Category: justice

God’s Justice {A Bible Review}

Last year Jake and I attended the Justice Conference in Chicago for our 10 year wedding anniversary. This is where I first learned about this justice-oriented, soon-to-be released study Bible, God’s Justice: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil.

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This NIV (2011) study Bible was written by an international team of scholars (headed up by  Tim Stafford, Senior Writer for Christianity Today) that aims to help readers to recognize the theme of God’s justice woven throughout the entire Bible. Each book starts with an introduction, and study notes are provided throughout each book, adding a scholar’s commentary surrounding the various justice themes.

The contributors to this study Bible care about helping readers understand that each part of the Scriptures is written differently and hence needs to be read and studied differently. First Samuel should be read in a different way than Isaiah or Revelation. While many of us love the Scriptures and desire to read and respond to the Scriptures faithfully, most of us aren’t equipped with the necessary tools we need to read without unknowingly misunderstanding or distorting the text. (more…)

How to Be an Ally

 

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One of the things we talk about with our kids repeatedly is the importance of being a good friend to others. One slice of being a good friend means reaching out to those who are looking for a friend and being kind to those who others are not kind to.

If someone is being bullied on the playground, we tell them that it’s their special job to be a good friend. We talk about what it may feel like to be excluded or to feel lonely. While each of our kids has a different level of empathy, compassion, and courage to reach out on a consistent basis, in general I think they are the kind of kids that look out for others.

We also want them to be in a habit of standing up against bullies– not only for themselves- but for others around them as well. We talk about how this might look like speaking up when others are name-calling. Or if they see another kid getting kicked or hit, they would intervene with words, and if that doesn’t work, to tell an adult in charge. We talk about how all kids deserve respect and kindness simply because they are humans. Our school calls this being an ally.

I also think being an ally is a part of Kingdom-living. (more…)

Who is my neighbor?

I get the fear.

It’s scary to think that someone could destroy a hundred or a thousand peoples’ lives in one second. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. I would do anything in my power to save people from that.

And that is what is happening in Syria. Hundreds and thousands of peoples’ lives are being destroyed, so they are fleeing.

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Courageous men are taking their sweet wives and children and fleeing.

Single men who have hope and visions for a future are fleeing.

Mourning women whose husbands have already died are fleeing.

Scared children who have no parents are fleeing.

These vulnerable people are at the mercy of their global neighbors. They are fleeing and asking for help.

Who will say yes? Who will love their neighbor?

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“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.””

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Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

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In college, my friends and I travelled to Oklahoma a couple times for a college missions conference. It was here that we prayed for the nations, where we heard courageous stories from missionaries who were serving and loving Muslims in closed countries. We heard about dreams and miracles and people coming to Christ. Lives changed. Our prayer was that more people would be able to go and share the good news. Here we are! Send us! 

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Many of those we have been praying for are now asking to come into our country. They’re asking to settle into our neighborhoods- they’re asking to be our local neighbors. They’re asking for food and shelter and an opportunity to flee from danger. The ones we’ve been praying for- they’re here. But we’re afraid. So we tell them to go away. Go somewhere else. We’re not willing to help you. We have a life here that’s good and we don’t want that messed up. But be blessed- we hope you will be well-fed and clothed.

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 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. -James 2:14-17

 

It’s time, Church. It’s time to step up and to do the right thing even if we’re afraid. It’s time to say yes even while we’re still nervous and wondering. The fear is going to be there for awhile, trust me, but it’s only going to go away by continuing to say yes, by continuing to read these passages of Scripture, by turning off the fear-mongering media channels, by praying, by reaching to the refugees IN YOUR CITY and getting to know someone who has had to flee.

 

Note: the picture above was NOT taken in Syria, but in Turkey. While in Turkey, we met many people from all over- Iraq, Iran, and Syria. This is as close as I’ve been, so I choose to use this picture to share my affinity for the people groups that the Syrian refugees represent.

Top 8 Reasons the Justice Conference Was Fantastic

Jake and I celebrated 10 years of marriage this past weekend by heading to the Windy City for The Justice Conference 2015. We had a fantastic time! Here’s why:

1. Chicago

I LOVE Chicago. Great people, great artists, great ideas. We stayed at the HI Chicago and it was a GREAT experience. I was a little unsure about hosteling, but now I wonder if I’ll ever NOT do it, given the option. The accommodations were clean, the people were friendly and interesting, and the location was PERFECT. We literally walked across the street to go to the conference.

