Eric Bryant love. serve. influence. 2017-08-17T21:40:19Z http://www.ericbryant.org/feed/atom/ WordPress Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[Stand Together Against Racism]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15294 2017-08-17T21:37:20Z 2017-08-17T21:26:50Z

When things seem to be spiraling out of control, what can we do?

Jon Eng and I have teamed together over the past year at Gateway South, and it’s been a joy! Ministry with each other has allowed us to engage God’s heart for reconciliation and justice in the context of our relationship. In response to God’s heart for all people, we’ve gotten together to co-write some next steps to help you serve one another as we stand against racism.

In each campus this past Sunday, we prayed for peace and acknowledged our desire for reconciliation and justice in our land.
(See Justin McCarty at Gateway North Austin on 8/13)

Gateway is committed to stand against racism.

One of our most faithful leaders who is an African American woman confessed how much she needed that moment because the last year has been emotionally tough for her in ways she did not expect.

If you are a white American who wants to be engaged in creating a better future but don’t know what to do, here are 5 ways you can begin to serve people of color (POC)as we move towards unity:

Ask Permission:

Talking about race can be awkward. Many of us want to serve our friends who are POC, but we may not know how to quite engage. A good place to start is to ask for permission to enter into their stories.

Say: “This past weekend’s racism in Charlottesville was difficult for me to watch. Would it be okay for me to ask how you’re doing?”

Follow the person’s lead as they respond to you. Some may not be ready or may not want to share with you about the pain they are experiencing. That’s okay. It’s important to respect that space.

Express Value:

However your friends may respond to you, express your gratefulness for their presence and being.

Say: “I just wanted to let you know that you’re valued in my life.”

Avoid Judgment:

If someone opens up to you, reserve your judgment. Avoid giving advice, and instead, choose to listen and affirm.

Say: “That must be so difficult. I may not completely understand where you’re coming from, but thanks for sharing with me.”

Grow in your awareness:

When living in a predominantly white majority context, it can be easy to forget that what’s culturally normative for you may be abnormal for others. We may not even recognize the more subtle forms of racism or prejudice around us. All of us have blindspots, and it’s important to become aware of them. As you serve your friends, be willing to question your own worldview.

Say: “I want to learn more about your experience. Would you be willing to share more about _____? Can you point me to a couple resources that could help me to better understand?”

Actively resist racism:

When you see racism, bias, prejudice, or injustice unfolding in your community – whether it be in the grocery store, your life group, or at your child’s school – speak up and advocate on behalf of people of color. Your voice carries a different weight than a POC’s, and for our communities to move forward, it is important for you to exercise it.

Ready for More?

1. Part of Gateway? Join our Reconciliation Network:

This Sunday (8/20) at 12:30 pm, we will be gathering at Room S2 of Gateway South to pray and explore next steps. Please consider joining us! As we stand together against racism, we invite you to join us. We recognize that for our community to move forward in unity, we need to engage in the work of truth-telling and reconciliation. Calling out racism and white supremacy as evil is only one step. For us to become the kind of community that truly welcomes and values all, each of us are invited take steps to serve one another. If you cannot make it Sunday, but want to get involved contact Jonathan.Eng@gatewaychurch.com.

2. Are You A Church Leader in Austin?

Join us for the Better Together Racial Reconciliation Conference on 8/26

This Conference is to empower MEN, WOMEN, and YOUTH through the message of Reconciliation. The Gospel reconciles us first to our Lord Jesus Christ, then in our marriage/family, and finally throughout the body of Christ (Church) and into our Communities (neighborhood, work, school, etc.). Our families, churches, and communities have been divided for too long with discord, divorce, discouragement, competition, racism, social economic status differences and more! There is a dying world out there, that needs God’s true love. It is time to equip and empower the people with the message and tools to make lasting and healthy relationships that enable us to truly “love thy neighbor”.

3. Are you a Follower of Jesus Who Wants More Resources on Creating a Diverse Community?

If so, check out these resources:

The Bridge to Racial Unity Discussion Guide by Latasha Morrison of Be the Bridge

Creating a Diverse Community (article for leaders)

Coming Sept. 2017 – Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence Our Divided World – updated 10th anniversary edition!

 

Photo by: Julia Rendleman/AP

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Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[Mountains Still Move by Melissa Fisher]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15278 2017-08-09T23:37:00Z 2017-08-04T14:00:56Z

At Gateway Church in Austin, we are hearing from authors this month in our series called Voices.

Melissa Fisher spoke about moving mountains.

Check out the NEXT STEPS to apply the message to your life. This is great material for conversations at the dinner table with your roommates, family, or with your life group.

Here is the video from the message from Melissa:

Here are the notes from the message from Melissa:

All of us have horrible moments.  Those moments when you go “Uh-oh”.  I am in trouble….

For me, one of my big moments of trouble happened in July of 2009 when I hit that rock bottom and a couple weeks later I walked into Gateway for the first time. The first time I sat in these seats I sat in the center section, aisle seat, a couple of rows from the back.  My trouble had me walking in angry, defensive, full of shame, guilt, and pain.  Some of you get those emotions cause you’ve walked in here with your own trouble.  Like this immovable mountain of trouble just parked itself in the middle of your life and you don’t know how to get around it or get through it.  

I walked in the doors of Gateway with a big mountain of trouble and I doubted that church was a safe place for me. I was worried that you “church people” would judge me for what I was walking in with.  I just want you to know if that is you…wondering if we might kick you out because your mountain is too big or too this or that, please know you are welcome just as you are.  You and your mountains are welcome here regardless of what they are.

I wasn’t sure of that one when I walked in here though.  You see…I walked in with mountains most churches don’t really welcome. My big mountain? Let’s label it “Sexuality”.

Yes, I walked in having previously lived a life as straight.  Then confused.  Then gay.  Then in a same-sex marriage.  Then single. Hurting.  Lost.  Confused.  No matter how I tried to tackle this sexuality mountain I couldn’t find peace or lasting happiness. Real joy.

In the past 8 years, I’ve seen this sexuality mountain get moved.  If you want to know all the exciting details of how, I’ve written about it in my book, “The Way of Hope”. 

But I know some of you here are like “great, so glad for you….Your big mountain got moved.  But what about my life?”  Which I am so glad you brought that up because I have a question for you….what about YOUR life?  What mountain is in your life that you’d like to see God move?

What’s Your Mountain?

