Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Revolutionary Jesus - Brian Zahnd

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know, we all want to change the world

—The Beatles

The revolution of Christ is the radical alternative to the unimaginative politicism of the religious Right and Left.

Jesus is not apolitical. Far from it. Jesus is intensely political! But Jesus has his own politics — and they cannot be made to serve the interests of some other political agenda. As Eugene Peterson says, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is more political than anyone imagines, but in a way that no one guesses.”
The politics of Jesus are set forth in the Sermon on the Mount — and neither the Republican nor the Democratic party have any intention of seriously adopting those politics! They simply cannot. The politics of the Sermon on the Mount are antithetical to the political interests of a military and economic superpower. 

The problem with both the Christian Right and the Christian Left is that they reduce “Christian” to the diminished role of religious adjective in service to the all-important political noun. But as Karl Barth taught us, God cannot serve some other interest, God can only rule. …
Conventional politics is a contest to gain the use of coercive force. But Jesus rejects this method. In the politics of Jesus the world will be changed by non-coercive love or not at all. It’s not the task of the church to change the world by legislative force. It’s the task of the church to be the world changed by Christ. This is revolutionary in a way that conventional politics never can be. …

The church doesn’t need to enforce this revolution, the church only needs to live it. To those who will dare to adopt the politics of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city built upon a hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5:14

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Are Christianity and Art Mutually Exclusive? Cindy Brandt

 I am a little late to the train, but I have been watching the netflix original series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The first episode had me laughing out loud almost the entire time. I adore Ellie Kemper, she does an amazing job playing the role of a 29 year old rescued out of a cult, trying to make it in NYC. Along the way, we meet other characters. Kimmy takes a nanny job for a woman named Jacqueline, who we find out in episode 3 is of Native American origin, which is funny because she is played by Jane Krakowski who is blonde hair and blue-eyed. 

This surprising subplot can either be interpreted as clever satire, a social commentary on cultural assimilation or it could be construed as unnecessary offense—cheap shots taken at a minority stereotype for a laugh. The point is, the producers didn’t play it safe, they are walking the tightrope of respectability, one misstep could mean death for their humor and the show. 

Good art requires that gutsy risk-taking. Not reckless, but smart rule-breaking. 

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

He's All In - Greg Albrecht

The story world painted in the first chapter of the book of Job speaks of Satan showing up at God’s house for a visit. Details are not provided, but we get the idea that Lucifer did not bring flowers.

It didn’t take long before the Prince of Darkness started to condemn Job, one of God’s servants. Reading this story the other day, I was thinking of another way we might imagine the Evil One visiting our heavenly Father—but this visit wound up on the cutting room floor when the final version of the Bible was edited. You may remember comedian Bob Newhart, who often set up hilarious scenes he imagined happening with the phrase “it might have gone something like this.” I’m thinking that Satan visited God one day and the discussion went something like this:

Satan: “You know, you talk a good fight, but I don’t see how you could really love the men and women you have created. Why don’t you put up or shut up?”

God: “What exactly do you have in mind?

Pulling out a deck of cards The Adversary gets down to business: “Let’s talk about it over a hand of poker. We’ll put all our chips on the table—winner takes all.”

God: “You really don’t want to play with me!”

Never known for humility, Beelzebub blustered: “Let’s get it on. Do you mind if I deal?”

God: “Deal whenever you want—I AM ready."

