Monday, May 17, 2010


I have been learning some incredible lessons lately about myself, my faith and my enemy. They are lessons that I have learned before, but am relearning in a new time and circumstance in my life. I know most of you may not deal with any of these issues, but if any of you do, here are some things that I am learning.

• When I think I am invincible, I am about to find out I am very weak.
• When I find out I am weak, my default reaction is anger at myself.
• When I get angry at myself, I forget about God’s grace.
• When I forget about God’s grace, I become overwhelmed by my circumstances.
• When I am overwhelmed by my circumstances, I am not focused on the things God has called me to do.
• When I am not focused on the things God has called me to do, I become easy prey for the enemy of my soul.
• When I am easy prey for Satan, I allow myself to be led by my desires and attitudes instead of the mind of Christ.
• When I finally realize I need to focus on the mind of Christ, I begin to see his perspective and priorities in my life.
• When I focus on his priorities in my life, I am able to deal with the circumstances in my life.
• When I am weak, he is strong.

I came across this scripture in my time with God this morning and it hit home. I hope you find it challenging and encouraging all at the same time:

“Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good.” Proverbs 16:2

I pray that this week, you learn to focus on what is good and not be satisfied with what looks good.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Caring Community

I am constantly amazed at how God chooses to show up in my life and the life of the church. It is one thing to know that God is always with us and has promised to never leave or forsake us. It is quite another when God shows up in the everyday mundane aspects of life and reveals himself through individuals who demonstrate his love in such powerful ways.

Lately I have seen God do some great stuff through simple loving acts that people do for one another. From teenagers raking leaves in the yard of an older couple with some health issues, to someone providing grocery money to a family in need, to a woman in the church making chocolate covered strawberries to pass out to all the ladies in our church on Mother’s Day, God uses the small things in life to demonstrate his awesome love.

Jesus said that people will know we are his disciples by our love. When the body of Christ comes together to love one another and love the world around us, we demonstrate the greatest aspect of God: his love. Nothing challenges a skeptic more than unconditional love. Nothing causes a calloused heart to be softened than genuine caring. Nothing makes a jaded spirit more open than unconditional love.

The community of Christ is called to be a community of caring. It is in our actions and our love that God opens avenues of ministry and proclamation of the gospel. It is in our love and devotion to him and one another that God allows us to see his nature expressed in its fullest.

Jesus Christ gave two laws that were designed to help his followers understand life in all of its majesty. In Matthew 22 Jesus told us to love God and love others. When we begin to live our life by those principles, we become the “Caring Community” God intended for us to be. And when we care for the needs of those around us, we open the door to show them that it is not simply kindness, but it is God’s grace and love for us that propels our lives to be devoted to him.

In the last few years the church has been an amazing resource in times of natural and national disaster. After Katrina, churches rallied together to rebuild the Gulf Coast. When tsunamis have destroyed coastal regions around the world, the church has responded. When earthquakes have shaken Haiti and Chile, the church has responded. As Nashville soaks under a deluge of floodwaters, churches are responding. Here is my question: why wait for a disaster?

As followers of Christ, we are called to love and serve every day. We are called to care for the sick, the poor, the widows, and the orphan. That is our calling. And in serving we proclaim the gospel of Jesus. Why are we waiting for the next disaster? Why are we not serving and caring for those who are living the disaster every day in our own communities?

God has called us to care. Look around. There are people who live in disaster. Start out by loving god and then loving them and see what God does in the midst of the caring community.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Review of "Bonhoeffer" by Eric Metaxas

“He was quite clear in his convictions, and for all that he was so young and unassuming, he saw truth and spoke it out with absolute freedom and without fear.” These were the words of Bishop George Bell at the memorial service for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They capture the true essence of who Bonhoeffer was and what we, as those who follow in his trail aspire to become.

In his Book “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Marty, Prophet, Spy” Eric Mataxas has laid before us the formation, conflicts, relationships, burdens and passions of one of the greatest theological voices of the past century. While you read the pages you picture yourself in the esteemed halls of the German aristocracy and academia. You are transported to lecture halls, pulpits, private studies and the Bavarian Alps. While reading this account of the life of a man who faced conflicting feelings and passions from every side it is impossible not to feel that somehow you now know him and the breadth and depth of his passion for God.

Mataxas paints a wonderful picture of the family background, early childhood influences and cultural zeitgeist of Bonhoeffer. The imagery, attention to detail and theology woven throughout the pages brings to life a man whose absolute zeal for God was never watered down theology or rhetoric, but was personal and resolute.

One of the greatest gifts of “Bonhoeffer” is the inclusion of personal correspondence, texts of sermons and lectures and diary entries. It gives a behind the scenes feel to what the man himself was experiencing and how his inner devotion drove his life’s work. As any nation marches toward war, it is reasonable to assume that a nationalistic pride would rise to the surface. Along with his German bearing and position, Bonhoeffer also was torn between the desire for a Christian Germany and the reality of Germany in the hands of a madman.