Take a second to name it.  Maybe write it down.  Text it to yourself.  Whisper it out loud.  

Whatever it is.   A disease.  Health.  Loneliness.  Finances.  A child.  Needing a healthy friend.  A mountain of grief from a loved one?  Your anger issue.  Drinking.  Sex.  Drugs….

There may be a seemingly hopeless mountain is in your life but let me take you to a story in the Bible. It’s a story told three different places in scripture….by three writers in the New Testament.  Their names were Matthew, Mark, and Luke. For those of you new to the Bible, all three were disciples of Jesus and they each saw this story unfold and thought it was so important that they all shared about it in their gospel writing.  The story is found in Matthew 17, Mark 9:, and Luke 9:.  I’m gonna pull some verses from all three so you can catch the full picture of the story.  

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”   Matthew 17:14-16

So, before we go any further….let’s pause and grasp this man’s situation and mountain….we learn that the mountain is his son’s health.  Not only is it his son, but we learn from Luke it’s his only child.  And from reading all three gospels we learn he has been suffering for years….And it’s not just seizures.  But…he screams, convulses and foams at the mouth.  He can’t speak.  He has no body control as his issues cause him to fall into water or fire.  And it’s destroying his son.  Which I can only imagine is destroying him. And notice again how long that mountain has been there?  YEARS….So a hurting child was the man’s mountain.  What’s your mountain again?

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

Do you notice that?  Freedom?  That means freedom from mountains…big or small….” But that’s not all the verse says…The Apostle Paul gives us an answer as to how to live free….

Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Gal 5:1

Now some of you are thinking….well, MY mountain is different.  My mountain IS TOO big.  It can’t be moved.  The doctor said this.  Or I’ve tried that.  Or my mountain is too that.  It CAN’T be moved.  This brings up my next point…

Turn your Can’t into a Can.

What I mean is that Jesus CAN move ANY mountain.  No, this isn’t prosperity gospel preaching.  I’m not gonna tell you to name it and claim it.  This is reality gospel preaching.  And the reality of the Christian faith is sometimes hard.  God allows mountains to stay in our lives longer than we’d like.  At least I know he has in mine.  But one thing I’ve come to learn….He lets external mountains stay in order to move our internal ones. And I hear some of you right now saying, “you don’t get it, this mountain has shattered my heart”.  And maybe that’s what your mountain is.  Your broken heart.  You carry a grief and a sadness that you have no idea how to handle.   But Jesus does.  That’s why he came.  We learn this in Luke when Jesus…went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. Luke 4:16

They had in their synagogues seven readers every sabbath, the first a priest, the second a Levite, and the other five Israelites of that synagogue. He stood up to read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”   Luke 4:18-21

Today as you read these words I pray that they once again are fulfilled as you hear….

That there is good news for the poor.

There is freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

Also, a binding up the brokenhearted

Comfort all who mourn

For those who grieve….A crown of beauty instead of ashes

Oil of gladness instead of mourning

Garment of Praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That’s great..….but how? Glad you asked.

Three things we can learn from our story in Matthew 17 you need to move a mountain.  

#1.  Humility

Notice how the man approaches Jesus.  Reread verse 16.

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. Matt 17:14

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  The Father’s “I Can’t” made way for God’s “I can.” Your “I can’t” makes way for His “I can.” Humility starts mountains moving.

#2.  Do the Work.

He responds to the man in verse 17 saying….

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Matt 17:17

Yes, Jesus’ words are a little harsh here.  But notice who He is calling unbelieving and perverse…the generation.  The culture and crowd.  Not the man.  

He simply makes a request of the man. Which is work.   

The man physically goes to the disciples.  Then he runs to Jesus.  Then he kneels down before Jesus. Then he gets up to go get the boy. Which brings me to an important point.  You see every mountain moving miracle I can think of in Scripture involved someone physically doing something when Jesus asked.  But often times we just sit by our mountain.  Play the victim.  Feel sorry for ourselves.  And when we hear or feel a nudge, we burrow in more comfortably and say, NOPE.  I am staying right here.  

Which sets us up for the next realm we have to do work in….Mental realm.  We have thoughts.  Scripture says we are to take those captive.  To work on making our thoughts match God’s thoughts about himself, about us, about each other…And can you imagine this man’s thoughts that went through his head when the disciples couldn’t heal him?  How many times did he have to push away the lie that this is hopeless?  

And not only his thoughts…but can you imagine the emotions this man had felt?  Because we are emotional beings.  Emotions are meant to move too and often times they are what can keep a mountain stuck.  Because we hold onto anger.  We are afraid or unwilling to grieve.  We believe the lie it’s not okay to feel. Or cry. We live emotionally constipated when we don’t have to.  Reality is, I need to feel what I am feeling, and then Regardless of how I FEEL, I need to step into truth and let that truth drive my actions.  

Now some of you are ahead of me and realize there is one more realm we haven’t talked about much. Let’s jump back into the story in Matthew 17

“…Bring the boy here to me. Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.”Matt 17:18

Can you imagine what this was like for this father and son??  One moment the mountain was there.  The next moment it was gone.  The mountain appeared to be physical but was caused by something spiritual. Now…some of you might be saying, “are you telling me there are angels/demons and some spiritual war thingy that you really want me to believe”.  Yes, there are as Ephesians 6:12 states:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

For many of you…your mountains are there because of work that needs to be done in the spiritual realm.  Now…this doesn’t mean there is a reason to freak out or get paranoid.  There are two wrong camps you can be in.  First…that there is no spiritual war….Well, the verse from Ephesians kinda shatters this.  The other end of the spectrum is that there is a demon behind every chair.  Unaware or Hyper-aware…the bible never calls us to either end.  Aware and Prepared.  That’s what we are called to.  For those of you that realize you have some learning to do about the spiritual realm, I’ve included some resources for you to consider in the Next Steps. And know that we all have work to do in the Spiritual Realm.  Even the disciples realized they had more work and learning to do, after they asked the question to Jesus of why they couldn’t drive the demon out.

“After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”He replied, “This kind can only come out by prayer.” Mark 9:28-29

Do you see where the work was to be done?  In the spiritual realm.  Jesus gives another reason though in

Matthew 17:19-21 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt 17: 19-21

#3:  FAITH

Why did the mountain stay stuck?  Because they didn’t do the right work and had so little faith.

