Friday, December 18, 2009
The reason I bring this up is because it is the reason I named this blog what I did and, amazingly, the thing that has rocked my world time and again. Life's all consuming question- as C.S. Lewis once wrote- is: what are you going to do with Christ? Oh, I know that His "followers" are legion but it seems that many are like football (or futbol) fans who proudly wear a team jersey and avidly follow the games and stats but at the end of the day have never been a part of that team or really even played that sport.
So many claim the title Christian but this is the time of year when you should ask yourself what that really means to you. If it means you go to a gathering once a week for one hour, throw the occasional $20 in the offering plate, and your kids are in the pageant then it may be time to re-asses the situation.
A friend of mine was talking with me last night and told me that his church canceled their Christmas Eve service. Before you get upset you should know that his church puts on a MASSIVE outreach to the community that, literally, draws tens of thousands but takes months of planning and runs over the course of weeks. I think they did their Christmas due.
However, on the heels of the news, several vitriolic emails found their way to my friend and his boss. Kindly, they responded to several of the authors (who signed only first names) and told them that their families would be spending Christmas Eve helping out a needy family. One man wrote back that, "that's the STUPIDEST idea I have ever heard."
Let's be fair, this guy had his church's Christmas Eve service canceled and the needy family was only concerned with eating and buying their kids presents. Obviously, the church is wrong (sarcasm heavily invoked).
But this story is only a microcosm of many's "Christian" life. We spend the whole year gossiping, over-eating, getting drunk, sleeping around, looking at pornography, and the only time we invoke the name of Jesus is to express our emotion as the guy in front of us just cut us off. We don't bother to visit those in prison, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, or love the unlovable- it would "cancel our Christmas Eve service"- and move us from complacent-jersey-wearing-bench-sitting to the grit, grim, and reality of the game.
Follow Jesus or don't follow Jesus. That is the Crux of the Matter.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I was turned down for a job. Don't get to upset on my behalf though because I applied as a joke.
The job was a the role of senior pastor in California at a church of 5,000. They were very polite and set me a nice letter with very professional letterhead saying that, darn it, they did not think I would be the appropriate fit for that role.
But it made me think back to a conversation I had with a friend of mine shortly after he graduated from his graduate work. He was searching for a church and discarding one position after another, citing- from time to time- some pretty trivial concerns. Finally, I piped up and told him to just take the job he felt was MOST right and quit whining.
This is applicable to any job but ministers may be the most guilty of it as they search for jobs and churches. We get ideas in our heads of how the church should be, how the people would be, the staff we would have, and the salaries we should make and then cannot understand either why those churches do not want to hire us or why we cannot find those churches.
What I shared with my friend on that day was that you are not ready for your ideal jobs when you are looking for it like that. This isn't to enter into some Eastern style thought of, "When you no longer seek you will find,"- at least intentionally- but to some degree it is true.
Early on in your career you are not ready for it. You cannot deal with the demands, the expectations, the patience, the staff issues, or even the money. You do not have the experience. You can be educated at all the right schools, have done all the right internships, and even have great connections but in the end that simply is not the issue. Oh, sure, there are rare exceptions.
In fact, you probably wouldn't even be able to choose your "perfect" job if every job in your field was open to you. You wouldn't know yourself well enough because- again- you don't have the experience.
For instance, early on in my career, I thought I wanted a Ph.D. in Theology so I could nitpick my denomination for various things. Looking back I must have been insane. What would possess me to think that 7 years of staring at books, attending classes, and then delving into the finer points of TULIP and Armenian thinking would really leave me feeling fulfilled?
I do not know where I am going next. Yet. I have some leads and (at least) one REALLY exciting possibility.
Maybe there is no perfect job though, maybe that is a fool's errand, maybe we need to stop looking and just enjoy where we are at and let God's will find us. It seems like the less I try and force God the more He does.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Perspective counts for almost everything in life. Where you stand in proximity to a mountain makes it beautiful scenery or a terrifying climb.
