January 23, 2007

peace

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
Luke 12:51-53 Jesus says "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."

These two verses are one of the few examples of scripture that seemingly contradicts itself. What I have learned is that when there are two scriptures that are supposedly contradictory, there is actually a hidden lesson behind them that we can learn from. There are other "contradicting verses" that I have trouble with but faith that there is an answer. My take on these two verses is that Jesus wants us to make peace with others as much as we possibly can but there will be times where peace just won't happen. Especially when someone claims a belief in absolute truth. Most of America, if not most of the world, has a relativistic view on truth. Absolute truth is viewed as intolerant. Those who view tolerance as the ultimate virtue do not tolerate those who believe in absolute truth. If we believe in Jesus we believe in absolute truth because Jesus himself said that He is the way, the truth and the life and that no one can come unto the Father but through Him. This claim can throw people off and cause them to passively dismiss Jesus by questioning whether He ever said stuff like that at all. (that's a whole other issue).

This divide between the absolutist and the relatavist is what Jesus is talking about when we apply it to current America. Still, in the midst of this divide we can come together, dialogue and love each other. It has to be intentional though or else it will never happen. The divide makes it harder and this is one of the reasons why christians tend to congregate and make their own bubble where they can have their own christian world. I have never liked this. I've always had friends who were not christians and I've always felt that divide between us but I try my best to be a peacemaker and not live in a bubble.

One of the wisest sayings I have heard is that "peace is not the absence of conflict". Many believe that peace should either be all or nothing and that it can be fully achieved through human will. I don't think peace will ever fully happen until Jesus returns. Until then we can experience pockets of peace here and there. The more we seek out peace the more we will have it. People like Ghandi have acted out in the character of Jesus and it has brought out a season of peace. You may call me a pessimist but the realist in me knows that peace is only for a season. That season being an hour or a couple of centuries.

There is a weird dichotomy about the christian's pursuit of peace. It is a double edged sword... kind of. Matthew 5:9 and Luke 12:51 kind of represent both sides. On one hand, the christian has the ultimate source of peace. That source is found in our relationship to Jesus, the prince of peace. Phillipians 4:6,7 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." On the other hand, we can experience a lack of peace with others who do not view truth the same way as us. This includes christians disagreeing with christians(especially on matters other than the core beliefs). We must be at peace with that and love them anyways. We must also be at peace with the fact that we will only experience peace within ourselves for seasons here and there. I do belive however that those seasons can become larger and larger as we mature in our relationship with Jesus. Then again, I could be wrong about that and I must be at peace with that possiblity. I'm starting to digress...

Lord Jesus, help us to be peace makers and messengers of the gospel of peace in the power and love of your spirit, amen.

January 21, 2007

born out of tragedy


This past christmas we had the annual Nystedt reunion. My uncle passed around pictures of my great grandfather Paul Nystedt. The pictures dated from the 20's and showed him with his indian motorcycle and also with his suspected bike gang buddies. There was also another picture that showed him at the company where indian motorcycles were made in springfield, MA because he worked there for a few years.

It was said that one day he was riding along when his bike broke down. It happened to break down in front of a parsonage. The minister there took him in for the night or whatever and helped him get back on his feet. During his stay, there was a conversation and from what I know it was one of the most instrumental events that led to his conversion. He later went to bible college and became a baptist minister. I think it's pretty darn cool to think that someone from the side of my family that is so conservatively christian was in a supposedly rough motorcycle gang. It was said that he broke away from that crowd and he would discourage his grandkids (my uncles) away from getting a motorcycle and getting into that crowd because it was a bad influence on him.

Later that night I came home and was talking to my father in-law (we live with my wife's parents) about all this since he was into motorcycles back in the day. He thought it was interesting and his response was that people in motorcycle gangs get a bad reputation and they're rough because they usually come from rough backrounds. He said that a huge number of Hell's angel members were war veterans. When they came home from whatever war, probably Korean and on, they were'nt welcomed home by their fellow citizens because of the controversy behind the wars, and they were even socially persecuted. They became outcasts. Out of that struggle or tragedy, they came together.

The biker crowd may seem rough around the edges but that's just because they know how to have fun. Part of me wishes that my great grandfather would of stayed with that crowd and stayed with his passion for motorcycles instead of becoming your typical evangelical minister. Suit, tie and all. The gospel could of been presented to them. Something else good came about anyways so no complaints here.

So is that true? Is what my father in-law said how "the main reason why anybody comes together and starts a group is because of some tragedy that happened to them"
I think it just might be.

