Why Not?

Why Not?

One of the most popular TED talks is an 18-min video called, Start With Why by Simon Sinek. He offers great insights as to why some companies - with great products – struggle while why other companies soar. 

Most companies start with ‘What’ product they're selling or service they offer. Sinek's asserts describing ‘What' you do is neither interesting nor compelling. Using the highly competitive field of technology, he illustrates how most computer companies sound…

  • What: We make computers. 
  • How: They’re beautifully designed and easy to use. 
  • Why: Wanna buy one? 

It’s UN-inspiring and sounds like everyone else. If you want to capture imagination you need to start with ‘Why'. On the other hand, Apple is different. They start with WHY. In fact, an early campaign invited consumers to, “Think Different”. So it sounds like… 

  • Why: Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo & thinking differently.
  • How: The way we challenge the status quo is by making products that are beautifully designed and user friendly.
  • What: We just happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?

In other words, People don’t buy WHAT you do. They buy WHY you do it. The ‘Why’ represents our belief, which is possibly the most compelling part! Using this same method for the church, ‘What’ sounds eerily familiar and UN-intriguing…

  • What: We gather like-minded people each week to talk about what we believe.
  • How: We host meetings that provide relevant teaching, good music, great programs for children and youth, small groups and missions.
  • Why: Wanna come? 

We have no shortage of churches that offer the same basic menu of programs and services. However, Jesus’ last words were an invitation to MAKE DISCIPLES. The idea is that we would develop a living and reproducible faith.

Mission Hills seeks to imagine faith and community differently. We begin with a belief that God is already at work in the world. Our desire is to align with Him. To do that, we need a faith that integrates with work, family, finances, influence, needs, struggle, and tragedies all with God’s Spirit. This is why we’ve chosen to rally around daily and ordinary “Rhythms”. We are the church whether we’re gathered or scattered. But we’re able to practice a Living Faith wherever, whenever, and with whomever!

So, let’s try it again…The ‘Why’ of Mission Hills Church.

  • Why: We believe real change is possible…in our hearts, homes, communities, and world.
  • How: We seek to be the change by practicing a Living faith (Rhythms), listening for God’s voice, responding to needs and opportunities among us.   
  • What: We just happen to gather in a neighborhood near you. Wanna be the change?

Why not?

 

Can't Not.

Can't Not.

Ever wonder how two people can look at the same situation — one person is seemingly unfazed while the other is completely undone? One responds, “Well, that’s a too bad…so, what’s for dinner?” while another says, “I’ve GOT to do something!!!”  When a hurricane devastates a city, there’s some people moved to save lives, provide aid, clean up, and rebuild. And there’s others who seize the opportunity to loot or price gauge lodging, gas, groceries, & supplies. 

There’s an important spiritual question when we have a chance to respond to revelation…What do we do with what we see?

For 140 years, the Israelites sat in exile. Jerusalem was in ruins. Some had returned to build their own lives but not their collective good. Rather than fortify the city, re-establish their national identity the remnant simply sidestepped the rubble. 1000 miles away, Nehemiah gets a report there’s a temple but no wall AND no one is doing anything about it, he mourns, prays, and answers the call. So, when God reveals the condition of a vulnerable people… What do you do with what you see?

Nehemiah had every reason to sit back an enjoy life as is. As Cupbearer, the king trusted him with his life. He also got to enjoy the lodging and lifestyle of the royal court. Now, he’s willing to throw it all away for a project with no guarantees?! Why would he leave all that and take on that seemingly impossible task?

Nehemiah knew something about God…that, God restores broken places. Ultimately, God’s vision is to restore all of creation. Restoration IS the work of the people of God – helping restore souls, families, neighborhoods, & cities. 

We are always God’s response – not government, non-profits, or social services but each Christ-follower responding to restore God’s creation. Friends, Mission Hills Austin is a church of practice & experimentation, which means we’re always a work-in-process. We just need to exercise faith by trying; Exercise faith together, & Exercise faith in restoring lives beginning in Austin.

Here’s to answering the call!

Possibilities.

Possibilities.

Culture is enamored with the idea of transformation, especially what can be captured in a 30-60 minute 'reality' TV show. Admittedly, I've been drawn in by many of these stories. But what does transformation really mean? Advertising over-promises and under-delivers with miracle diets, workouts, lotions. We hear lots of testimonies or public apologies of people "turning over a new leaf"...hmmm... It’s easy to be skeptical whenever anyone suggests anything about life change.  