During my countless exit interviews from the USMC OCS they plopped me in front of a colonel, a sergeant major, and numerous captains- all gathered in one room and then demanded to know if I was leaving simply because I was "homesick" or was there another reason. I told them I was leaving because of what I learned at OCS. The colonel said that no one had stated that reason before so he was intrigued.
I explained that early on in the cycle a first sergeant who resembled a hybrid of miniature bear and the hulk gave us a talk on finishing the things that we have started, not growing weary when others do wrong but to continue on- even in the face of failure. It occurred to me then that I had gotten out of the church for all the wrong reasons. I had left for lazy people who would not share their faith or live in true community, I had left for pious gossips, I had left for denominational bureaucracy... but I had never lost faith in the mission- I had only lost site of the important in the face of the immediate.
That is pretty easy to do for any of us I think. I just re-watched the movie "Orange County" (I know, its deep here folks) and really found myself identifying with the character of Collin Hanks who is trying to run away to college to fulfill his dream only to discover he is chasing it the wrong way.
Sometimes by chasing the wrong thing we end up discovering the right one... but I wouldn't recommend relying on that method.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
There are blogs that discuss matters and blogs that update others on the blogger's personal life like some one-way facebook... long ago I established this blog as an "idea place" not social networking site. That said, there has been an event that crossed into both of those worlds and instead of me re-telling the story countless times (I already have but this can reach those I haven't yet talked to) I am going to blog my account.
Some time, about 9-10 months ago, my wife and I were in discussion about where we wanted to go in life and what we wanted to do. For once I allowed her to talk first and she talked about places in the world she would like to visit and have our kids see. She wants to make great jewelry and take beautiful pictures. I asked her if me being a military officer could ever fit into those dreams and, shockingly, she told me it could.
Fast-forward past hundreds of discussions and a highly painful and personal surgery, approximately 800 pages of paperwork, dozens of interviews, 8-9 physical fitness tests with the local USMC officer recruiter, hundreds of phone calls, awkward family situations and discussions, and endless waiting ("hurry up and wait" has whole new personal meeting for me).
Finally, in late August I was selected by a board to attend United States Marine Corps Officer's Candidates School in Quantico, VA for 10 weeks and I was thrilled. So I officially resigned my position at the church I was working for and prepared for my journey. The last day of September my bags were packed and prepared and my family (plus one good friend) took me up to KCI airport for a family briefing and an overnight stay before we lifted off the next morning.
After dinner, my wife and kids came back to the hotel and held me close for awhile as I changed over into shorts and a tee-shirt I was taking with me. Then I walked them downstairs, loaded them into the Blazer, and tried to man up. Sarah and I hugged for a long time and I knew the longer it went on the harder it would be. With some trouble we let go and I made her promise not to cry until she got home, she nodded through misting eyes and I wondered how this would work. Talk is one thing, doing it is another. Israel sat in the back and as the car pulled away his little paw shot out and I heard him sobbing, "I want my daddy!" My resolve that this was the right thing, to provide, to follow this passion, started to crumble then.
The 727's wheels lifted up at 0647 on a cool October morning and none of the 10 candidates on board slept even though it was earlier than we all got up usually. We studied flashcards and swapped stories of OCS that we had heard through the recruiter or friends or the Internet. We landed at Ronald Reagan International and thought, "Here we go."
Over the next five days our resolve was tested as the Marines attempted to bore us to death through gear issuing and sitting on the most uncomfortable camp stools known to man, only able to read our Candidate Regulations. It was painful. Amazingly though, they did not take our cell phones yet and I was able to text and call, quietly, during that time.
Now, I have never experienced the phenomenon known as "home sickness". I was the child who cried about having to go back home and my wife and I have spent 2-3 weeks apart a couple of times due to various circumstances and trips in our marriage before. Ten weeks is awhile but we believed it would just be a stretch. Day 3 of the Death By Boredom phase and I began to understand how and why a deployment would be so incredibly and uniquely difficult. One night my wife, no doubt trying to give me a little slice of home, sent me a picture on my cell phone of my whole family and visiting grandparents. I buried my head in a blanket and silent tears slid freely down my cheeks (anybody in the military who says that they have not cried for home I would deem a liar).