January 19, 2007

thoughts on spiritual warfare


I have heard many sermons and teachings on spiritual warfare. I have learned and grown immensely from all of it too. Whenever I mull over this topic my thoughts and concerns most often become directed towards myself and those closest to me. This is for a reason. I believe that God has given each of us a "sphere of influence". That sphere being a limited area or group of people that He has allowed us to influence and be influenced by. Influence implies relationship. This sphere can only become so big because we are only so big. In praying and interceding for others I think 90 percent of our prayers should be for those within our sphere of influence. In other words, those closest to us. This is my opinion but... I think I'm right.

I believe prayer is essential for change and growth within ourselves and the world around us. Even more, I believe specific prayer is important. We will only know how to pray in detail for someone if we know the person intimately. Lastly, prayers are stronger if we are of pure heart. Just imagine how it would be if a christian would love a pre-believer as a friend when they're together. Then, when the christian goes into their prayer closet and offers up detailed, compassionate prayers up to the Father how much more effective that would be compared to a self righteous, cultic christian going up to someone they do not know and start "casting demons" out of them. That is someone going out of their sphere of influence, out of God's will and screwing everything up.

Relationship with people prepares the battle ground. The battle being in the spiritual realm with demons, NOT with people. More importantly, the battle begins with us.

In one of the teachings on spiritual warfare that I have studied, the speaker/author brings up the debate concerning the armor of God. There are some that say we must put on the armor every day. There are also some that say we already have it so don't worry so much. The solution the author gives is that they're both right. I disagree, kind of. I think they both miss the mark. For years I would consider myself to be of the opinion that I must put on the full armor of God every day. This was good for me for a season but after a while I would recite and recite and recite. My words were just noise. Active but void of relationship and grace. The armor is not a literal armor.

The latter opinion which asks why we should worry because Jesus has won the battle already I more strongly disagree with because the truth is we are in a battle. I'm not saying we should worry. Satan has lost and is losing but it still doesn't mean that he can't bring others with him, including myself. Our faith in Jesus is a relational one. One that requires us to work out our salvation with Him.

So now when I think of the armor of God I try to think of it in a relational manner. I ask, "Lord, which piece of my armor is weakest". In other words I ask Him how I can become more like Him, The ultimate warrior of our hearts.

more thoughts later.

January 18, 2007

adding to the noise


With all this talk of denominations, movements and schools of thought I get lost in the noise and wonder where I fit in the picture. Especially now, since I have just switched from one congregation to another. How would I define myself?... ?. My last church was methodist(a very different methodist church)and I guess I agree with most of the doctrine there though I'm pretty sure if I met John Wesley he would rub me the wrong way, he seems uptight(I could totally be assuming that). Me being the unorganized type, his saying "Godliness is next to cleanliness" never did mix well with me. Anyways. There's probably thousands of names, baptist, roman catholic, pentecostal, lutheran, methodist, vineyard, eastern orthodox, and now emergent to name a few. I can relate with all of these names but at the same time I also have certain red flags go up in my head when I observe and listen to certain attitudes and practices within each given denomination.

Out of all the names listed, the biggest issue I have is with the roman catholic church. Still at same time, roman catholicism is the one that I respect the most. I know several genuine, loving roman catholics who are filled and led by the holy spirit. This denomination can be accussed as being one of the most rigid, dead, irrelevant to culture, group of christians in the world. I notice too that the newer groups like vineyard etc. sometimes do not like to be called a denomination but rather a "movement". Whatever. I think every denomination was some kind of fresh movement of the holy spirit that moved the believers of that time to worship and focus on Him in a certain way. That movement would than forever be etched into the churches tainted(for lack of a better word) but still beautiful history. Then another would come, and another, and another, all of them adding pieces of the puzzle that show a fuller picture of Jesus. No doubt that picture is distorted but Jesus can still be seen.

Now that I have gone on to a new church. One that might be considered to have highlights of emergent within it I thought it would be good to start reading certain books from authors who would be considered "emergent". One of them that I just started reading is McClaren's "Generous Orthodoxy" and I can whole heartedly testify that I doubt there is long term value of what he calls doctrinal distinctives, those secondary doctrines beyond the core beliefs that are unique to each denomination. This has always bugged me since I was 15. It seems to me that the emergent movement is very aware of this problem and tries to avoid it and I myself have done that practically my whole life so perhaps I can consider myself emergent, at least partially. I think there may be red flags going off in my head about the emergent church but I need time to discern it.