A couple years ago, there was a popular video circulating around the internet about Jim Wolf, a homeless veteran who went through his own makeover. With a team of stylists, he was “transformed" in a time-lapse video from a disheveled nomad to a well-dressed, ready-to-interview gentlemen. I have to admit, I loved the outward change. But, What does it mean to go through lasting change?

Transformation IS possible, just not easy or quick. Lasting change requires constant attention of our hearts! Jesus suggests a new way to be human (Matt.5) — an interior reworking followed by sustainable outward expressions. It implies we have to create room in our hearts—like cleaning a wound before it gets bandaged. 

Jesus begins each statement with a loaded word, "Blessed…”, meaning fully satisfied, not necessarily feeling happy. Consider the process that he outlines as blessed...

  • 'Poor in Spirit' learn to see their need for God beyond their success, talents, & resources. They’re ‘blessed’ because they can identify God as the Source.
  • Those who ‘Mourn' experience how God sustains, even strengthens, them in weakness. They find comfort knowing God’s actively writing & redeeming their story.
  • The ‘Meek’ trust God with results. They ‘inherit’ the currency of God's promises and faithfulness.
  • Growing in ‘righteousness’ means God shapes the desires of our heart. Their hearts ‘filled' with hope and justice.

These first four Beatitudes describe how we nurture our hearts in light of circumstances. The second half represents an outward response:

  • Showing ‘mercy’ becomes a more natural reaction because they've already experienced it! 
  • The ‘pure in heart’ begin to see God in poverty, in crisis, in suffering…and willingly insert themselves on behalf of justice. 
  • ‘Peacemakers’ contend for a better way even if it involves more effort. Being at peace with God, they’re more able to express God’s concern. 
  • Whether consumed by a desire for righteousness or persecuted by others because of it, the ‘persecuted’ learn to see God in sickness & success, conflict & comfort, burnout & blessing. 

Life in Christ, then, is an invitation to becoming human, again. Our commitment to faith, mission, and each other is a chance to have our hearts re-sensitized  and made new. The road might can be winding. Glad we’re on the journey together.

A Holy Visitation.

A Holy Visitation.

Yesterday was a beautiful day not because it was easy, but it was a good. For nine months, we’ve responded to Austin's growing immigrant community. After visiting some of the same apartments, people’s stories and needs linger. The visits become personal.

On Monday evening, eight of us re-visited the home of a young mom from Myanmar – Ma Tee – who died of cancer last Friday. She leaves behind a husband and three kids – 12, 8, & 6. He quit his factory job two months ago to care for his terminally ill wife. She also left behind a sizable Burmese community of friends who, like her, were forced to make a life here. 

We showed up with a bowl of fresh fruit, cards with a little money to help with funeral expenses, and a desire to comfort. Most immigrants struggle to assimilate because they often don’t have any American friendships. Being overwhelmed in a new culture, high cost of living, and language barrier…most crave the familiar, something that feels like home.

Thankfully, we were recognizable faces yet we also shared a recognizable faith. Before we were done, the apartment began to fill. Their extended community show up each night in solidarity to grieve, pay respects, and pray. The only way I can describe our prayer time is as a vibrant, full-participation “Concert of Prayer”. It was a chorus of agreement, calling on the name of the Lord…in sadness, through tears, with hope, and in unwavering faith. It wasn’t easy but it was so good!

It occurred to me, this is what happens when“Sunday School” leaves the classroom and becomes an exercise in humility, community, and hope. We simply can’t wait for people to show up to our parties, our worship, our small group meetings. We are sent people who can – and called by God — to bring the church to others! 

Here’s to new life, faith becoming a Rhythm, & being changed from the inside out!

Performance Art.

Performance Art.