The following Wednesday is known as "pick up" in military circles and involves you being turned over to your platoon staff. In my case, a staff sergeant, two gunnery sergeants, and a captain. This is where hell begins. There is lots of weeping and gnashing of teeth. You lose all of your civilian gear, your phone, you WILL talk in third person and speak only once you have asked for- and been granted- permission to speak... oh, and scream everything. Example:
"Good afternoon, Gunnery Sergeant!! Candidate Rose, requests permission to speak to platoon Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant Arcentales!! Good afternoon, Gunnery Sergeant!!"
You learn "instantaneous, immediate obedience to orders" and moving with "speed and intensity". And there is no "adaption time"- you will fix yourself now. Really, all of this isn't too bad and the only bad thing is you lose your voice within the first week and sound like you have laryngitis. You get to know all of the guys in your platoon really well- though not through fireside chats or coffee- but based on how they sound off, what you hear third hand, how fast they adapt, how good of a fire team member they are, how well they march... basically, their general performance.
My wife, once I returned, wanted to know when I knew that I wasn't going to take the job. In a rare instance of self-awareness and self-realization, it was Training Day 2 after pick up. We were issued our M16-A4s. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED the rifle (okay, not after carrying it 12-16 hours for the first days) but it was putting together those "instant obedience" + "gettin' some" (military-ese for killing) that it occurred to me that one day they are going to point me in some direction and tell me to kill and I won't even question it... that killing would be WHY I got up in the morning.
I know, it is a necessity. I have more respect for the Marines now than I did joining. I just determined in that day that I was going to trade years away from my children and wife and all of those good memories to go and make really terrible ones. It is my choice. Maybe it makes me a coward to some. I don't really care about those opinions.
It was in these moments after my realization that I knew I was stuck for WEEKS on end with only letters to communicate. That I would have to pay the piper to some degree. That there was nothing I could do for the moment and that I may as well suck it up, put out, and spend some time in self-reflection while drilling for hours on end.
Pride got to me early on. I thought, "Great, I am going to go back and face two types of people: those who are disappointed in me for 'failing/quitting' and those who will always think, 'I/we told him so.'" ... and it is here that I have Marine training to thank. I have always been a fairly confident person but this choice was bothering me a lot- mainly in regard to others' reaction to my choice. But after the first 7-10 Training Days I stopped caring. This is not to say that I do not care about others but that disagreeing with people with confidence is a way of life in training. If you do not project confidence in decisions those instructors will eat you alive. It was a wonderfully freeing teaching.
In the weeks I had to think about my decisions and life I found two things that I will conclude with:
1. I cannot shut-up about this guy Jesus that I know. My last night in Quantico, with 5 guys gathered around my rack, I told them in verbiage that only other Marines would understand about who Jesus was and why He is the only thing that matters. This is who I am.
2. This was a pilgrimage for me. I do not regret going, though it has cost me. It answered questions I had that I did not even know I was asking. It taught me more than I ever thought I could learn in such a short period of time. It reminded me of what I am capable of. It showed me how little I need to survive. It showed me my priorities far better than reflective moments in a coffee shop ever could. I do not know if this will be my last pilgrimage but it was, ironically, 40 days long.
Notes for the church as a whole:
I. The Marines should not be the ones who claim "Ductus Exemplo" ("to lead by example") that should be Christians motto. As should, "We don't lie, cheat, or steal". We have gotten lazy in our example- no excuses.
II. Organization and Identification. Every Marine is a rifleman and knows his/her job within a fire team, squad, platoon, company, and battalion... why don't Christians know their most basic mission and act like it is important?
III. The lack of importance excuses have. A job/mission is either done or it is not, who care WHY it did not happen if it did not happen? Would it matter if lives were at stake?
