"We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience." Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Nationalism, Pragmatism and Sentimentalism are blinding the church to the reality that Jesus Christ came to bring a new way that would someday make the world unbroken, where God gets God's way on Earth as in Heaven.
John the Baptist testifies to this, "Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth." Luke 3:5
The Virgin Mary proclaims this, "He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." Luke 1:51-53
REGISTER NOW for the rest of our Youth Worker Training Events for the 2016-17 season!
We are excited about the lineup of presenters scheduled, from nationally known presenters like Andy Root and Steven Argue to local leaders like Tina Harris. This season you'll find a range of topics that will inspire, challenge, and equip you for ministry with youth and young adults.
Thursday, DECEMBER 1: More Than 'Getting Together': Youth Ministry and Race, by Rev. Tina Harris and Dr. Brandon Winstead. Location: Nazarene Theological Seminary
Thursday, JANUARY 26: Emerging Adults, Spirituality, and the Church, by Dr. Steven Argue. Location: Colonial Presbyterian Church
Thursday, MARCH 30: Saying is Believing: The Power of Testimony and Storytelling, by Dr. Amanda Drury. Location: TBA
Argentine has a lot going for it with new efforts at revitalization, but like many under-resourced, urban neighborhoods, it has familiar problems. Connect with young people who are joining God's mission to restore beauty in Argentine. Hands-on work during a Youthfront Missional Journey in Argentine will include painting, clean up and minor home repair.
Our after-school program in Croc has more than 14 years, and is currently run by a local team. It provides kids with activities and classroom time where they can learn their place within God's mission. On a Youthfront Missional Journey in Croc, your will host a summer camp for local kids, prepare games, workshops, and classes. You'll work alongside a local team to give kids a quality education in subjects like math and Spanish, and also to better understand themselves, one another, and the world around them.
I WAS HUNGRY & YOU GAVE ME SOMETHING TO EAT
Something to Eat is a learning experience where we equip youth to discover the systems that produce hunger. A pulsating spirit sweeps over our events where youth package meals to help families both locally and globally. As they draw closer to the struggle that is faced by nearly 1 out of 6 kids in the US, they also draw closer to God and to one another.
Youthfront Justice initiatives tap into a longing for a more free and just world already stirring in young people's hearts.
These learning experiences equip youth to participate in God's mission to restore the world. We create pathways for youth to stand with hurting people and to discover how ending injustice is central to the heart of God's kingdom and mission. We help youth connect the dots making poverty easier to understand even if the solutions are more difficult.
This is a guest post by my friend and fellow Youthfront Staff Member Kurt Rietema, who is our Director of Justice Initiatives.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one, new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” Eph. 2:14-17
A week ago I stepped out onto our front porch looking for a change of scenery with Leo. Armando was across the street stirring a kettle over a makeshift grill built of broken concrete blocks and found stones, an air of grilled meat signaled a possible and very welcomed invitation. He spotted me on the porch, “Kuuurt! Vente para acá!” Confirmation. Leo and I went over while the other boys ran circles with the neighbor kids. As I sat among old friends with tacos laden with meat worthy of a Levitical sacrifice and my baby in the arms of eager Mexican mothers, I took deep pleasure in watching Armando at his craft. Through smoke and burned fingers, it was as if he was conjuring up memories of the old country. He had this look of derangement and delight, thisrudimentary fire, an exile’s protest to stainless steel and liquid propane. He looked at home in his new home for the first time in a long time and it gave me great satisfaction.
A little while later, Alejandro from next door showed up and I overheard their conversation. Armando told him, “You know Kurt and Emily, they’re from a different class, but you wouldn’t know it. They’re educated. They’ve got some money. But they’re here with us, you know? They’re not like other güeros. They could be living in other places among different people, but they’re here with us. That’s why I like them. They’re one of us.” It was a moment that validated our efforts of downward mobility. The immigrant experience is often marked by feelings of being unwanted, second-class, and perpetually catering to someone else’s desires. It’s lonely, alienating, isolating and anti-shalom. But here, Armando was seeing the temporary rules of the world suspended as together in our neighborhood we’ve put aside what divides us, we preach peace to one another, and taste a new kind of humanity.