Two weeks ago, I had the awful experience of driving home to find our street lined with police, sheriffs, news trucks and yellow tape. Not able to pass, I pulled over. Then I saw it — a body laying in a driveway covered with a yellow tarp. Apparently, a man kidnapped a woman, a 10 year-old boy, drove for 10 miles, and randomly ended up in my neighbors' driveway. She sustained gunshot wounds but survived. He turned the gun on himself and died at the scene. At the urging of a 911 operator, the boy knocked on the nearest door for help

A homicide a few doors away is upsetting. Later in evening I began scrolling my news app for answers. By then this story was buried in the head lines. The headlines leading by then were about bathroom bill, White House staffing changes, Heat wave, North Korean missiles, POTUS’ Twitter account, collusion with Russian, et al. It bothered me that it was buried so quickly. A life was lost. Another almost taken. A young boy abducted and it felt like “yesterday’s news”…except that it was the same day. 

The news-as-entertainment is designed to create an emotional response. And our country is riding a roller coaster of emotions! Media maintains ratings by absorbing stories at lightening speed while strategically painting stories in extreme light. It’s normal to feel outrage, offense, sorrow, or even fear. But emotions shouldn't be the final word any more than indifference.

Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God’ (Mt.5). Like getting a new lens or outlook on life, the ‘Pure in heart’ see God in poverty, in crisis, in racism and willingly insert themselves on behalf of justice. We become 'pure in heart' when we identify AS & WITH a fallen one. I’m able to show mercy, offer hospitality, practice generosity WITHOUT needing you to have all the right reactions. I’m able to serve without recognition or give without re-payment BECAUSE I see God as my audience more than I see the recipient. My gift—from the heart—is to God. It could be my tithes, my time, my skills but my life is an offering to God, which can be most freeing. The Beatitudes in Matthew 5, reminds us of how to be citizens of heaven and earth…

Blessed are the poor in spirit (aka - the 'fallen ones', which includes me). 

Blessed are those who mourn (that is, mourning over & with fallen ones)

Blessed are the meek (ones able to trust God in the process without succumbing to accusation, violence or even apathy)

Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness (because our desires can lead to personal change AND allow us to be light in a dark world)

Blessed are the merciful (because they know they’ve already received mercy)

Here’s to a Living Faith & hearts made new!

 

Righteousness for the rest of us.

Righteousness for the rest of us.

It’s curious that the classic tradition of a true “hero” is not our present understanding at all. A “hero” isn’t largely about being bold, muscular, famous, or fantastic by himself. The classic hero is one who “goes the distance” and then has plenty left over for others. True heroism serves the common good…or it’s not really heroism at all. In his book, Falling Upward, Richard Rohr comments, "…To be a celebrity or a mere survivor today is often confused with heroism. Merely to survive and preserve our life is a low-level instinct but it is not heroism in any classic sense. We were meant to thrive and not just survive. We are glad when someone survives, and that surely took some courage and effort. But what are we to do with our deepest desires? That is the heroic question." 

Our deepest desire? How ‘bout righteousness?!?! Most of us don't think of becoming more righteous b/c we set ourselves up for failure and/or hypocrisy. Righteousness feels unusually heroic YET serves the common good. Abraham’s faith was credited as righteous (Heb.11) but he was far from perfect. What made him righteous was that he believed what God said and obeyed. 

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt 5:6) Hungering and thirsting is about DESIRE – not just for my sake but for the benefit of others. God courts us to share his desires. We have daily opportunities to turn. In some cases, we need turn toward someone in need. Other times, we need to turn away from something. The point is that when we leave room for the Holy Spirit to speak, we grow in righteousness. The more we learn to respond, the more we  hunger and thirst for what God loves. 

SEE-zing the Day.

SEE-zing the Day.

Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  - Matthew 5:6

Growing in righteousness means we grow in justice, mercy, charity, and hope. We learn to see and hear what God does. God consistently prompts, reveals, and courts us. We refer to these as “Kairos" moments. Kairos is the Greek word for ‘time’ but not chronologically as we typically think. Kairos means ‘Opportunity’ as used in Mark 1:15, “The time (opportunity) has come. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent and believe the good news’. It suggests that we have everyday opportunities – within a broken humanity — to usher in heaven on earth. 

…Wait, what?! …Think about that…

The way we do this is by repenting, which isn’t a reminder of inadequacy! Jesus says it's "good news" because it's a reminder of God’s ACCEPTANCE. And, since God already accepts us, the better way to think of repenting is to TURNING. . .sometimes, we need to turn away. Other times, we have OPPORTUNITIES to turn toward something – as a divine response. I read a compelling-yet-ordinary story that illustrates this idea of Spirit-led turning.