IV. Professionalism is a must. The way you sit, stand, walk, talk, dress, and take care of your body in health and hygiene are reflective of your professional nature. Do not take it lightly.
If you have comments or questions please feel free to leave them or e-mail me. Words won't do any of the experience justice and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
HUGE thank-you to:
Gunnery Sgt. Arecentales, you have entered my Hall of Fame of influence. You did not tolerate mission failure, excuses, or attitude. I haven't been so angry at any person for a long time... and almost immediately realized that it was MY problem. You are a fine man, a great Marine, and this country owes more than it can repay for the countless fine officers you have produced.
Capt. Brian Olmstead for his time and work with me. I know you are disappointed but you have made your own mistakes. Still respect you to death.
Gunnery Sgts. Herron, Borreo, and Cruz. Wow, you still haunt my sleep but you taught me more about discipline than anyone I have encountered since my last butt-whooping by my own parents.
Staff Sgt. Nixon, thanks for showing me (by force) how to not show anger or die laughing when I really want to. You scare me and make me laugh a LOT. "Blame it on the Aa-a-a-a-co-hol!" Hahahahaha!
HUGE Jerk Award Goes To:
Gunnery Sgt. Hervey. Guess a number between 1 and 10... that's how many seconds you have to get to your table and sit down! Oh, you didn't make it either. Maybe we will bump into each other somewhere else, buddy.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I was reading another blog today and as I read the author's most recent entry it struck me how much this Christian leader harped on success, business principles, over-coming personal hurdles, and the power of positive thinking.
When, do you suppose, that the church became a business? That we measured our success and effectiveness in by buildings, dollars, and personal achievements? Paul writes in his letters that all his "achievements" he considered "scoobalah" (the translation of which would offend my most sensitive readers)... so why are we running systems that propagate and celebrate this type of thing?
Jesus says that he had no place to lay his head, he was not welcome in his own hometown or even among his family for awhile, he gets thrown out of temple, and drives people away when he preaches... so, if we are supposed to be little Jesus' as "Christians" why does our brand look so different?
Now I have no problem with business and, am in fact, a Libertarian but business should be conducted in a wildly different way than being a messenger of God.
Religion and business have little to do with knowing Jesus.
One would wonder that if so many "Christian" and "church" leaders are spending so much time talking about their structures and ways of finding success it may because they have so little to say about a Man they do not know...
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
As I have begun to engage in a dialogue that questions structure and religion because it does not seem to be part of Jesus' mission I have been shocked at the people who have been critically of the missional/emergent/emerging church and (on the other hand) floored at the people who- after being engaged in the structure for some time- are looking around saying, "Wait a minute. This is not what we signed up for."
While reading this morning I came up this quote from Alan Hirsch in his book The Forgotten Ways:
"I believe that hte reason for the strong response in our critics is that they actually [do] 'get the message' about missional church but [do not] like it because, in this case, it called them out of a religion of quiet moments in quiet places (or passive entertainment) and into liminality and engagement." p. 223
Precisely said. It is an upsetting of a very stable, unmoving apple cart that is more interested in maintaining their positions, jobs, and power than teaching and living Jesus. Was it not the Apostle Paul who said, "If any man preaches any other Gospel than Jesus let him be damned,"? Then we should question why so many people both inside and outside the church are clinging feverishly to the hope that their good deeds will outweigh the bad ones- when it is plain both from Scripture and our own expereinces in this life that we cannot.
This being the fundamental difference between Christ followers and all religous structures: we cannot be righteous before a righteous and holy God, therefore we must trust His Way to pay our debt.
As I talked to my wife Sarah I lamented how shocked and saddened I was when seemingly well-meaning Christian came against this message of "follow Jesus" because (and this is seriously a quote from one of them), "[If we tell people to just follow the Bible and Jesus]... it will give them too much freedom." (emphasis mine). Seriously. Too much freedom. Isn't it in John chapter 8 that Jesus says that to believe in the Son is to be set free, truly free.