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2. The Auditorium Theater

The Justice Conference took place in the Auditorium Theater- it is GORGEOUS! Every seat was a good one, and I thought it was so cool that some people could watch it all from little side boxes- ha (excuse Jake’s blurry face in the pic below, and look at those seats- so romantic :))! For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Auditorium Theater is just a couple block walk from Lake Michigan, and very near Millennium Park, which was a great place to walk around during the breaks.

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3.  The Expo

Across the street from the Auditorium, they had an Expo with a bunch of organizations and publishers represented. I was like a kid in the candy store with all of those publishers in ONE PLACE and selling books at a discounted price. IVP took most of my money (thank you very much!). A couple organizations represented that we particularly enjoyed talking with:

Plough Publishers: A publishing house from upstate New York, the woman at the table were so fantastic to talk with. This group has a deep commitment to resources that encourage people to put their faith in action, specifically in the areas of peacemaking, forgiveness, christian discipleship, the valuing of children, environmental consciousness, etc. As a bonus, they were giving away free books (I think the only one there at the conference doing so!).

Micah Challenge: I have come to really love this organization. I reviewed a book they just put out a few months ago, which was a must-have because it was SO PRACTICAL. So sure, perhaps we aren’t going to lobby in Congress or go to Palestine, but there are so many things that we can do in our daily lives that help make the world more just. I had a great discussion with a guy at the booth who explained about some legislature that Congress passed several years ago that isn’t being followed yet. It was a fascinating to hear about the process of going to Obama’s office, talking to his staff, giving signatures, etc. This is an organization making things happen in the name of Jesus.

4. Diversity of Speakers

I have been to quite a few conferences, and despite peoples’ (so-called) best efforts, I can almost guarantee that there will be 90% white men speaking, with 1 token woman (normally being interviewed), and 1 token minority. This conference was different. People from all different backgrounds were speaking or being interviewed on stage and IT WAS SO REFRESHING. I have a whole new group of amazing men and women to learn from and follow on social media. I feel sad that I’m just hearing about them now! Just to name a few: Eugene Cho, Soong-Chan Rah, Austin Channing, Rev Traci Blackmon, and Gabriel Salguero.

5. Worship (through music and poetry) Sessions

We were led in worship by a wide variety of people– Micah Bournes, Malcolm London, David Crowder, Rend Collective and a fantastic worship band (David Bailey, Angie Wong, and a few others– those of you who were there- help me out!). We even sang a song in Spanish and Urdu which I thought was really meaningful. I’d love to do that more often!

6. Hard Conversations

The topic of racial inequality and white privilege (or white supremacy) was a big topic discussed, preached on, and expressed through poetry and art. I learned a lot, was able to confront some of my own biases, and was reminded how much I’m unaware of a reality that exists for so many people. My toes got stepped on a little, and while I didnt agree with every word said about it, it was a great chance to listen and learn from people from different perspectives.

7. A Like-Minded Community

While I’m sure we were all different in a lot of ways, we all love Jesus and feel a deep commitment to loving our neighbors, both here and far, in ways that cause us to suffer and to sacrifice. As Dr. Cornel West said, “To love is to learn how to die.” It was great to be reminded that there are many others who see the essentialness of justice to the Gospel, and who aren’t so caught up in pursuing the American Dream that they lose sight of the call to love the marginalized. It reminds me that I’m not crazy. A girl needs that reminder every now and then.

8. Amena Brown Owen

If I ever have a conference (I mean, just pretend with me), this lady is at the top of my list to ask to host. Amena is a beautiful woman who is real, funny, and a little bit sassy. She was the perfect host for this conference!!

My main takeaway from this conference is that my necessary next step is to get serious about surrounding myself with other voices, voices that aren’t white men and women. I bought a couple books there that will start me in on the process, but I’m also subscribing to a few new blogs (and unsubscribing to others). In a week we’ll be having our next Racial Bridges study here in Madison, which is where the real life community discussion and movement is happening. I’ve learned a lot over the past couple years and commit to learning more from others who don’t look or sound or worship like me.

