On the bookshelf: Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma

It’s been difficult to write a review of Pursuing Justice. It’s not that I don’t want to write a review. It’s just that I don’t know where to start.

So let’s start with this. There’s a very real chance that this book will turn your ideas about justice upside down by setting things right.

Ken Wytsma methodically traces justice from simple definition to its intricate interaction with righteousness, morality, worship, race relations and daily life. Along the way, he sheds new light on stories that we think we knew – like the story of David and Bathsheba that Wytsma redefines as the story of a rich man using his power and position to take from the poor.

Along the way, Wytsma uses the life examples from the people he has met through his work with nonprofits like World Relief and Food for the Hungry as well as his experience as the pastor of Antioch Church.

In the powerful chapter, “Playstations and Poverty,” Wytsma tells the story of a friend from the Congo visiting an American classroom. The interaction between the friend and the children becomes the launch pad for an explanation on how our thirst for consumer goods fuels fires of civil unrest that burn through countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Wystma takes the reader on a journey to justice without casting blame. Yes, he acknowledges that as individuals and as a community we have fallen short, but emphasizes that the path to justice begins with changing our daily lives and living out a life of justice in our faith communities.

A short, powerful chapter closes the book with a call to live and die for bigger things. In as sense the entirety of the writing that goes before can be summed up in these sentences from the final paragraphs:

Justice is about my relationships here and my compassion there.

Justice is about knowing God as much as it is about serving God.

Justice has become both a daily necessity and an impossibility

Justice makes immoral pleasure distasteful and grows a deep and abiding happiness.

Justice leads me into a way of living by faith that is beautifully awkward.

Justice highlights the amazing grace of a God who allows me to stand before him as if I was fully just.

Thank you to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Hello, my name is Judas {Day 2 of 40 days of Lent}

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

(John 12:1-11 ESV)

Laughter rang through the house as the men reclined at the table. Scrumptious smells filled the room as Martha cooked and served and hustled and smiled.

Her brother. Alive. In the company of the teacher.

Mary, the quiet one, watched the scene the way people-watchers do. She saw the details. The way Lazarus handed the bread to Jesus. The way the disciples leaned in to hear the conversation better. The way Jesus turned to include even the quietest one in the conversation.

Maybe, just maybe, she saw a hint of contempt flash across the face of Judas.

Soon, the house filled with a scent deeper and stronger than the peppers and spices of Martha’s kitchen.

For reasons maybe she never fully understood, Mary had broken open a jar of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus with it.

One by one they sniffed the air, turning their heads to follow the smell and finding Mary at the feet of Jesus, pouring the perfume and wiping it with her hair.

Only one reacted – and that with contempt.

What a waste!

Why wasn’t this sold for the poor?

“Leave her alone!” came the response. Crisp. Clear. Unambiguous.

Leave her alone.

As much as I want to be Mary, I’m Judas.

Judging people’s actions by my own tainted ideas of right and wrong.

Who needs a gas-guzzler like that? The mom with four kids under 8 who all need to sit in car seats.

How can they spend that much money on a dinner when there are people starving? They’ve been blessed and are generous with their money among many local charities.

Don’t they have anything better to do with their time than play video games? They’re just relaxing after a long day at work.

Judas scorned Mary for what he saw as waste. Jesus praised Mary because Judas’ idea of waste was really an act of love if you took in the whole picture.

How are you like Judas?

How can you be more like Mary?

These (hopefully) daily devotions for Lent are based on the 40 Days of Lent reading plan available at YouVersion. The plan was graciously provided to YouVersion by Journey Church.

Entering Jerusalem {Day One of 40 Days of Lent}

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

(Matthew 21:1-11 ESV)

Weary from the journey from Jericho to Bethphage, two disciples of Jesus had one more task ahead of them. From their vantage point on the Mount of Olives, they could see the brilliance of the temple stones and the busy roads leading into and out of the city.

That’s where they were headed.

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Bike MS 2013: Anticipation

152 days.

Wintry gray will have given way to the colors of spring and the temperate spring to a sultry summer.

152 days.

With some hard work, I’ll have dropped a few pounds to make my task easier.

152 days.

To put in time and miles on the bicycle in preparation for the big day.

152 days.

Until bike MS: Mason-Dixon Challenge 2013.

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