"The main stimulus for the renewal of Christianity will come from teh bottom and the edge, from the sectors of the Christian wolrd that are on the margins." -Harvey Cox, Religion in the Secular City
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Up front I will say this: maybe when you are in the midst of something it seems like a lot of other people are in the midst of the same type of thing because your sensitivity to it is heightened. However, there seems to be a real crying out for change- politically and within the church- a longing for revival.
Revival is a great thing but as many are calling for it, they need to recognize that the cost of revival is the death of the old. And it is going to take courage to kill the beast we have fed.
There seems to be a yearning for a God movement. Phylis Tickle's book The Great Emergence theorizes that about every 500 years the Church (as a whole) goes through a massive overhaul (note: Constantine/Patrick, Luther, Wesley/Calvin). That we become stagnent and comfortable in the mold we are in must break out.
For as many books as there are debunking/disproving/nay-saying "Emergent Christianity" it would seem to this author that it is a case of "thou-dost-protest-too-much". A friend of mine Keith Drury once told someone trying to pick a theological argument with him, "While you are polishing the brass on your carefully crafted theology we are going to send missionaries, plant churches, and save souls." This is the spirit of the emergence that is starting at the margins and grassroots and is just now beginning to flex its cooperative muscle.
Part of the issue is that this movement does not yet (and God-willing never will) have the trappings of a denomination/another school of theological thought/or even a "movement" in the classical sense. That is to say that they do not have headquarters or mission statements or a collected set of complaints against the current structure or even a agreed upon set of plans to move forward- and here is why: they are concerned on with making a difference where they are.
They seek to live Jesus to a culture that hates/distrusts the (general) church but is open to talking about Jesus. They want to work against the AIDS epidemic, they want to reach out to the homosexual community, they want to really be in the world instead of building bubbles of "holiness" where no "sin" can touch them, they want to fight poverty, they want real and deep friendship that encapsulate Jesus' teaching that we would be known by our love for one another- not short 5 second greetings in "holy huddles"-, they want worship that shakes the soul through whatever gifts the Holy Spirit is to dump out, and, most of all, they want passion back in their relationship with Jesus.
The time for stoic and sterile worship, arms crossed, mouthing words that we do not even think about anymore is over. This emergence is calling for a change of life, that we would live pursuing Jesus and not religious do's/don'ts.
If Jesus did healing why are we not doing the same? If he ate and drank with the people who did not "fit" into church why are we only eating with our church friends? If we are receiving accolades from "religious" types shouldn't we be reevaluating our strategy (after all, we aren't after the praise of man and it was these types of people that were always fighting with Jesus because He did not fit their mold)?
So, I ask you, what burns in your heart? Who do you want to be? What would walking with Jesus look like? If you answer "reading more of my Bible" and "praying more" as cliché answers without thought I will just faint from frustration- not that the Word is not incredibly important as a collection of stories and testimonies of sinners and saints who have gone before us or that prayer isn't important either it just seems like we read our Bibles to read our Bibles and not to help us to paint a better picture our God. We pray a quick, rehearsed or cliché blessings over meals but do not engage in an active and passionate dialogue that will shift or view of our Creator because we are coming to better know Him, not have just heard about Him. We must stop doing things to do things and start doing things with purpose.Go with God. Blessings on your journey, may you be covered with the dust of your Rabbi.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Recently I was talking with a friend of mine about the Church (as in, the Body and Bride of Christ and not just where we all go Sunday morning), my role in it, and general frustrations. He asked if I had ever taken a "spiritual personality" test called APEST (to find out more, go here). The reason he stated was that many churches hire pastors expecting "shepards" and if that is not your tendency in personality then it usual can frustrate you.
Of the 5 personality types, the "shepherding" one was dead last on my list. Great. I came out as a "Prophet-Apostle". Meaning God has enabled me to discern His will (note: I am NOT claiming that every word that comes out of my mouth is His) and voice it to people and places. Prophets do sometimes foretell the future but, in my case anyway, it applies more to speaking spiritual truth.