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If you’re interested about next year’s conference, check out their website or follow Justice Conference on FB And Twitter.

 

Book Review: Live Just.ly

Sometimes I struggle with knowing what I ought to do and then doing it.

And sometimes I struggle with wanting to live a certain way, but not knowing how to do it exactly.

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Live Just.ly is a new book created by Micah Challenge to help people figure out what it means to live justly. Written in a concise, straightforward format, Life Just.ly brings together many voices to get people talking about what it looks like to live a lifestyle of God-centered justice. They focus on five areas of life: advocacy, prayer, consumption, generosity, relationships, and creation care. In each of these areas, readers are challenged to thinking deeply about what living rightly in these areas looks like and then take action as a group as well as individual. The editors use stories, Scripture, discussion questions, online videos, prayer, and projects to help readers deeply engage in the material. It’s written in such a way that if taken seriously, transformation will happen when going through this study.

I love that this book gives you the tools you need to put into practice what you’re reading about. They offer solo work ideas, as well as group activities to cement the principles that the group is wrestling with and learning.

One chapter that is particularly challenging to me is the one about consumption. I’ve talked before about some of my thoughts on our culture’s idea of simplicity (so popular! so great! own less but you end up consuming more!). I care about this a lot because this is a place where i need to grow.  I know what I ought to do, and while I’ve taken some baby steps, I am mostly still figuring out HOW to do it.

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Take chocolate, for instance. I KNOW about the child-slavery that takes place so that I can eat a (now Hershey) “cadbury” egg. The real Cadbury egg IS fair trade, but now that the British aren’t exporting it over to the U.S. and Hershey is taking over the Cadbury egg, I’m faced with a dilemma. At first I thought, okay, I will just not eat cadbury eggs. Easy decision. But then, after some mental gymnastics, I decided, you know what- I want the cadbury egg. Me not buying it isn’t going to affect the market at all, so why shouldn’t I enjoy the cadbury egg? IT’S JUST A CADBURY EGG!

But, the deeper reality is this: I KNOW that children are in slavery so that I can eat a cadbury egg. And I’m choosing to participate. Sure, I’m not setting their work rules and regulations. But, I’m participating by buying unfair products. I’m knowingly participating in injustice because I’m far removed from it.

We all know that it’s not just about that foil-wrapped, chocolatey goodness with an oozy sugary center. It’s about cheap products. How do we get a good deal on cheap products? Well, the store is still making money. The one who is getting the short end of the stick is the one who is making the product.

“But my budget is tight!”

Oh I feel you. As a perpetual student-family, I get that. I’m there. That’s EXACTLY why it’s so hard.

If I buy cheap, unfair products, then I get to buy more of other things. My kids get to do fun things. They get more stuff (albeit cheaper). Not even an excessive amount of stuff, but just normal amount of stuff.

If I change my buying habits, then that means I’ll be paying MORE for my purchases, and I’ll have to buy LESS of them.

So, perhaps I buy fair-trade/slave-free chocolate. It’s more expensive. I think I’ll have to make cookies less often, but when I DO make the cookies, they’ll be cookies that are created justly.  Perhaps I stop buying my clothes at stores that have bad records, and instead, pay more money for my clothes and just buy LESS of them.

These are often not easy decisions for me. I LOVE “getting the good deal.” But, I have to reframe that in my mind– whose “good deal” am I getting?

All that to say, this book is an excellent resource for someone who is looking to really live more justly. It’s an uncomfortable read, but not because the authors use any shame language or “oughts” and “shoulds” (not at all!). This book is uncomfortable because it challenges our assumptions, our understandings of God’s character and values, and also reveals some of ways that we unknowingly participate in injustice.

Thanks to Micah Challenge for sending me this book in exchange for a free copy. I’m so thankful to be helping you share this really important challenge! 

p.s. For any of my British readers, PLEASE SEND ME A REAL CADBURY EGG!!!!!!

Book Review: The Grand Paradox

Last week I mentioned that Jake and I will be going to the upcoming Justice Conference in June, and one of the organizers of this great conference is Ken Wytsma, Wytsma recently published a book called The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God, and the Necessity of Faith and in it, he aims to help readers understand that while life is messy and God often works in ways we don’t understand, He is not absent. He is real, He is close, and He cares about our lives.

