“Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[c] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Ever pass by this scripture in Matthew 5:22 and wonder why Jesus makes such a big deal about name calling? In many translations of the bible, this interesting little Aramaic insult is kept in its original form. It was a accusation of contempt towards someone during the time of Christ, and we’re told by historians it meant empty-headed, useless or simply a fool. Jesus wasn’t honing in however on a particular word, as if avoiding R-A-C-A itself was the issue.

Jesus always went for the heart, the secret place of our motivations. He still does.

Jesus taught that murder originates in the heart as hatred. Hatred assumes a moral superiority on the part of the hater which works to validate oppressive and destructive actions against the supposed inferior character. This is why Jesus said it’s impossible to love God and hate your brother. How can you believe you are superior to another sinner and still confess to know the God of grace? Isn’t murder an expression of superiority? I am superior to you, my beliefs, my needs, justify your extinction.

Hatred, like murder, is rooted in pride; an embracing of a false reality in a superior self. It’s the slippery slide that leads us into all sorts of evil. Paul gives us some warnings to help us jump off this slide.

Therefore, putting aside all [a]malice and all deceit and [b]hypocrisy and [c]envy and all [d]slander.. 1 Peter 2:1 (NASB)

These four words help us unpack hatred, they are helpful and telling synonyms to personally consider. We have all been guilty of experiencing and practicing some of these destructive actions towards one another whether we’ve stopped to process our ultimate motivations or not.

  • Malice (bad intentions. maligning malevolently.)
  • Guile (astute, artful deception. you’ve thought it through.)
  • Slander (character assassination. misleading others to think poorly about another.)
  • Envy (resenting jealousy. energized bitterness.)

Jesus warning was towards forgetting our own broken condition as sinners. Let us beware of thinking too highly of ourselves, there is no grace there! The next time we are tempted to aim our words towards the belittling of another, or sowing discord, remember God sees this motivation as attempted murder. The Kingdom, Jesus reminds us, is like a servant that was forgiven insurmountable debts, but then used their freedom to confiscate small debts from others. The merciless person will receive no mercy (Matt 5:7).

To name call is to essentially confess, “I need no grace.” At least that’s the way Jesus sees it.

Name calling is more than playground ‘sticks and stones’ and we know this. In the words of Kierkegaard, when we labeling others, we’re attempting to dismiss them. We want to dismiss their humanity, their value and worth in an attempt to exalt our own. He sees beyond our many justifications to the depths of our hearts, and will not hold this unpunished. Can His warning be any more fierce than the fires of judgment and hell? Cease the posture of a superior judge, there’s room for only One there.

Our hearts are complicated, tricky things. To love is to divest, to lay down, and give yourself for the good of others. This is the love of God towards us which was revealed in Jesus – it cost Him everything to reveal the nature of His love perfectly. When we stop believing the love of God over our own lives, or perhaps because we have never truly entered it, we by nature resort to all sorts of protective measures to secure our own value and worth. We need to rest in our weakness as we embrace God’s acceptance over our lives, not fight to find worth in the dejection of others.

“When people are empty of Christ, a thousand and one other things come and fill them up. Be filled with Christ!” St. Porphyrios

Our unity under Christ is a powerful testimony to the world. It’s a unity not in uniformity, but in self-effacing participation of the Trinity’s own diverse, united celebration of love. We’re not called to be right, but to love. The cold reality is that when we resort to name calling, we self-injure and imprison ourselves in the ugly characteristic of pride. The person(s) we might hope to devalue and bring down to size in the eyes of others, remain often untouched by our attempts. It is the accuser that is accused, the attempted murderer that is sentenced.

The next time we read the warnings of “Raca”… let us take to heart the humility of Christ, who both warns us of the crime of hate, and carried in Himself the excruciating pain of it. Let us enter the love of Christ by participating in it, loving our enemies, and especially those in the household of faith (Gal 6:10).

Christ, who is the Gospel of God, transcends politics, cultures, and worldviews. His Kingdom reigns forever. Spirit help us all to come under your loving reign!

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September 13, 2019

How about a block of photos for an update?

  • Delivering sewing machines and materials to partner ministries.
  • Final paper submitted and have 2 week break on studies. Brain says yes.
  • Kids have been sleeping in the backyard in tents. Free campsite!
  • Harvested field of sunflowers.. one little fella remained.
  • Submitted docs for resident renewal.. Ukraine has embraced 21st century!
  • Box of… hmm, what could they be? New business idea that really sucks.
  • Week of prayer over our town, ministry, incoming students.
  • Friends.

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Opening Bell | Fresh Season.

Across Ukraine students attend an opening ceremonies that looks like something out of the Oscars. Well, Ukrainian style, outdoors, and not quite as organized. This year two it’s only our two youngest, Abbey and Claire that are attending public school. The others, well, we continue pioneering standards for the no-schooling movement (see Deb for details).

It also marks the beginning of a new year for some of our Lighthouse ministries, including youth, children, and this year our new sewing room. Neat to see how that has emerged and the Lord has kindly provided both material and the hearts to run it.

Skatepark is taking a beating, which is great!

We will be meeting over the next few weeks to pray together, and discern how the Spirit might be guiding us. I’m looking forward to providing some clearer on-ramps for those who desire to deepen their faith, and express it more intentionally in their contexts.

The sewing material and machines finally arrived! Deb and Natasha organizing and prepping to share with some orphanages (shoes, socks, dresses, material, stuffed animals).

Most pressing is the extension of my residence permit, once you turn 45 you need to get a new one.. and my birthday is this week. The time this will take is unknown, which means it could take a while. Without this document, I won’t be able to leave the country.. We have a busy October coming up which requires travel to Belarus and Russia.