The week after Mike Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, I was fixated on social media. The protests and marches had become about so much more than taking sides on Mike Brown’s presumed innocence or his guilt. It became the epicenter of racial pain in the US. On social media, I heard the pain and the raw emotion pour out, unedited from people of color in a way that I never had experienced before. And some of the most recurring, frustrated cries were the ones that wondered why their white brothers and sisters were so silent, echoing Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, a generation before. One reporter asked someone how he felt about Mike Brown’s death being a young, black man himself. His response cut right to the very alienation that was embedded and invisible within the question itself. “I don’t know, how do you feel about it as a human?” At their core, the marches and protests were about people of color looking for validation, emotional bids burdened by a desire to know they’re not alone. They wanted someone to acknowledge that their pain is real; to tell them they’re not crazy and that their frustration is not unwarranted. The Sunday after Mike Brown was shot, I called up a few friends and we went to Ferguson, not to take sides but to walk with them and tell them they weren’t alone.
When we walked up Florissant Avenue for the first time, we were the ones who felt alone. It seemed the only other white people were either cops or the media. Soon, we stopped to talk to a few people—friends of the Brown family as it so happened. They welcomed us in and shared some of their stories. They found out we were from Kansas City and they thanked us for coming down and joining them. They took away our anxiety and displacement and, from their response, it seemed their sense of alienation subsided as well by standing with them. If only for a moment and if only among a handful of people, the normal dividing wall of hostility was set aside and we experienced the new humanity that Jesus came to bring.
A few months ago, Sarah Bessey, a Christian writer and blogger wrote a brave piece about how the world traffics in fear of the other and the unknown and how evil and hatred is propagated by fear. “Be afraid, the world tells us. And now, sadly, it seems many of our [Christian] media outlets and leaders are telling us the same thing. Be afraid. Be afraid of money, be afraid of losing “the fire”, be afraid of education, be afraid of theology, be afraid of growth and change...be afraid of the news, be afraid of Islam, be afraid of the President, be afraid of the UN, be afraid of immigrant children, be afraid of other churches, be afraid of the Pope, be afraid of socialism, be afraid of the government, be afraid of the world, be afraid be afraid be afraid.” Yet we know that there is no fear in love, forperfect love casts out fear. Throughout scripture, it seems that every angelic or divine encounter is prefaced by one message--don’t be afraid. And when Israel lived in terror in Egypt, they cried out andGod listened. When scared and helpless during the period of the judges, God didn’t abandon them. When living in fear under Roman occupation, God did not remain distant. Instead God took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood. When the world ran from the lepers, Jesus ran toward them. When the Jews flanked Samaria, Jesus cut through it. When the Temple cordoned off the Gentiles, Jesus took them for dinner. Do not be anxious about tomorrow and do not be afraid, says Jesus, for there is not one square inch of creation that is not mine.
God has given some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, pastors and teachers. Sometimes I’m not sure if I fit any one of those categories as cleanly as I, or others, might like. But it seems that one constant message that God keeps surprising us with is that the world is not such a scary place after all. Preaching peace both to those whose life is very different from me and to those who are like me is one thing I can’t keep silent about. For it is Jesus who casted off fear like he casted off demons, showing the world for the first time what it means to truly be human, what it really means to live, what it really means to love. Without fear, one new humanity.
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children...This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
Who Said This? A Republican or a Democrat or a Religious Leader?
If Obama said this, Republicans would continue to declare that he is exactly what they've labeled him to be - a liberal, idealogue, crazy, anti-American, etc. (And Democrats did the similar kinds of demonization to George W. Bush).