I don’t want this to be true of us.  I want us to continue to see big mountains, little mountains, scary mountains, “not-so-sure-but-I-think-it’s-a-mountain?” moved.  Because our Jesus is in the mountain moving business.  Jesus isn’t bored, napping, or too busy for you.  Jesus isn’t still hanging on the cross.  He’s not still in the tomb. The veil has been torn.  He moved the heaviest mountains of all.  He moved DEATH!    For those of you that have never had a relationship with Jesus, he’s inviting you to give him that mountain of sin that you walked in with.  Whatever it is.  There is no mountain of sin too big, bad, or nasty for him.    He’s alive and STILL in the mountain moving business!  The invitation is to have faith in what HE can do.  And notice again how much faith do we need?  A mustard seed worth.  

For those of you who are hopeless, I pray that in this moment you can hear that there is hope.  Jesus wants you to know He is for you and there isn’t any mountain too big that today He can’t start to do something about.  

And if there feels like there is more unbelief than belief..know that is okay.  You are not alone.  In the account of Mark we see this important exchange occur between Jesus and the father before his son is healed….

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” ‘If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”Mark 9:22-24

 

 

 

 

 

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Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[One Day At A Time : Joe Smith]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15267 2017-08-08T18:02:14Z 2017-08-03T14:00:28Z

We enjoyed reconnecting with our Mosaic LA family, and we enjoyed hearing Joe Smith talk about living one day at a time.

Here are notes from Joe’s message:

If we are tired of the same thing day after day then we need choose not to be the same.

We wait so passively!

We demand for God to move and he’s waiting on us to move so He can do what He’s wanting to do through us!

How many times do we wait for someone else to help when we are the ones God has put there to help.

Too often we know what God wants us to do and we don’t do it.

An army of 600 did nothing, but God used the 2 people who were willing

1 Samuel 14:6

Worst war time speech in history! “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf…”

Too many times we put God’s name on it.

Jonathan was honest: I have got to do something even if no one else acts – even God.

God is looking for someone to act. You can out move God. Cannot move faster than God.

Easier to move when you know you will succeed, but that requires no faith.

We miss out on the promise because we are waiting on the certainty.

Certainty is the death of adventure.

God is in the uncertainty.

Nothing can stop God but you can stop you.

1 Sam 14:7 “Do all that you have in mind. I’m with you heart and soul.” – armor bearer to Jonathan

We need to stop acting based on our mind rather than acting based on our heart and soul.

God doesn’t always look for most qualified but for the most committed.

1 Sam 14:11 Philistines mock Jonathan and armor bearer. Jonathan saw victory for Israel. Jonathan saw a bigger story than just his own.

The armor bearer went into battle with no weapon. Once he stepped into the battle God provided a sword from the first fallen soldier.

God often provides once we are willing to go not before.

We need to be faithful AND live by faith!

There is a multitude of God’s activity available once you move!

God isn’t going to trust you with a sword until he can trust you holding someone else’s armor.

You cannot be trusted with leadership unless you can be trusted with servanthood.

1 Sam 14:22-23 The rest of the army joined in once they heard someone had gone first. Israel won!

Some people need to see our courage to get their courage.

There are some battles we need to fight so that others will join us in “hot pursuit.” 

Matthew 25:35-36 “I was hungry and you gave me food….” – Jesus

How we act on behalf of others is our greatest act.

We want to bring meaning to our lives one day at a time then we need to realize that our relationship with God is dependent on our relationship with others.

We begin to look like God the moment we begin to live like Jesus.

Jesus was the greatest servant of all who acted on our behalf. He gave us life as a sacrifice yet He rose from the dead defeating death and evil.

To live one day at a time:

1. ACT on your own accord 

2. ACT in the midst of uncertainty

3. ACT with your heart & soul

4. ACT before you get what you need

5. ACT on behalf of others. 

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Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[Justice, My Justice by Jon Eng]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15262 2017-08-08T18:05:29Z 2017-08-01T14:22:38Z

At Gateway Church in Austin, we are finished up our series called Voices.

This past Sunday at Gateway South, Jon Eng shared a message about justice and reconciliation.

Here is the audio from Jon’s message:

 

Here are notes from Jon’s message:

In 2 Corinthians, Paul encounters tensions within the communities he helped to start. And in the midst of conflict, he writes about reconciliation.

His vision sounds amazing. And a little bit fluffy, if we’re being honest.

When we look at our lives, reconciliation can feel more like a pipe dream.

But for Paul, reconciliation is much more than vision. It’s something he lives out.

In another letter to a different church in Ephesus, Paul focuses on reconciling among different people groups. Jewish and Gentile Christians are arguing with each other. You can almost hear the text screaming, “Gentile lives matter!”  “No – Jewish lives matter!”

What’s your default in conflict? When the threads of your relationship come undone, what do you do?

Option 1: Wear the Broken Sweater. Some of us yearn for reconciliation, but we forget the need for justice. This is like wearing a broken, tattered sweater as if there’s nothing wrong with it.

  • Are you willing to include justice when you reconcile? What does that look like in your marriage, in your friendships, in your business relationships?

Option 2: Toss the Sweater.  In silence, we sometimes choose to remain on the sidelines. We don’t want to get involved, so we ignore the problem. This is like tossing the sweater in the trash can – choosing not to engage with the brokenness around us.

  • Sometimes we need distance from a toxic situation or relationship, but God’s call for us still remains.
  • MLK writes: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.

Option 3: Tug at the Damaged Sweater. Sometimes, we aim for justice without reconciliation. We could care less who gets trampled along the way. As long as those who are ignorant or abusing their power are put in their place. This is like tugging at a sweater, resulting in even more harm.

  • We cry out for justice, but in doing so, we demonize the other. We forgot that that God has called us to love our enemies.  

What’s Paul’s answer? 

In 2 Corinthians 5:16, Paul writes: From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 

We’re not broken pieces of clothing. We’re not sweaters.

We’re the body of Christ.

This is Paul’s answer!

Ephesians 2:14-16: 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, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

We are the body of Christ. We, the church, are a reconciled people who are always working out Christ’s reconciliation and justice among ourselves. The dividing walls have fallen, and in Christ, all of us are seen, are celebrated and are known.

What does it mean that Christ makes us into one? That Christ has broken down the dividing wall?

4 A’s to Reconciliation and Justice

ACCEPTANCE: you and I belong to each other (Ubuntu)

God has created each of us different.

Without each other, we’re less than our true selves.

With each other, we become more of who God intends us to be.

This takes work!