Some of this year’s reading. It’s challenging to get hard copies of all of them but I much prefer paper! Benner book has been our favorite. Read at your false-self’s peril.

I just finished my semesters final paper, 30 pages, worth 50% of my grade. There was some wonderful reading this summer, and putting it all into a final document has been rewarding, and exhausting. The title of my paper is “Trinitarian Existentialism.” It might sound confusing, but it’s really just about knowing God within the context of His own revealed personhood (Father, Son, Spirit) and how that might inform our faith
& practice. I’m pretty excited about all I’m learning, and unlearning. This semester “Leading a missional community” couldn’t have come at a more relevant time for us. I’m excited to explore deeper forms of community for the world around us.

We’ve been looking at possible purchase of a house in Pennsylvania. Since our last trip there, and selling our house in Texas, we started to sense a changing season ahead, and one that I think correlates to growing older, prepping to create a homestead, or a US ‘base’ for our children and their families. We have no plans or desires to return to the US full time, but perhaps part time through the year. Deb and I see how a central place might serve to, well, serve our family in this next chapter. Anyway, it’s a consideration that fits within an ever changing vision/outlook how the Lord might be shaping us for future things. Would you pray over this with us?

Deb’s birthday last week. We were suffering from extreme jetlag – so we did smores in the middle of the night instead of a meal and cake 🙂

Thanks for checking in. We are still absorbing and processing the many visits during our travels this trip. It’s neat how we didn’t plan as many stops this time, and less travel, but the conversations and meetings we did have were really cool – the kind you really can’t plan on your own. Thankful!

I’ll be sending out a more private update to our partners & friends. If you are not our MIR monthly (or so) email update, feel free to request a copy by emailing me at bruce@liftupyoureyes.org or message me on social media.

For those who are interested, our Mir Charity projects, which serve not only Ukraine but Belarus, are needing some help to meet this years project budgets. The most pressing is about $2,000 in total to cover our upcoming Worship Conference in Belarus this October. We are anticipating 1,000 youth, musicians, and guests from US/Ukraine. Thank you for your consideration and partnership – for a tax deductible receipt, click here to securely donate online!

As a side personal request, I have been invited to Far East Russia to teach at YWAM base again. I want Deb to come with me and teach 1/2 the course during the day (on prayer) so can also teach evening course on leadership development as an outreach. The tickets are $800, and a brutal 30hr (3 flights) due to air restrictions between Russia and Ukraine – We do not have the funds for this, we just bought a truck for winter and zapped our cash. Send the Deb please! Click here if you don’t need a tax deduction, or here if you do. If you can’t give, pray for this, thanks!

Bruce & Deb

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The Art of Friendship

A friend is an interesting thing. Over the years, we have a variety of friendships. Some are seasonal, others last a lifetime. Returning from Texas yesterday, our hearts are filled with gratitude at the many deepening friendships. Some are new, emerging, filled with hope towards increased enjoyment and encouragement in this thing called friendship. Others have stood the test of time and distance, where reconnecting feels like weary ships returning to harbor.

To relate to one another deeply, we need to know ourselves. To know ourselves, as we all know, is not as easy as it seems and requires intention. As broken, insecure and incomplete souls, it’s often quite difficult to face our true nature. We hide behind performance, isolation, staying busy and a host of other defense mechanisms. Stephen Seamands in a book entitled Ministry in The Image of God calls these hiding places fig leaves. A reference to Adam & Eve’s reaction to their broken fellowship and newly processed shame. We humans are good hiders. I think the journey of life is designed for this revealing progression, out of the darkness, into the Light.

“Creator has no beginning. However, we humans have a beginning, and a middle. It’s for this progression we have been made.”

Irenaeus (130-202 AD)

To embrace our true self requires a reckoning of sorts, a show down, and through the great love of God as we see in Jesus, His conquering through our surrender. This process has a chance of taking place when we practice solitude. It does not, I believe, when we remain in unhealthy, frantic rhythms.

What we desperately need is the deafening sound of silence.

Penetrating whispers allowed to weave through our mind, falling, dissolving until nothing remains but the still loving voice of God. We hide behind those fig leaves I think, because we believe His voice just might speak – and we’re terrified at what He might actually say!

“In these hurried and feverish days there ‘s more need than ever for the deepening of our spiritual life through periodical detachment of the world and its need for lonely communion with God.” A quote I just read from 1928!

Jesus truly is humanities best friend.

Jesus knew who He was. He was from the Father, perfectly loved. He could stare the religious down because He didn’t need their affirmation. He was able to speak the truth in love in every situation. His love wasn’t conditioned on a response. It was uni-directional, it simply went out, found it’s target and that was it. He could do this because He was true, whole, not a brand of himself or managing questionable motivations. We can learn so much from Jesus, and I pray we can become the kind of friends that reflect His nature.

I don’t think I’ve been a great friend. Probably a poor one more often than I care to think about. I’ve spent the last decade raising kids, running business, and trying so survive in a foreign country. I’ve enjoyed people, but been protective, insecure, and someone that is purposefully difficult to deeply know.

As we get older, we become naturally more independent, but need to embrace and pursue deepening relatedness to others.

In the US/Canada, we don’t get to see our friends very often, but we are being more intentional with remaining connected. Social media is a friendly reminder, but is not friendship. We are looking forward to finding more creative ways to divest, care, and journey with those God has given us.

How do you stay meaningfully connected with your closest friends? How do you practice true self, and remain vulnerable in order that you (the real you) can be truly known by others? How do you maintain a rhythm of solitude with your Creator?

To be a good friend, I’m learning, is to fear less. There is no fear in love.

To identify with the struggles of others, and speak them as an act of solidarity. To ask questions that you yourself are still working through, and to be OK with simply journeying with others as an end.

Friends are a gift, one that is worthy of unpacking.

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