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More than that, Wytsma encourages and exhorts us to live faithfully while yet recognizing that “faith is often characterized less by clarity than by confusion” (p xx). He says in his introduction:

This book is an exploration of the art of living by faith. It is a book for all those wrestling with the paradoxes that confront those who seek to walk with Christ. It is a look at how faith works, here and now, in our culture, our time– and how to put down real roots and flourish in the midst of our messy lives.” (p. xxi)

Here’s the reality of faith. It’s a constant tension. And one of the essential parts of life, according to Henri Nouwen, is to “‘live the questions’ faith engenders” (p. 13). Wytsma walks us through some of those questions that faith engenders, not giving us answers, but leaving the tension right where it is. Instead of reliving the tension, he encourages a faithful, clear-headed living response to the questions that exist.

  • How do I pray? And how do I hear from God?
  • What is God up to?
  • How do I pursue God in the midst of doubt?
  • What IS faith?
  • Life is messy and hard. How do I live faithfully in the midst of all of that?
  • What is God’s calling on my life?

One chapter of the book in particular, A World Made Right, resonated with me. In it, Wytsma is discussing the elusive “God’s Will” questions. What is God up to? What is my role in it? He addresses the individualism of that question (spot on) and then he discusses God’s general will that is outlined in Scripture in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus: to make the world right, restoring creation to be in a right relationship with God–Righteousness, if you will, which is synonymous with justice (actually, it’s the same word in the Greek, just translated differently in our English Bibles). So, while all of that was not new to me, what he said about living a life of justice really shook me awake:

There’s some bad news involved in discovering what God is up to. Engaging in justice- and especially, seeking to redress injustice- is not the shortest route to fulfilling the American Dream.

While I definitely don’t verbally aspire to the American Dream (in fact, I am sometimes adamant that I don’t), I certainly slip into living like I do without even realizing it. My mind and heart sometimes gets too focused on my bucket lists, the dreams and goals of how I want God to work in me and through me (mostly in ways that are comfortable), but I was reminded that sometimes it’s those very goals and dreams that can keep me (us) from fully realizing my (our) participation in God’s setting right of brokenness in this world. 

Sometimes dreams or overly defined life goals can get in the way of God’s plans. Certainly, God can use goals, and often does, but we always have to hold them in loose hands, recognizing that God could want us to head a different direction, or stop short of reaching a goal, or do something that would make all our dreams and goals unattainable because of how God chooses to use us.

I think why I really like this book is because Wytsma addresses these messy paradoxes of faith through the lens of justice, which just makes the most sense to me. He takes the focus off of the individual’s importance and their “key role” in all of it and brings a sense of humility to the conversation. I think this book is written out of an incredibly healthy place and would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to readdress some of the key questions of faith through a less “me” centered perspective (while also honoring the beauty of the individual reading it).

Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! 

I’m linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s “What I’ve Been Readlng Lately”

How We Will be Celebrating 10 Years of Marriage

Jake and I finally nailed down where we’re headed for our 10 year wedding anniversary.

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Not Paris (been there, done that ;)).

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Not back to Kenya (I wish).

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Not a cruise in the Bahamas (although that was my choice #2- ha!).

Nope, we are headed to Chicago for the Justice Conference 2015! While it may seem like an odd way to spend celebrating 10 years of marriage (and boy do we have a lot to celebrate!), we decided what better way is there than spending a weekend focusing on reorienting and reenergizing ourselves towards gospel-centered justice? The perfect nightcap to a decade of marriage.

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Jake and I sometimes remember (in the car on long trips after the kids have fallen asleep is when this kind of conversation typically comes up) a very specific conversation we had before getting married (or maybe right after) in which we vowed that we would never become the couple whose faith lived out means just comfortably teaching a sunday school class every Sunday.

Friends, we don’t even teach a Sunday school class.

And in many ways, we laugh because we couldn’t even imagine then what we know now about where our lives were headed. We’ve travelled the globe (but mostly the U.S.) for advanced degrees, we’ve had lots of kids, we’ve jumped in and out of a lot of various projects, lending a hand in ways that have been very ordinary and quite simple. We know now that to choose one thing means not choosing another. And for the most part, we’re happy about what we’ve said yes to and making peace with those things to which we’ve said no.