In early August, Lisa Lemming Jackson was shopping at her local supermarket in Georgia. As she roamed between aisles, she made eye contact with an elderly man, with a pained look in his eyes. He certainly looked like he could use some help. As she looked longer, she realized that something wasn’t right. Here’s how she described this opportunity. . .

“Just spent 2 hrs with a elderly man at Kroger. It started with me just smiling at him, making eye contact ….As I walked past him he looked like he needed something. I went back and asked him if I could help him. Tears welled up in his eyes and he said: 'I have colon cancer and I have had a really bad accident, if I get up out of this cart everyone will know … What should I do?'”

The look of his dignity lost left me with a lump in my throat. From that moment on, Kroger staff quickly fetched us wipes, undergarments and discreetly took him to their employer bathroom Area where he was given clothes.

He cried and apologized. He said he had to hurry his wife was at home alone. When we walked to the register we found his groceries all bagged and somehow paid for. He cried harder.

He said he fought in Vietnam and Korean War and loved his country, but up until day he said he thought his country forgot about him. We both cried and I shared with him my own struggles and fears… He gave me words of wisdom and encouraged me that maybe after all, humanity still does care about one another. Today proved it.” 

Kairos asks, What do I do? The more we begin to turn, the more we begin hunger & thirst for what God loves. The point is that when we leave room for the Holy Spirit to speak, we grow in righteousness.

This is righteousness made accessible.

Carpe Diem & may we have eyes to see.

(This story can be found at https://boreddaddy.com/elderly-man-accident-pants-store-womans-reaction-best/)

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

Is life change instantaneous or is it a process? 

The short answer is, of course...Yep. Uh-ha. Definitively, both! 

It seems like transformation mostly occurs over time (argh!), refined through testing in a "two-steps-forward-&-one-step-back" kinda' way. Of course, the challenge with any change-for-the-better is that we live in a "microwave culture". We value instant and immediate gratification. The thought of waiting feels almost beneath us - whether it be in a retail line, internet service, traffic, a dream vacation, a promotion, or intimacy in relationship. We simply love efficiencies and waiting, well, feels wasteful. 

Think about it...most times we encounter a wait, we try to skip it. Avoiding a wait makes sense BUT it also might mean we, inadvertently, end up avoiding a deeper, developmental process. So, here's a crazy, counter-cultural idea to consider:   Process as progress.

What if waiting also involves enduring? What if the process forces us to slow down, practice listening, mature, not react, be deliberate with our actions, measure with our words, or discipline our spending? Seems like our lives, particularly our faith, could look different, maybe even transformed. 

Transformation isn't about perfection. It's isn't about being right, tenured or experienced. It's about giving ourselves to a process whereby we become the person who God intended EVEN IF (& when) we stumble. Two-steps-forward-&-one-step-back is a real thing. God's grace even allows for it because, ultimately, it still looks like progress. The net gain is growth.

Blessing Are New Each Mourn-ing?

Blessing Are New Each Mourn-ing?

The Phoenix Rising from the ashes is an apt image for the renovation of our hearts. Transformation is over-promised and under-delivered. New life never occurs without letting go. The idea that God's mercies are new each morning hardly encourages any more spring in one's step when we read further of Jesus' idea of being blessed.

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted”. Really??? If that’s the “blessed” stuff of God, it’s tempting to keep looking. In some sense this line is beautiful because it says that God cares about those who are hurting and wants to heal them. YET, it seems rather unfortunate to call mourners “blessed” as a group that God favors.  All the other beatitudes speak about an attitude or action that Jesus wants from his followers — being humble, righteous, pure in heart, peace loving, or merciful. 

Maybe it helps to know that Jesus was alluding to Old Testament writings (notably, Isa.57, 60, 61; Ps.37, 38) where ‘mourning’ is often mentioned, but grief is NOT really the focus. Instead, the prophets mourned over injustice. Like many today, they were outraged at how greed, violence, abuse, debt, and corruption had become normal. 

What’s “normal” has a way of making our hearts grow dull. The Beatitudes (Mt.5) introduce a new sort of “Operating System” whereby new life—new hearts— starts with wrestling with our own brokenness and the way things are.

It's normal to wonder aloud, “Where’s God when …?” or “How could God let that happen?” But…What if a large part of what we feel about injustice, greed, scarcity, abuse, wealth, or poverty is supposed to help us see what God sees? 