After taking the test I debriefed with the friend who had sent me to the site and told him my "personality". He asked something very telling about myself: do you ever feel annoyed with yourself? Like you are saying the same things, even repeating yourself and you know others get annoyed hearing it but you cannot help but say it? Sort of shocked I replied: A lot, actually.
Prophets are like that. We often see things that are wrong, outside the will of God, or can be done better and we HAVE to say something. Just as with the other "spiritual personalities" they have to teach, shepherd, evangelize, or start new things- to NOT do those things would be counter-intuitive, uncomfortable, or frustrating.
So here is my prophet spiel: this is one of many things that the Church is missing and doing wrong. We have regulated these spiritual personalities to fit our mission both in which personalities are given out but also how they are utilized and if they are well accepted. These personalities must work in tandem with each other or the church will continue to cripple itself.
Think of the church movements over the last years: you have churches that pretty much only disciple (thus neglecting evanglistic or apostolic gifts); you have mega-churches that only evangelize (thus creating new believers but not teaching or even shepherding); you have inbred churches whose only concern is maintaing the status quo and making the sheep comfortable (thus marginalizing any prophetic word that will move them forward).
When any of these personalities are overemphasized, wrongly pushed, or a section of the list is omitted you have a lopsided Church. Over the next weeks I am hoping to take a look at these personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they can work to make the Body stronger.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Have you ever found yourself wondering why you go to church? Or, if you don't go, why you should? It scares me how much of our lives we spend doing things we have never questioned... and if we were to be honest we (most of us anyways) would look at our church and ask, why do I get up earlier than I normally would on a weekend to go to a place to be with people I don't really like to listen to a band that isn't all that talented and then a random 20 min (if we are lucky) to 1 hour lecture?
As I read the New Testament it seems like this guy Jesus goes around destroying religious structures, breaking down superstitions, and slapping pious know-it-all's. Instead of becoming a Pharisee or Sadducee he hosts discussions and dinners over wine (to the chagrin of teetotallers everywhere) and bread. And we, as the church, decide over the course of 2000 years to honor Him by establishing a new religion with new do's and don'ts and new religious hierarchy.
Let me ask you something, how often do you have intensely personal conversation? How vulnerable is your life to scrutiny? How well do you feel you have come to know God's personality over the last year?
Recently, I was part of a discussion that went like this:
Person 1: I just feel really frustrated with the entire church structure... and the denomination.
Person 2: We all are. It's just the way we have to do things.
Person 3: (after a long pause) If we are involved the prostitution of Christ's bride, I want nothing to do with it.
Sunday mornings in general are constructed to be celebrations, parties with people we know and love. However, when we do not truly know those people we are treading dangerously near the ground of "religion", "institution", and "traditionalism".
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Sometimes you wonder if the very things that make up your life are the right things and, even if they are, are you doing them for the right reasons. I mean, one could easily do the right things for the wrong reasons and thereby one would need to question whether those "right" things would become "wrong" just because of the motivations behind the action.
Jesus spoke to this when he told us how to pray in quiet, to fast without drawing attention to our suffering, and to give in such a way that no one would know what we were doing. If we did these things publicly we were doing them for humans and not for God.
The rules of the Christian community can be somewhat like that. The thing I hear as the reason for being why many people are burnt out on church or don't come anymore is that the church is full of hypocrites... and there are some defenses to this accusation; "Hypocrites are everywhere, of course they are in the church!"; or, "Well, some churches but not ours/my friends."; or, "Christians are just held to an unreasonable standard.".
While these defenses may be valid they do not excuse some of the things we have done to appear hyper-critical of a world that does not know Christ and hypocritical in our own lives. After, Christians often tout the "sanctity of marriage" while maintaining a divorce and adultery rate on par with the world; the holiness movement is only too happy to pick on anyone who drinks or smokes (health concerns seem to be their concern) but have no problem with eating too much on a daily basis; Christians don't want people living together before marriage but try bringing up pornography in a room of Christians and watch the heads drop; we talk about loving others, loving the sinner and hating the sin but how many of us really volunteer at Crisis Pregnancy, abused women's shelters, feed the homeless, or even really know the needs of our neighbors?