Robocalls from Hell - Zack Hunt

CA Church’s Robocall Campaign: “You Are Going To Hell If You Are Not A Member Of Our Church” - See more at: http://zackhunt.net/2016/01/21/ca-churchs-robocall-campaign-you-are-going-to-hell-if-you-are-not-a-member-of-our-church/#sthash.QI1C6RBD.dpu

CA Church’s Robocall Campaign: “You Are Going To Hell If You Are Not A Member Of Our Church” - See more at: http://zackhunt.net/2016/01/21/ca-churchs-robocall-campaign-you-are-going-to-hell-if-you-are-not-a-member-of-our-church/#sthash.QI1C6RBD.dpufCA Church's

CA Church’s Robocall Campaign: “You Are Going To Hell If You Are Not A Member Of Our Church” - See more at: http://zackhunt.net/2016/01/21/ca-churchs-robocall-campaign-you-are-going-to-hell-if-you-are-not-a-member-of-our-church/#sthash.QI1C6RBD.dpuf

 CA Church's Robocall Campaign: 

"You Are Going to Hell if You are Not a Member of Our Church"

CA Church’s Robocall Campaign: “You Are Going To Hell If You Are Not A Member Of Our Church” - See more at: http://zackhunt.net/2016/01/21/ca-churchs-robocall-campaign-you-are-going-to-hell-if-you-are-not-a-member-of-our-church/#sthash.QI1C6RBD.dpuf
CA Church’s Robocall Campaign: “You Are Going To Hell If You Are Not A Member Of Our Church” - See more at: http://zackhunt.net/2016/01/21/ca-churchs-robocall-campaign-you-are-going-to-hell-if-you-are-not-a-member-of-our-church/#sthash.QI1C6RBD.dpuf
Confession: I didn't realize robocalls were still a thing. 
It's probably because I haven't had a landline for years.
I think I do recall a robocall a while back that started off with the sound of a ship horn and continued with the promise of a free cruise if I just listened to a brief presentation, but I hung too quickly to claim my prize. It was the last robocall I’ve received. - See more at: http://zackhunt.net/2016/01/21/ca-churchs-robocall-campaign-you-are-going-to-hell-if-you-are-not-a-member-of-our-church/#sthash.QI1C6RBD.dpuf

I think I do recall a robocall a while back that started off with the sound of a ship horn and continued with the promise of a free cruise if I just listened to a brief presentation, but I hung too quickly to claim my prize. It was the last robocall I’ve received.

And it was way better than the robocalls some folks in Lodi, CA are getting from an area church.
According to a report from FOX40, pastor Ramon Wilson of The Right Way To Follow Christ Church, thought the best way to attract new members to his church would be a robocall campaign informing everyone in his community that they were going to hell if they don’t become a member of his church.

As crazy as this story is, I do love the lead in from the news anchors….
Anchor 1: …words used to recruit new church members. So, is it intimidation?
Anchor 2: Or is it an innovative way to get people interested in one local Christian church?
Lol “an innovative way to get people interested…”

Bless their hearts. They’re trying to treat this ridiculous seriously. They even go on to call it a “spiritual marketing campaign. But there’s nothing serious or creative about what’s going.

It’s Robocall Damnation™ for crying out loud.

CA Church’s Robocall Campaign: “You Are Going To Hell If You Are Not A Member Of Our Church” - See more at: http://zackhunt.net/2016/01/21/ca-churchs-robocall-campaign-you-are-going-to-hell-if-you-are-not-a-member-of-our-church/#sthash.QI1C6RBD.dpuf
CA Church’s Robocall Campaign: “You Are Going To Hell If You Are Not A Member Of Our Church” - See more at: http://zackhunt.net/2016/01/21/ca-churchs-robocall-campaign-you-are-going-to-hell-if-you-are-not-a-member-of-our-church/#sthash.QI1C6RBD.dpuf
CA Church’s Robocall Campaign: “You Are Going To Hell If You Are Not A Member Of Our Church” - See more at: http://zackhunt.net/2016/01/21/ca-churchs-robocall-campaign-you-are-going-to-hell-if-you-are-not-a-member-of-our-church/#sthash.QI1C6RBD.dpuf
Click here to continue reading on Zack Hunt's blog

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On the Grill: An Inquisition of the Sincere - Brad Jersak

On the Grill: An Inquisition of the Sincere

Questions. Interviews, investigations, inquisitions. Grilling.

