Sunday, June 27, 2010

24-7 Prayer

This spring, we did one week of 24-7 Prayer in our church. This is a movement started by young, alternative, punk Christians in England. It has spread around the world, and after participating, I can see why.

We set up a prayer room on the KNU campus, and we invited people sign up for an hour to pray IN the prayer room - stringing together a continuous week of prayer night and day (hence 24-7). Our prayer room had several different "stations": repentance, The Lord's Prayer, a wailing wall (for deep unanswered prayers), general requests, maps, thanksgivings, a cross, music, and a "Holy of Holies" quiet, curtained off space in the middle of the room. We covered most of the walls with white paper, and we invited people to write or to draw their prayers all over the place. Some people even brought their own art supplies and added in some paintings. We gave people prayer request cards and asked them to take requests from their students, friends, and coworkers.

This week of prayer was the best thing our church has done in a very long time. This infused us with spiritual life and creativity like nothing we've ever done. I had some fears that it might feel contrived or strained, but the opposite was true. Having a prayer room that evoked creativity moved our community into spontaneous and free-spirited prayer. This gave us a hunger and a longing for prayer. We completed our week of prayer with a prayer service on Pentecost Sunday, and this was by far the most powerful service that I have ever seen in our church. Now, 5-6 weeks later, our services are still having more of a "sense" of God's Spirit.

I love that the 24-7 Prayer movement is not just "spiritual." Their catchwords are: prayer, mission, and justice, and they actively promote mission in a variety of different ways. Also, hosting a community prayer room really strengthened our church's sense of community - even though most of us prayed our hour alone. This thing is ancient, modern, and post-modern all at the same time. Joining together in prayer unites the various cultures and perspectives in our diverse church. This is a place where we can all agree and participate.

We are planning to do another week or two of prayer in the Fall semester. We are considering a variety of options for how to do it in the fall: teaming up with another church (or group of churches), making a larger prayer room open to the wider KNU community, linking the prayer room with our Wednesday night service, etc. We're still praying about what to do and how to do it, but I fully expect that 24-7 Prayer will become part of the regular rhythm of our church.

I highly recommend checking out the 24-7 prayer website and reading Red Moon Rising, the book describing this prayer movement.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dealing with Darkness (Luke 8:26-39)

June 20, 2010
Josh Broward

Luke 8:26-39

This is one of the weirdest stories in the Bible, and it’s in the Bible three times. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of when Jesus cast the demons into the herd of pigs. Maybe it was just too weird to pass up. Maybe people back then were interested in the weird and freakish just like people today. Maybe a little bit of tabloid-type newscasting made the Jesus story more interesting. ... Maybe ... and maybe ... just maybe ... there is an important message here - even for us modern people who find this story so uncomfortably weird.
To get at this meaning, we’ll have to unpack some of the weird stuff.
For starters, the flow of the story is out of sync. Luke tells the story with all of these flashbacks and asides. Instead of telling the chronological sequence of events, Luke has rearranged the material so that it centers around Jesus showing up. Everything changes when Jesus shows up.
Then, there are several cultural issues. Jesus and the disciples have now traveled to the east side of the Sea of Galilee. The Jewish Messiah is now landing in Gentile territory. Gentiles are “unclean.” They don’t believe in Israel’s God. They eat pork and worship the Roman gods. This is a bad, bad place for a good Jew to be. It was something like a priest taking his seminary students (complete with black shirts and white collars) into a full-on bikers bar. They were out of place - in hostile territory.
In the passage just before this one, while their boat is crossing the Sea of Galilee, a storm comes up and almost sinks the boat. In ancient Jewish culture, the sea is this symbol of chaos and evil, so for the disciples, it’s as if the forces of evil were trying to suck them down to Hell. Jesus finally stands up in the boat and calms the storm. Even the wind and the waves (these symbols of evil) obey Jesus.
Then, just as the boat reaches solid ground, they are confronted with more forces of evil. There’s a deeply crazy guy who says he is filled with thousands of demons, and before the disciples get the boat docked, he’s already screaming at Jesus and thrashing on the ground. (If I were a disciple, I would probably just get right back in the boat. “OK. This was a nice trip. Let’s go home.”) ...

To continue reading, click here.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Simon In Us (Luke 7:36-50)

June 13, 2010
Josh Broward

Luke 7:36-50

All my life I’ve tried to do the right thing. I listened to my parents (for the most part). I paid attention when my teachers were talking. I didn’t nick fruit from the farmers’ market. I didn’t squelch on my chores. It always bothered me when the other guys talked about women like they were there for the taking. Like I said, I always tried to do the right thing.
Most of all, I’ve always had a hunger for God’s teachings. From the very beginning, when my grandfather told the stories of Adam and Abraham, Moses and David, something stirred within my heart. I learned countless psalms by heart so that I could sing them as I walked along the road or worked in the field.
As I grew into a man, I began to spend more and more of my time in serious study of the Bible. I became more and more serious about doing exactly what God teaches us to do. I longed to prove myself to God as faithful follower.
God’s ways are so beautiful and so good. They have captured my heart. Sure, God’s way is demanding, but isn’t that the point? If it was easy, everyone would do it.