But after we laugh together, we quietly look back out the car window, deep in thought. I think both of us feel that twinge of regret over the tiredness, the lack of big opportunities, the routine, the distractions. Our minds wander to the “what if…?” and “should we be ….?” and “God, what’s next for us?” We silently reflect and pray until the sounds of a restless child needing a pillow or water or a comforting hand interrupt our thoughts and bring us back to our very present (and good) reality.

So, instead of laying on the beach of some warm sandy island with cold drinks and good books in our hands (I wonder if the Justice Conference gives refunds…), we’ll be sitting in the beautiful Auditorium Theater on June 5th and 6th, listening to some dynamic speakers recast vision for our lives -to be consistently oriented towards seeking God and living out faithful righteous (justice!) lives. The speaker line-up looks amazing: Dr. Cornel West, Eugene Cho, Lynne Hybels, Amena Brown, Bob Goff, and more. I’m excited about using this time to prayerfully dream toward the next 10 years.

Here’s to many more decades of living out lives that are oriented towards love, justice, and hope. Anyone wanna meet us for dinner on the 5th? 🙂

Chicago MP Prop Video from The Justice Conference on Vimeo.

Book Review: Miss Brenda and the Loveladies

I’m trying out a new book review format… let me know what you think!

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Title: Miss Brenda and the Loveladies

Author: Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell

What’s this book about? 

This is a story about a woman (Brenda) who finds herself too close for comfort to landing in a prison cell, and how God used this to open her eyes to a totally forgotten group of people. What does it look like to serve them, love them, know them, help them? Brenda is a woman of courage, determination, and love– she used her resources, passion, and time to establish the Lovelady Center, which is today the largest nonprofit transitional center for women. This book tells of Brenda’s crazy adventures, mistakes, fears, and successes as God used Brenda and many others to build this incredible center. The story takes place in Birmingham, Alabama, and is hence rich with southern culture. I laughed. I cried. I got angry. I read it in less than a week. 🙂

Why did I choose to read this book?

Love the widow. Yes.

Love the orphaned. Yep.

Care for the poor. Mmhmm.

To be honest, my heart doesn’t race when I heard about prison ministries. It’s not really of interest to me, so I decided that perhaps it is because I haven’t been exposed to the realities of being in prison and I don’t know people who are trying to figure out how to successfully enter the “real world” upon release. I wanted my heart to soften for this group of people.

My Takeaway:

God deeply loves those whom have been imprisoned. Unfortunately, America hasn’t aced the rehabilitation process, so many ex-convicts find themselves back in the place where their crimes were initially committed…and then quickly find themselves back in prison. These women (and men) need the hope of the gospel. Their children children and family members who are hurting need the hope of the gospel. Many of the crimes are drug-related, and often times the drugs were initially used to try to make them feel better- to forget about the past filled with abuse, neglect, and dysfunctional families. Not only do this group of people need to experience God’s love, but they also need access to practical tools that will help them as they learn to be a part of society again.

Questions I’m now asking:

What is our responsibility to the prisoner? The post-prisoner? How can we creatively serve this group of people?

Where can you go to learn more?

The Lovelady Center website

Miss Brenda and the Love Ladies on Facebook

Prison Fellowship Ministry

Celebrate Recovery

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

All opinions are mine. 

Review: Strangers at My Door- An Experiment in Radical Hospitality

Every now and then I read a book that I can’t put down. The stories not only capture my full attention, but I’m left thinking about the characters long after the book is over. Strangers at my Door: An Experiment in Radical Hospitality, written by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, is a book that sucked me into the beautiful mess of living in a hospitality house.

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For those unfamiliar with that term, hospitality houses are homes that always have open doors for whoever may need it. There are people in these homes who are long-term community members, but they also have people who come and go. The purpose of the hospitality house is to welcome the stranger, just as Jesus welcomed us. For many, this sounds like an awful, terrifying idea. It goes against everything we believe in- what about the issues of safety and privacy and nuclear family , etc etc? In this book, Jonathan talks about some of those through the stories of people and situations that he has experienced in the hospitality house that he started in Durham, North Carolina.

More than this, however, he tells the stories of the strangers who have taught him more about God than what he could have learned by sitting through a sermon or listening to a podcast of a great preacher. He tells stories of the strangers who have turned into close friends and second family. How does a Washington-bound twenty-something end up raising a small family in a house full of people who are very unlike him?