I’ve been on the grill a fair bit over the decades. Questions, so many questions. And I love questions. There is no greater favor you can do a vocational teacher than ask him or her a question.

These include the happy experiences of Q & A sessions where I really knew my material. Others were designed to be positive, yet felt stressful because the stakes involved were high: job interviews, candidacy committees or the closing viva (oral exams) for my post-graduate degree. Some interviews were promotional, whether on TV, radio or umpteen podcasts—but I still really had to be on my toes. I also underwent a few ambushes involving accusations that left a bitter taste.  Similarly, I’ve faced adversarial investigations where the interrogators were openly hostile—along with the growing pains of moving from defensiveness to detachment and what the Greeks called apatheia (freedom in Christ from being emotionally ‘hooked’).

But the most delightful, profound but highest stakes inquisitions I face come from earnest children with heartfelt queries of faith. The full transcript of one such conversation with a young teen is recounted in A More Christlike God (p. 15-18).

This week, I was served up two rounds of grilling by a very bright, utterly sincere nine-year-old. The parents are used to his never-ending barrage and are fully competent spiritual teachers. But over the last weeks, they’ve been deferring his questions for our inevitable meeting. “You’ll be seeing Brad soon. You can ask him.”

Round 1

Just as Mal (we’ll call him) kindly assured me he did not want to “disturb” me, so I insisted that his questions were most welcome. However, I added the caveat, “You are free to ask whatever you like, but I will also feel free to say, I don’t know.
Also, I will only respond with my ideas, not with answers.”

I Love You, Child, As I Have Been Loved - Lauren Larkin

Perusing some of the links in my favorite online parenting journal, I ran across an interesting little story of a mother and daughter, told from the daughter’s perspective primarily. (Full article here.) The background goes as follows: the mother is apparently in the hospital, hooked up to tubes and unresponsive. The daughter is at her mother’s bedside begging for her to respond. “Please? Mom? C’mon…you have to wake up. This whole thing is freaking me out! You’re just staring.” Throughout the story, the daughter repeats: “Mom, blink if you can hear me.”

But the daughter’s story is less about getting her mother to hear her and more about what she had always heard from her mother.

The daughter recounts her own descent into an angry young woman. She unloaded her anger on her mother directly through verbal attacks, or indirectly by insulting herself—a double whammy attack plan, i.e. If my insults to you don’t hurt, I’ll criticize the thing you love!

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Brad Jersak, "A More Christlike God" - Illumination Book Awards 2016 - Gold Medal for Christian Thought

Saying Good-bye to Glenn Frey - Brian Nixon


I don’t have many memories of 1977, but I do have one that still resonates with me: hearing the song Hotel California by the rock band, The Eagles. I remember sitting in my father’s house in the desert of Tucson, Arizona, fan rolling on a hot summer day. My father had the radio on. For some reason I also remember hearing Eric Clapton’s version of I Shot The Sheriff during the same time. Two great songs. Now like the composer of the second song, I Shot The Sheriff, Bob Marley, the lyricist of Hotel California has died. Glenn Frey passed away in New York City of rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia while recovering from intestinal surgery. Frey was 67

ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Satan's Foundational Lie: "As God, 'Knowing' Good and Evil - Richard Murray

28e4cc7da7287570edc08b981fb84c1fHere is the fundamental Satanic lie all men have subconsciously internalized--that God is BOTH good AND evil, BOTH love AND wrath, BOTH light AND dark, BOTH healer AND afflicter.
"And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be AS, AS, AS God, knowing good AND, AND, AND evil." Genesis 3:4-5 (emphasis added).
Or, put another way, Satan's core lie here was about God's nature -- that God experientially knew good AND evil, that God in fact authored good AND evil, that God ultimately WAS good and evil. So, the "knowledge of good and evil" is really the knowledge OF God AS the source of BOTH good AND evil.

