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the Jesus Way
Apr
13
2014

Messiahs, "Success," and the Way of Jesus: A Palm Sunday Sermon

Text: Matthew 21.1-11

Success is the most important thing in life, and failure is to be avoided at all cost.

That’s the message I hear when I listen closely to the world around me. Success is celebrated; failure is mocked. Success means: you matter; failure means: you don’t.

I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, five minutes from Harvard and ten or fifteen minutes from MIT. For a lot of people, just getting here is a success in itself. For others, getting here is only part of the journey to success. Not everyone completes their journey; some journeys end here. Here is where success and failure often hang in the balance.

How do You define “success”?

If you’re smart, what does “success” look like for you?
If you’re attractive, outgoing, what does “success” look like for you?
If you come from a wealthy family, what does “success” look like for you?
If you come from a poor family, what does “success” look for you?
If you’re spiritual, devout, what does “success” look like for you?
Whatever your background or current situation, ask yourself: What does “success” look like for me?

When I became a Christian at close to 17 years old, I discovered theology and fell in love. I read every theology book on I could get my hands on. I devoured them, because I wanted to know everything about God, the Bible, Christianity. Before I’d even left for Bible college, I made a goal for myself. I wanted to have a PhD in theology by 33. (It rhymes, so it’s gotta be God’s will, right?!)

I’ll be 32 next week, and I’m still working on a Masters degree with no plans to apply to PhD programs anytime soon! So, I could look at that and see failure—if that’s how I measure success. But another thing I have to ask myself is: Is that God’s definition of “success”, or mine?

What is God’s definition of “success” for you?

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Oct
10
2013

The Stunning Beauty of Enemy-Love: Malala Yousafzai on The Daily Show

Malala Yousafzai is a 16-year-old, Pakistani, Muslim girl. She was interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote her new book. Her story is pretty amazing, but not nearly as amazing as her nonviolent convictions. When her opportunity to pursue education was taken away by terrorists, she refused to keep quiet. Instead, she spoke out for the rights of girls to receive an education through every available means. This made her a target of the Taliban, and they sought to murder her.

In the interview with Jon Stewart, an amazing thing happened. Stewart asked Malala what she was thinking when she found out she was being targeted by a terrorist group. In a thrilling moment of television history, she related to Stewart her firm conviction to seek the good even of those who would want to kill her. She explained that even the female children of the Taliban deserve the opportunity to get an education. And she told Jon in no uncertain terms that she would not resort to violence, even to defend herself.

Both my wife, Osheta, and I were watching this interview while reading and writing on our laptops. When we heard her words, we both stopped typing and looked up—we were as stunned as Stewart. Malala embodies the spirit of Jesus's command to love one's enemies better than most of the teaching among US American Christians. And Stewart didn't know it, but the beauty of her testimony, the beauty that stunned him silent, is the beauty of the cross-shaped love of Jesus.

http://www.businessinsider.com/malala-yousafzai-left-jon-stewart-speechless-2013-10 

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Sep
13
2013

Farewell Preston Sprinkle: A Review of _Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence_

Author: Preston Sprinkle
Format: Paperback
Publisher: David Cook (2013)
Language: English
Pages: 275
ISBN: 9781434704924

Amazon 

An Overview of Fight

Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence (hearafter, just Fight) opens with a graphic description of a genocide in Mozambique that is reminiscent of the opening chapter of Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp. Only, in Camp's book, the genocide described was in Rwanda. This is a bit of a "shock and awe" technique. Few U.S. Americans, let alone evangelicals, will be bothered to read detailed accounts of such atrocities, yet end up holding strong views on the subject of war. Sprinkle clearly wants to challenge this comfort, and suggest that we should see war for the horrific, dehumanizing, demonic nightmare that it truly is, before we even attempt to construct an ethical position on the subject. I think Sprinkle's instincts here are correct. Far too much writing on violence and war from U.S. evangelicals is written through rose-colored glasses. Sprinkle will expose some of this as well.

