Peter

The Power of Hope and the Rising Suns

The Power of Hope and the Rising Suns

The Suns currently sit at dead last in the Western conference at 17-55. They are a full 12 games behind the next worst teams, the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, and 24.5 games (count ‘em!) out of playoff contention. They are in a fierce competition with the Knicks and Cavaliers to finish in last place. If they finished in last place in the entire league that would be their third year in a row finishing in last (four years ago, they finished second to last! Woo!). It’s not been a fun run as a Suns fan.

Between 2006-2010, the Suns appeared in the Western Conference finals three times, tantalizingly close to an elusive NBA championship. For the past nine seasons the team has slid further and further into the abyss with only one season where we won more games than we lost in that span. Our best players over that nine year stretch were such NBA legends as Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic, and Eric Bledsoe (my tongue is firmly in cheek). We weren’t just bad; we were bad and our future was bleak.

But this year is different.

We’re every bit as bad as we’ve been the past three years, maybe worse, but this year we have hope. We have one of the best young players in the NBA: 22 year old Devin Booker[i], and the first pick of last year’s draft: 20 year old DeAndre Ayton, who has impressed in his first year.  We’ve actually gotten better as the year has gone on and we’ve even won 6 of our last 10 games (meaning a third of our victories have come in the last three weeks). And hey! We’re going to get yet another high draft pick!

You see, it’s not so bad to be awful if there is hope. You can endure a lot as a fan if you think that things are going to get better.

That’s a lot like life, isn’t it?

Nonviolence and the Christian: But What about the Swords?

Nonviolence and the Christian: But What about the Swords?

The strongest counter to my argument that the Bible teaches an ethic that disallows us from taking another person’s life, even in the defense of oneself or another, is found in the episode about buying swords that several mentioned. I am going to push pause and answer that question about the interaction in Luke 22 as best as I can before finishing our series next week addressing the question of violence and the military.

The exchange between Jesus and his disciples happens right after the Last Supper and before Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives (and is subsequently arrested by the Roman cohort).

And [Jesus] said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They [the disciples] said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”[i]

This is the clearest biblical text that supports self-defense.[ii] It seems pretty cut and dry. Jesus tells his disciples to buy swords. So, how would I interpret this text?

6 Ways a Leader Needs to Respond to a Departing Congregant

6 Ways a Leader Needs to Respond to a Departing Congregant

I sat across the room from the couple, trying to slow down my mind and open my heart to the criticism they were leveling at me. They had been offended by my sermon and had reacted on Facebook, indicating they were leaving the church. I reached out privately and asked if we could meet to talk. They agreed to do so. When we met, he was relatively calm, but she was very upset and I knew that I needed to hold my own emotions in check to be able to listen to the heart of what she was saying and respond in love, not hurt. As I had prayed to prepare for the meeting I genuinely didn’t think I was going to be able to ask for forgiveness for anything as I didn’t think I had done anything wrong. But in the midst of the meeting God opened my heart to see an area of blindness. I was able to ask and receive their forgiveness for the way this blind spot had injured them. I then asked if they would be willing to ask for forgiveness for their slander. They were willing to do so and I forgave them.

These are not the meetings that you think about when you sign up to be a pastor or leader, but there are few moments more important in your ministry than these tense conversations.

Two friends have responded to my series on leaving and finding a church with questions about a pastor’s responsibility in the midst of church departures. It’s a fair and helpful question. Over the course of this series I’ve reflected on a congregant’s responsibility, but pastors and leaders bear a responsibility to help congregants navigate departures well.