One of my weaknesses in my christian walk has been in the intellectual department. I never really exercised my spiritual mind as much as I should of and so I still consider myself simple-minded kind of. Not stupid, but just simple, but for the past year I have been growing in this area. Intellectualism is one of the defining factors I see within the emergent movement. I know the bible says that knowledge puffs up so this must be avoided. Still, the heart without the mind is flaky. The mind without the heart is arrogant. Balance is needed. The world is pretty smart and so it's language is "smart". The church must be fluent in "smart" in order to get it's message across(of course in love). Wow, I'm getting stupider as I type, I'm suddenly tired. I'll stop.

January 16, 2007

can't get theah from heah.


Man! that was a great vacation. Maine is a wonderful place. My wife and I escaped to the north to get away from it all. For the past three winters we have vacationed in Maine. That may seem strange to some but we like it because it's cheaper, there's less people around and it is super beautiful, void of summer color but calming in it's minimalistic, grey tone. We had a good time this year. On our way back we visited Portland because my brother in-law just moved there with his significant other. It was my first time in that city and I am impressed. I still don't know too much about that city but I get a good vibe from it. It was a pleasure to get snowed in so we could actually explore a little. Snow rules! it's about time!

I've always lived in a 20 mile radius within the north shore of massachusetts and very possibly might for the rest of my life, but if Melissa and I were to move away. We would move north not south. This may be true because of our ancestry. I have northern blood(so does she). English, Swedish, German(northern part), tiniest bit of Irish and the only known relative of mine that is not caucasian was an eskimo lady, an inuit indian, again northern.

Another draw for us is the ocean. We could not imagine living away from the ocean. We notice when we are at least a hundred miles from ocean water. It's a feeling similar to claustrophobia but not as intense.

January 06, 2007

Finding mySpace, openSpace, GodSpace ~ churchthink.com

this is a rather exceptional post I found on churchthink.com

september 2006
Finding mySpace, openSpace, GodSpace
The internet has historically been about connecting people to information… that is, until companies like MySpace came on the scene. MySpace is about connecting people to people and has transformed the internet into a completely different web experience; it is a social network, an online community. To create community people have to know each other and that is what MySpace is all about. Almost everything there is to know about a person can be found on their MySpace page. MySpacers spend massive amounts of time communicating who they are, what they like and don’t like and bearing their collective soul to their MySpace “friends”. MySpace has 75 millionish users, 15 million daily unique logins which average 45 minutes each, is growing by a colossal 240,000 new users per day, and is generating nearly 30 billion monthly page views (that’s 10,593 page views per second). The number of page views generated by each unique visitor is stunning - clearly these users are very, very passionate about making their own space. Most of us, in our own ways, almost always figure a out way to make room for ourselves. From a spiritual perspective, how do we make room for God and people? (MySpace Stats from Wired / thanks Shirk)
If only we as believers were as passionate about creating God space. Too often we find ourselves pummeled by schedules and expectations. Somehow we become relegated to submit to our own unique daily grind and calendar events. How can we find a spacious place where life’s expectations flow from the rhythm of life we find in a fervent relationship with Christ?

OPEN SPACE
We live in Boulder CO, and lead a beautiful community of Christ made up mostly twenty and thirty somethings. Many years ago Boulder devised a plan to keep the Denver metro commercialization from pressing in and overrunning our eclectic and very independent city. With the mountains securing our city’s western borders, a mile or so strip of land surrounding the rest of the city was created that no one could build on. They called this never-to-be-developed land…. Open Space.

On a personal level, Julie and I have four kids. We live in a 1300 square foot house where our two boys share a room and our two girls share a room. Our wonderful daughter of thirteen years was showing desperate signs of needing her own space (twitching, drooling, random babbling…). While she was away on a weekend trip we made the commitment to make more room for her… literally. The HGTV in us came out and we converted our office into a bedroom and gave her a room of her own.

In Gen 26, Isaac moves away from a situation of over-crowdedness and conflict. After a diligent search for open space which included heavy resistance he eventually finds a valley where he can settle. He digs a well there and calls it Rehoboth, which means “room”. He then says to his people concerning the new found open space… "Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land." When we make room for our relationship with the Father we open up enormous possibilities for ourselves and those that we share life with. It is my conclusion that life flows in a fantastic way when we begin all of our efforts from a place of sweet communion with the Lord.

