Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fundraising $3,000 for a Seminary in the Dominican Republic

Dear Friends,
I'd like to ask you to consider donating money to fund two courses at a new seminary in the Dominican Republic. Before I do that, let me share some of the background story with you.
Brian Johnson teaching local pastors in the D.R.
Brian Johnson (pictured above), a good friend of mine and my mentor while I was in college, has recently started a seminary in the Dominican Repulic in partnership with G.O. Ministries (http://www.go-ministries.org/). The school has already proven hugely transformational in the lives of a significant number of local pastors (some of whom are pictured below).
Some of the seminary's first students.
Brian has invited me to come down to the D.R. to teach a course titled "The Missionary Nature of the Church" at the seminary. The course will largely focus on studying the mission of God and his people in the Bible and will serve as part of G.O.'s effort to help local churches in the D.R. discover ways to announce and demonstrate the Good News of God's Kingdom to their neighborhoods and cities.

I will travel to the D.R. on Thanksgiving Day of this year and will spend 10 days teaching the course to various groups of students and speaking in local churches. If the first course goes well, I will return to the D.R. in March to teach a follow up course on Christian leadership and how to apply the previous teachings to ministry in the local church.

Brian has asked me to fund raise about $1,500 per trip. Roughly $500 will go toward covering the travel expenses related to getting me to Santiago. The other $1,000 will cover all the expenses of running the class and provide scholarships for the local pastors participating in the course. In total, I am seeking to raise $3,000 to run two courses at the seminary, one in November 2013 and one in March 2014.

Please consider funding these two courses through a generous donation. Instructions on how to make a tax-deductible donation through G.O. Ministries are listed below:
  1. Go to http://www.go-ministries.org/give/donate.
  2. Click on the "Click Here to Give Online" button near the bottom of the page.
  3. Check the box (top left) that says "One-Time Donation."
  4. Type in the amount you would like to give in the appropriate text box.
  5. Choose "Mission Trip Donation" as the Program type.
  6. Enter my name "Scott R Nelson" as the Recipient. 
  7. Click the "Next" button at the bottom of the page.
  8. Follow the prompts to enter and then verify your contact information.
  9. Follow the prompts to process your donation with a major credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover).
Thanks ahead of time for you generous support! I'm thrilled that God has provided me this opportunity to take what I have learned through my own personal experiences and through my Ph.D. studies to help my brothers and sisters in Christ in another part of the world discover how they can lead their churches to faithfully participate in God's mission of redeeming and reconciling our world.

Please contact me if you have any questions - 440-527-3327; nelson5520@gmail.com.

Peace to you,
Scott Nelson

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

MIchael Welker on the Spirit of God

Powerful text about the power of the Holy Spirit from Welker's God the Spirit p. 3:
The Spirit of God makes God’s power knowable. The Spirit reveals the power of God in an on human beings and in an on their fellow creatures. The Spirit reveals this power through them and for them. The Spirit makes it possible to know the creative power of God, which brings the diversity of all that is creaturely into rich, fruitful, life-sustaining fortifying, and protective relations. The Spirit of God reveals the power of God’s mercy, which God extends particularly to the weak, the neglected, the excluded, and the infirm. The Spirit enables God’s glory to be known through creatures and for creatures precisely inasmuch as what is weak becomes strengthened, what is excluded is reintegrated, and what is infirm is enabled to stand erect and healthy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Divine Irony: The God of Peace and the War Against Violence

My wife and I worshiped with my sister-in-law and her church community while out in Seattle, WA on New Year's Day. As is their custom, the church did not follow their regular worship routine, but instead had an open mic time for people to share how God had been at work in their lives during the previous year. I did not have a chance to share that day, so I thought I would jot down what came to my mind on my blog instead.

If I had had the chance to share that day, I would have told of the ways God has brought peace and reconciliation to my neighborhood. My neighborood--a 12-unit condominium complex--has been my mission field for five years now. Since I moved into my unit in May 2006, I have wanted to make a difference in the lives of all who live their by showing them the love of God, adding value to their lives, and by fostering community among our small association. The results of my efforts have been mixed to say the least, but 2009-2010 were particularly dismal as fights, conflicts, and association issues dominated my interaction with most of my neighbors.

