than that…  the complete opposite way of doing things for people in positions of power.  it was the ultimate subversion of the way power was normally executed by men.  it was a new example of power through humility.  in essence it was power over evil, sin and death by way of lowliness and sacrifice.

and this was not the first time we saw Jesus do this-  it was the second major entrance that He made during His time on earth that was done in such a humble way-  as you may remember, He also came into the world in a similar fashion- being born in one of the lowliest of places.

His third entrance however, will not be like the first two.  His third entrance will indeed be quite different.  i have been reading through 1 and 2 thessalonians recently and yesterday came across this verse- which talks about what will happen when Jesus makes this long-awaited third apperance-  it’s been a while since i read this description and i find it quite incredible:

2 thessalonians 2:8
And thenthe lawless one (satan) will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesuswill kill withthe breath of his mouth and bring to nothing bythe appearance of his coming.

not sure the last time i heard that verse preached-
but in the end, it is one of many descriptions that show the power of Christ-  and that one day, all creation and existence will culminate in the full restoration of things to full righteousness.

so, although until now, Christ has arrived in a humble and simple way- He will one day truly reveal His ultimate power and authority.  until then, we live in the time of humility and grace- though these things are not diametrically opposed.  it is not as if Christ once did not have power and will regain it, rather, He did not act upon the right of power, as paul explains to us so beautifully in philippians 2:1-11

and that is the essence of our faith, as christians, and the example that we are to uphold.  not clinging to our rights as children of God, rather humbly laying our lives down for brothers, sisters, and enemies.  and we can then do this without reservation and with confidence, because we know that in the eventual eternal restoration of all things will be a prize of immeasurable value-

understanding power and humility- how these worked together in the life and the afterlife of Christ- and how it works within us, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is one of the great keys to unlocking the mystery of God- a mystery that is ultimately rooted in the omnipotent existence of Christ in the beginning and the end.



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The preeminent Gospel

Posted by justicetabernacle on April 11, 2011

i love this version of the Gospel- which paul shares with us in colossians 1:15-23

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

there is certainly not much more that needs to be added to that- He was before all things, is all things and all things were made for Him.  what is left for us to do than to merely surrender our whole existence to Him…? and the crazy thing about it is, that even if we don’t- we eventually will.  the reality of this truth is that it is totally unaffected by whether or not we believe it or not.  it simply is.

so while apologetics and evangelism are vital and certainly a central part of our mission- in the end, we are merely discussing our human response to this reality- certainly not pleading a case for the actual truth.  the case has been, and is, opened and closed.

ps. i love the line “you were once- hostile in mind”  wow- amazing that something paul wrote over 1,000 years ago would be so fitting for our culture and society today.  let that line marinate for a while today- ‘hostile in mind’


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Holy are You God

Posted by justicetabernacle on April 10, 2011

throughout the years, i have sung the words, ‘my heart will sing’ or something along those lines… and to be honest, i didn’t always buy it.  now, i consider myself pretty well versed when it comes to poetry and metaphor- but for some reason, my heart singing, was always one of those things that i felt strange singing with integrity.  i mean, i get it and all, but still, it was often times difficult…

today however, was my day-  i spent most of it on public transportation traveling from one apartment showing to the next-  and if for no other good reason in the world, the ipod was definitely created for such days.  and since it was sunday, and there was no church service in sight for me, i spent most of those rides drenching my ears with worship music- trying to focus my thoughts on the Lord.

then, wouldn’t you know it, after a long day of life, right there on the berlin u-bahn, those words came once again- ‘my heart will sing…’  but this time, unlike the many times before, i indeed felt my heart singing.  and it is something you really can’t explain to someone in words-  it just is-  and it just happens.  there i was, my heart singing out (silently of course, with some mouth movements, as to not totally freak out the other passengers) and it was all based out of the lines quoted below-

“Holy are you God, Holy is Your Name, with everything I’ve got, my heart will sing, how i love You…”
joel houston

God is indeed Holy, and my heart certainly was recognizing it-  causing the aforementioned ‘singing.’


