How Can You Ignore Jesus When He is Naked?

“Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.” -John Chrysostom

This quote is from the 3rd century, and interestingly this quote seems to be addressing something the Church then was struggling with, and it seems it is not different from how she struggles now. There is this tendency we have to “adorn the altar” while the sick, hungry, and helpless remain that way all around us. to quote a modern poet and scholar/rapper, my friend Sho Baraka, “the churches gettin bigger, but the block don’t change.”

Essentially these two men, from different era’s, different centuries, different cultures, are saying the same thing. The Church, as a whole, is an internally focused hospital for the well while the sick and dying continue to be sick and die. Jesus said that he came for the sinner, that those who are well needed no physician. Jesus came making wrongs right, crooked straight, and broken whole. Healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, healing the broken hearted, and clothing the naked.

So what are the gospel implications…that the gospel is bigger than saving us from our sin sickness. There are social, ethical, and justice related indictments that are inherent in Christ’ gospel, and if we are not involved in them, but our “alters” are covered with “gold” then we have failed to incarnate the Jesus of the bible…at least fully.

Another Senseless Death…this time a College Student

Twenty three hours ago a young woman died on the campus of Clark Atlanta University….her death is the third in recent history on or around the Atlanta University Center Campuses, which is comprised of several historic African American Colleges.

This young woman moved here to attend school, and flee the violence and danger of her home town. She came here, paying tens of thousands of dollars to be educated, not to lose her life.

In nearly every historic district or area of this city there is a high level of police presence to ensure he safety of the people who live there, those who have chosen life in the city to revitalize the city. Are the students of the AUC not as valuable? Do they not deserve that same protection and safety as they seek to grow through education?

I am grieved by her death, another life lost to he violence and unrest of my beloved Atlanta…but as much as I am grieved I am disappointed in the system that failed to protect or serve her. This is no justice at all….please pray Jesus would bring shalom to this city.

The Rage of the Inner City

Yesterday I was witness to a rage…a rage like I had not seen in many years.  Breanna and I were driving down Boulevard in downtown Atlanta returning from my local shoe repair place and were stopped by the light at the corner of North and Boulevard. Suddenly, out of now where these children appear…running down the side walk. It quickly became apparent that six were chasing one, and they were in full pursuit.

Almost as suddenly as they had appeared one emerged from the pack as the lead pursuer, and the young man being pursued was so full of fear that he ran into the street…directly in front of my vehicle…while the light was green. The other young man backed him into my vehicle, and took a swing, but he missed. The young man being pursued then ran around my vehicle and in front of one in the next lane over, almost being hit by the moving car. The one chasing did the same and was almost hit as well. All of this unfolded in a matter of two minutes.

I was left with one question. What causes so much angst, so much rage that you would fight in the street, in the middle of moving traffic, completely unaware of your surroundings? What could build so deeply in a 15 or 16 year old that they would risk being hit by a car just to “settle a score?”

I was shaken…I was heart broken. I knew more than ever in that moment that I had to do something about the fatherless boys in my city. I had to do something to show them the beauty of Christ…His gospel…and a life without pain and rage. The Church must father the fatherless, and bind the broken hearted.

I turned my vehicle around and went back to look for them, but just as quickly as thy had appeared, they were gone.

The last question that lingers for me is, why plant Renovation Church if things like this are left unattended in the city? My only answer is that I shouldn’t…no one should if they don’t intend on trying to reach the hardened hearts of the children of Atlanta.

Journeying With Someone to the Brink of Destruction

Yesterday was an emotional roller coaster for me. I have spent the last two weeks investing in a man’s life here in Atlanta. He is homeless, but says he wants a fresh run at life. He used to be in inside sales, and have a “good” life as we measure it culturally, and by societal standards, but life started unravelling for him a few years ago, and ended with him on the street.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been loving him, and gospeling him in a way that he could not even comprehend because he says his own family has not ever shown him genuine love. I was really starting to see some progress, and had even gotten him into a transitional facility, then three days ago he disappeared. Just vanished, no calls, nothing.

One o’clock yesterday afternoon I receive a three way call from the crisis help line, and it is him, and they have called me to help talk him off the edge. At some point in the last three days he hit a wall, and it culminated with him standing on the edge of the overpass of interstate 285 about to jump into traffic, and end his life, and possibly the person who’s car he jumped in front of.

For some reason, in the middle of his despair he decided to get off the bridge and call the crisis hot-line, I can only believe it was the holy spirit. For some reason he decided to have them call me because he said he loved and trusted me, and wanted to say goodbye to me, I can only believe that was the implications of the gospel, working themselves out in a moment in time.

Nearly an hour we went back and forth about why he should live, versus why he should die. He cried, I cried, the crisis line lady cried as well. It was emotionally and spiritually exhausting…but this is what front lines missional ministry looks like in the city. You journey with people, even to the brink of destruction. And it costs, but the cost is well worth it for what was paid by Christ so that we could pay this meager cost of giving our lives in serving Him, and being a part of His mission to seek and to save.