I found myself often playing the role of mediator and peace-maker as the fighting continued. Often I had friends on both sides of the fight and was stuck in the middle trying to preserve relationships while also needing to weigh in on what I thought was just and fair. It was a struggle for me and often drove me to desperate prayer. God acted on those prayers in a huge way in 2011. The details or specifics of the fights and how they were resolved are not really that important. Instead, I simply wish to convey that the fighting miraculously stopped. It is true that we all worked hard to try to come to agreements on different things, but no matter how close we got issues would just persist. God ended it all in 2011 though, bringing ending to conflict and new community among our neighbors.

Conflict decreased and community increased in a couple of ways. First, the conflicts and issues simply took care of themselves by no effort of our own. One day we all of the sudden find out something had been fixed without our knowledge or something had changed that made a fight irrelevant. The second change came about through a yard sale. Andrea and I decided to collect a bunch of stuff from friends so that we could sell it all and donate the proceeds to charity. We were surprised to find that though we raised and donated $1,200, our biggest accomplishment was creating more community in our neighborhood by organizing a shared project for us to undertake together. A bunch of our neighbors chipped in to help and we were able to thank them by having them each over for dinner, finally giving us a chance to become a little more involved in their lives.

This is the story I would have shared if I had been given the opportunity during that open mic time. I wouldn't have shared the details of the story, but the profound and ironic truth that struck me as I reflected upon what God has done. The truth is simply this: we worship a God of peace who is waging a war against violence. God loves peace and reconciliation and crushes all conflict and discord that stands in the way. I love the irony of Romans 16:20 - "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." I also love Psalm 18, where God is pictured as ripping apart the heavens and thundering through the skies to rescue his people from destruction and to bring peace amidst a world of violence.

I guess my good news for 2012 (based upon what I saw God do in 2011) is this: we worship a God of peace who is waging a devastating war against violence, death, and destruction. Through Jesus Christ God has already defeated the powers of death and destruction in an irreversible way. The Christian community is a sign and foretaste of this peace, both pointing the world to the coming peace of God and giving it a true taste of what that peace will look like.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Heb 13:20-21)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Living God's Story

Two profound statements about God and story rocked me last week. One statement came from my 5 yr old nephew; the other from two accomplished theologians. Together they have been a potent reminder to me of the need for Christians to live out the story of God in western cultural contexts.

  1. From Joshua David Plumley (5 yrs old) - My nephew recently asked me to read to him from his children's Bible. I readily agreed and asked, "Which story would you like me to read?" He thought on this question a moment and said, "Um, Uncle Scott, I think there is only one." If you have seen the Charles Schwab commercials where two people are typing messages to one another until one says something profound, causing the other person to look off into the distance in pensive silence, then you can picture the scene from my story-time experience with Josh. His comment was a powerful reminder to me that the Bible is first and foremost a singular story, a story about a God who out of his love creates and redeems all things.
  2. From Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart (Hope Against Hope, 1999) - Bauckham and Hart claim western cultural contexts have moved from the pre-modern (traditional) focus on the past and the modern (progressive) focus on the future to the postmodern (or late-modern) focus on the present. In light of the collapse of the secular myth of progress that began with Enlightenment focus upon human capacity to create and master nature and the future, Bauckham and Hart suggest that people have now largely turned away from hope-filled views of the future. Instead, people seem to be opting for a focus on the present time, trying to cram as much as possible into each present moment as an effort to extend the present and avoid any concerns of ultimate meaning in future or history. After making this diagnosis of western cultural contexts, the authors claim that Christians must tell a different story of hope. Not a story of hope that is based upon human capacity to master the future and create utopia, but hope in the promise of God to bring his kingdom in the new creation. Christians must tell a story of hope in God that is built upon a faith in God because of the things he has already done and a trust that God will complete what has already been started through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The authors concluded their work by calling Christians not just to tell a different story of hope, but to live the story by taking their identity in the story and by shaping all of their actions in anticipation of the end of the story.
From the mouth of a babe and from the pens of two theologians came this powerful reminder to me: I need to live out the hope of God in my actions, attitudes, and words every day. The most powerful witness in cultures that have witnessed the failure of hope and now live with skepticism to stories of ultimate meaning is to live a life based on the faithfulness of God to fulfill what he has promised: to make all things new as he brings them into his presence for all eternity.

In a way, this is all just a more sophisticated way of saying the same message I learned through a poem my mother gave to me as a child:
You are writing the Gospel, a chapter a day
By the things that you do and the words that you say.
People read what you write, whether faithful or true.
Just what is the Gospel, according to you?

Now to figure out how to live a life of hope, a life based on God's story, in a cultural context often preoccupied with the pleasures of the present moment. A difficult, but necessary task: to live God's story faithfully in, for, with, and against my local context.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Is there room for Patriotism in the Mission of God?

