The West Wing

Tonight I finished watching all seven seasons of The West Wing. The West Wing ran from 1999-2006. I remember watching some of it but I didn’t stick with it. Politics is not my favorite world to inhabit anyway. But thanks to the tepid (and other unkind words) offerings of the networks for television, I decided to take a look at this old show and I’m so glad I did. The first five seasons were simply excellent viewing in every way. The acting, writing, and themes were all great. The sixth season a little less so, and the seventh season I made myself watch although I found it had outlived it’s story (and my interest).  I’m mentioning this because there might be someone who hasn’t watched it who’s scanning across the channels looking for something … anything… with some substance and entertainment value to watch. But I’m mostly mentioning this because in some small way watching The West Wing gave me a reprieve from the distressing real-world of politics in which we live.

The fictional President in this series is a Democrat and some of the positions taken, some characterizations of Republicans, and a very few episodes that sounded kind of preachy are notable, but not frequent.  But the reason I was so drawn in to this show were all the things that remind me of what I’m missing today. The imaginary Bartlet Administration wasn’t perfect but I did like the portrayal of a certain quality of life … a set of values that focused on the importance of people. There was a camaraderie of the cast in the presentation of the way they worked together through tough situations. There was, in a word, civility.

Civility has become a lost art … a relic of the past … a gaping hole in our society but also among our leaders in Washington. Civility has been replaced by a crass spirit of profanity and a vulgar display of accusation without restraint. Not just by one person or one party, but it pervades the landscape.

It’s almost as if voters in this country wanted such leaders. And if we did want those kind of leaders, what does that say about us?

So every time I see power-house party leaders who won’t sit at a table and do the right thing for the American people … who are just concerned with their party’s well being or making a name for themselves … I’d just rather watch President Josiah Bartlet and think about the America that could be.

I don’t write much about politics. I still think I should vote. I should and do pray for our leaders … and all world leaders.  But mostly the blunders and tweets and positioning of the political world leaves me thirsty for that missing quality of civility.

Maybe I’ll start again with Season One.

Thanks for reading, JD.

Give Attention to Prayers of Praise

All who give attention to prayer make an effort to grow in the practice of prayer. One area that I personally need to grow in is the expression of praise. I am convicted that if we consider the presence and majesty of God, then praise becomes more natural. Often I fall quickly into a long list of requests. While requesting of God is a part of prayer, the practice of praise should not be neglected.

When King Solomon dedicated the temple he gave some instruction to the people that I think will help us to grow in giving attention to praise. The temple was the physical manifestation of the presence and power of God. As a great celebration was held to bring it to completion, Solomon offered these thoughts about worship and prayer that relate to praise.

Praise God who keeps his covenant of love! “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. ” (1 Kings 8:23)

Worship the God who Hears our Prayers! “May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.”(1 Kings 8:29-30)

Entreat the God of Justice who sets things right! “Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence.” (1 Kings 8:32)

Return to the God who Forgives “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel “(1 Kings 8:33-34)

Scripture records that, “When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven.  He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. … May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors….so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.  And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” (1 Kings 8:51-64)

I pray that these reflections on the awesome presence of God may fuel prayers of praise for all of us.

Thanks for reading, JD

For further reflection…

The Prayer of Praise by Stormie O’Martian

Thanksgiving Prayers – 7 Encouraging and Inspiring Prayers

Giving the World a Song to Sing – Jim McGuiggan

 

 

He Would Have Been 28

John Robert and Claire

Today is John Robert’s birthday. Our family remembers him every day, but especially on this day. Each one in our family has distinct memories and relationships with him. I remember not only John Robert but also the impact his death had on his sister, niece and nephew, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends… all of us.

He would have been 28 years old. Still, I can only see him as 18. Occasionally I drift into a daydream of wondering what he would be doing today but I do not really indulge this for long. The truth is whatever I can imagine falls far short of the eternal life he now experiences. 

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen,  what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” –  the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

I’ve looked back at some of the posts I’ve written on this date across the past years. I’ll link a few at the end of this post. Just as there are no new pictures to share, no new events to tell about, and no new updates to his life story … I have no new reflections. Just three words. We miss him. Beyond that, only faith and love have kept us moving on after this loss. 

And this is what he promised us—eternal life. – 1 John 2:25

Living in the promise of God among the people of God has been our strength. 

A few links from past birthdays:

A post from 2008.

A post from 2009.

A post from 2013.

A post from 2014.

John Robert’s friend A. J. Olivares wrote THIS Facebook remembrance on John Robert’s birthday in 2008, the year he died. I thought it was beautiful.