And here is the poison. Once WE partake of THAT core lie--that God is internally dualistic, radically bipolar, ferociously fickle, violently volatile, and horribly inconsistent--then WE likewise become those things. The history of man has proved that proposition to be true. In short, we follow our image of God. Our destiny is determined by our view of God. If we believe God is BOTH good and evil, BOTH loving and wrathful, THEN so too will we be.

A. W. Tozer rightly believed that we tend "by a secret law of the soul" to gravitate toward and grow to resemble our mental image of God. Thus, Tozer was convinced that what comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you. High thoughts of God bring us into pure worship and a sanctified walk, while low thoughts of God defile our hearts and corrupt our walk.
The bottom line is that you become what you believe about God.

Leaving Grape Soda Christianity: Excerpt from Brian Zahnd's 'Water to Wine'

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.21.16 AMBrian Zahnd, Water to Wine (2016) 

I once heard an Italian winemaker say that to produce good wine the grapes must struggle, they must suffer.

The taste of good wine is the taste of struggle and suffering mellowed into beauty. There’s a deep truth there that applies to far more than winemaking—it also applies to the formation of the soul. All the great biographies of the Bible involve suffering. The great souls grown in the Lord’s vineyard all know what it is to suffer.

American Christianity, on the other hand, is conditioned to avoid suffering at all cost. But what a cost it is! Grape juice Christianity is what is produced by the purveyors of the motivational-seminar, you-can-have-it-all, success-in-life, pop-psychology Christianity. It’s a children’s drink. It comes with a straw and is served in a little cardboard box.

I don’t want to drink that anymore.
I don’t want to serve that anymore.
I want the vintage wine.

The kind of faith marked by mystery, grace, and authenticity. The kind of Christianity that has the capacity to endlessly fascinate is not produced apart from struggle and suffering. It’s the pain of struggle and suffering that confers character and complexity to our faith.

After the first twenty-two days of 2004 I knew I had to move beyond a watered-down, grape-juice faith—the popular schlock I had begun to refer to in the pulpit as “cotton candy Christianity.” By August of that pivotal year I had told my church I was packing my bags from the Charismatic Movement and moving on.

Leaping Over Walls: Recovery of a Soul - Steve Roberts

"For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall."
Psalm 18:29 

Over the past six years I’ve gone through tremendous spiritual and theological transition, reorientation, realignment, refocus, reflection, and pilgrimage (and any other words that may betray a new and unexpected participation in existence). 
Perhaps more than ever, over the last three years than over the last thirty, I have begun to appreciate the Zen-like riddles of theological and spiritual enquiry. I have become disillusioned with much of the circus called Christendom and have discovered that this gentle prophet of Galilee can still show up in the most unlikely of places entreating me with a vibrant array of new questions.
To quote Brian Zahnd - "I was weary of the tired clichés of bumper-sticker evangelicalism. I was disenchanted by a paper-thin Christianity propped up by cheap certitude." Brian, if we ever meet the coffee is on me!
I've also been labeled heretic, emergent, liberal, compromising, a false prophet, a false teacher, weird, backslidden, eccentric, a hero, a saint, an artist, a true prophet, a seeker, whatever... Most people keep their thoughts to themselves. They show great restraint and decline to bomb my inbox with caustic verbal napalm. It does seem as if personal epitaphs delight in swimming in an open ended ocean of opinion and heresay.
There has been the odd and painful day, along with the odd and painful month. There have also been times of significant insight and deeper awareness. To quote the lines of a recent poem of mine: "On the inside I sometimes feel like cough syrup, dust, and wrinkles—at other times I feel like starlight, dew, and an ocean breeze." There have been broad zones of spiritual enquiry and freedom along with narrow stone streets that bear a remarkable resemblance to the rigid dystopian cities of the movie Divergent. My post-apocalyptic version of myself wanted in someway touch the woven green stuff beyond the barricades of what was considered acceptable thought.
"Don't leap over the walls," old Steve used to say. 
But God has gone and flirtatiously dropped a handkerchief in those Elysian fields, drawing my thoughts to behold a far more lovely Face of the Divine, one I have never seen before.
Russian poet and theologian Vladimir Solovyov (1853-1900) once wrote, "I saw all, and all was one—a single image of womanly beauty, pregnant with vastnesses! Before me, in me— only You." There is wine there - don't you think? A place where I need to take both shoes from off my dusty and bleeding feet and simply discover the place of presence and beauty.
I am 53 this year, probably 60% of my life breath has gone, and I must say I am more excited about my remaining tomorrows than ever before. Maybe I should be grieving over lost time? At times I feel the pain of regret - for words spoken and beliefs enforced, but I do know that the second half of life is a journey I would not miss for anything—I have been gaining new eyes. The cheap religious certitude I once carried within baffles me now. A tawdry spirituality that beckons sabre rattling and violent rhetoric appears toxic to my soul (and probably your soul as well) if you have been on a similar quest for the mystic and the beautiful.
Though some of you may read and look with curious and puzzled glances thinking "What circus is he visiting now? What brazen clowns are force feeding him hot air dipped in error?", others may appreciate my writings and meanderings of soul on Facebook and other social media platforms. The shifting tectonic plates of spiritual perspective still grind away, they continue to expose a whispering ancient poetry in an unknown tongue... I think I am recovering a part of my soul I have never met before, and maybe you are too?

