Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Christians in Community

Oooo, the exciting conclusion to a topic I started weeks ago! Can you feel the excitement?

To catch up on what has been said thus far see these two cleverly named articles: Christians without Community and Christians without Community pt 2.

What we have to understand in order to grasp the benefits of being in a ‘Kingdom Community’ is that we are created to be in community centered around our relationship with God. Read Genesis before the Fall, the book of Revelation after the restoration of the world, and listen to what Jesus says in the Gospels and it becomes pretty obvious (at least to me) that for us to jump into the ‘Kingdom Community’ with both feet is a swift kick into Satan’s crotch. Sin pulls this community apart while Jesus restores it, therefore we should be working to restore it through Christ.

So if Jesus is restoring the ‘Kingdom Community’ we should look no further than it for the gifts and blessing that God offers to the world. There are the gifts that have become most prominent in many churches, that is the Word and Sacraments, which are normally associated with times of corporate worship. Such gifts are fantastic blessings and marks of the church but from them should be a waterfall of gifts there are easily overlooked or not practiced. I am going to list a bunch, feel free to ask for clarity on any of them:

Are you praying for the direction of God’s will in your life? Then ask for clarity from your ‘Kingdom Community.’

Are you short on money for groceries, or rent, or babysitters, or to visit a sick or dying friend/relative? Then allow your ‘Kingdom Community’ to tend to your needs.

Do you have a dispute with another Christian? Go through the proper channels for resolution within your ‘Kingdom Community.’

Do you have a dispute with a non-Christian? Ask your ‘Kingdom Community’ for guidance.

Are you feeling abandoned, marginalized, or taken advantage of? Immerse yourself in your ‘Kingdom Community.’

Have you hurt someone or broken a law or publicly sinned and want forgiveness and to start over? Run to your ‘Kingdom Community.’

Has God blessed you with something great, or just a time of smooth sailing? Celebrate the goodness of God and his creation with your ‘Kingdom Community.’

Now, as you read that far less than exhaustive list you will notice that living in the ‘Kingdom Community’ takes some vulnerability and willingness to not be self-reliant. Some of you are also probably thinking to yourself, “Not at my church.” Or some of you may be thinking that you can get those benefits from other places than your church. Please understand that the ‘Kingdom Community’ is larger than your local manifestation of the church and God works through all sorts of means, the point is that we need to be regularly involved and immersed in the Community of the Kingdom, in order to grow closer to King Jesus and reap the benefits of that relationship.

Can you imagine if we didn’t say “Not at my church” and started living in the Kingdom with intentness? Can you imagine what would happen if you let your guard down and let people in and cared for their needs without desire of compensation? Can you imagine what it would be like if the church was the place you ran to, rather than from, when you screwed up?

[end rant]

Monday, July 18, 2011

Too Much Friction: Levis

I have looked forward to the WEMS race at Levis for the past three years. I have some friends who always come up from St. Louis for it and the trails there are great. This year was fun because I was able to spend some time with my friends, but that was about it.

There was a 50 percent chance of rain the day of the race but the Levis trails can take rain because they are so rocky and sandy. However, they can't take a Wisconsin monsoon. We had just enough time to set up when we arrived in the mosquito craziness before the showers hit Friday night.

For most of the night is was dry and then we woke up to a storm. There was a 2 cup measuring cup on the picnic table that had a half inch of water in it at 6am, by 10am the cup was full. Yet the race went on, despite the fact that there was lighting, winds, and rain strong enough to destroy my e-z up tent. It was just one thing of many that were destroyed this weekend.


Levis is so sandy though that these puddles disappeared within an hour after the rain stopped. So I was determined to race the 50 mile if the race directors would continue with it. There wasn't much common sense going around.

It was miserable. The low sections of trail were hub deep mud puddles full of ruts and roots. After one lap there were no good lines possible in those sections. And because Levis is so sandy, the mud puddles filled the brakes and chains and cables with sand so that I (and everyone else with disc brakes) was effectively braking the entire time. Not many brake pads made it through the day.