I turned on the tv late Saturday evening (11/12/11) to watch a bit of the Stanford vs. Oregon college football game. Before getting the channel on to ABC, I happened to notice the republican presidential debate on CBS and ended up spending the next 45minutes listening to the candidates spew their republican rhetoric (debates are maddening to me because they are all rhetoric, not real content. Questions are rarely  answered with anything but token party lines. But I digress . . . ). The topic of the night seemed to be national security as the moderators were focusing their questions on Iran, Pakistan, foreign aid, China's cyber attacks on the USA, and the use of torture.

As soon as the debate ended (it was cut short so CBS could air NCIS on time...sigh), two thoughts crossed my mind: (1) the only republican candidates for whom I would even consider voting are Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul and (2) for as much as Republicans try to appeal to Christians, most of what I heard touted during the debate was completely antithetical to the teachings I find in the Bible (or, more honestly, my understandings of those teachings).

For example:
  • many candidates bemoaned all Foreign Aid the united states offers because we need to solely be focused on our own interests.
  • Romney and Gingrich both supported Obama's executive order to have Anwar al-Awlaki (an american citizen) killed without trial or any other process of due dilligence. [At least Romney was booed for this, but probably because he was supporting Obama]
  • Rick Perry said we need to make the next century the American Century. He went on to say we need to ensure China ends up on the "ash heaps of history" just like Regan predicted Russia would end up on the ash heap of history. Apparently the sufferings of other countries are perfectly acceptable if it leads to the benefit of America.
  • Not a single candidate really talked about globalization, the need for cooperation, responsibility for fellow human beings, or care and concern for anyone outside of America.
  • Bachman complained that we don't have any jails overseas where we can hold and interogate terrorists without ever giving them a fair trial.
  • Only Hunstman and Paul spoke against waterboarding and truly opposed torturing human beings as a means of protecting the united states. All other candidates tried to denounce torture while not actually denouncing methods of torture.

Now, I know these are all complex issues and I am not trying to make light of them or to necessarily say I have thought them all thought-out and have clear-cut stances. But what came through loud and clear in the debates was this: "We need to protect and promote American prosperity no matter what the cost is to the rest of the world." If that doesn't cause some discomfort to the Christian, I suggest he or she might actually want to read the Gospels.

So, in light of the rhetoric promoting America's greatness I thought I would simply remind us that Christians in America are not citizens of America who are to look after the needs of America at all costs. Rather, we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, the realm where God rules and the realm where we work for his purposes at all costs. The following verses remind us of this:
Philippians 3:20 - 21: 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Hebrews 13:14: For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
As we look forward to the kingdom of God, to the time when God's rule and his presence will completely recreate everything as we know it into full perfection, we shape our lives based on the ideals of that kingdom. So even though that kingdom is still out there in the future ahead of us, it is present in the way we live as the church of Jesus Christ. Our present lives are to be shaped by the kingdom. This means that we are more concerned with the rights of the poor, marginalized, and broken than those of the rich and powerful; more concerned with universal justice than the rights of one country; more concerned with human dignity, safety, and opportunity than personal or national security.

The dramatic narrative of the Bible reveals to us a God who is on a mission to renew his creation so that peoples of every tongue and tribe can live eternally in his presence and under his glorious rule. If all peoples belong to the new creation and if the Christian is called to live in the present as a citizen of this new kingdom even though it remains to be fully realized in the future, I ask this simple question without offering a clear cut answer: Is there room for nationalistic patriotism in the mission of God?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Let Jesus Sleep in My Tent Last Week

A friend of mine called me a few weeks ago to ask if I could help him find a place to sleep for the night. He has not had a place to live for quite a while and is having a rather difficult time getting healthy, staying sober, and finding work. My wife and I have tried to do some small things to help meet some of his needs since I first met him and became his friend at a Caribou Coffee about a year ago now. He still goes on and on every time we see him about the time we let him take a shower at our place and the shoes we once bought for him. I've also visited him in the hospital, put him in a hotel for a night so he could get out of the cold, and even gave him one of my favorite travel mugs so he could save 50 cents on every cup of coffee he buys at Caribou.

At times, it is easy to think that the things we have done for our friend place us into the ranks of the missional elite, those who are concerned with the poor, the broken, and the hurting who are all around them. It is tempting to believe that my wife and I have arrived at a full understanding of what it really means to take up our crosses and follow Christ by self-sacrificially serving the purposes of God as we serve others. The last few weeks have taught me that I have a lot to learn about following Jesus into a life of love.

