Divided Over New Year Bible Reading Plan

by Dan Behrens on January 19, 2022 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

The divided kingdom of Israel (c. 931 BCE, 1 Kings 12) — that section of the new year bible reading plan we never quite get to. We are a mass of well-intentioned new year resolutionists who typically run out of steam halfway through the Exodus. For a handful with a bit more endurance, Moses has come out of the mountains with stone tablets in hand and Joshua’s reeling over the idea of ruinous river crossing. Of course, beyond that there certainly arises a few superstar readers who still trudge on toward Samson and all bloodshed of the Judges. But we all fall short of the Israel’s glorious monarchy torn asunder — the rise of David and Solomon to the ruins of Daniel’s boyhood streets. Jacob’s fall must’ve been incredible.

All kidding aside, a kingdom divided seems rather relevant at the turn of this new year, considering the divides that tug and tear here in our own age, both in America as well as around the world, among our own separate societies as well as in our own individual families. We know how to be at each other. Or rather, away from each other. Or worse still, done with one another. Our own fall is rather incredible.

In the case of Israel, all the wealth and wisdom of nobility is inevitably undercut and implodes on itself from various prides and pains. Cities burn. Prophets mourn. The rise and fall of king after king after king—so many of them like so many of us, selfish and sick, divided in heart and mind, fractured in character and behavior. We are children of our fathers.

Relational divides have always and do always run from the ground up: one foot in the kingdom of heaven and one foot in the kingdom of ruins. “Not us” “We’re better than that” may seem tenable now, but a path already worn wide with self-preservation and personal ambition will undoubtably fork in ways well beyond our most diligent efforts.

If our new year bible reading attests to anything, it reveals that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the kings and the prophets, is truly the great I AM who was and is and is to come. If this should turn out to be true, then what is really before us is not so much a divide as it is a wall, a barrier, an obstruction, a hindrance to the eyes. We cannot see.

Faced with such a malformity, are we not made more keenly aware in some other way? With Moses, Joshua, Judges, the chronicle of kings and the oracle of prophets, one can hardly ignore the subtle shallow hint of repentance and obedient faith in Christ coming off every page of scripture. We are on to using our ears now. After all our personal empires have come and gone, we hear the Jesus of the gospels saying things like: Stop. Wait. Hold. Turn. I am here. I am the true vine. Join yourself to me. Abide in me and you will not stumble. I am willing and able to heal, to make you whole. But again, we mustn’t merely read of such things. We must also hear him speaking.

Minimalist Black and White Photography by Hossein Zare

Poem: Bethlehem

by Dan Behrens on December 19, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

Poem I wrote last night. This precarious journey of Joseph and Mary. Precarious place for a Savior’s beginnings. Even less, a perfunctory plot point on the map of history. Still, we all yet call her home.

Bethlehem
 
Bethlehem
City of David
Ephrath of old
My home
Village among the cliffs
Your lamp has not gone out.
 
Oh Bethlehem
My heart
How you keep the bones of Rachel
You birth the sons of Jesse
How you hide the men of valor
Feed the lambs of sinners.
 
Bethlehem
Oh house of meat
Your carved crags shelter shepherds
Outside the Temple gates
You oh house of bread
Seal up your earthen doors.
 
Oh Bethlehem
Herod’s horses Herod’s swords
Hide your infants
Hide my heart
Your lamp has not gone out
There among the cliffs.
 
Bethlehem
Feed us all the prophet’s song
Wherein your womb is moved
Wherein the road does end
“for unto you is born this day”
Your shepherds bring us in.
 
Oh Bethlehem
All angels softly sing
My journey home
To Bethlehem
My heart
Oh light among the cliffs.

Stories That Don’t Trend

by Dan Behrens on October 19, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

The following scriptures are not exactly trend-worthy. Perhaps no scriptures are trend-worthy. But these here, for instance, include the kind of scene that would hardly (even at best) nudge our interest. And there is offered nothing near our regular fill of cynicism, skepticism, scandal, spite, malice, sordid gain, or that insatiable lust for back-biting. We are hard to please.