Thanks for reading. JD

Everything You Need

Exodus 3 and 4 contains one of the most familiar stories of the Bible. No doubt thousands of authors and writers, preachers and poets, painters and priests have tried to capture the amazing story contained in these chapters.  Anyone my age or younger cannot help but picture this in terms of Charlton Heston hearing an eery voice of God coming from the burning bush. As an aside, there is an unsolvable mystery about who supplied the voice of God in The Ten Commandments. Many have claimed to be the voice, including director DeMille and actor Heston. It has been concluded that “only DeMille and his sound editor, Loren L. Ryder, who died in 1985, knew the truth-because the voice used in the film was run through mixers, changers and echo chambers.” (link

Dramatic as it is, the mystery of the voice of God in a 1956 film is not nearly so intriguing as the account of God and Moses found in Exodus. It’s hard to read the story without pre-conceived pictures and pretending we do not know the end of the story. 

It seems that Moses is the perfect person to go and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. He was raised in Egypt, a survivor of an attempted genocide of the Hebrew people. He knew the Egyptian ways from the inside, in a way no other Hebrew could. When he walked into Pharaoh’s court, he was walking into familiar territory.  And he knew what to expect and could prepare to respond when he encountered resistance. We know all of these things, but Moses didn’t seem to.

Because in some ways, Moses is exactly the wrong person to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  He rejected the ones who rescued him from the river and raised him as a son. He turned away from those who gave him everything he could have wanted to live a life of luxury and power.  He was a murderer who was running from Egyptian justice.  It had been forty years since he had been in Egypt and one wonders if he had forgotten much of what he had known while he chased sheep around the desert. In addition, he had a long list of reasons why he was not a capable leader that he was willing to present to the Creator! If we didn’t know the rest of the story we might think that Moses wasn’t very smart, and not a great choice for this job. The negatives far outweigh the positives.

That might be exactly the point. 

Who am I to do this job? I’ll be with you.

Who am I to say sent me to do this job? I Am.

But I’m not a good speaker. I am the maker of speech.

Send someone else. I’ll send YOU, and I’ll send Aaron with you.

I don’t know. Take the staff, you’ll be surprised what you can do with it.

Moses … the ungrateful to his benefactors, the murderer, the one who adopted an undercover life to survive, the one who would even excuse himself from

Painting by FETTI, Domenico
(b. ca. 1589, Roma, d. 1623, Venezia).

service while facing God at a burning bush that didn’t burn … was right. He couldn’t do it. There’s too much baggage, too little talent, and no desire. And if it weren’t for a Divine encounter, he would have spent another 40 years dodging sheep poop. Instead, we are shown clearly that while Moses couldn’t, God could. In God’s presence and blessing, Moses had everything he needed to accomplish the task. 

We all know Moses is going to go, and do a bang up job as a deliverer. He’s going to perform his duties so well that eventually he thinks he’s not just being empowered by God he thinks he’s a partner with God. It’s a stumble that will keep him out of the Promised Land. But still the Prince became a Shepherd so he could lead God’s flock out of enslavement and into promise.

Moses reminds us that without God, we don’t have much of a mission. With God, however, we have everything we need to be arbiters of deliverance for the enslaved. Honestly, I feel a lot like Moses… inadequate, unequipped, overwhelmed. Jesus recognized that as a truth for all of us, but also reminds us that the power is not in us. The ability to throw light into the darkest places is not our brilliance, but His. 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:5-8

When you wonder if you can make a difference, pay less attention to your own self-objections and more attention to the presence of God that goes with you. When you bear fruit for the Lord, never look in the mirror and congratulation yourself. Look inside and thank God for what He has done through a broken vessel. When you think that the work of the kingdom is about you, remember it is about I AM.

So while Moses is bigger than life, he seems to me like an ordinary guy who was successful in crazy circumstances in such a way that only God could get the credit. Only in God did he have everything he needed. Maybe we could all be so ‘ordinary’. 

Thanks for reading, JD.

Sheep Photo Credit  Martin Bisof

Faith: The Engine of God’s Creative Redemption

Faith: The Engine of God’s Creative Redemption

By Steven Hovater

Incarnation and Imitation

The incarnation revealed what is possible when a human moves in God’s will, and by God’s power. In Jesus, God acted, but also demonstrated what human action in the name of God looks like. “For I have set you an example, “Jesus says, “that you also should do as I have done to you”. Yes, this line’s context (John 13:15) is somewhat particular to his servant gesture of foot-washing, but the following discourse makes clear that this practice is barely the tip of the iceberg. Everything Jesus does and says is a demonstration of God’s work and will in the world, and the disciples are being invited to share in that way of being in the world. The point of the incarnation is to say, “This is what happens when divine action/being meets human action/being.”