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April Pollen, I mean Showers

Posted by justicetabernacle on April 7, 2011

clearly april showers alone don’t bring may flowers, pollen plays it’s role as well.  actually it’s that stuff from the trees that really gets me… but actually i’m thankful that allergies seem to be a little dulled here in berlin compared to dc.

all that to say- it is quite unbelievable that i last posted on march 1st… what?  how did that happen?  have i not had anything to write about?  i mean there are all kinds of topics to post on, right?  i’m living in a foreign country-  flying by the seat of my pants and God’s grace when it comes to housing and project development.  i’ve had amazing visits from people from all over the world- gotten to visit switzerland, france (ok, just a walk over a bridge, but still) and denmark.  attended amazing alumni events with my alma mater valparaiso university and with the fulbright organization.  but somehow the pen (or keyboard) has failed me.

i was just saying the other day to someone, that when you are out here on your own for the most part, you have a gazillion thoughts daily (those of you who know me well, know that is not much of an exaggeration)…  and at some point you begin to forget what you say out loud and/or write down-  what you tell someone and what you thought you told someone.

and there are moments when that realization strikes panic in me.  i feel like i am really missing out on documenting my journey.  but like most things in my life, there is an ebb and flow.  i get into writing seasons, reading seasons, and the list goes on.  writing and documenting experiences however, have always been important to me.  there is a chronological effect of that- in that it’s just nice to be able to have a stack of journals to reread and remind you of all the crazy that you once thought, pursued and lived.

the bigger and more spiritual side of it however, is that it is a great log of God’s faithfulness.  whether you read about a time where you were doubting or in fear, or were in a fruitful season- it is important to have those things to look back upon and give God glory for it.  for the times He sparked a prayer- for the times He answered one or many-  for the times He saved you from your dumb self-  for the times He stood back and let you take steps on the journey…  all of these things are golden.  they belong to the story, both of your own life, and of the cumulative one of all creation.

so as the crazy pollen flies through the air and lands somewhere causing life to continue on- so i hope my words in some way can do the same.  we never really know.


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Book of Acts Moments

Posted by justicetabernacle on March 1, 2011

heather zempel and i often joke around about how we sometimes feel like we are living in the book of acts.  we talk about how our friendship and ministry has at times taken on a paul and barnabas like feeling- especially as i come and go between berlin and dc.  with her in greece at the moment, it definitely has an extra dose of that-  and when we get to be in that country together in may as she travels with a team there to work with trafficking issues, we actually might explode with biblical nerd-like excitement.

aside from that connection, i had another, what i can only describe as, ‘acts’ like moment today.  at the very least i think that it was a significant spiritual moment, or rite of passage.  i had the opportunity to meet with a church leader this afternoon.  let’s just say that this person was a kind of large denominational leader.  after sharing a bit of my vision and hope for the city, he gave me a very kind and gentle, yet stern and official: “i welcome you here.”  now this might sound a little cheesy or sort of insignificant-  but for me it was a really meaningful moment.  it felt like a symbolic moment of invitation from the ‘church in berlin.’  i  don’t want to overstate it, and there are many other parts of the church in this city that are not represented by this invitation, but nonetheless, it felt like an important confirmation spiritually.  and it felt very ‘acts like.’

it was also significant, because no matter how hard i have tried to inculturate, be open, and patient, i have not always felt welcomed here by every part of the church body.  there have been several moments of questioning, both direct and indirect, regarding the issue of invitation… as in, ‘who invited you here to come?’  this is something that i have wrestled with often; something that has left me unsettled at times.  my experience today however, has really quenched that and i am extremely grateful for it.

as i grow in my faith, mature in spirit, and spend more time in ministry (especially immersed in a new culture) i am more and more aware of the importance and significance of elder ministers.  over the years, i have learned a lot about what spiritual authority means, what it means to submit to it, and how to differentiate between submission and compromising.  my hope is that my growth in this area will be something that leads me to show respect to those that have gone before me- as well as be an example to other young leaders on how this is done and the fruit that it brings in the Kingdom of God.  and if you know me, you know that this has not been an easy road.  it is however, a worthwhile one and something that always entails a certain kind of tension…  in the middle of it though are the great mysteries and promises of God.  and He always honors our obedience, whether we see the initial aspects of it or not.  that is what faith is all about.


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Security or Insecurity yet Secure

Posted by justicetabernacle on February 25, 2011

lately, i’ve been having a lot of conversations about the tension between building up security and living in faith that God will provide.  i do not plan to get into a huge exegetical assessment of this topic here- as that would take an entire book and more.  but i wanted to post a few reflective thoughts that i had on the matter.

i’m currently reading through the book of romans slowly-  and today i came across this verse.