We assume this to be true in our marriages and friendships. Can we expect it to be any different in our communities?

  • Desmond Tutu: Ubuntu means “my humanity is bound up in yours.”
  • Do you see and accept the image of God in others?

AWARENESS: our sovereign foundations matter.

Our social and historical locations are important to God.

We live in a country where communities of color have historically been subject to unjust laws and practices.

  • Until 2013, Austin was, for a time, the largest city in America that didn’t have district representation. Crazy right? It took awareness from people – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike – to change that reality to better reflect our changing city’s population.

Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil – “I cannot say that I love people if I don’t care about the policies that negatively affect them.”

  • Are we awake to those realities?

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: INJUSTICE

In Christ’s body, we are united. But unity doesn’t mean uniformity. Our differences aren’t ignored.

In Scripture, we see the disciples acknowledging power structures and recognizing differences among them. For the early church in Acts, when inequities are pointed out, they’re investigated. Stories are heard. And as realities are unearthed, wrongs are acknowledged. Systems are changed.

  • Gentile Christians pointed out that their widows were being overlooked. This brought about acknowledgement that lead to systemic change.

What does that look like in our lives? In our spaces?

  • If someone says, “I don’t know what will happen to my insurance. Can you pray for me?” Rather than saying, “That’s political – let’s move on.” Maybe we choose to be like Jesus. Even if we might have a different political opinion about health insurance, we still choose to listen, serve, and love.

ADVOCACY: Commitment to Justice and Reconciliation

There are things in our world that should not be.

    • Broken relationships.
    • Racism and Racial Injustice.
    • Sex-trafficking of children, women and men.
    • Unsafe spaces in our communities – LGBTQ youth are 4x more likely to experience suicidal ideation and depression in churches.

Our churches should be havens for all.

  • At Gateway, this is our vision. We haven’t figured it all out, but we’re on a journey of learning about what this looks like more and more.
    • Are you willing to learn your way forward to reconciliation and justice? Will you join in?
  • As people of God, we’ve got a responsibility to call out violence and injustice. When it shows up in our neighborhoods, we can’t stay quiet.

Come as you are people are committed to these 4 A’s: Acceptance, Awareness, Acknowledgment, Advocacy.

Whether you’re the offender, the offended or a bystander, Christ calls us to pursue peace with one another. God calls you to wake up. To stop hitting snooze.

The path won’t be easy. But in Christ, we’re called to pursue reconciliation. We’re called to pursue justice. Hand in hand. Together.

 

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Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[My Kickball Story by Jamie Schwarz]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15250 2017-07-25T23:00:34Z 2017-07-28T14:52:52Z

Jamie and Corey Schwarz

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” ~ Romans 8:15

You’ve heard it said that God works in mysterious ways and that is true. Recently, God worked mysteriously in my life in a most unexpected place…a game of kickball. The Gateway Staff got together a week or two ago to play a friendly game of kickball as a way to encourage team work, relational connection, and to have some fun. Many people would love the opportunity to spend some time out doors on a work day having a little competitive fun. I however was not so excited.

I love fun but I’m not very competitive and I’m also not super athletic. So when the staff kickball day was first announced my instinct was to try to find a way to get out of it. You see I, like many of you, don’t enjoy being put in situations that make me uncomfortable, so, often my gut response to to avoid them. Sure, I camouflage it with the excuse “that’s not my thing” or “I just don’t want to” but really, if I’m honest, I’m scared of being put in a uncomfortable position or worse yet, making a fool out of myself. When it came to the kickball game I was definately scared of making a fool out of myself but even more I was afraid of letting my team down.

My husband Corey is the opposite of me in many ways. He is very competitive and is good at pretty much every sport he’s ever tried. He has fast reflexes and can anticipate really well. He may be older and a little slower than he used to be but he’s still the guy you want to have on your team. As I thought about the game coming up I began to think that maybe Corey could just take my place and play for me. He would do so much better than me and I was sure with him on the team my team might have a good chance at winning.

It became very clear as the game approached that playing kickball wasn’t going to be a good excuse for Corey to tell his boss as to why he needed to take off work so Corey taking my place wasn’t going to happen. I also couldn’t find any valid reason for me to get out of playing either so missing the game was out. It looked like my only option was to play.

The week before the game I would find myself grumbling under my breath to God about how stupid it was that I had to do this. I even complained about how come we didn’t do things as a staff that I liked to do like sit around having coffee and deep philosophical conversation (I have a feeling that wouldn’t have been as popular or as fun;) My heart and mind were not in a good place in regards to this kickball game. However, the day before the game that shifted.

I spent sometime with God that day and as he always does he helped me get to the root of what I was feeling and brought clarity to the situation. What I realized is that fear was trying to lead me and only I could make the choice and decide if I was going to let God lead me or let fear. The question I felt God asking me is do you trust me? Are you willing to go out there and give it all you have for me even if other people to think you’re a fool? I love the Lord so much. He’s my best friend and a good Father and so I knew my answer to him had to be a YES! That night I ask Corey to pray with me, I ask God to help me face down my fear and overcome it. I told him that I know in the grand scheme of things this game wasn’t very important but I could tell that he was doing something here and that it was important for me. So I ask him to help me do my very best for my team and for him. I ask him to help me go out there, try my hardest, and to help me play fully abandoned to him. I prayed that I would glorify him in how I played. Then I went to bed because I knew I needed all the rest I could get.

That next morning I woke up and I was excited! As I headed north to the field I had sometime with God in the car and I just felt anticipation to go out onto that field and play my little heart out. I was a little late getting there so the game had already started. I walked up and right away my team tells me it’s my turn to kick. A few days ago this would have been my nightmare, getting there late, having the spotlight put on me, and having to kick right away, but today I knew God’s in control and this is an opportunity. So with courage I stepped up to the plate and strategically kicked the ball down the third base line, and it actually worked. The ball went where it was supposed to and I made it to first base!

Then my teammate kicked the ball and it went out past second base. The other team got to it and of coarse threw it to the closest base they could which just so happened to be exactly where I was running. I headed to second base as fast as I could but I could see they were trying to get the ball to my base so dug deep and gave it all I had. However, in the process of this my upper body some how got ahead of my lower body and I ended up diving head first for 2nd base. I lived it so I obviously didn’t see it but I can tell you with certainty that it wasn’t pretty. I think I scared a few people and shocked the rest.