That is Eddie's rear brake after 3 laps.

The bluff sections actually were pretty dry, but the heat and humidity made them far from a respite. In the end, I wish the race director would have taken out the trail that was under water. It would have shortened the laps and made it more climbing over all, but it would have saved people a lot of money on bike parts, saved the trail, and probably would have allowed most people to finish their races.

That's sand stuck to my bike, not mud.

Oh well, it was a crazy experience with some good friends. I'm sure we will be back next year for our annual trip to Levis.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Christians without Community pt. 2

There are many Christians out there who profess a 'personal faith' alone and who are not involved in any Christian community because they do not need "Church" to be close to God.

In my last article I tackled a basic issue with that ideal. That is, as followers of King Jesus we become aware of our place in the Kingdom. The Church is part of that Kingdom and if a Christian willfully refuses to be part of the 'Kingdom Community' it may actually reveal a problem in the relationship between said Christian and King Jesus.

I may be making it sound like being part of a Christian community is a rule or law that Christians have to follow. However, I assure you, like all of the designs for life that God has given us, this is not a restriction but rather a blessing. How is that you ask? I never got anything out of church, you say? Well, allow me to wow you with a few simple examples in my next article. First, let me address the last hypothetical question.

I'm not going to say anything cliché like "You only get out what you put in", although I suppose it does apply in a way, so apparently I will say something cheesy like that (more on that in the next article). What I would like to say here though is that most local manifestations of the church do not function like the community they were meant to be. That being said, in my experience there are always people and groups within each church living in recognition that they are part of the Kingdom Community (often doing so unaware of the fact), but many of the other people in said churches are consumers. A consumer could be defined as a person who wants to use programs or only comes to worship but has no desire to let Christ truly rule his or her life. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh but that appears to be the reality of the situation. Then there are the in-betweeners, people who desire more of Christ in their lives but are not sure of what that actually means or how to pursue it.

I bring this up because some of what I will describe in the next article may seem unfathomable in some churches. Many churches are not currently Kingdom focused communities, but that doesn't mean they couldn't be. And there are Kingdom focused churches out there, they may not use that language, but be sure, they exist. In short, I will not be describing utopia, just a little taste of the Kingdom on earth that is possible because the King has given us the gifts to make it happen.

(For an interesting take on the topic in general see this article by Dr. Jeffery Kloha)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Christians without Community

This has been on my mind a lot lately. I have been big on community for a long time, but recently in discussions I have been having and things I have been reading, I have seen just how important community is--especially for the Christian.

For today's article I am going to throw out some presuppositions and see if I can get any reactions.

For starters, Jesus came announcing that the Kingdom of God is at hand. After his death and resurrection he ascended to the right hand of the Father to rule creation. Thus making him the King of the Kingdom. This is part of the basic Christian worldview. Therefore, people who claim to be followers of Christ are in essence recognizing that Jesus is their King.

While some may say that Jesus is their personal Savior, and this is true, there is more to the relationship than that. If Jesus is your King, that makes you part of the Kingdom. My point here is that your relationship with King Jesus also creates a relationship with others in the Kingdom by making you aware of your place in the Kingdom. Therefore, being a follower of Christ makes you part of a community. To deny the community is to deny the Kingdom, and to deny the Kingdom puts into question one's relationship with the King.

I will tackle the benefits of the 'Kingdom Community' next week, but for now, how does this sit?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ooo, look at that cross-hatching...

It's time for another cook-off!

It is happening tomorrow night (July 2nd) and this time the themed is 'Grilled'.

We will have 2, probably 3 grills going and the idea is that you bring whatever it is you want to grill and cook it there. However, you don't need to bring anything to come, there is always plenty to go around!

Since we are in essence cooking together this time it is going to start a bit earlier, around 4:30-5pm. If you can not make it until later, don't sweat it, just come when you can get there.

This one is taking place in the Milwaukee/Wauwatosa area. Shoot me an email for directions. marc.engelhardt@gmail dot com