Romans 10:21
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

though this is in the context of God extending salvation to the nation of israel, it is one of many examples in the bible that show how God is a God that extends His hands out to his people.  and this happens far more often than we will ever allow ourselves to believe.  He gives and gives- offers and offers- screams, ‘I’m here, I’m here…’  but we don’t respond- why?  stubbornness?  hardened hearts?  covered ears?  just normal distraction?  the reasons are many for certain.

but far beyond the ways He wants to speak to us now, the bottom line is that God has already given us many promises.  the most important of those is His incarnated Spirit.  sadly- we confuse His presence and faithfulness in how it directly relates to our happiness and contentment.  this is exactly where we then become derailed.  we must absolutely understand that God’s promises and faithfulness have nothing to do with our perceived dreams, hopes and security and everything to do with His will, glorification and renown.  now, don’t get me wrong- he most definitely births in us dreams and talents and inspiration that align with those things.  but if we understand them as means to an end for our satisfaction, we will forfeit the true gain.

as a missionary these days i have to often walk this line.  it is the balance of what i perceive is hard and sacrificial, and what is pleasure and blessing.  if i were to draw the line between these things in ‘what makes me the most happy or feel most secure,’ i would begin to play a game that interchanges daily realities with eternal ones.  with that- it is easy to get into a polarizing type of situation, where you judge things to be ‘holy’ or not based on if they are easy or not; this is the wrong way to conclude.  instead, it is about being thoughtful and mindful in all things.  there are some situations that are fun and bring joy that are indeed holy- but there are plenty of other things that bring discomfort and strife, which are equally as holy.  our culture, a western one, has taught us from our earliest days that comfort, joy and fun are good and to be sought after, sometimes at any cost or expense… as followers of Christ however, that life-mantra has to be altered-  revised-  renewed-  it should go something like this:  the will, pleasure, and glorification of God are to be sought after, always at any cost or expense…

so, let us continue to play-  knowing that sometimes we will get the grand prize, and sometimes we will get struck down with the sword- (job, philippians 4, hebrews 11)  but either way, God is God and is good above all things.  i pray daily that i have the faith to endure beyond just my words, if i indeed get the sword.


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Fickle Creativity

Posted by justicetabernacle on February 15, 2011

creativity and art are so very fickle.  for those that have some of that lodged deep inside, you know that there is this pervading sense of potential energy.  you can feel something amazing brewing under the surface, but for some reason there is so often a blockade keeping it from it’s grand emergence.

you sit and ‘know’ that it’s there- but what, you are still so very unsure.  the tension builds between just starting, and waiting until it’s been perfectly crafted in the hidden place, far from the audience that will one day applaud it.  so you change locations, change rhythms, change the light, but nothing seems to work it out.  your mood and attitude toward it changes too- you get mad, then dismissive- ultimately, you are saddened due to the great delay that has ensued.

so how do you break free?  i’m sure there are many suggestions and tricks of the trade.  but at the end of the day you just have to recognize that it is not really about you.  you are creative because you are creation.  and there is a steady stream of life that is consistently flowing in and through you.  once that is recognized, you have to pack a bag full of the infant ideas, sling it over your shoulder and jump into that river.  and it’s at that moment you realize the power and speed that was at your disposal.  and with it comes the completely unknown evolution of the content stored up.

finally, you conclude that in the river there is very little control.  and everything that you want to perfect is going to be reshaped and deformed; as it bangs off of rocks and branches.  the only thing that is certain now, is the ultimate delta destination-  and that takes the pressure off.  and it makes that spark of an idea already accomplished before you even notice that it’s there.


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A Look Back- A Look Forward

Posted by justicetabernacle on February 9, 2011

returning to berlin after such a blessed visit to dc is tough to put into words.  though it was a short little visit back to the east coast, it certainly had a lot of meaningful moments.  i feel compelled to write about a few of them.

leadership retreat-
what can i say about this?  a lot… i think that it was the best leadership retreat ever.  it was the 10 year anniversary of this ncc all-leaders event.  the theme was ‘all in’ and in my opinion, we never hit the theme better than we did this time.  mark, heather and joel all nailed the main sessions and the breakouts were just as powerful.  of course who can forget the special performances and videos- my return in oktoberfest style, magic tricks, the gambler, and the list goes on and on-  of course jeremy and amanda as the emcees were phenomenal.

a few other notes on leadership retreat-  i was personally moved as pmark shared out of joshua 8.  this was one of the verses that impacted my decision to move to berlin for ministry.  in my short talk after the berlin video, i shared a bit about it.  just as joshua was given ai as he pointed his javelin toward it, i believe God gave me a promise that He would move once again in berlin.  this was then followed up by amanda praying for me (and making me cry, thanks) and then steph and the band, rocking the song ‘wunderschön.’  it was a powerful declaration of worship over the city- and i believe that it broke down spiritual strongholds in that moment.  steph’s prayers and proclamation were anointed.

friends and family-
i already shared about this in the last post, but i will just reiterate how thankful i am for all of the people in my life in dc.  they were such an encouragement to me during my time there and showed that i am not forgotten even though i am out of sight.  i was grateful that there were so many birthdays and parties and the like to be able to see a lot of people in a short time.