As I pulled myself up off the ground the coolest thing happened. I didn’t feel embarrassed or humiliated, I felt proud! Inside me I knew that I may have made a fool out of myself there but I wasn’t holding anything back, I was giving it all I had because my Heavenly Father was watching and cheering me on. I knew he didn’t see my clumsy body laying on second base with scratched up knees and elbows and think, “man I wish Jamie was better” and he wasn’t sitting there feeling ashamed to be my Father. He was looking straight at my heart and he was so proud of how much I trusted him and that I was letting him lead me into overcoming my fear.

Our team went on to win the first game we played but then we lost the second. We had a lot of fun and some good laughs. I would absolutely play kickball again! My knee had some nice scratches that turned into bruises. I liked having them because they reminded me of the spirit of play and adventure I had when I was a kid. I use to play with such courage and abandon that I scratched my legs and arms up all the time. Every time I looked at them I couldn’t help but smile.

After the game and having some time to process it all here’s what God’s revealed to me. I am his child and when I truly believe he is a good and loving Father then I don’t have to be afraid. I was always afraid of trying things I wasn’t good at because I didn’t want to embarrass my parents, especially my dad, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I thought to make my parents proud I had to be good at what I did. What God is teaching me and helping be absorb is that he’s different. He loves me just as I am. He’s not proud of me just because I do something good, he’s proud of me because I trust him enough to try. Regardless if I fumble my attempts or I do really really well, God is looking right at my heart and what blesses his heart is to see me, his child, trust him enough to let him lead me to confront and overcome my fears.

This has now become a part of my daily time with God. I pray that He will lead me and I will follow him where ever he leads. I refuse to live my life letting fear be my leader. So I ask God to help me have the courage to face my fears with him and to overcome them.

Is there an area in your life where you might be letting fear lead you? Will you make some time today to get alone with God and ask him to help you trust him? Will you ask him to help you follow him with courage and abandon? Will you ask him to help you confront your fears and overcome them? He is a good Father who longs to answer those prayers:)

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Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence Our Divided World   Release Date: 9/12/17]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15258 2017-07-26T01:12:07Z 2017-07-26T01:12:07Z

We are excited to announce the release of Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence Our Divided World!

With new and updated content, the 10th anniversary edition of Not Like Me inspires and equips us to develop diverse communities, resolve conflict, overcome bitterness, create a better future, and even heal our fractured world.

Soon, you can order a copy or copies from ericbryant.org or Amazon.

For now, I am letting you know before this goes public for three reasons:

1. We appreciate your prayers as this book is released in a time when our world seems to be open to a message on peace and unity more than ever!

2. If you are a pastor unsure about your Fall Sermon Series OR if you are a church leader unsure of your next small group material or training for your leaders, consider Not Like Me.

3. You Can Win a Box of Books!
The first 5 pastors to contact me willing to do this sermon series will receive 30 copies of Not Like Me and resources for a sermon series for only $150! (Taxes and Shipping included).The books alone are worth $450!

Email me at info@ericbryant.org if interested in this sermon series!

ENDORSEMENTS

Not Like Me is Saving Private Ryan meets Nacho Libre! Eric calls us to a heroic mission and at the same time exposes our flawed humanity. He tackles one of the most critical and complex issues of our time and brings it down to earth and keeps us grounded in reality.”

– Erwin McManus, author, iconoclast, and lead pastor of Mosaic in Los Angeles

Not Like Me is a brilliant field guide to help leaders and all Christ followers understand how to engage with and influence a diverse world.

– John Burke, author and senior pastor of Gateway Church in Austin

“Eric Michael Bryant communicates a bridge building message with grace and love. It’s worth reading and definitely worth living.”

– David Anderson, author of Multicultural Ministry and Gracism: The Art of Inclusion, pastor Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, MD

“Winsome, honest, theologically grounded – Bryant’s work calls us to move beyond the theory of bridge building to everyday, practical choices for actually loving others as Jesus loved.”

– Nancy Beach, author and formerly with Willow Creek Association

More Resources:

Lessons from my trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Post-Christian Ministry Course in Austin in August

Coming soon: 

Fully revamped www.ericbryant.org

The Church Growth Summit and Church Growth Workshop!

More in the next newsletter!

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0
Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[Faith and Work by Devon Franklin]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15247 2017-07-23T23:47:43Z 2017-07-23T23:47:43Z

At Gateway Church in Austin, we are hearing from authors this month in our series called Voices.

This past Sunday, Devon Franklin shared a powerful message on The Hollywood Commandments.

Check out the NEXT STEPS to apply the message to your life. This is great material for conversations at the dinner table with your roommates, family, or with your life group.

Here is the video from the message from Devon:

DeVon Franklin – Voices from Gateway Church on Vimeo.

Here are notes from the message from Devon:

Too often we let the stress out in the real world distract us in our spirit.

God woke you up this morning! Unfortunately we hit the snooze button to waking up to what God has for you.

We should boldly go where no believer has gone before!

There is something the world needs that you bring!

To go further than we’ve ever been before, we have to acknowledge where we are now.

We shouldn’t “do church” but do change!

There is no limit to what faith can do. Until we believe God has more for us we will stay stuck where we are.

We are too lazy! We delay doing what God has put on our hearts! We need to stop procrastinating!

Ask yourself:

Am I living out my calling?

Daniel 1 – Babylonians took some of Israel’s young men to be servants. They grew up with faith but now they were living in the most secular environment. They excelled at their position without compromising their faith.

How are you handling our job?

God, show me how to get more influence without compromising your beliefs.

Go in with your head held high to work tomorrow.

We are called to run this place not be run down by this place.

What is success?

Peace. We cannot experience true peace until we operate within our calling without compromising.

Our bosses are stressed because their bosses are stressed! They are concerned about their self-preservation. 

One “no” doesn’t mean God has said “no” over the situation. Keep looking for the “yes.” Don’t give up too soon!

We need to leave on Sunday with confidence with who we are in Christ. Start living out what we say we believe.

“Please test us for 10 days….” – Daniel 

Daniel and his friends did not run from the test in front of them. 

Too often we were raised in a culture of fear.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Phil 4:13

Faith and fear fight with one another. They cannot exist at the same time.

Safe is not going to cut it!

Jesus gave up all for us!

Safe doesn’t lead to contentment or allow us to fulfill our calling.

Rather than a “beware” mentality we need to have a “can do.”

Don’t be afraid to take responsibility and accountability for your life right now.