My friend David Sherman from Nottingham, England says, “Stop resting from work and start working from rest.” The idea is that God didn’t rest on the seventh day because He was so worn out form six previous days of laborious creating. God doesn’t rest because he is tired. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary.” Isa 40:28. The essence of his rest was to enjoy what He created and for His creation to enjoy him. The seventh day was the day of rest and blessing because on the sixth day he had just created man. It is so significant that man’s first day was a day of rest and communion with the Father. God communicates the message that “I want your life to begin from a day spent with me enjoying you and you enjoying me.” As a result, man didn’t begin stewarding his life until he had his day of rest with God. God doesn’t want you to rest from work; He wants you to work from rest. There is a big difference in doing things for God and doing things from God. When we think about loving and serving people, it is not about all the things we have done for the Lord, it is all about the things that come from the Lord. The only way this can happen is to be with the Lord.

GOD SPACE
When we create open space we make room for God Space. After Jesus received news concerning the death of his fore-runner, friend and family member John the Baptist, he went to find space to be with his father. Job says the Lord wooed him from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction. Mary chose sitting at the Lord’s feet and Martha chose to be busy. Jesus said Mary had chosen the better thing. My mantra as a spiritual leader has become, “at his feet” – I don’t want to be a pastor that simply gathers people for religious ceremonies and produces a weekly three-pointer. I desire to be one who helps people find an authentic faith. I want to be a good shepherd that leads people to good places. Everything that is good is found at the feet of Jesus. I want to lead people to sit at His feet. I want to create open spaces for myself and others so that we find ourselves in God’s Space. When we are remaining in the Lord and He is remaining in us we naturally bear much fruit. We don’t have to muster it up or make it happen. It’s all about connectivity. This was a huge time-released revelation for my personal life and leadership. I felt I had been so naughty that I had to spend all my time doing things for the Father to make up for my past. Now I spend my time being with the Lord so that when I am with people (as husband, father, pastor, friend) what I am able to be for people is from the Lord.

How do I create space? In addition to a daily integration of prayers, meditations, thoughts and discernment, here is how I create an extended, weekly open space to be with the Lord. These times are very intimate. I view this space as the bridal chamber. This is spiritual consummation. “’the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Eph 5:31-32

Get Alone – I usually do this on Mondays. Mondays give me a context for the previous week and the week ahead. I get alone in various ways. Sometimes I am alone in solitude and other times I get alone in public places where I can see the people I am loving. I get alone in my hammock, my Jacuzzi, a private room, a quiet spot in nature, an overlook of the city, a ride on my motorcycle (sometimes in the city and sometimes on a lone mountain road), a coffee shop, a park, etc.
Settle Down – I spent a lot of time just centering and focusing on the Lord. I meditate on Him and scriptures.
Assess – I love to spend time assessing my relationship with the Father, my family, my believing friends, and my lost friends. I ponder how I have stewarded these relationships as well as the responsibilities of my life.
Release – I spend some time releasing the things I cannot change and repenting. I ask for a deeper grace to be more like Christ this week than the week before.
Worship – Worship is my spirit touching His Spirit. We spend time enjoying each other. This has been a very intimate time of communicating between the Lord and me.
Wait - One of my recent disciplines has been regular times of silence sometimes lasting several hours. I have had some of the largest spiritual downloads of my life during this time.
Write – I always journal out what the Lord spoke to me or showed me.
Walk – I leave these times with a true sense of the Lord’s heart for me and my life. I find an incredible inspiration here and feel mobilized to be who God has created me to be. There is a real-time, natural application concerning the purposes of God that shows up daily.
Father,

Help my space be an open space to make room for you.

Amen

Much Love,

Brad

January 01, 2007

preference denied

The 31st was our last day at our church. The service was quirkier than most. The worship was more passionate than most as well, those two factors were good ice-breakers for me. Emotions were high among those who knew us well but the strange thing was that we already dealt with our own emotions for the most part so we felt disconnected a little. Even still, God was present in that twilight zone. I picked up on many signs I believe God was showing me that very day that the path I was taking was the way I should go.

My personality is one that shys away from attention. I prefer it that way. My pastor (ex-pastor I guess now, weird) asked me before if it was ok if he could have a kind of sending off with blessing and prayer in front of the congregation. I told him no but would love to in a small group. He wasn't there during that last service. So someone from the congregation who knew about our departure called us up and asked us to share a little about what God is doing with our lives. This was last thing I wanted. I was toungue-tied. Fortunately my wife and I wrote up a goodbye letter that we were going to give out that sunday explaining a little on where we were. So we just read that. It wasn't as bad as I thought. In fact I'm glad. I may prefer something one way but God saw the complete opposite to be the better option. I praise Him for His infinite wisdom and love and for His grace in our relationships to everyone we know.