Back to the story . . . so my friend calls me a few weeks ago asking if I can help him find a place to stay for the evening because he was afraid he couldn't get into the homeless shelter and the weather was supposed to get cold. I was quite busy when he called as I was running a huge yard sale to raise money for a charity some friends of mine started and  had a house literally filled with donations for the sale, so I told him the best I could do for him was to let him sleep in my tent out in our back yard. When he had called with the same kind of request in the past, we either raised some money to put him up in a hotel or tried to find someone to house him, but this week I just did not have the time to do either because my missional quota was being filled by the yard sale (which was great, by the way. We raised nearly $1,200, enough to put 12 students in Haiti through school for a year through  my friends' charity).

Fortunately, my friend was able to get into the shelter and did not have to sleep in my tent. He called again a week or two later, worried once more about not having a place to stay. He asked if he might be able to sleep in our tent, along with a woman-friend of his. I told him we would be more than happy to help him out in this way and made all the arrangements. We set up the tent, picked them both up at the train station, let them use our shower/bathroom, and provided the necessities for a good night's sleep (sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, flashlight, etc.)

Then Andrea and I went to bed ourselves, enjoying our queen-sized bed w/ pillow topper and plush pillows (she uses two, I use three). My fans were gently circulating the air for maximum comfort and for white noise to block any disturbances that might be caused from the traffic outside. As comfortable as I was, (and trust me, we know how to do comfort!) I couldn't sleep. I was haunted by this simple thought: I am letting Jesus sleep in my tent while I am comfortable in my nice bed.

Jesus taught his followers in Matthew 25 to consider all the things they did or did not do for the "least of these" as things they did or did not do for him. The message was clear: every time you serve and love the poor, the broken, the marginalized, the sick, the weary, the widow, the stranger, the orphan, etc., you serve and love Jesus. Every time you ignore their needs or fail to love them, you ignore and fail to love Jesus. Or perhaps, the message could be said like this: every time you stay in your own plush bed while making the needy sleep on the cold, hard ground in a small tent, you are really letting Jesus sleep in your tent instead of giving him the best of what you have.

I guess I have made some progress from where I once was and I suppose I can be proud of the fact that I have been able to help my friend in the small ways that I have. After last week, though, I also know that I have a long way to go if I truly am to love the world in the way of Jesus.

Here's the kicker: my friend planned on staying in the tent a couple of nights, until he knew for sure that he could get into the shelter. My wife and I planned on trying to find a way to get him and his woman-friend into our house so they wouldn't be so cold the next night, but I never heard from either of them. Finally, I gave him a call to see if he and his companion needed a place to stay. He said they were going to sleep in a local parking garage instead of our tent because his friend had been a bit uncomfortable with us and the arrangements we provided. I guess I didn't just let Jesus sleep in my tent. I also let him sleep in a parking garage. I hate to think what other things I have done to Jesus in my inability to give up my own needs, comforts, and desires.

May God grants us all the power of his Holy Spirit so that we might truly provide for those in need, even if it costs us a good night's sleep.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Celebrating the Gospel over Eggs and Bacon

Andrea and I have been dreaming about hosting a worship gathering in our home for some time now. The gathering we envision is a bit different than we have experienced previously and may be different than what you are used to as well. Right now, we're planning on doing this once a month.

We are hoping some friends will join us on Sunday at 10:30 for a potluck breakfast and a time of gathering together to celebrate who God is, what he has done, and what he has promised to be and do in the future. We will enjoy great food, experience community around the breakfast table, read from the Scriptures, share from our thoughts and experiences, discern the leading of the Holy Spirit and offer our praises to God as we celebrate the Gospel (Eucharist, Communion, whatever you want to call it!).

I have a vision to see this gathering be a celebration much like the gatherings of families across the world for holidays. Andrea and I are going to try to cultivate a celebratory atmosphere that will encourage people to be excited about who God is and what he is doing. While I do have visions in my head for how this might look, I'm really trying to leave it open to what God wants to do with this and open to the uniqueness and creativity of those who choose to participate.

[If you live in the area and want to come, please do so! Bring a bible, a breakfast dish to share, and a celebratory attitude as we party together because of the Good News of God through Jesus Christ!
For those of you who are CCCHers, we selected 10:30 as the time so you could still go to the 9:00 a.m. worship service at CCCH if you want.]