Monday, January 18, 2016

"A Little Tree Planted on a Hill" - MLK

"There is a little tree planted on a little hill, and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe." - MLK

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Stop Trying to Get Saved - Greg Albrecht

Are you saved, brother?” the earnest young man asked me. He continued, “If you’re not saved, you need to get saved.” I responded to him, “Before I reply, may I ask you what it is you believe I need to be saved from?” The young man didn’t miss a beat (as I suspected he wouldn’t) and immediately rattled off the stock answer he’d been taught. 

The young evangelist wanted me to get saved so he could save another soul from the eternal torment of the fires of hell. He told me I needed to get saved from my sins so I would not go to hell. So I asked, “Let me get this straight. I need to get saved from my sins so I won’t go to hell?” “Exactly,” he said. Locking eyes with him, I evangelized the young evangelist. 

“So, it seems to me that you believe the primary reason I need to get saved is to avoid the pain and anguish of eternal torment. Further, if I get what you’re saying and why you’re saying it, if I get saved, you will have saved me from eternal torture in hell. It seems to me that your definition of getting saved is all about what you and I do, or fail to do.”

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rx for Remorse, Regret, Resentment - Marv Wegner

We seek God. But we are often satisfied with a substitute. A short cut. A convenient idol. A comforting substitute religion when the real thing we crave delays his arrival, and based on our schedule, God is late. God has left the garden. Moses has left the camp. And we are left to our own devices. And oh, what devices we can craft with the aid of technology. Shining, beautiful, beguiling as they are addictive. Man’s first attempt at a solution, as always, involves building some Thing. Problem: God not present. Solution: Build idol, e.g., the golden calf.

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him’” (Exodus 32:1). And when the party’s over we are left to drain the dregs of our misguided, reckless binge. “And he [Moses] took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it” (verse 20). 

Addicted to Regret 

No one escapes. It is the price we pay for being human. Our former beloved idol is ground to dust and we are forced to drink up. Yes, remorse is a cup from which we all drink. Remorse itself is not a problem—in fact it is a vital part of the process of repentance. A necessary stage that signals our intention to change direction.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Regret: The Silent Killer - Brad Jersak

Various diseases have been labeled “the silent killer.” For example, “hypertension” is called the silent killer because it increases the risk of heart disease and strokes, two of the top causes of death in America. Other emotional and spiritual diseases could compete for that title: fear, shame, resentment and bitterness would be high on the list. But the silent epidemic we’ll examine now is regret. 

