Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Prayer".
Lessons in Transparency
July 12, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Lessons in Transparency
Dear Friends, Recently, I’ve been reading Being Disciples: Essentials of the Christian Life, by Rowan Williams. I was immediately struck by Williams’ introductory remarks that pursuing deeper Christian commitment isn’t done by reading books. Rather, it is accomplished “by the daily effort to live in a way that allows Jesus Christ to come through in our lives; we are caught up in the task of showing that what we say is credible.” We serve as effective disciples when we are “transparent to Christ” in our thoughts, speech, and actions. According to Williams, our task is to live in a way that dispels the murkiness obscuring Christ’s presence; thus, empowering us to grow in love of God and neighbor. By being transparent to Christ across time, we slowly become people who live as “credible” disciples—literally giving credence to our words. Our sidesteps and missteps as much as our successes give us daily opportunities to display Christ as his forgiveness and humility permeate our life together. Dave Odom, executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, visited us a few weeks ago to facilitate a discussion on TCF’s work and culture. One of our big “a-ha” moments of painful transparency came when he observed that some of our staff (myself included) work as if our mission is a sprint instead of a marathon; this is despite the fact that we know our vision of a Christian community that acts like Christ, especially in the face of conflict, will not be accomplished in a life time. Although we are encouraged daily by stories of transformation, ours is a marathon vision that requires a measured and disciplined pace. When we view our work as a sprint, failing to take time to care for one another and for our partners, we shortcut the “daily effort to live in a way that allows Jesus Christ to come through in our lives.” By failing to care for and appreciate each other in our daily tasks, our mission loses its credibility as our tasks become crass transactions and we lose sight of our longing for God-empowered transformation. Dave challenged us to live into our own mission, to add a few life-giving rhythms to help us sustain our marathon mission of equipping leaders to transform polarizing cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. He’s absolutely right. In this way, we model the honesty and consistency we’re calling our Colossian Way group leaders to embody. Our words gain credibility when we practice the rhythm of Godly thinking, speech, and action—including confession and forgiveness—all within a context of worship. Through this manner of living together, trust grows and the opportunity of engaging one another across our differences is made possible in increasingly beautiful ways. Through your faithful prayers and participation with us in this work, you are a vital member of this community of practice—a community that is, according to Williams, “growing in the life that Jesus shares with us, so that we can become signs of life and hope in our world.” I am deeply grateful for your partnership, and I pray that you receive this letter as an act of transparency and a credible gift of Christ’s grace. This post is excerpted from our July prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
Why are You Interning Here? Formation.
June 28, 2017 | Trey Tirpak
Why are You Interning Here? Formation.
Information. We love it, don’t we? Just pull out your phone and explore a sea of facts and tales about the universe we inhabit. But navigating this sea of information has become quite a haunting endeavor. For so much of my life, I’ve been driven by the narrative that “if we just get the right facts – the right information – and put it in order, then we can fix things” or “if we just put our minds to the task then we can fix things.” This narrative also has an ultimate source where we get all the right "facts” from: the Bible. The best news about this source is that it’s simple; what we need to know is what the Bible says, plain and simple. There’s a long list of how this narrative is chock-full of truth while at the same time chock-full of misleading, secular/modern belief about the Bible and the God of it, our world, and ourselves. So, like many Christians who are seeking to navigate these seas well, I was asking questions like: What is truth? What is real? What is good? What is beautiful?   