I think our emotions are supposed to help us experience something…something that God already feels and wants to remedy. Seeing what God sees leads us to mourning . . . and that’s a good thing! The way to experience comfort is when we are dissatisfied and respond by either turning away from an action OR turning toward someone in need. 

This idea of “turning” actually preserves our hearts. Martin Luther King shared a speech entitled, “Where do we go from here?”. Just as Jesus taught us to mourn the ills society, Dr. King’s challenge is to be “Dissatisfied”. (You can listen to the 3-min audio HERE) To be comforted by God is to be called out and not be left alone.

We need to grieve the world that God never intended. God never intended pain, loss, disease, death, oppression, or hunger. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we can experience God's comfort. Injustice is never comfortable. BUT, blessed are those who mourn…because on the far side of mourning is Comfort.

Here's to the new Life God intended, again & again...in Austin as it is in Heaven.

Change Vs Growth

Change Vs Growth

Change is inevitable. It occurs whether we want it or not. Some adapt better than others. And, it’s not always for the better.

Growth, on the other hand, is never automatic…be it age or life stage, dating or marriage, raising kids or parenting. Growth can't be assumed in our recovery, health, career, character, or even faith. Growth always requires commitment. I wonder if it’s because growth can be subtle. It’s often seen over time. We might notice progress in…

. . . an alcoholic practicing sobriety for 20 years…who also understands their need to sponsor.

. . . a child with boundaries, experiencing consequences, and learning responsibility…becomes a adult not just older.

. . . an apprentice who seeks a mentor, asks questions, gains experience, receives feedback…becomes a tradesman. Or, in…

. . . a faith the size of a mustard seed, hungry to learn, able to yield, willing to serve…becomes a disciple—one who seeks to “reproduce” their faith in another.

On the far side of growth is transformation, which always occurs from the inside out. It’s never a quick fix. When Jesus announced that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, it meant that life not death, hope not despair, generosity not scarcity, mercy not a scorecard is eternally and presently available. In Matthew 5, Jesus seeds us with a way to be transformed, to experience heaven, hear and now. True story!

Growth might not come easy but it is good. And we have each other.

Oh, for heaven's sake!

Oh, for heaven's sake!

Jesus had a topic he talked about more than any other. It wasn’t sin, wealth, poverty, corruption, compassion, or hell. Jesus’ hands-down, go-to talking point was the Kingdom of Heaven. However, his references to heaven were not about an other-worldly paradise. It was heaven on earth. He tried to share in the simplest, tangible ways God’s kingdom as here and now. 

In one instance, he said it’s like a gardner scattering seeds among a variety of soils. Again, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven (on earth) to like a mustard seed. Nothing grandiose or Nobel Prize worthy. Jesus is saying that every act of mercy, justice, compassion, reconciliation is sowing seeds of the kingdom.

It’s bringing a care calendar meal, sharing a bag of groceries to people on food stamps, illustrating God’s love with kids during worship, throwing end-of-the-school-year party for subsidized housing complex, teaching an immigrant to drive. It’s watching the kids of a young couple, networking for an unemployed friend, and welcoming a new neighbor with cookies. It’s simply identifying a need – wherever we are — and trying to meet it.

When seeds are sown, good things happen! We don’t have to be the ‘fruit police’. Our job is simply sowing seeds. “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” (Ecc.11:6 )  In other words, don't stop sowing seed…that’s our calling & we don’t need to worry about what will happen. 

Then, life becomes this grand adventure as a seed sower, for Heaven’s sake!

Immersed.

Immersed.

To baptize is to immerse. At least that’s how the New Testament Greek language refers to baptism. For those of you who were of the “sprinkled” variety…Don’t sweat it. You’re good. We celebrate the sacredness of this symbolic act at whatever age. Baptism is a significant event worth celebrating (see pic). Immersing ourselves in Christ is what happens over a lifetime. It can be like a road trip where — over time — we haven't realized just how far we’ve come because, well. . .the journey still feels looooong. 

The idea is that we are “immersed” into a community. . . where we serve AND are served, love AND are loved, give AND receive. We simply can’t experience the impact of community with God (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) and the church without being "all in".