Moments later, Jesus expresses to his disciples that they have perceived God’s will as revealed through Jesus’s words and actions, and have even had their status before God changed because of it: “The servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). Jesus is revealing God’s will and work, and then inviting them to join into that same will and work, becoming fruitful by honoring his command to “love one another as I have loved you.” God is at work among humanity in the human form of Jesus, so that humanity might be able to learn how to work on behalf of God in the world. 

What’s Faith Got to Do with It?

This is all well and good as a bunch of theological talk, but is still missing a critical piece: faith. This all occurs in its context in a crisis moment, and the disciples will forget their loyalty to Jesus before we can scarcely turn the page on the conversation. However, before their abandonment, we get a preview of what will come to pass after the resurrection. It is yet to be tested by the crucible, but we get a taste of the faith that will be solidified when the disciples witness his defeat of death. In John 16:30 we read the climatic confession, “we believe that you came from God”. That curiously-worded affirmation of faith is more central to John’s gospel than is easily recognized. 

“We believe that you came from God” sounds like a basic thing to affirm about Jesus, but for John’s gospel it is the critical point. Everything up until chapter 12 has been constructed to demonstrate that Jesus is in fact the one sent from God. It’s a theme hiding in plain sight, captured in language like being “from God” or “from heaven”, or in Jesus’s talk about being “sent”. The fascinating turn of the fourth gospel is that it takes this basic affirmation of Jesus’s origin and uses it to launch the mission of the disciples. Just as the father sent Jesus, so Jesus sends his disciples (20:21), and when they are doing the will of God, they have access to the same divine power that Jesus put on display. What’s the connection between what Jesus did and what the sent disciples will do? Their faith

In coming to believe that Jesus is from God, the disciples also come to believe his invitation to share in his divinely originating power and mission. They too become “from God” because now they are “from Jesus”. John tipped his hand early on that this was God’s work in Jesus: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) In the wake of the resurrection, the disciples can truly become brothers of Jesus, sharing the same Father and God (20:17).

The Victory of Faith

There’s an old church song, “Faith is the Victory” which draws its language from 1 John 5:4-5, “…this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” The song implies that the victory is one that we, Christ’s disciples win over our enemies. However, the greater truth is that it is Jesus who becomes victorious over his enemies because of our faith. See, we may not have noticed the connection between this text (1 John 5) and John 16:33, where Jesus says to his disciples: “Take courage; I have conquered the world!”. Notice how the announcement is peculiarly located—Jesus proclaims his victory before the events of either the cross or the empty tomb. What has happened at this point that evokes this claim? It is the confession of faith from the disciples—this constitutes Jesus’s victory over the world!

Now that they believe—or perhaps better, now that they are coming to believe—Jesus has won a foothold in the world. God’s work will continue. The gospel embodied in him will be embodied in his disciples who now participate in his mission. Jesus, the Sent One, will become the sender, and the faith of his disciples will become a gateway for the power of God to work goodness in the world. 

Our faith is much more powerful than we know. It is not just a vehicle for our comfort or empowerment. It is a vehicle for divine action. It is the connection point at which God’s people become partners by God’s Spirit, agents of God’s creative agenda in the world. Faith is the engine translating God’s will into human action and the restoration of God’s creation. 

It is easy to underestimate our faith. I often perceive mine to be quite a weak thing—apparently much smaller than even a mustard seed. But in the hands of Jesus, even our broken faith creates enormous possibilities, and becomes a tool in God’s mission. 

(If you would like to walk through a study of the “Sent” theme in John, consider the following texts in their context: 1:12-13, 3:2, 3:13, 3:17, 3:31-34, 4:34, 5:23-24, 5:36-38, 6:33, 6:46, 6:57, 7:27-29, 8:14-16, 8:23-26, 8:42, 9:4, 9:29-33, 10:36, 11:27, 12:44-45, 13:3, 14:24, 15:21, 16:27-30, 17:8, 18:36-37, 19:9, 20:21. This list is not exhaustive, and perhaps the better approach is to simply take a highlighter to a fresh copy of the gospel and mark each time the theme shows up. I assure you, you will not have to travel long between occurrences! I would love to say that the theme is plainly stated in literally every chapter of John, but alas, chapter 2 only yields 2:9, which I hold to be playful language on the theme—but I’ll let you decide for yourself.) 