This book is a precious gift for anyone who has read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings. It paints for us a deeper picture of a pastor, theologian, academic and patriot that has not before been appreciated. Eric Metaxas has once again written an epic biography of a man who has helped shape history and a man who far too few know. While the size of this book is daunting, the reward is well worth the time invested. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for everyone who love God and for everyone who wonders how that love of God can be reconciled with the love of their country.

Community Devotion

I have been reading an incredible biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer lately. If you are not familiar with his story, Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who took a stand against Hitler and the Nazi party during World War II. He died in a concentration camp at the age of 39. He was actually a part of a plot to assassinate Hitler and remove him from power. Bonhoeffer spent 18 months in prison and a concentration camp before he was executed in April 1945.

Before the outbreak of the war, Bonhoeffer spent much of his time training young pastors and overseeing the theological education of young men who were committed to living a life in community with one another and to transforming the culture through the impact of their lives. One aspect of this community was the concept of community devotion.

In community devotion, each person studies the passage of scripture for the particular day and then shares what God has spoken to them about regarding that passage. For those living in the schools led by Bonhoeffer it was a deep conviction and practice to daily comment or communion together over the scripture. When Bonhoeffer traveled, he scheduled his day so that at the time his students in Germany were studying the text, he would be doing so as well. For his time in America, that created a major obstacle because of the time difference.

One lesson that I have been learning lately is that the more I communicate what God is doing in my heart, the more it becomes personal and the more it becomes a blessing to others. As I post on my blog or FaceBook or through an e-mail the passage I have been reading and meditating through, I am constantly amazed at how often others tell me it encourages them as well.

As the scripture tells us in Acts 2, the early church devoted itself to the teaching of the word, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. I believe it is not a stretch to say that the concept of fellowship discussed here is the idea of discussion and community centered on the teaching of the word. I have come to believe that we have not really communed with God until we have shared that experience with someone else. That is why my FaceBook, Twitter and blog so often reference my bible readings and thoughts.

So, take the community devotion challenge this week. Study the scripture for yourself. Think about what it means to you. Then, share it with someone. You can use the internet, a phone call, an e-mail or a good old fashioned face-to-face conversation. But try to have community devotion this week and see how God brings his word to life in you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Church as Community

I have been wrestling with some thoughts and ideas in my mind for a while that I want to begin to share with you. They are aspects of my own spiritual journey that God has been showing me in the larger context of my relationship with and responsibility for the church community of LifeQuest. Over the next few days I will be laying out some ideas and thoughts to spur conversation and movement within our body. I hope that you will be a part of this by discussing them on the blog, on FaceBook or better yet by wanting to sit down and have a cup of coffee.

A major aspect that God has been showing me lately is the church as “community.” In our world we talk about church as a place, a building or an organization. None of those are biblical views of the church. The church is not a “place” it is a “community.” It is not an “organization” it is an “organism.” It is not a “meeting” but rather a “movement.” In other words, all of the ways we use to describe church in the 21st century is not accurate.

I heard a guy last week make the statement, “don’t connect church with certain prepositions like at, to in, and from.” In other words, we don’t go “to” church. We are not meeting “at” church. We are not sitting “in” church. The point is that we “are” the church. When we speak using at, in, to, and so on, we communicate that the church is a place. The church is a community of people seeking to follow Jesus and help others to find and follow Jesus. The place we meet is our gathering place. Our worship celebrations are not “church” they are gatherings “of” the church.

If you think about it, when we speak like we do about church we help those not connected to Christ associate church with a building or a place. Read Acts 2: 42-47. The description of the earliest form of the church is not based on a place, but on people with the common goal of loving God and loving others. In other scriptures the church is referred to as the “body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:4) and the “bride of Christ.” (Revelation 19:7). None of those passages focus on a building or a place.

If we want to be who God has called us to be, we must look at the church in anew light. We must see ourselves as the church gathered on Sundays, and Tuesdays and any other time we meet to encourage and fulfill the mission with which we have been called. And we must see ourselves as the church sent, to live among those who do not know Christ and who desperately need to be shown the light and love of Jesus.

So, let’s begin a new conversation. Let’s stop saying we are “going” to church or we have been “at” church. Instead let’s live in the realization that we “are” church. And that is true whether we are gathered for corporate celebration on Sunday or if we are simply sitting in a Starbucks sharing a cup of coffee. (I highly recommend the bold, black, venti!!)

So, what are your thoughts? I would love to hear them. Leave a note on the blog, send me a message on FaceBook, hit me up on Twitter (@johnjharvey) or call me and let’s talk.