Jonathan also does a fantastic job of weaving the theological foundation of welcoming the stranger throughout this book. The book is more than stories in that way that it makes the reader confront his or her thoughts and feelings towards the type of hospitality that goes beyond the idea of inviting a new family in the neighborhood over for pot roast. It’s a challenging book in that way.

I’ve always been really interested in learning more about how some of these new monastic communities have started, and what they are actually like (instead of what they are designed to be like). Jake and I have lived in community-ish settings a time or two, and have experienced the ups and downs. We know that it is so not easy, but that it is also so rewarding at times. I enjoyed reading about someone elses’ experiences too.

Take a look at this book trailer for more: www.jonathanwilsonhartgrove.com

Strangers at my Door releases on November 5th, but you can pre-order on amazon.com!

 

Thank you Jonathan and Blogging for Books for providing a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Jonathan, I am encouraged by you and your community. The Kingdom of God is being built little-by-little through each one of you. Thanks to all of you for sharing!

Review: Pursuing Justice- The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things

I am really looking forward to The Justice Conference, coming to Philadelphia next weekend. Eastern University is one of the hosts, and since I work at Eastern, I get to volunteer! I’m excited to not only do my little part in making this all happen, but also to get to rub shoulders with some fantastic people.

A month or two ago, the creator of the conference, Ken Wytsma, came to campus to talk about The Justice Conference to anyone interested. I decided to take my lunch off and go hear what he had to say. I was so glad that I did. Ken is incredibly down-to-earth, “normal”, theologically grounded and interested in helping each and every person to pursue justice in their everyday life. Something else that struck me was that Ken and his family are able to pursue justice even though they are a family of 6 (mom, dad, and 4 girls). I think sometimes Jake and I feel “stuck” (How can we pursue justice? Our lives are full of work and parenting!), but I was reminded of something I already knew deep inside– we’re not stuck. Everyone can pursue justice.

PursuingJustice_004sm-653x434When given the opportunity to review his new book, Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things, I was open to hear what he had to say. I knew that one of his goals is to help conservatives, liberals, and everywhere inbetween see and understand how justice is a call for every believer, and how justice is ROOTED in the gospel story.

As to defining justice, while there are many facets and a broad definition in one sense, a simplified version is that justice is what ought to be. “Justice involves harmony, flourishing, and fairness, and it is based on the image of God in every person- the Imago Dei- that grants all people inalienable dignity and infinite worth” (p. 9). He also relates justice to righting the wrongs that sin creates.

Depending what circles one runs in, “justice” can be primarily talked about when it comes to the part of God’s nature that demands payment for sin. One may hear something like: “God is just, so he couldn’t just let our sin go unpunished. It was God’s mercy that put Jesus on the cross instead of us, and paid for our sin.” And that’s the end. But, our justification is only a part of the gospel story. This is part one of, say, three acts. The other two- sanctification (becoming more like Jesus) and glorification (being made like Jesus in heaven) also have elements of justice to them, because God is a just God. He is making things right. And after we are justified (part I), we are being invited to become like him, i.e. making things right too. What I consider to be my life verse (and I guess in many ways was Jesus’ too), is Isaiah 61, and it illustrates Jesus’ mission, and hence our mission on earth. It’s filled with justice language!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Ken does a fantastic job of theologizing (in a meaningful, yet easy to understand way) about justice, as well as helping us to explore our various biases, misunderstandings, and emotional “stuff” that muddles or stands in the way of understanding justice and how we are to be participating with God in the making right of things around us.

This is book is definitely going to be on my list of “must reads” for all believers, especially when I’m meeting with others and teaching about justice in general (and social justice in particular). Ken’s language is accessible and he does a good job of pulling in a diversity of sources to illustrate his ideas.

I’ll probably have a post or two more surrounding some of the points he brings up in the book. It’s a lot to process in one reading, and promises a rich re-reading as well. I think this would be a great book to have a series of discussions around– lots to talk about, some things to disagree about, and a lot of things to live out. With a skilled discussion leader, one could bring in some other resources to foster some incredible dialogue that both challenges and encourages the participants.

Thanks to Ken for writing such a good book!