After that, Sprinkle spends three chapters examining the nature of warfare in the Old Testament, the violent passages, and puts forward several theories of interpreting them. I think this section is the book's weakest by far, but I'll get to that shortly. Before leaving the Old Testament entirely, Sprinkle adds a chapter about themes in the Hebrew Bible which point to the developing ethic of nonviolence that more fully appears in the New Testament—particularly in the life and teachings of Messiah Jesus. This capstone chapter is titled for the prophecy found in both Isaiah and Micah of the coming Messianic age when "swords will be beaten into plowshares." 

When Sprinkle turns his attention to the New Testament, Fight turns into an outstanding book. With the next four chapters, Sprinkle will cover a lot of ground, but manage to do it in a way that is both scholarly and yet highly accessible. He covers the nonviolent ethic of Jesus, the nature of Jesus's "kingdom," our citizenship in Jesus's kingdom, the nonviolent meaning of Revelation, and more. These chapters alone are well worth the cost of the book. But for added value, the final third of the book includes a survey of the early church fathers' attitudes toward war, militarism, military service, and killing; responses to several common objections to Christian nonviolence; and an imaginative parable that illustrates the type of cruciform discipleship he's been teaching throughout the book. To top it all off, he even throws in an appendix on Just War theories. Truly, Fight is closer to a library of resources on Christian nonviolence than merely a book. I think readers will be thankful.

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Aug
23
2013

Guns Don't Stop Killers, People Stop Killers: Love, Shared Stories, and the Power of the Holy Spirit

Depending on your access to social media, you may not have heard about this story, or you may think you're hearing about it everywhere. Either way, this story is not getting enough attention, and it probably won't. I'm convinced human beings want Good News, but we've been conditioned by our world to settle for and wallow in Bad News. This is the condition that helps media outlets determine what stories will get ratings, which in turn feeds the culture to which the media is trying to cater. What we end up with is a vicious cycle perpetuating a culture of death. We're entertained, fixated, horrified, and mesmerized by violence!

After the Sandy Hook school shooting, NRA President Wayne LaPierre famously said,

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun."

http://youtu.be/aASfk-ii0BM

This logic seems sound to millions of U.S. Americans who have been conditioned by our culture of violence and death. Then along comes a story like Antoinette Tuff's, and the presumption that only greater violence can prevent violence is utterly shattered. Tuff's story beautifully illustrates at least three things:

  1. The power of faith to produce love for the 'other';
  2. The power of shared stories;
  3. The power of the Holy Spirit.

Combined, these powers overcome the powers of mental illness, violence, hatred, and death. Take note people—is what Christian discipleship looks like in real life!

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Jun
03
2013

The Right Kind of Indoctrination: A Review of Donkeys and Kings by Tripp York

Author: Tripp York
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Wipf & Stock (2010)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781606089408

Amazon

Christian Children's Books [sigh]

I love reading to my kids before bed. But I find it very difficult to find books that I’m truly excited to read with them. Many Christian children’s books out there are just too hokey. Before finding Donkeys and Kings: And Other “Tails” of the Bible by Tripp York, the only Christian books I'd ever been excited to read to my kids were those from The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. Part of it is just pure selfishness. It’s not just that I don’t want to subject my kids to the subpar storytelling of some Christian children’s books. It’s more that I just can’t tolerate hearing myself read them—and I can only roll my eyes so much before they are bound to get stuck in the back of my head. That's why I'm so thankful for Donkeys and Kings. It’s biblically-literate, theological-astute, accessible to children, and interesting to adults—all at the same time! Also York is a genuinely great writer. His storytelling is compelling, he creates interesting characters, and he skillfully utilizes dialogue.

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Jun
01
2013

God's Future Has Arrived in Jesus: A Review of Prototype by Jonathan Martin

Author: Jonathan Martin
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Tyndale Momentum (2013)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781414373638

Amazon

Official Website

About the Author

I think I first encountered the work of pastor Jonathan Martin when I read his powerful blog post reconciling his views on the "politics of Jesus" with his love for Martin Luther King Jr.'s ethics of social justice. When I later found out he was Pentecostal, I was intrigued by him even more. Very rarely, if ever, have I encountered a person who combines Pentecostal spirituality with sophisticated social-political ethics. After that, I began listening to his church podcast: Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC. Since then I've been a vocal advocate. Which is why I have been excited to read and review Prototype.