berlin transition to phase 2-
maybe i am prophetically speaking that out.  during my time back, i talked to a lot of people about us being in phase 1 of the project, and my hope is that we will soon be transitioning into phase 2…  this would include the answering of the prayer to find a german business partner for the project.  once that happens, we can really begin to move on finding the location and building for the project.  i am also believing for a new apartment that is going to fit in with the phase 2 part of life that is to come- meaning that it will be close to the project and full of good, loving people who are full of generous and sharing spirits.

a new community of believers-
right before i left for dc, i felt the Lord calling me to gather together the people that are drawing in close to me here in berlin-  those who are seeking God.  so i am thinking through how that might look like- perhaps a bi-weekly gathering of sorts.  i think that will be a big step of faith for me.

at the end of the day- i am very grateful for my situation.  to be able to live and work in berlin and at the same time stay connected to my spiritual life in dc.  it  only confirms my already very firm belief in the global Kingdom of God. amen to that!  of course it is tough at times, and there are many that i do miss- i know that there are new songs to be sung here in germany-


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The Close-Knit Family of God

Posted by justicetabernacle on February 2, 2011

it has been a really meaningful time being back in in dc- spending time with my ncc family.  and it just has reminded me that though there is the global family of God, which is expanding the Kingdom together- a kind of extended family.  but there is indeed something unique to your local community.  and this visit has really established firm in my heart, how much i love and am loved by the people here.  it is very evident to me how much of an impact there is when you are in one place for six plus years.

the thing that i think has been the most influential to me, is the fact that i really think that there is a realness to the things that we are doing.  maybe that sounds a little strange or abstract- but in fact, it is the exact opposite.  it is not abstract- it is real.  this visit is showing me that we are not just doing some strange, out-there, spiritual thing, but rather, we are engaging in real life things.  that what i am doing in berlin is actually linked to what is happening in dc.  now this sounds a little simple, or might cause one to say, ‘of course it is.’   but i think sometimes you can get caught up in the macro-vision and ideas, and lose the sense of the here and now- the touch, taste, and smell of the whole thing.

maybe i am just still reeling from an amazing leadership retreat-  but even that, i am trying to really hold captive- to make it about real life and not about a spiritual experience- there is something deep and spiritual in all that we do, because we are bearers of the Spirit-  we have light and life and truth wrapped up inside of us-  and that causes us to have the potential for great, daily impact.  and i am becoming more and more convinced that our daily decisions to recognize this and act upon that fact is the single most important action we can take in service to the Kingdom.

so today, my eyes are open, my heart is full, and i am ready for what comes my way this day.  i hope that this is the start to a new, more frequent, reality-driven, faith advancing viewpoint on life.


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London Calling

Posted by justicetabernacle on January 22, 2011

(composed on the plane- posted in berlin)
it certainly was an interesting few days spent in london.  and the biggest question that i am left with leaving the island is how long it’s going to take for me to lose the accent- well, at least the one that i say in my own mind when i formulate sentences.  my guess is as soon as i start hearing german again… all joking aside though, i do tend to be a bit of a language chameleon.  not that i learn how to speak it, but i pick up on some of the weird, quirky, nuances pretty quickly.

there are so many things to write about my time spent there, so i have been trying to think about what the most important things to share-  i definitely learned a lot of things and felt like i heard from God on a lot of different levels.

the first and most important thing to note is that i had a great time with my reach global colleagues.  time and time again, when i get to spend a few extended days with any of them, i am inspired, have fun and leave encouraged.  i think that is a really good and healthy sign for sure.  not everyone can say that about those with whom they work and serve beside, and under.

one of the highlights was getting to know the new london city team leader to be.  he and his son were spending 2 weeks in london to get prepped- meet pastors, churches, and other ministry endeavors.  i had the opportunity to sit in on most of these meetings, which were very informative- not only on expanding the idea of the european and global/urban city, but also what it looks like to plow new ground in a place.  in these meetings, we certainly got a wide view of the church- from ideology, theology and praxis- but also of the different views on ministers of the Gospel coming in from the outside.  sadly, i feel like we experienced some of the unfortunate realities of the ‘human’ side of church.  things like tribalism, nationalism and reactionary thinking.  this to me is the antithesis of the Gospel of Christ-

for me, i am becoming more and more convinced that the church is to be built upon the foundation of Christ, which is love, grace, and humility.  if you are starting there- then i find it hard to believe that God is not going to be living and active.  my concern is that too many people are working with strong convictions- yes- but ones that are far too often surrounded by the kindling of arrogance, ignorance and impatience.

so now it’s back to berlin-
i feel like i am going back with a new and refined perspective.  i know that God is at work in my spirit and exposing me to more and more of His good and perfect nature.  it is with that, that i want to be clothed.


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