We- and I include myself in this- need to seriously evaluate how we are following Christ. Not clocking in on Sunday for 1-2 hours. Not just singing in worship but wildly loving our Father. Not just "tithing" but giving generously. Not just whispering a "thanks" prayer before we gorge ourselves but really communicating with a Friend.
We need to question the institutions of religiousness and Pharisee-ism and embrace a home to be found in God.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
"Truth that is untested is only theory"
"We've become addicted to the religious experience and not the truth."
- Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings on The God Journey podcast
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
NOTE: This is not an autobiographical nor biographical scenario.
Imagine you're a believer, a follower of Christ. Transition into adulthood has cast doubt on a lot of what you once thought faith in Jesus meant. For example, there are less things today that you hold strongly to than you once did - your "gray areas" have grown by leaps and bounds. However, you still unreservedly believe that loving God and loving people are at the crux of how you want to live your life. Now imagine you're unmarried and without a significant other. Then she comes along (insert he if that suits you better). You have a connection with this person unlike any you've ever had before. It's well beyond the fact that she is attractive physically, everything about her is intriguing. Your conversations with her resonate to the depths of your soul; you're connecting on seemingly every level. But the thing that throws you off a bit is she's not a Christian. You never would have thought you could have such a connection with an unbeliever. She's certainly no heathen. She's caring, generous, active in the community, cognizant of spiritual matters, and in many ways much more pleasant to be around than many Christians you've known. She's all that you've ever dreamed of - even a person of faith - just not exactly the Christian faith as you've traditionally understood it. Four years ago you would not have entertained the idea of being in a relationship ("yoked") with an unbeliever, but in this season of "gray areas" and "asking lots of questions about faith" you go a different direction. You dive headfirst into a relationship with this wonderful, faith-filled person.
As one might expect in a blossoming relationship, the physical aspect of the relationship comes to the fore before too long. She's more than willing and you're definitely wanting. If you would take the time to stop and think about it the Christian mantra might ring in your ears - "True Love Waits!" If you wanted to you could dig around in your junk drawer and come out with at least four purity pledges signed between the ages of eleven and seventeen. But the thing is you aren't really stopping to think about it too much, and you aren't dusting off those purity pledges. In fact you're kind of agreeing with her when she asks, "Why? Why would you not have sex?" She sees it as a natural expression of the relationship you have with one another and everything in you is agreeing. You're eager for the Christian faith to be attractive to her, and yet all you have to say on this issue is "I shouldn't do it; I shouldn't have sex before marriage."
Again she asks, "Why?" And you're left asking yourself, "Do I really believe this? Why not have sex?"
This is a tough scenario unmarried believers are facing all over the place. A number of my friends have articulated situations not too distant from the made-up one above. What would you say to help us out? Why not have sex before marriage?
The traditional answers are clear:
- Risk of sickness, infertility, or even death from STD's.
- Risk of emotional trauma from relationship fallout - both with the significant other and the friends & family that you might be breaking trust with.
- Effects on marriage relationship one day.
- Risk of getting her pregnant.
- The Bible says not to.
- STD's aren't really in the picture.
- And you're convinced that emotional trauma is always a risk in relationships whether sexual or not.
- And you don't really see how having sex is going to be any different from doing this, that, or the other thing you already did in various relationships.
- And you use birth control.
- And you're not convinced that "porneia" (Greek work often translated as "fornication" or "sexual immorality") or the Bible for that matter is speaking against monogomous loving relationships, but more so against promiscuity or abusive sexual relations.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
To which he (to my horror) replied: "Because the Bible would give them too much freedom."