What we do find is a revolutionary response of early church believers to persecution. Less than a year after Jesus of Nazareth has been crucified and rumors of resurrection from the dead float about, there’s been a wrongful incarceration, interrogation, and intimidation of apostles Peter and John at the hands of the Jewish elites. Peter and John have been taken into custody on allegations of speaking about the crucified Jesus of Nazareth and proclaiming a resurrection from the dead for anyone who believes in Him. The charges are true. The response is real — “Many who heard their message believed, repented, and were baptized”(Acts 2:38; 4:4). To be clear, this newly formed society of Jesus followers overwhelms us with praise unto God, repentance from sins, solumn committments to the Christ life, and a self-incriminating faith that leads only to ostrosization from family and friends. More than mere response; this is a revolt!

Acts 4:23-31
23Upon their release, Peter and John returned to their own people and reported everything that the chief priests and elders had said. 24When the believers heard this, they lifted up their voices to God in one accord, saying "Sovereign Lord, You have made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 25You have spoken by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Your servant, our father David:
      'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
      26The kings of the earth take their stand
      and the rulers gather together against the Lord
      and against His Anointed One.'
27In fact, in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired with the Gentiles and the people of Israel against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. 28They carried out what Your hand and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats, and enable Your servants to speak Your word with complete boldness, 30as You stretch out Your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus." 31After they had prayed, their meeting place was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

For us in our day (the grandchildren of this suspect society of Jesus followers) the very same witness is at our mouth at any given moment. Our very lives are miracle. And miracle, on any grounds, only underscores our tremendous value to God. We are loved like infants, commanded like soildiers, tested and proved like seasoned adults, that whether hill or valley, joy or sorrow, saftey or sacrifice, this Jesus of Nazareth “God has made both Lord and Christ”(Acts 2:36) over us. Either this is true or it is not. And no amount of trending can ease the burden of belief upon our own free will. This is our great revolt.

Overwhelmed by such blessed assurance, are we really to plod on with merely our own cares and concerns at heart? Is there not much more at stake than simply our own moral development? No and Yes. The truth in either case is that we are not our own. We are witness evidence of the Divine. God is alive! He has made His home inside us. You and me both have all of God within (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The last thing you would ever want for yourself or for anyone you truly love is to hide this truth under cover. The world around you is dark and pain-weary, and you yourself hold light in your hand. Let it shine. Be one who will not stop talking about all that God has done in your life this year, this week, this day. Be one who lifts up his/her voice for something that will never fade away.

Why All the Tears?

by Dan Behrens on August 27, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

Why all the tears? Well, for me (and so many others) this has been a season of losses and a season of gains. A season of weeping and laughing. Of disappointments and miracles. Nights of anxiety. Mornings of joy. The ebb and flow of it all has been prolonged and tiresome. Personally, I can only really describe these pandemic months as a season of loves and losses.

There were times when Jesus positioned himself among those who felt lost and knew they felt lost. The tired. The poor. The sick. The hopeless skeptics. Descendants of all the collateral damage scattered across Palestine’s turbulent history. It was among these that Jesus revealed mysteries, parabolic tales of persuant love, that ancient longing to go out and look for and openly receive that which was lost, to see that which was dead and gone.

Luke 15 - Lost Sheep. Lost Coin. Lost Son.
 
At that time, several tax-collectors and other sinners were drawing near to Jesus to listen to him teach.  Seeing this, Pharisees and Scribes began talking among themselves and grumbling ‘This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.’
 
Knowing in his heart what these teachers of the law were saying, Jesus told them these parables:
 
‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing just one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost?’
 
‘Or what woman, having ten silver coins and losing even one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?’
 
‘Or in the case of a righteous father to his eldest son, we had to celebrate and rejoice over this brother of yours, because he was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’

I think we all can agree that these deeply layered narratives arise in our own lives as we inevitably intersect deep love with sudden loss. Loss is part of the natural pattern of this earth. Our response to it is not of this earth. Our response to loss is much more like that of heaven in agony–a deafening silence in the midst of paradise. The single greatest indication of our love for someone or something is our response to losing it. Confusion. Anger. Silence. Rage. Disorientation. Grief. Love.

If the mysteries of Jesus reveal anything, they reveal to us the literal, tangible, practical weight of compassion standing alongside our immeasurable grief. Even now you feel Him, don’t you? The gravitational tug of His presence among our losses and gains, our weeping and laughing, the disappointments and miracles, the anxiety, the joy. We are at loss. But we are not alone. There are multitudes out looking, searching the cliffs and crags, sweeping the rooms of the house, running down the tree-lined lanes. Don’t dissuade them. Join them. Weep with them. Then celebrate with them when at last they find.