It’s not that regret goes unnoticed. Oodles of motivational posters decrying regret litter the Internet. I say “litter” because they largely represent a worldly wisdom that exhorts us to move beyond regret, but only leave us feeling worse—regretting our regrets. Sampling this pseudo-sage advice, obvious patterns emerge.

Three Anti-Regret Slogans

1) Thou shalt never regret. Henry Thoreau wrote, “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” Or “Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in” (Katherine Manfield). 

2) Thou shalt (not) regret what you didn’t do more than what you did do. “The mistakes I’ve made are dead to me. But I can’t take back the things I never did” (Jonathan Foer). “Our biggest regrets are not for the things we have done but for the things we haven’t done” (Chad Murray).

3) Thou shalt (not) regret not being yourself. “One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself” (Shannon Alder). “One of my main regrets in life is giving considerable thought to inconsiderate people” (Jarod Kintz). 

What are we hearing? You should not have regrets. Or, you’ll regret regretting, so let us “inspire” your willpower: just stop regretting! Why? Because regret is for losers. Those who have “arrived” boast, “I regret nothing!” They forget that Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann, first coined the phrase. Here’s the double bind! If you have regrets, you’re lame; if you don’t, you’re a sociopath! 

Shaming Regret?

All of this amounts to shaming us for the torment of regret, attempting to punish the disease out of its victims. As if regret were a bad choice. As if my regrets were completely in my hands. What if we made mistakes in all sincerity? Should we now feel ashamed for feeling the grief over the consequences? What if our dreams were stolen by others? Should we feel nothing for our losses?

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Marked by Mercy - Brian Zahnd

UnnamedI’m praying that in 2016 the church would be marked by mercy — that we would walk the world as the pardon of God.

I wrote these words yesterday following our Wednesday Noon Prayer and Communion service in the Upper Room. As we were praying about the witness of the church in America in the coming year, our prayers took on the theme of mercy.

We are living in a moment marked by mean-spiritedness. Much of this meanness is directed toward immigrants and refugees, Muslims and foreigners. And, of course, various political factions aim their ire at one another. As we move through the presidential campaigns of 2016, I sadly anticipate the mean-spirited rhetoric to grow worse.

My prayer is that in 2016 the church would be something other. That instead of conforming to the spirit of the age, the church would model mercy as a Christlike act of nonconformity. Or to say it another way, I’m praying that the church would conform to the mercy of Christ and not to the current zeitgeist of mean-spiritedness. I’m praying that we would walk the world as the pardon of God — a phrase borrowed from G.K. Chesterton’s description of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Speaking of Francis… I’m aware that Pope Francis has launched an “Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy” in the Roman Catholic Church. When we were praying at Word of Life for the new year to be marked by mercy, we weren’t thinking about the Pope’s decree; but I would like to think we are all being led by the same spirit. Perhaps the Holy Spirit really is saying something to the church about modeling mercy in 2016.

While we were praying I felt drawn to the words of James. As the first bishop of Jerusalem, James (the brother of Jesus) was the first pastor of the first church. That seems significant. At the end of the third chapter of his epistle, James exhorts the church with words like these…

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it in the meekness of wisdom.
If you harbor bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it.
Do not be false to the truth.
Jealousy and selfishness are not from above, but are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
The wisdom from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, and full of mercy.
A harvest of justice is sown in peace by the those who make peace.

And in the second chapter of his epistle, the wise bishop famously says…

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Maybe that could be our mantra in 2016 — “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
So in 2016 I’m praying the church will be more marked by mercy and less characterized by judgment.

I’m praying that we will walk the world as the pardon of God, instead of acting like the wagging finger of God.

I’m praying that when mean-spiritedness and scapegoating reach a fever pitch later this year (as it will), that the church will be a haven of mercy and a sanctuary of peace.
Most of all I am praying that I would live as an answer to my own prayer.

Perhaps you will pray this too.
The post Marked by Mercy in 2016 appeared first on Brian Zahnd.