To continue reading, click here.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Idea: Our Korea

I have an idea for a book. Our church community (and friends connected to our church) could team up to write a book about our experiences in Korea. Foreigners living in Korea (or who have lived in Korea) could write about what they have experienced or thought while living here. Koreans could write about their experiences with foreigners here in Korea or reflections based on those experiences.
The book would be called: OUR KOREA: ONE MULTICULTURAL COMMUNITY'S TAKE ON LIVING IN KOREA. It would have 1-2 page articles on these subjects:
  • Our Joys - What we love about living in Korea
  • Our Pains - What frustrates us about living in Korea
  • Our Laughs - Some of the funniest things that have happened to us while living in Korea
  • Our Mistakes - Mistakes we have made while living in Korea
  • Our Hopes - What we hope for Korea's future
  • Our Fears - What we fear for Korea's future
  • Our Advice - Advice we have for Korean and foreigners living in Korea

We could include articles, photos, art, poems - pretty much anything - as long as it gives some insight on living in Korea. I know that lots of people are already writing on their blogs or on facebook notes, so I think we'll get plenty of material.
We could also try to get writers from as many different perspectives as possible: different countries, different jobs, different nationalities, different reasons for being in Korea, etc.
Over the past few years, quite a few foreign authors have published books about Korea (while living in Korea). I think we could probably find a secular publisher for this book. All of the proceeds could go for our Long Term Partnership with Bangladesh.
I'm thinking this could be an energizing way for us to work together on a common project and to get our creative juices flowing. This could help us to practice being a loving community that changes our world.
We will need a project manager, writers, translators, language editors, and subject editors. If you are interested in any of these roles, please let me know.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Luke 7:11-17 - Deep Inside and Out

June 6, 2010
Josh Broward

Her only son. Her only son. He was her only son. She had already lost her husband. Now her son. Her only son.
We don’t even know what happened. Maybe he got sick. Maybe there was an accident. Maybe a Roman soldier killed him. We don’t know.
But we know he was her only son, and she was a widow. Her life was over. Many from the village joined her parade of sorrow now, but they would avoid her within the month. She was doubly cursed. God must be punishing her for some secret sins. She could beg for bread. Maybe she could survive by going through fields after the harvesters picking up the left-overs. Maybe - if she still had anything to offer - some men might pay for a night with her.
Her life was over. Her only son! His death was her death - separated only by a matter of time and circumstances. Her only son ... her only son ... “OH MY GOD! MY ONLY SON! HOW COULD YOU LET HIM DIE? MY ONLY SON! My only son. My only son.”

What is your widow’s pain? What is the widowed place in your own heart? What part of you cries out? Where do you have that deep heart-shaking loss? ...

To continue reading, click here.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What Is the Gospel?

This winter I preached a series re-examining the Gospel. Today, I realized that I neglected to post the third sermon, so I'll post links to all four of them here. I feel like this is a pretty good summary of my theology and perspective on the role of the Church in our our world.

Week 1: The Gospel and the Bible
Week 2: The Gospel and Salvation
Week 3: The Gospel and Evangelism
Week 4: The Gospel and the Church

Reviews: Primal Leadership and Testament of Devotion

I recently finished two excellent books.
I picked up Primal Leadership last summer, and I just got around to it this spring. I absolutely LOVED it. It is written by Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence), Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. The premise is that leadership is essentially emotional.
Excellent leaders are in touch with their own emotions and with those of people around them. Excellent leaders know how to speak from their own hearts to others' hearts. Excellent leaders are able to manage their own emotions and even to guide the emotions of others (somewhat).
I was especially impressed with their summary of the dimensions of emotional intelligence (especially as it relates to leaders):
1. Self-Awareness (knowing your own emotions; accurate assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses; and self-confidence).
2. Self-Management (emotional self-control; transparency; adaptability; the drive to improve; initiative; optimism).
3. Social Awareness (sensing others' emotions and perspectives; organizational awareness; recognizing and meeting others' needs).
4. Relationship Management (visionary leadership; influence and persuasion; developing others; causing change; conflict management; teamwork).
Notably, awareness is the core element to personal and social success. We have to understand what's going on in us and in others. That is the first step in leadership. These four dimensions of leadership seem intuitively true, yet I have never seen it this clearly explained.

Another beautiful part of this book was their plan for personal change. They call these the 5 Discoveries.
1. My ideal self: Who do I want to be?
2. My real self: Who am I actually (strengths and gaps)?
3. My learning agenda: What is my plan to build on my strengths while reducing my gaps? (Interestingly, they suggest focusing growth plans on middle level capacities. The idea is that a small improvement in these will move them into the good or very good range. Whereas, focusing on our weakest points will lead us to working on very frustrating issues with smaller initial results.)
4. Experimenting and Practicing: How can I pursue these strengths in multiple areas of my life?
5. Developing trusting relationships: How can I build a network of mentors and peers for help, support, and encouragement in this growth process?

This book was deeply challenging on a personal level, and I am thinking about working out a similar growth plan with our pastoral staff. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in leadership.

Ron Benefiel highly recommended Testament of Devotion. After several recommendations, I finally bought the book, and after some procrastination, I finally read it. And, of course, I loved it. It's written by Thomas Kelly, a Quaker seminary professor who lived in the first half of the 20th century. It's basic premise is that we are called to a deep life with God who lives in us.
I was repeatedly challenged and strengthened by this book. Actually, it dovetailed with a movement of God in my heart and life to call me deeper to Him within me. I'm now making my second journey through the book - something I almost never do. I am expecting and hoping to learn more and to grow more in my deep pursuit of God.
I quoted this book extensively in my sermon last week, so you might look there to see some further thoughts and applications.
Again, I highly recommend this book.