Steven Hovater: Four kids. One wife. Seventeen hobbies. A coach’s whistle. Lots of thoughts about God and food. The spiritual gift of volume. Blogs at stevenhovater.com, and preaches in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

A Case Study: The Rivers Church

A Case Study: The Rivers Church by Ginger Moore

My husband, Mike walked down Maiden Alley toward the Ohio River with his young friend. As he walked with his arm around twelve-year old DeShawn he asked, “DeShawn, when Jesus was on trial, Pilate kept asking if he was a King? Jesus told him, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’, but finally admitted he is the King. That’s what I’m going to ask you. Do you believe Jesus is the King?” DeShawn answered, “Yes, Mr. Mike. I do.” They continued to walk down to the bank of the Ohio River. About 40 people from The Rivers Church followed them.

Mike and DeShawn stood right at the edge of the river and Mike asked the young man if he was ready for Jesus to be King of his life? This is a kid that only a year and a half before was so rude and disrespectful that he would often be sent home from our Tuesday night outreach ministry and here he stood in the Ohio River ready to put on Christ. DeShawn came up out of that water to applause and tears from a church family that is a glimpse of what heaven is going to look like.

The Rivers Church began on Sunday, December 18th at 10:02 a.m. at Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah, Kentucky, a half block from where the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers converge. From its outset, it has been our goal to be racially integrated, ethnically diverse, and outreach focused. Nones, Dones, and the next generation are our targets. Our ministry team spent time praying, talking, studying, and then praying some more about the vision for a church that could open doors for all people to hear the gospel in a post Christian culture.

Why 10:02 a.m.? Our gathering time is based on Luke 10:2- “…The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers.” At The Rivers Church, we’ve based our lives on the truth of the gospel — we know that the gospel is the best message in town that everyone needs to hear but Christians have made it harder and harder for people to hear the message because we’ve often lost our focus. We are convinced that if we go to where the people are, like Jesus said, and if we love them and love each other, then the gospel will do the rest.

Only God could have assembled the ministry team at The Rivers Church. This is what we’ve got- My husband Mike Moore is a trial attorney and was an elder for 5 years at an old established wealthy church. He also is a fantastic preacher. (I know I’m a little biased.)

Rivers Church Ministry Team

Tyrell Grant is a former rap producer drug dealer who became a Christian and quickly decided he wanted to be an evangelist. He went to school and got a preaching degree. His wife, Marquita is a preacher’s kid with an early childhood degree who leads our children’s ministry.

Cornelius Edwards is a wonderfully gifted worship minister. Before he joined our work he traveled from his home base in Atlanta all over the country to lead worship at special events. Check out his music on iTunes and YouTube. His wife Soyini has an awesome voice as well and was willing to leave her job at CNN because she believed in this vision of what church could be. She has an innate sense as to what people need and ministers to many already!

Lyle Sinkey is a former meth addict who is an outdoorsman and preacher. He just finished up a contract with Duck Commander where he was a videographer. He and his wife Kelly joined our team to minister in the areas of addiction recovery and marriage.

Finally, there’s me. I’m a former homeschooling mom and wife who was raised going to church. I lead our women’s ministry and make some pretty delicious communion bread.

The Rivers Church is a group of believers that are trying to live with our faith unshackled. Only Cornelius is a paid staff member. Soyini recently started her own business. Lyle and Kelly are raising their support like U.S. missionaries. Mike maintains a full law practice and I’m his office manager. Tyrell and Marquita run a daycare and Tyrell is also a blogger/tech guy.

We don’t have a building and it is our intention to never have one. Our rent at the theatre annually is the equivalent of one month’s utility bills at our former church. We’re trying to keep it simple. We use Mike’s Law office for small group Bible studies offered to the community. Tyrell and Marquita lead a small group in their home weekly. We have an outreach ministry that ministers to low income at risk children that meets at a shelter at the park. All of our gatherings are intergenerational. Families serve together. We’ve worshipped at the Farmer’s Market pavilion and will have worship this fall right at the river.

Martin Luther King Jr. said this in Letter From Birmingham Jail, “If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

Mr. King spoke truth in 1963 and it is even more true in 2017. Young people don’t care what you know about Jesus until they see how you love like Jesus. My teenaged daughters invited their seventeen year old friend to worship with us. When worship was over, I asked her what she thought. Her answer let me know that we are headed in the right direction. She said with lots of excitement, “I love this! At the end, I just felt like I needed to go around the room and hug everyone. You can feel the love.”

I think we’re on the right path.

Follow us on Social Media Contacts at:  
Facebook: The Rivers Church @TheRiversPaducah 
Instagram: theriverschurch 
Website: www.theriverschurch.org

Ginger Moore is a 47 year old reluctant church planter, who just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary.  She’s the mom of a 17 year old daughter and an 18 year old daughter who are so proud and excited to be a part of the work.  Her theme verse for the year has been 2 Timothy 2:13- “When we are faithless, he is faithful for he can not deny himself.”  God has been so very good and faithful as we have planted this church and he has brought the increase.