We’re also immersed into a new identity, which represents profound Hope!  It’s so easy to mistakenly draw our significance from accomplishment and earning, talent or intelligence. Identifying with Christ, though, creates a new confidence. “…the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice & righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.”  (Jer.9:23-24).

Consider this, when we “immerse” ourselves in relationship with Christ, WE START WITH A DIVINE AFFIRMATION!  Immediately following Jesus' own baptism — before he’s done anything to build a spiritual resume (healing, feeding, serving, forgiving, or suffering) — God speaks these words, “This is my son; whom I love. With him, I am well-pleased” (Mt.3:16-17). In other words, your position in Christ STARTS with privilege!!

Perhaps the thing that requires the most effort in Christian faith is turning toward — and returning to — the truth of this divine affirmation. But, it’s worth holding your breath for!

Learning to breath

Learning to breath

If we were to talk about breathing, what's more important: inhaling or exhaling? Obviously, we need both. 

Now think about breathing as a metaphor for our spiritual lives. Which is more important?

Same answer. However, doesn't our practice of faith often seem as if it leans a lot more towards inhaling than exhaling? Think about it - we inhale God's forgiveness, mercies, and grace. We take in worship, God’s Word, promises, and hope. 

Yet, if we stop there, we never experience the life that God intended. 

Exhaling involves compassion and forgiving. We breath out generosity and hospitality. We serve the margins and advocate  for the vulnerable. We choose patience, kindness, and sacrifice. This is what makes us spiritually alive.

The concept of "kingdom" is perhaps the most important spiritual ideas in the New Testament. In Hebrew, "kingdom" is active; it has to do with action.  When asked how we should pray, Jesus taught, ’Thy Kingdom come…Thy will be done'. God's kingdom on earth has to do with God's will being done. It means BOTH inhaling and exhaling the will of God. 

God has made us co-creators of a divine restoration plan. We get to enjoy what we create. We also get to repair what we did not break. Yet, Jesus isn’t asking us to live the Christian life. He never said that we could! The invitation is to MAKE ROOM for Jesus…SO THAT — in his resurrected state — HE can live the life IN US to experience the life we are created for. This is Good News!

Here’s to taking in and breathing out the FULLNESS of life in Christ! 

With Bated Breath…

Victory Lap

Victory Lap

Easter is arguably the most important day in history. After all, it’s when God showed us what the future would look like! The Good News is that it means Life not Death, 

...Peace not Violence, 

...Healing instead of Sickness, 

...Sobriety not Addiction, 

...Family not Drama, 

...Forgiveness not a Scorecard, 

...Generosity not Scarcity, 

...Justice not Oppression, 

...Hospitality not Isolation.

We know where the future is headed. Yet, we have to contend with a world not-yet-restored. After the Cruxifixction, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to ask for body of Jesus (John.19).  It says that he’s a disciple…but secretly. In other words, he has faith but likes his reputation. 

He believed but ALSO unbelief. 

He has faith & hope but ALSO has questions AND doubts. 

He has courage AND fear, confidence AND insecurity. 

He’s affluent YET needy in other ways.  

I love that God still calls me a follower of Jesus even though I live with this same tension. Joseph had just a little bit of faith & enough desire to experience the Kingdom of God. In other words, it’s NOT HOW MUCH faith and desire we have but WHERE we put it! 

Joseph made space for Jesus buying a tomb out of his own means. Interestingly, the tomb wasn't in a cemetery but a place of life and growth. In John 3, Jesus said to Nicodemus, "you must be born again". The place where Joseph put Jesus became the place of Jesus' second birth. The manger was the first and the tomb was the second.  

Like Joseph, we need to make space for Jesus. Jesus isn’t asking us to live the Christian life – never said you could. We're invited to make space for Christ – who now in his resurrection glory – will dwell and enable you to be the person you can’t be on your own for all that God intended when he created you.

That's Good News! Sounds like victory to me.

In Hope.

In Hope.

Driving down the Capital of Texas Highway, I can't help but smile at steady line up of enthusiastic Bluebonnet photo-ops on both sides of the highway. Every age is present: You can see the heads of babies barely able to sit up. There are couples, friends, families, and generations. From spontaneous self-ies to planned professional photographers, people are taking advantage of this fleeting opportunity.  And since we don't have a dramatic change of seasons in Texas, there's some anticipation for these seasonal blooms.