Daniel and his friends passed the test and excelled.

God didn’t ask Daniel to leave Babylon but instead promoted him within Babylon. (see “prosper the city where you live”)

The Hollywood Commandments

#1 – Your prayers alone aren’t enough. Start preparing for what you are praying for.

#2 – You are the talent.

#3 – You have to carry a crown before you wear one. Help someone else succeed. Find virtual mentors in your field.

#4 – You have to know the rules to play the game.

#5 – Your gut is hiding God. We have the spirit within us. Don’t let your head talk you out of what God has said in your spirit.

#6 – You get what you negotiate (not what you’re worth).

#7 – You must master the wall of fame. We weren’t designed to receive praise by give praise.

#8 – Your difference is your destiny. You have everything you need to live out God’s calling in your life.

#9 – Your amnesia is an asset. Master the art of forgetting. We are stuck in a yesterday where God has already forgotten. If we asked for forgiveness, he has forgiven us!

#10 – Your world is smaller than you think. The people you need are all around you. 

]]> 0 Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[Defying Stereotypes – Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans Who Follow Jesus]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15229 2017-07-21T22:31:03Z 2017-07-21T21:46:47Z

Stereotypes disappear in the context of friendship.

I am not sure if you know much about the Israel and Palestinian situation, but what we hear on the news is just a tiny glimpse of the whole story. What we hear is also communicated through a particular narrative.

I am far from being an expert, but I can tell you this:

  • There are amazing and lovely people in the West Bank.
  • There are lovely and amazing people in Israel.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have friends who live on both sides of the wall separating Israel and the West Bank.

In many ways, they have far more in common than they realize just as we have far more in common than we realize.

One interesting moment came when our host pointed out that even though we considered our team ethnically diverse, he felt the kids just saw all of us as Americans. They didn’t see the distinctions that we see.

If we are honest, the same could be true for us and and our experience of the Jews, Israelis, Muslims, and Christians we met.

  • They all were born into a difficult situation.
  • They all love their home.
  • They all eat lots of hummus.

In the chidren, we did not see the distinctions that they can see.

Part of what intrigued us about taking this particular trip was to work with a team who is trying to bring peace –Musalaha. This effective non-profit “promotes and facilitates reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, based on the life and teaching of Jesus.”

  • They follow Jesus.
  • Some are Palestinian.
  • Some are Israeli.

They host a camp bringing Jewish and Palestinian teens together to learn how to be peacemakers. The camp we attended brought Palestinian kids – both Muslims and Christians together for a week with the theme “Living Together.”

I highly recommend working with Musalaha!

After returning to the U.S. from our trip, people have looked at me like I was crazy when I have mentioned we spent 10 days in the West Bank.

In fact, many trips of Israel no longer include Bethlehem as a stop because it is on the other side of a wall Israel built in the name of security.

  • There are people that choose terrorism.
  • There are also people who just want to raise their kids in a safe and loving environment on both sides of the wall.
  • There are also 3.5 million people who visit Israel each year and return safely each year.

Here’s how complicated this is:

  • One tour guide refers to the West Bank as a place to avoid because it is under Palestinian Control.
  • Another tour guide refers to the West Bank as a great place to visit but it is under Israeli Occupation.

What helped our families feel better that we were going to the West Bank was that even Rick Steves’ talks about it as a good place to visit when traveling to Israel.

On both sides of the wall, I saw kids who reminded me of our kids. They loved ice cream. They forget to throw away their ice cream wrappers. They loved playing. They loved each other.

Another commonality we all share – we don’t like to be stereotyped.

No one likes to be misunderstood.

Not all Israelis are the same. Not all Palestinians are the same. Not all Americans who follow Jesus are the same.

The best way to understand others is to actually get to know them.

Serving in Nablus in the West Bank gave us that opportunity.

One moment during the camp which really struck me was when the kids started to learn a cultural dance called Dabke.

Here’s a wedding video I saw online to get the feel for what it could be:

Here is the version the teens did at our camp:

Here’s me and a little guy named Mohammad dancing the Dabke:

Mohammad is the son of the janitor at the Center where the camp was held in Nablus. He wanted to do the dabke with me:

We did this for about 30 minutes – 2 different days. It was fun for about 3 minutes. Seriously though, what a beautiful world where an American pastor who follows Jesus can dance with a Palestinian Muslim kid named Mohammad for an hour in the summer of 2017.

What will the future be like for Mohammad, the son of a janitor who lives in the West Bank?

Will Mohammad find peace and hope and even faith?

I can trust God with Mohammad and all the kids I met. There are people there representing him. God is pursuing all of them.

What can we do living so far away?

When I am overwhelmed by the needs of the world around me, I often think of a verse. “To the one much is given, much is expected.” In other words, those of us with privilege can be a part of serving those who do not have privilege.

As we learned from the Tobey Maguire version of Spiderman: “With great power comes responsibility?”

If we can surrender all to Jesus here, we can become all God wants us to be. The world needs us at our best!

  • For some of us, serving the Israelis may be our calling.
  • For some of us, serving the Palestinians may be our calling.
  • For some of us, our calling may be getting involved in politics or with non-profit organizations or through the ministry of our local churches to help bring peace in the Middle East.
  • For all of us, our calling is to love those in our lives right now.

Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to give us life and freedom, and we can bring that life and freedom to the world around us!

For more on this, consider the following:

Peace in the Middle East?

Christ at the Checkpoint (A Conference from Musalaha)

Jesus and the Holy Land (Devotional Thoughts from Israel and the Palestinian Territory)

Lessons from Israel and the West Bank (Message audio and notes)

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0
Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[Lessons from Israel and the West Bank (Message Audio and Notes)]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15215 2017-07-21T22:30:11Z 2017-07-18T02:50:06Z

This past Sunday at Gateway Church in South Austin, I shared about our trip to Israel and the West Bank.

Listen to the Message Here:

Check out pictures and read all about our Trip Here:

Lessons (and Pics) From Israel and the West Bank

Read the Message Notes Here:

A team of us from Gateway Church in Austin traveled 25 hours one way from Austin, TX to Tiberius, Israel. For five days we visited some of the places Jesus walked, and for five days we helped at a camp with Palestinian kids – some Muslims and some Christians.

Sonya, Christa, Noel, Dario, and Eric

Sonya, Christa, Noel, and Dario represented you really well!

Our hope was to serve others and grow in our faith.