If a Religious leader said this, she/he would be ridiculed by the religious right who find it easy to pledge allegiance to the flag of the USA. (I will compare my citizenship to any religious zealot, I've never cheated on my taxes, I vote, I serve, I love being an American, I love my country).
Who Said This?
Republican president Dwight David Eisenhower made this statement in a Presidential address on April 16, 1953. Isn't the vision he shared in this quote in sync with God's mission to bring about restoration and a return to Shalom for humanity, the world and the entire cosmos?
I know that we live in a sinful, fallen and broken world where evil people desire to harm and subjugate but I also believe that followers of Jesus Christ must be willing to pick up their cross, walk in the way of the cross and stand up for peace, for the greater true, for the oppressed, for the marginalized, for immigrants, for the poor, for the mentally ill, for the persecuted, for minorities, for the left outs and stand up to the oppressors, the persecutors, war-mongers and the self-righteous religious idealogues.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3-11
My friend Jeremy Affeldt, a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, just celebrated his 35th birthday, which coincided with back to back wins on consecutive days. Jeremy has won two World Series Championships with the Giants and factored significantly in the titles. He was his team's 2011 nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award and was voted MLB Setup Man of the Year in 2009. Affeldt was also recognized for his anti-slavery efforts with a nomination for the Jefferson Award for Public Service. So far this year Jeremy is once again showing that he is one of the premiere relievers in the major leagues, pitching in 24 games with 19 strikeouts, 9 holds and a 1.71 ERA. And, I might add, the Giants are the hottest team in baseball with a 41-21 record.
All that to say, Jeremy is a better human being than he is a baseball player. Baseball player doesn't define Jeremy, his faith in Jesus Christ does.
That is the introduction to say, if your father hasn't read Jeremy's book To Stir aMovement,do something special for your father on Father's Day and give him this book. Then you can read it after he is done. It is interesting, inspiring and informative. Act now, and you will have it in time.
In Matthew 25, Jesus shares a parable in which he says, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." The righteous ask, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?..." And the King replied, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
This teaching of Jesus fires my imagination and provokes a response. What are we doing in this to literally minister to Jesus himself by serving others? Desiring to shape young people formationally as disciples of Jesus in the context of this teaching we started Something to Eat™ several years ago. By the end of this year young people will have raised money and packaged well over two million meals for those lacking proper nutrition in Haiti, Africa, Central America, the Philippines, and also throughout the USA where millions of people are dealing with food insecurity everyday.
We have developed amazing collaborative partners such as FH and Generation Alive. We've had incredible support from foundations, donors and others who believe that it's not only part of God's mission to "give them something to eat" but who are also passionate about discipling a generation of young people to follow obediently in the way of Jesus.
This weekend, I'm working with my dear friend Jeremy Affeldt, who has provided deep vision and passion for Something to Eat™ , to package 250,000 meals. The cool thing is that the teenagers packaging the meals are from East Palo Alto. Most people know Palo Alto as the home of Google, Facebook, the Silicon Valley, the wealthy land of the innovator and Venture Capitalist. On the other side of the highway is East Palo Alto, a place that many people have written off. But that is not the story that these young people are embracing. Through the opportunities provided by organizations like Able Works, these young people are leaning into a different story, a story that mirrors the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25. Pray for us this weekend.
Pray for young people who want to not only give something to eat to those who are hungry but also want to stand up for the stranger and push for immigration reform; shine a light on the naked and end the scourge of sex trafficking; and cooperate with God's mission in the world in hundreds of other ways that bare witness to the reality that a day is coming when restoration will be completed and God will get God's way on Earth as in Heaven. This is a generation of young people that according to some of the latest research by Barna are more faithful than any other age group to speak up for Jesus and the Gospel.
In Matthew 25, Jesus was not giving an exhaustive list of the things we should be about in order to come alongside the "least of these." What are ways that you can minister to Jesus directly by serving the least of these? Listen deeply and allow God's Spirit and your imagination to open up the possibilities all around you.