It’s our nature to live with the hope of new life. Despite living in a broken world full of pain, sorrow, abuse, hunger, greed, and loss…we also experience glimpses of profound beauty.

Jesus described heaven as a present reality by using everyday and ordinary images. He meant to whet our appetite and shape our perspective that heaven is a realm we can experience here and now. Heaven on earth is the world God intended. Heaven's fullness is inspiring. It can look like self-less love, acts of compassion, intentional hospitality, and/or un-calculated generosity.  Simply put, heaven on earth is the world that God intended. This is THE Life.

Easter signals the promise of new life! For some it’s the chance to begin again. For others, it’s means healing. And yet for others, it means helping. All of this points us to the Hope of the resurrection. 

Maybe we can even say, the kingdom of heaven is like bluebonnets…they're exciting, beautiful, welcomed and also fleeting. Apparently, it's not something to be missed. It draws friends together. It helps families cherish present moments by literally causing them to slow down and smell the proverbial roses. And they can help us live with anticipation of God’s beauty. 

Promise-ing.

Promise-ing.

Jesus has some promising words, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world." (Jn.16:33)

Notice how trouble is guaranteed whereas peace is optional. In other words, following Christ doesn't entitle us to an easier life. Yet, it does promise God's presence in the midst of it. 

It's odd to think that God doesn't show up because I cry out. 

He doesn't because God's already present. 

Maybe what's supposed to happen when life's challenges or prosperity occurs is finally notice that God's already there.

“From that time on…” is our current series and a phrase Matthew uses as a key turning point & building block in Jesus’ mission.

"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." (Mt.16:21)

This represents a new emphasis in Jesus’ ministry. Instead of teaching the crowds in parables, he concentrates on preparing the disciples for his coming suffering and death. Except that’s he’s misunderstood. He teaches us about HIS mission and OUR expectations. Our expectation of Christ can often be our un-doing. It certainly was for the disciples, at least initially. They hoped for a more triumphal leader. Instead he predicted his demise. 

In thinking about our own experiences – personally & together — this provides a nice framework to consider our next steps as we see where God has brought us AND move toward Resurrection Sunday with the promise of new life.  

"From that time on..."

"From that time on..."

If you want to have a good prayer life, it helps to remember that prayer is never an end in itself. It's only a means to an end. It should lead us to something . . . revealed, insight, hope, or action.

Last Sunday was a day of answered prayer. By that I mean that nothing was solved, per se. But God’s love was revealed. 

Hope was given. 

And received. 

It was a day of action. Believing that hospitality is a way for us to express faith, we met in 20 refugee homes across Austin as well as in an assisted living care facility. Our goal was simple - shorten the gap. Start conversation, offer simple relief, encourage & pray with people whose needs are different than our own. It was humbling and awesome but definitely felt like we got our church on!  Check out photos HERE. 

There’s a curious phrase that pops up in Matthew’s Gospel narrative. “From that time on…” marks an important turning point because it ties something new to what has just preceded it. This "hinge pin" phrase occurs three time in Matthew’s Gospel. It represents a page is being turned, another chapter begins in the ministry and mission of Christ.  

In thinking about our own experiences – personally & together — this provides a nice framework to consider our next steps as we see where God has brought us AND move toward Resurrection Sunday with the promise of new life.

Worship.

Worship.

I found that the word for ‘Worship' in Latin is ‘Liturgy’, which actually means ‘service'. It’s not the kind of an service we attend and evaluate it, like a concert or a restaurant as something to be consumed. The meaning of ‘service’ here is more like an offering we bring or a sacrifice we make. Maybe another way we can say it is a spiritual practice.  Hmmm…. 

The idea is that our lives are already full of service and sacrifice — to make ends meet, on behalf of another, career ambition, to serve our country. We even sacrifice quality if we think it can save us money. Life requires so much sacrifice. Everybody ends up  serving something. The point here is to give ourselves to something that endures. 

Speaking of serving, this Sunday we have several ways to worship God with acts of service. In addition to bringing encouragement to a few folks, I hope to strengthen our community through serving together. As part of our Have 2/Share 1 Initiative, we want to visit with people who’s needs are different than our own. 

So here’s the plan for Sunday. PLEASE CONTACT THE POINT PEOPLE TO LET THEM KNOW YOU’RE COMING! Kids are encouraged to join in all of these outreaches. You’re welcome to join any mission as space is available.