Today Gary lives, at least another day, so that the gospel can continue to work in his life. Pray that God give me the strength to continue to journey with him, as Christ draws him to Himself.

I Just Saw a Drug Bust Happen Across the Street from me

It’s amazing that where I live I can watch drug dealers get arrested, and then go and sit in the shadows of large dogwoods in front of mansions. I know I have belabored this point over several posts, but I don’t feel I can do enough to expose this horrible dichotomy of people and resources.

Statistically people don’t sell drugs because that’s what they always wanted to do. People sell drugs because that’s what they feel they have to do. How am I supposed to reconcile this? How can we give these kids (the guys busted couldn’t have been more than 16) another choice and chance at life.

I was nearly caught in this same cycle, and I had incredible parents who gave me everything I needed. I was one of those idiots who did it because I wanted to…because of pressure from my circle of friends. I had a choice, and I took it, and I, by Christ grace, have been able to build a life of academic, athletic, and now career success.

But what about those kids, who come home to empty refrigerators, and absent fathers? Those kids who see the guys in the neighborhoods who “made it,” are those who live a lifestyle that lends itself to treachery and a string of poor decisions? If social programs alone could change this, they would have. If education alone could change this, it would have by now. This is not a matter of just changing actions, but rather, changing worldview…and only a force much greater than that exhibited by those things can change someones worldview. Thankfully there is more than a force, there is a person, in the resurrected Jesus, who paid the price in His blood for the heart, soul, and minds of our children.

These kids need social reform, because our system has classically done much to keep them right where they are…or rather, hasn’t done much to see them escape it. They need education, because it is a fact that there are more African American men in jail than there are in colleges. But more than that, they need the gospel.

If you feel otherwise, convince me. Show me where, in decades of administrations, social programs and educational reform has solved this problem. Show me, and I’ll concede. But reality is, that those things have only been a band aid to try and cover a wound much too deep to reconcile….

Lent Reflections: Justice

The FBI reports that my city, Atlanta, is first among cities in the United States actively involved in the sex trade industry. When I first heard this, it ripped my heart…it left me speechless. How can we live, going about our lives, day by day, with this evil lurking in our city…around the corner…at our door steps. Where is justice, where is right? Who will stand for these who can not stand for themselves?

My brother, Aaron wrote that “according to several news sources like the AJC and the Signal Urbanite, this has become an increasing problem within our city.” You can read more here.

I have spent the last several summer’s in Cambodia and Thailand, two countries that are reviled by the rest of the world for allowing these sick practices to take place, and yet, here in an industrialized, post-modern society, we sit idly as this egregious practice continues to take place…and increase in frequency.

Could this possibly be real? That just weeks ago a sex-trade ring was broken up here…in the U.S….in Atlanta? How long will we pretend that this is not going on in our city? How long will we lay silent?

To the Christ Follower, it is time to reflect what is in your heart toward those who suffer, are abused, and are treated as property…less than human. Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means, I prefer mercy to sacrifice.”

To those who do no follow Christ, reflect on why you desire justice….if life has no design, no function, and no grand designer who establishes moral law….then what is right or wrong? Who is right and who is wrong? How do we know the difference?

Orphans…what orphans?

I started last week at Cornerstone is a non-profit organization that works through churches to place orphaned children in safe homes. Cornerstone Family Services. I would link to the web site, but it is being updated, and the old one was not that exciting.

Here are some statistics to consider:

  • 800,000, that’s the number of children in the system right now who need homes
  • 240,000, that’s how many foster care families that a registered nationwide
  • 7, that’s the number of times a child is typically moved inside of one year because of a lack of stability in the foster home they are placed.

Where is the church. There is a mandate from old testament to new, that we are to care for orphans? Are these not orphans? Why are we overlooking a very serious issue issue in our country? No child should be left without a family. No child should be left without a home. No child should have to live in seven different houses in a one year time period. The state is failing, the church has failed…lets get our hands dirty, and get back to the things we have been called to do.

What if President Obama’s mom found being a single parent to difficult? What if?

How many have died that would have been great? How many more will die that could be great?

p.s. This is not an opportunity for the hard left the stand back and sneer or for the hard right to stand up and cheer for where they think our thought I stood because of the vote I cast. These are my views…to support life.

The World as 100…something must change

The World As 100 People…
If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look like this…

60 Asians
12 Europeans
8 Latin Americans
5 from USA & Canada
1 from South Pacific
14 Africans
49 would be female
51 would be male
82 would be non-white, 18 white
67 would be non-Christian, 33 would be Christian
32% of the world’s wealth would be in the hands of only 5 people and all 5 would be U.S. citizens
80 would live in substandard housing
24 would not have electricity
33 would not have access to safe water
67 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
One would be near death, 2 would be near birth
Only one would have a college education
7 would have internet access