But the haunting thing for me is that so many answers to those questions are determined by how I’ve been formed as a person, and so I have to first ask about how to ask methodological questions. Like any discipline, there’s a method (a way) to inquire, investigate, inspect that’s proper, appropriate, and fitting. So, I’ve been finding myself asking questions like “what is faithful discernment?” or “what is the way that I’m going to take to answer these questions?” It’s a good task, but also a hard one, which is how I’ve come to The Colossian Forum. It’s discernment that draws me into The Colossian Forum, faithful discernment. You see, at The Colossian Forum, we know that the work of being a prudent, discerning Christian isn’t merely about gathering all the right information and all the right facts. Rather, it must first and foremost be about formation: who we are and who God is forging us to be. Only then can we truly address, answer, and faithfully discern questions. [embed]https://vimeo.com/47144995[/embed] What I’ve realized so far is that, in my theological journey, formation is what’s been left out of the conversations. The incarnational indwelling of the Spirit and what he is actively doing in my life has not been considered in my conversations or even considered valid. I’ve just been relying on my reasoning and my opinions and my vision of “how things are suppose to be” not even realizing how significantly these things have been formed in me by an outside world or how my disposition totally leaves God out of the picture.  [embed]http://vimeo.com/47144895[/embed] It’s because of realizing that I was my own idol – that it is my reasoning and my intellect and my vision of how things are supposed to be – that I’ve become convinced that I haven’t actually been having Christian, Christ-like conversations, and that I need to start practicing having authentically Christian discourse, especially when it comes to discerning things about the topics that The Colossian Forum engages. So formation is why I am interning here, and why I’ve come to cherish The Colossian Forum. TCF practices faith, hope, and love, not merely thinks about them. So, if you’re wondering what it might mean to step out in faith and discern things, come join the ship that’s trying to navigate these waters. "To be theological is not just about being intellectual. It’s also about our heart. Theology is something that’s not just in my head it’s what I live…” Rev. Wayne Coleman, Millbrook CRC, Grand Rapids, MI –– Born and raised on O'ahu Hawai'i, Trey Tirpak graduated from Calvin College in May 2017 with a B.A. in Religion while minoring in Congregational and Ministry Studies in Community Development and Pastoral Ministry. He is attending Western Theological Seminary in Holland Michigan, and is pursuing a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Social Work (MSW) while also seeking ordination in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). Trey is interning this summer at The Colossian Forum.
Finding the Next Faithful Step
June 7, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Finding the Next Faithful Step
Dear Friends, In our journey together into the heart of church conflict, many of you have noted that The Colossian Forum doesn’t provide a set of “answers” regarding divisive issues, but challenges Christians to practice trusting that all things already hold together in Christ. If we live out of this trust, seeking to hold truth and love together amidst our differences, the Holy Spirit will act to bring forth something new, lead us into all truth, and provide the vision for the next step of faithfulness. At TCF, we have the honor of seeing God act in amazing ways, creating friendships across political and ideological divides that are nothing short of miraculous. Yet delight across difference doesn’t do away with the fact that we still have to make decisions about how we’re going to live together. This means, according to the world’s narrative, there will be winners and losers. When a gay couple asks to be married in a specific church, there is either a “yes” or a “no,” regardless of how deep the love and delight we’ve discovered in others with whom we disagree. So how do we make decisions as churches and institutions while still disagreeing? How do we elevate love of God and love of neighbor when there are clear winners and losers? Well, since we don’t have the answer to this question, it’s one more occasion to practice holding truth and love together, praying the Holy Spirit would provide the vision for the next step of faithfulness. And we’ve been praying for this a long time. One of our Colossian Way participants is a key leader in her church and when confronted with this either-or, winner-loser question, she responded in a surprising and Spirit-creative way. She noted that she’d been living as the “loser” in her church for over 20 years, but remained committed both to the church and to the people who disagreed with her. She didn’t give up what she believed. She didn’t walk away. And she doesn’t want those who disagree with her to give up and walk away either. Instead she wants them to continue to live committed to corporate faithfulness with her and the church for another 20 years. Maybe, just maybe, through their continued life together, the Spirit will lead them more deeply into truth. The future is uncertain. But what seems more certain is that if she had left 20 years ago, or if those on the opposite side of the issue leave now, the possibility for the Spirit to act in their midst is diminished. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can walk The Colossian Way. We can live together. We can experience a foretaste of heavenly communion on earth. But on this side of the second coming, there are going to be times when, at least in the world’s frame, there are winners and losers. There will be pain. There will be loss. There will be sacrifice. Can we take that on? Can we live out of Christ’s victory that has not yet fully come? Can we show the world a better frame—a more interesting story? How might we act differently? How might we stick together in these moments in new and interesting ways? A lot of us are facing these realities right now in our churches and institutions. It’s tough, gut-wrenching work. Here at TCF, we’re praying for you as you discern the next faithful step in “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). The Holy Spirit will act if we come open-handed, recognizing our need for the Spirit’s action. But will we have eyes to see it when it happens? Will we have the courage to follow the Spirit’s lead? We join you in praying for God to move and act as the church discerns the next faithful step in our current dilemmas. This post is excerpted from our June prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
Becoming a People of Truth
February 8, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Becoming a People of Truth
Having spent three days drinking weak hotel coffee, my friend and I are eager for a strong cup of joe. Finding a coffee shop in the airport, we place our orders. While waiting, my friend inquires of the barista her country of origin. The barista smiles tentatively and responds in her rich African accent, “I’m sorry, what did you ask?” My friend asks again, this time with a smile, and she replies, “Ethiopia.” “How long have you been in the U.S.?” “A year,” she responds. “And has it been a good year?” “Mostly, yes,” she says. “Well, thanks for the coffee … and welcome to America.” A small, seemingly meaningless act of kindness in an unkind and uncaring world can be, rightly understood, a remarkable act of defiance—an embodiment and foretaste of the hope we all long for. I wonder if our barista trusted that small kindness. Or if, in the midst of our political situation and the TV news playing behind her head, these questions only register as threats. The next night, back home in my church small group, one member hesitantly offers a prayer for the immigrants caught in limbo. The room goes quiet. Should someone else pray for national security? Have we broken protocol? No one knows the answer, but we all feel the fragmentation of our divided body, right there in our living room. The left fears the right; the right fears the left. Yet both the left and right agree the world would be better off if their team was more firmly in control. Small acts of kindness and glimpses of hope are harder when so much seems to be at stake. How did we get to this point? And where to do we go from here? Recently, theologian Tom Wright shared a talk focused on speaking truth to power (which sounds so noble, but truthfully I’d settle for being able to speak truth to my small group). Fortunately, his talk also captured how we become a people of the truth and how to discover the lies that speak through us. To do that, we have to expose the idolatry that has set up shop in many of our own living rooms. Let me quote Wright, who says it better than most. At the heart of the biblical story: Creation itself is understood as a kind of Temple, a heaven-and-earth duality, where humans function as the “image-bearers” in the cosmic Temple, part of earth yet reflecting the life and love of heaven. This is how creation was designed to function and flourish: under the stewardship of the image-bearers … Called to responsibility and authority within and over the creation, humans have turned their vocation upside down, giving worship and allegiance to forces and powers within creation itself. The name for this is idolatry. The result is slavery and finally death … We humans have thus, by abrogating our own vocation, handed our power and authority to nondivine and nonhuman forces, which have then run rampant, spoiling human lives, ravaging the beautiful creation, and doing their best to turn God’s world into a hell (and hence into a place from which people might want to escape). Wright, N.T (2016). The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion. New York, NY: HarperOne. I find that hell has invaded my living room. And I’ve opened the door to it by putting the nation (specifically, one political party of the nation) in the place where Christ belongs. I’m guessing I’m not alone. I’d invite us all during this time of fragmentation, anger, and misunderstanding, to pray for clarity about our idolatry, and see if restoring Christ to the center gives us just enough imagination for one small act of kindness—especially in the middle of our living rooms. This post is excerpted from our February prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
Finding Our Limits
January 11, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Finding Our Limits