Traveling to a place new to us all can certainly help us in our efforts of growing.

Part of the excitement for us was to be where Jesus was.

The story of Jesus is the greatest story ever told!

The story of a hero who comes out of nowhere and willingly sacrifices His life for the sake of others resonates so deeply within us.

In fact, it seems all our stories simply echo or repeat the story of Jesus.

How many of our novels or films tell this same story?

What’s fascinating about Jesus is that we can visit where He lived, walked, taught, ate, laughed, healed, died, and even rose from the dead.

We cannot visit Tatooine, The Matrix, Krypton, Amazonia, Hogwarts, or Asgard, but we can visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, and Jerusalem.

Jesus is not a myth or a legend. He is a real person who can change our lives.

Even before our time of exploring has begun, a few things have struck me about this trip that are parallel to our spiritual journey.

Matters of faith are deeply personal.

Throughout the world, there is a worldwide religion known as Christianity. For many, Christianity is an identity and not necessarily a way of life. In other words, many people claim to be Christians but they identify that way because that’s how their parents I identify themselves or that was how they were raised.

Some consider themselves Christians because of their nationality or politics.

Some consider themselves Christians as a way to describe that they are not Muslim or Buddhist or any other religion or worldview.

I heard a phrase I had never heard before but makes a lot of sense: “Ethnic Christians”

Beyond the religion, I have found something so much more satisfying and so much more life-giving.

Jesus did not come to start a religion but to bring us into a personal relationship with God.

Now, this may seem far fetched or even presumptuous, but consider this idea that Paul, a religious zealot turned church planter, presented to the very spiritual and philosophical people of Athens.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  – Acts 17:24-27

Consider that claim! God is not held hostage by temples, nor does He want our religiosity. Instead, God gives life to everyone and puts each of us in the exact place on the planet and time in history that gives us the best opportunity to discover a relationship with Him!

This means we cannot live vicariously through others. God desires to be our Heavenly Father. There are no spiritual grandchildren. Like a foster child in middle school, we get decide if we want to be adopted. Each of us must choose whether we want a relationship with God or not.

Let me share a story that came alive being in the place where it happened.

Eric in the Sea of Galilee

Here I am a long time ago in Galilee Far, Far Away

Actually just a couple of weeks ago.

Maybe you know the story of Peter.

It was on this beach that we think Jesus invited Peter to follow him (along with other fishermen). It is believed that here Jesus walked along the shore and called out to Simon Peter and Andrew who were casting their nets into the lake.  Walking along, Jesus saw two other brothers, James and John who were preparing their nets with their father Zebedee.  Jesus called all of these men to follow him.

The beach is near a popular fishing spot of the locals because of its famous “seven springs,” Heptapegon (today called Tabgha). Algae grows in this part of the lake due to the warmer current which attracts fish plus the shape of the harbor. For thousands of years, this is where fishermen come to fish.

Peter followed Jesus until Jesus was betrayed by Judas. That night Peter denied Jesus. Jesus died on the cross. Rose from the dead. Appeared several times. In fact 500 eyewitnesses still alive when John wrote his Gospel.

The Beach Where Jesus Called Peter to Follow Him and Shared Breakfast With Him

One of those appearances in John 21. Jesus told Peter to throw his net into the lake. Peter resisted because he is a fisherman and he had already tried.

By the way, we do this all the time. We feel we are the experts and remain narrow minded when the One who created us has something better for us.

Then Jesus shared a meal with Peter. Three times he asked him “Do you love me?” Three times Peter responded with “Of course I love you.” Jesus restored Peter. He gave him the chance affirm his faith and devotion three times just as he had denied Jesus three times.

Think of how personal this is. On the same beach Jesus invited Peter to follow him, Jesus restored him.

These are volcanic rocks that Jesus walked on!

How has God been pursuing you?

Spiritual Growth requires discipline.

I had such high hopes and genuine plans to prepare. This is my first time to Israel, and I may never have the opportunity to return. Even still, I never was able to do all the research I wanted or even read the stories from the Scriptures in all of the places we would be visiting.

Instead, distractions got in the way.

Distractions allow us to keep from doing the hard work we know we should do.

The news, sports, politics, busyness all remain excuses for not getting up earlier, going to bed earlier, turning off the television sooner, or putting my iPhone on airplane mode more often.

Some of these things may be good or even really important.

However, I am in the land where Jesus walked for just a few days, and I still find myself on news sites rather in the Scriptures.

There are no short cuts to spiritual maturity.

Consider the proximity of the Mt of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane and the view of the Temple from the Garden.

It is in the Mt. of Olives that Jesus taught the disciples to pray. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane where the disciples fell asleep instead of praying.

Garden of Gethsemane

Golden Gate of the Jerusalem Wall from the Garden of Gethsemane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus could see the Temple and the gates through which it was prophesied when he returns he will enter the city.

Often I find myself growing in my faith further and faster in three scenarios:

  1. Crisis forces me to take my faith more seriously.I pursue God out of desperation. Reading the Scriptures, prayer, seeking counsel from others become essential rather than optional.
  2. Stepping out in faith.Obeying a prompting from God puts me in a position where I need God to come through for me.
  3. Choosing to fast from something distracting for a season for a particular situation or person. Choosing a more selfless path puts us in the same situation where we are more dependent on God than we normally might be.

All three of these experiences put us in a position to trust God more. We are tapping into the faith muscle. We are more desperate for God’s help.

In that context we grow.

At Gateway Church in Austin, one of our slogans remains: “No perfect people allowed.” This does not mean “Come as you are and stay as you are.” Instead, we are giving ourselves permission to be honest and authentic with where we are in our spiritual journey so we are free and able to make progress.

It is good to be content but it is not good to be complacent.

It is good to be honest about our doubts, struggles, and even skepticism, but we should not remain stuck there. We need to acknowledge our doubts and then look for answers.

We need to pursue God so that we can move beyond where we are now. Where we are now is just scratching the surface of what God has for us – no matter where we might be.

  • God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20).
  • God’s thoughts and ways are beyond our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • God has prepared for those who love him “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” (1 Cor. 2:9)

Evidence is in the eye of the beholder.

Recently I have thought a great deal about a quote I read by novelist and screenwriter Andrew Klavan from his book called The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. He writes:

“God is not susceptible to proofs and disproofs.
If you believe, the evidence is all around you.
If you don’t believe, no evidence can be enough.”