9:00-10:00am Visit Burmese refugees in E.Riverside Apts. We’ll break into co-ed groups of 3 and visit families with translators. Bring a basic bag of groceries/toiletries as we’ll as any some clothing options to share along the way. Meet up around 10:30am for breakfast tacos (TBD) and share experiences. Space is limited to 12-14 including kids. It is currently full but if you’re interested or unable to go, contact Connie Nelson.

4:00-5:00pm Visit 3 Muslim women/families in Northwest Hills Oak Hollow Apts. For cultural reasons, this group is for women and children. Space is limited to 2-3 including kids. In addition to basic grocery and clothing items, there are specific needs for a toaster oven, blender, double stroller, and sewing machine. If you have these items &/or would like to visit, contact Mary Rose Ray.

9:30-10:30 & 10:30-11:30am Visit elderly in assisted living care homes.Autumn Leaves of Northwest Austin. Space is limited to 10 adults & 5 children for each hour. They are located at 10025 Anderson Mill Road and specialize in Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. The goal is to host conversation with elderly, learn about their life experiences. Kids will color pictures to gift to residents. Bring stickers if you have them. If space fills up, we have a second option to visit another care facility in the afternoon just 10 minutes away. Afterward, everyone is invited to Ian & Hannah Mouton’s home. Pitch in, order pizzas, and share experiences (12-1ish). Please email Hannah to let her know what time slot works and what kind of pizza you’d like to order.

Thanks to everyone for making this work. I’m praying God visits each of us in a special way as go out of our way to visit with people whose needs are different than our own. Come worship with us as we discover community through mission!

 

 

Activism

Activism

Activism can be as heroic as it is harmful. The chance to exercise one’s right is a cautionary tale between making a difference and furthering division. However, activism has to be more than voicing dissent. Rather, it means finding ways to be part of a solution for the common good.

I like to re-imagine faith as a way to be active in the world. Mission Hills' Rhythms provide 7 ways to practice and proclaim the presence of God. These Rhythms offer a radical-yet-ordinary alternative — like a public criticism — in a world of greed, individualism, and fear. You want to know God more? Experiment with Renewal, Gratitude, and Community. You want others to experience Christ? Practice Compassion, Generosity, Hospitality, and Apprenticing. The Rhythms are simply one way we can endure life’s troubles and seek God’s peace in the world. 

At the end of our Year One Party last week, a Muslim mom & dad thanked me for allowing their family to enjoy such an nice event. We’d already had a meal together and two separate conversations. Now, recognizing that others made such a special event possible for them, they expressed their sincere gratitude. My reply was simply, “one of the ways we practice faith is through hospitality…not just with our friends but with new faces. We see God as gracious and loving us just as we are. So as God welcomes us, we want to welcome others. So thank YOU for joining us!” In that moment, the immigration crisis didn’t feel so overwhelming. Nothing was solved but a bridge was built.

We’re currently in the midst of a “Have 2/Share 1” initiative. John the Baptist said to the good church-folk of his day, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3). Regardless of our citizenship, education, or family background we all have needs. But maybe the best way to address our own need is to shorten the gap and meet a need of someone else.

Common Ground


Our country is at odds – safety of a nation Vs offering shelter for the immigrant. 
Accusation, protest, debate. Heartbreak abounds. 
How do we mend when it feels so divided?  Good question…

On Sunday, we celebrated a year-in-the-making of Mission Hills Church. What I loved most was the hospitality.  So many invitations to neighbors, family, and friends. Some seekers, others skeptics. We also welcomed single parents, disadvantaged kids, refugee and immigrant families. 
It was a party for others, not just us. 

I feel helpless to change a country. Yet in one afternoon, we found common ground by sharing a meal, playing games, and hosting conversation. It gave me hope of who we can become and how we can align with God's restoration.  When it was over, the “Civil War” our country is fighting didn’t feel as hopeless simply by being with people whose needs are different than our own. My heart felt re-sensitized.  

This, my friends, is what it means to have a living faith. Speaking of finding common ground, if you haven’t heard about our latest faith initiative, Have 2/Share 1, read about it below.  It encourages us to "shorten the gap" between those who ‘Have' with those in need…and seeing what God does inside of us.