Dear Friends, Many people undertake a practice of reflection during the holidays and in preparation for a new year. In that spirit, I took time to reflect on God’s blessings and provision here at The Colossian Forum over the past year. Perhaps the greatest gift of 2016 is one that came as a surprise: our limits. Not that we’re surprised to have limits, we’re quite aware of them (along with our flaws). No, the surprise was in how the limits themselves became gifts. Of course, limits don’t always feel like gifts, especially in our achievement-crazed culture. Throughout 2016 we kept bumping up against them though: financial limits, time limits, and limits of our abilities. As a creature of our culture, I have to confess these limits often didn’t register as gifts at the time. But as finite creatures of a good God, we can learn to receive limits as gifts meant for our good. For instance, through our limits we learned to depend upon each other as teammates. We had to rely on friends to help us where we couldn’t help ourselves. For example, despite the fact that we didn’t have the financial resources to run the Beyond the Creation Wars conference in October, Andrews University allowed conversation and friendship with our partners Darrel Falk and Todd Wood to continue to unfold. Our friends at Front Range Christian Schools in Littleton, CO are likewise hosting a public conference with Darrel and Todd at the end of this month, again, largely without our help. We also discovered new friends we didn’t know we had because of our limits. Some of these friends helped us take our work in new and exciting directions that we couldn’t have imagined. Others simply took our work and ran with it in new directions without us. We had to let go of control. And in doing so, we found that God is quite capable of running the cosmos even when we’re not at the helm. Go figure . . . We are still facing limits in this new year. The demand for The Colossian Way experience continues to grow and now well exceeds our funding base. How much of that need we are able to meet lies outside our control. Numerous organizations have contacted us desiring to take on and help distribute The Colossian Way. We certainly want to broadly circulate what we’ve learned and are grateful and humbled by these potential partners. Still, we’re not sure if or how those partnerships will happen. But we’re learning to trust that God will continue to provide in unexpected ways. My prayer is that we all grow in our awareness and gratitude for the different ways God’s provision touches our lives and our world. This may even take the form of being thankful for our limits! In this new year, I hope our limits will keep before us the truth that it is God, and not us, who’s doing the work. We truly appreciate all of you who keep supporting The Colossian Forum in your prayers, your volunteering, your gifts, and your limits. This post is excerpted from our January prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
The Unconventional and Unexpected of Advent
December 7, 2016 | Michael Gulker
The Unconventional and Unexpected of Advent
A few weeks ago, we hosted leader training for the second pilot group of The Colossian Way. We received some surprising feedback from a few leaders who, following the training, indicated they felt less equipped to deal with messy cultural conflicts impacting the church than when they started. Gulp. That’s not exactly the feedback we were looking for from a training class. Yet, it’s not really unexpected. To walk The Colossian Way is to enter into something that isn’t under our control. It means giving up our well-honed arguments and our attempts to hold everything together ourselves. It means we follow our Savior in becoming vulnerable and utterly dependent upon the Father—like a helpless babe. It’s been over 2,000 years since Jesus came as a baby, and it seems like we’ve got Advent down to a science. The biggest question many of us face is which week to light the pink Advent candle. But things weren’t always that routine and conventional. The Christmas story is full of unanticipated happenings: surprise babies out of wedlock, wise men evading Herod on their way out of town, shepherds seeing angels, the slaughter of innocent children, and a flight to Egypt. As Jesus matures, it seems his life is never entirely in his control. The disciples constantly disappoint him. His own people reject him. Ultimately, he goes out of this world as helplessly as he came in—a victim of principalities and powers. But through the uncertainty and mess and violence, Jesus never loses faith in the Father. The Father justifies that faith in a most surprising way—not saving his Son from suffering and death, but redeeming him from the grave. When the final enemy is overcome, in what surprising ways will the Father have justified our own much smaller faith, and smaller messes and conflicts? What will it look like when we discover that it was not our efforts that held things together, but that they already held together in the One who comes? Things will likely get messy, uncomfortable, and even painful, no matter how excellently we are prepared. But The Colossian Way calls us to follow Jesus through the mess and pain, trusting the Father to vindicate our faith and eagerly watching for the Holy Spirit to do a new thing in our midst! I invite you to join me this Advent season as we wait, watch, and trust God in the big, the small, and the surprising things. This post is excerpted from our December prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.