Sidenote: Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church and author of Sun Stand Still, writes the forward for Prototype and at one point appropriates the metaphor of this blog, calling Martin a "theological graffiti artist". I have to say, Furtick dodged a bullet with that one. If he hadn't been applying that description to Martin, you'd be reading a very different mention of Furtick right now, and it would not have been pretty! You're safe for now Furtick, but watch your step!

About the Book

Prototype is one-third personal memoir, one-third church planting testimonial, and one-third systematic theology. Skillfully woven together with highly evocative writing are stories about ecstatic experiences, complex theological concepts expressed in layman's terms, conversion testimonies, creative biblical interpretation, and disarming humor. What holds all these disparate elements together is the personality of the author—a self-proclaimed member of a community of "liars, dreamers, and misfits"—and the person of Jesus Christ, who is "the prototype of a new way to be human."

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Apr
22
2013

Why C. S. Lewis Was Wrong About Pacifism

C. S. (Clive Staples) Lewis lived from nearly the turn of the 20th century to the early 1960's. He was a British Christian scholar and author. More specifically, he was an expert on medieval European literature, history, and mythology. In practice, Lewis was an Anglican layman. He was not a clergyman nor an academic theologian.

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Mar
30
2013

Politics, the Jesus Way (A Quick Reminder)

Jesus's "disciples" are His apprentices. That means, when we signed up to be a part of His army—this Jesus Movement we call the Church—we covenanted to do things His Way! Jesus's Way was to walk along the villages and towns preaching the Good News, healing the sick, and loving on people despised and rejected like Him. Jesus's Way was Not to put more rules on people on whom the Pharisees had already put so many—but to be ruled by Love. Jesus was in relationship with people who were different from Him: people the religious establishment called 'sinners.' Jesus's Way was Not to force anyone to follow Him, but to Invite them to follow him—to show them a better Way of being-in-the-world. This is what Jesus called the Kingdom of God.
 
When we, Jesus's apprentices, cozy up with the Empire and use their methods (laws, legislation, force) we are not following the Way of our Master: Jesus. Instead, we are following the ways of the world. All the kingdoms of the world operate the same way: By Force! Either you pay your taxes, or prison! Either you obey the laws, or prison! And, ultimately, every law is backed by the power of the sword to enforce it.
 
The Way of Jesus is not the way of the sword, but the Way of the Cross. Jesus's Way is to lay down our lives for our friends, our neighbors, even our enemies!! Jesus's Way is to triumph over Satan through unconditional, self-sacrificial love—because it is More Powerful Than The Sword! Jesus's Cross is the most powerful force in the universe—because it defeated sin, Satan, and reversed Death itself!
 
So, to love our neighbors the Way Jesus loved His neighbors (or enemies, if they are outside your empathy), is to advocate for them, to treat them with dignity as people made in the image of God, and to lay down our lives for them: demonstrating unconditional, self-sacrificial love for them.
 
That is the Jesus Way!
 

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Feb
19
2013

When I Met a Prophet: A Personal Reflection on the Legacy and Impact of Dr. Richard Twiss's Life

 
On February 9th, 2013, Dr. Richard Leo Twiss (Taoyato Obnajin "He Stands with His People") went to be with Creator, after suffering a major heart attack and spending several days in critical condition. He was only 58 years old. In his final days he was surrounded by his immediate family, his wife and his four sons, who all loved him dearly. Though Dr. Twiss is no longer with us in his first body, he remains with us in spirit.

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Welcome to TheologicalGraffiti.com

T. C. and Tyson Moore

Theological Graffiti is the offical blog of T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, urban church planter @NewCityCovenant, designer @NewCityPro, teacher, student, and friend. Discussion is welcome, so long as it is conducted in a spirit of charity. First and foremost, this blog is for self-expression—then community. More About.Me

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