This week, I had the immense pleasure to be part of a HeartGroup’s plan in LaGrande, Oregon, to grow into more HeartGroups within their community. When I arrived, what I found was a group of passionate Jesus followers, excited to put on display the beauty of God’s self-sacrificing, enemy embracing, other-centered, and nonviolent love. Their passion was to enlarge Jesus’ Kingdom on earth in the here and now, not through gaining power over one’s community, but by humbly and lovingly serving one’s community. This group had invited me to hold a one-week series of presentations on the picture of God we see in Jesus, Christ’s Kingdom, and the hope for healing that Jesus calls us to in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Since HeartGroups meet predominantly in people’s homes or other informal settings, they rented the community center in the town to host the presentations. Each night, I watched as folks that these people had known for years, but that they would never have guessed would come to an event like this, walked through the doors. Each night, I watched as we traversed through Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s, and John’s versions of the Jesus story, discovering what Jesus called “the Kingdom.” Together, each evening, we entered into what Jesus actually taught, what Jesus was passionate about (rooted, as it was, in his own culture), and what that might mean for us today.
What we discovered was that Jesus did not start a religion, but a movement. A revolution, if you will, with the goal of healing the world (John 3.17). He called this revolution “the Kingdom.” The Kingdom was a radical new way of living life in the here and now, based on an entirely new way of seeing God, ourselves, and others. Some of the things Jesus taught were enemy love, prevenient forgiveness, helping the poor, and embracing the religiously marginalized, and most of all, given the imminence of what was potentially coming in A.D. 70, he called for nonviolent noncooperation as a way to heal injustice and change the world.
Again, this is rooted in an entirely different way of seeing God, ourselves, and everyone around us, including our enemies.
Jesus’ teachings hold great relevance to our world today, particularly given the problems of economic scarcity, global monopolies, violent wars, and downtrodden countries that are deeply in debt to powerful tyrants. This doesn’t even begin to express how we witness these very same problems being played out on much smaller scales each day in our communities and even in our private lives. Jesus gave us a better way. A different way of seeing God, and a way to live that would set in motion a potentially contagious wave of healing, love, restoration, and renewal.
The original followers who belonged to this Jesus movement were people who believe in resurrection: the resurrection of Jesus’, their own resurrection at some point in the future, and even the resurrection of the world itself. When all hope seemed lost, they believed that Jesus conquered death and came back from the grave. They went into the world, armed with the message of Christ’s resurrection and hoping to turn the world upside down (Acts 17.6).
What was the result of my week in LaGrande? I’m happy to say that, through the power of the Spirit, at least two new HeartGroups were started, and perhaps one more. This means that there are at least three HeartGroups in this area dedicated to having Jesus as the central reference point for their faith, their lifestyle, the understanding of their vocation as “church”, and how they should engage with the society around them, working toward healing and restoration in the lives of those they come in contact with.
I’m so excited today that I could pop!
For all those who have supported Renewed Heart Ministries, whether with prayers or financial contributions or both, thank you for your support. Together, in the light of God’s love, we are changing lives, both in this time and for all eternity.
With all my heart, thank you!