In just our first full day there, we were amazed at how the entire world seems to be represented in their pursuit of Jesus. From as far North as Norway to as far South as South Africa, from the Far East (Singapore, the Philippines, China, Korea, India) to the Western Hemisphere (Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil), we have met so many in just the dining room at our hotel in Tiberius – a city Jesus never visited!

Even still, so few in Israel and the Palestinian territories follow Jesus. The Christian population of Israel and the Palestinian Territories remains incredibly low. The people who meet the 3.5 million tourists who come to see the sites each year, do not seem open to the message of faith, love, and hope that began on their land.

And the nations surrounding the place where Jesus walked among us are some of the least likely to follow Jesus.

Even Christians (sometimes especially Christians who think they have all the answers) miss the message God continues to try to share.

As Wayne Stiles said in his book Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ:

“Walking the land Jesus walked offers little more than dirty feet
unless the lessons of those sacred places find their way into our hearts.”

Stereotypes disappear in the context of friendship.

I am not sure if you know much about the Israel and Palestinian situation, but what we hear on the news is just a tiny glimpse of the whole story. I am far from being an expert, but I can tell you there are amazing and lovely people in the West Bank. There are lovely and amazing people in Israel. In many ways, they have far more in common than they realize just as we have far more in common than we realize. One interesting moment came when our host pointed out that even though we considered our team ethnically diverse, he felt the kids just saw all of us as Americans. They didn’t see the distinctions that we see.

If we are honest, the same could be true for us and and our experience of the Jews, Israelis, Muslims, and Christians we met. They all were born into a difficult situation. They all love their home. They all eat lots of hummus. In the chidren, we did not see the distinctions that they can see.

Part of what intrigued us about taking this particular trip was to work with a team who is trying to bring peace. They follow Jesus. Some are Palestinian. Some are Israeli. They host a camp bringing Jewish and Palestinian teens together to learn how to be peacemakers. The camp we attended brought Palestinian kids – both Muslims and Christians together for a week with the theme “Living Together.”

When I have mentioned we spent 10 days in the West Bank, people have looked at me like we were crazy. In fact, many trips of Israel no longer include Bethlehem as a stop because it is on the other side of a wall Israel built in the name of security. And there are people that choose terrorism. There are also people who just want to raise their kids in a safe and loving environment on both sides of the wall.

Here’s how complicated this is:

  • One tour guide refers to the West Bank as a place to avoid because it is under Palestinian Control.
  • Another tour guide refers to the West Bank as a great place to visit but it is under Israeli Occupation.

What helped our families feel better that we were going to the West Bank was that even Rick Steves’ talks about it as a good place to visit when traveling to Israel.

On both sides of the wall, I saw kids who reminded me of our kids. They loved ice cream. They loved playing. They loved each other.

One moment during the camp which really struck me was when the kids started to learn a cultural dance called Dabke.

Here’s a wedding video I saw online to get the feel for what it could be:

Here is the version the teens did at our camp:

Here’s me and a little guy named Mohammad dancing the Dabke:

Mohammad is the son of the janitor at the Center where the camp was held in Nablus. He wanted to do the dabke with me:

We did this for about 30 minutes – 2 different days. It was fun for about 3 minutes. Seriously though, what a beautiful world where an American pastor who follows Jesus can dance with a Palestinian Muslim kid named Mohammad for 30 minutes.

What will the future be like for Mohammad, the son of a janitor who lives in the West Bank?

Will Mohammad find peace and hope and even faith?

I can trust God with Mohammad and all the kids I met. There are people there representing him. God is pursuing all of them.

What can we do living so far away?

When I am overwhelmed by the needs of the world around me, I often think of a verse. “To the one much is given, much is expected.” In other words, those of us with privilege can be a part of serving those who do not have privilege.

If we can surrender all to Jesus here, we can become all God wants us to be. The world needs us at our best!

Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to give us life and freedom, and we can bring that life and freedom to the world around us!

]]>
Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org <![CDATA[Perspective by Laurie Short]]> http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15201 2017-07-11T23:52:48Z 2017-07-11T23:45:53Z

At Gateway Church in Austin, we are hearing from authors this month in our series called Voices.

This past Sunday, Laurie Polich Short shared a powerful message on When Changing Nothing Changes Everything: The Power of Reframing Your Life.

Check out the NEXT STEPS to apply the message to your life. This is great material for conversations at the dinner table with your roommates, family, or with your life group.

Here is the video from the message from Laurie:

Laurie Short – Voices 2017 from Gateway Church on Vimeo.

Here are notes from the message from Laurie:

shapes so much

Paul wrote the “be happy” letter to the Philippians while he was in prison. 

Perspective changes how we view our circumstances. 

What has happened to me has helped advance the message of Jesus.

Rather than feeling sorry himself, Paul asked himself: “what can I do in jail?” 

Esther was the original Wonder Woman! She was an orphan raised by her cousin. The King chose Esther to be his wife. She discovers a plot to kill her people.

Her cousin tells her:

“Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this!”

“With eyes of faith we see our lives as a much bigger story.”

Developing Eyes of Faith Through Four Lenses

Big View Lens

Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. – Psalm 143:1-4

Ever feel like your circumstances are not what you want?

After her fiancé broke up with her at age 43 to get back with his ex-wife, Laurie angry at God prayed: “I can’t tell my story or people won’t want to follow you!”

God’s response: “Don’t feel like you need to defend me” 

God isn’t Santa Clause but The Living God! We can trust Him!

Your story isn’t over! Remember you are part of a bigger story!

When struggling, be honest with God and honest with community. 

Rearview Mirror

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works – Psalm 143:5

In order to see our way forward, sometimes we have to look backward.

Remember what God has done for you in the past to help you get through a difficult present.

What are your stones? Choose something to help you remember (journals, art, music, etc.)

Too often we forget what God did and rewrite the story from the wrong perspective.

We hardly ever know what God is doing when He is doing it.

The Present View

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. – Psalm 143:8

Rest in what is, knowing that is part of what will get you to where God wants you to go.

Be present. 

God is the great I AM!

God will be there when you get there but He is also with us now.

Let God guide your steps.

Don’t miss what God has for you right now.

Sometimes the door that is open leads to another door that leads to another door that leads to the door you are looking for.

Higher View Lens

Psalm 143:11-12 “I am your servant.”

David didn’t tell God what to do for him but acknowledged he was here to serve God.

Let my life point others to you even when life is difficult.

Let God be glorified with your life and through your life!

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