I'm sorry but it as this point that my hackles raise. There are many things that have been said about what the church should do but among that list I have NEVER heard non-attenders/former-believers/critics/the spiritually curious say:
1. I would go to church if only there were more rules.
2. Why can't they just play some more hymns?!... (or music I don't recognize)
3. Pews are my preferred furniture.
Truly shocking is the proclivity of many "Christians" to follow the example of the early Pharisee believers who wanted to circumsize Gentiles (non-Jewish) Christians and demand that they follow the Law of Moses. In Acts 15, Peter (one of Jesus' top 3 followers) says this:
"So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don't we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?"
But new believers did need guidelines so later on in Acts 15 Peter, the apostles, and early leaders write a letter giving instructions:
1. Don't be involved with idols
2. Don't served food (such as blood) that is offensive to Jewish believers
3. Guard the morality of sex and marriage
Honestly, that seems like a strange set of rules to me but there is method to it and it has nothing to do with "do's and don'ts" to get to God. These are guidelines set to protect and stimulate the community humanity has with God and each other within the church.
Later Paul (NT author) writes to the church in Corinth and tells them that among people who claim to be Christians you have to hold them to this standard found in Acts 15 but as for outsiders/non-believers we withhold judgment since they haven't signed on board yet. (Scripture here).
Allow me to reiterate this point: it is NOT the church's place to judge the world. It's not our job. Stop doing it. How is it helpful to point out the obvious? Yes, the Bible does discuss specific behavioral patterns that are and are not "godly" but these make about as much sense to a non-believer or brand-new believer as you being informed that you are in violation of an Islamic-based law in the Middle-East. Do you care about that? Oh, well, they don't care either.
So over the next weeks we are going to reapply the guidelines in Acts 15 to the de-churched and un-churched of today's world. Our list looks like this:
1. Sex and dating
2. Things and money
3. Music, beer, and food
Hope you can follow along. We will also be posting talks to iTunes under Crux KC Online.
Remember, Christ told us to judge as we wanted to be judged. I, for one, would like a SUPER-lenient hearing.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
We each are the sum total of the books we read, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the relationships we are in. That said, these are some of those things that have recently made my journal. Feel free to contribute your own or to comment on any.
"How we live our days is... how we live our lives.: -Annie Dillard
"Never make a principle out of your experiences; let God be as original with other people as He is with you." -Oswald Chambers
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in body, whether good or evil." - 2 Cor. 5:10
"People who are obsessed with Jesus aren't consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God's Kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress." - Francis Chan, Crazy Love
"How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified? What government would execute Mr. Rogers or Capt. Kangaroo?" -Philip Yancy
Books to Read
Crazy Love, Francis Chan
To Own a Dragon, Donald Miller
Mission To Oz, Mark Tabb
Movies to Watch
The Basketball Diaries
Music to Check Out
Sonya Kitchell (the song Soldier's Lament is amazing)
Waterdeep (song 18 Bulletholes)
Herbie Hancock (song Stiched Up)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
But as I spoke with a group of twentysomethings a few weeks ago they pointed out some things that I thought spoke mountains into the life of faith communities in churches and into their perception of families.
The question was posed: if you could transfer one blood family attribute into the church (which is supposed to operate like a family) what would it be?
They answered twofold:
One: That they could share their thoughts, feelings, fears, successes, struggles, and doubts without worry of gossip, rumor, emotional abuse and wounding. I don't think was this to say that all of their families were free of such things but rather that they saw this as a vital function and feature of "healthy" families.
Two: That disagreement could occur with respect. That "legalists", "liberals", "conservatives", and everything in between could come to the table and realize that opinions are simply opinions and everyone has them but that, at the end of the day, we love each other. For instance, if you have a brother that is acting like a jackass you still want/need to communicate with him because he is your brother. However, churches often treat relationships with other believers as expendable- that if we disagree or the conversation becomes too uncomfortable or you are too mean then I can just walk away. Not only is this not biblical it is hypocritical since we refer to each other as "brothers" and "sisters".
Just some thoughts. I'd love to hear if anyone thinks another rule or two could transfer over.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Header note: some of the following will not effectively apply to adolescents or those still under someone else' authority/house/rules.
How many times have you gone to other people for advice, for direction, for them to tell you what to do with your life? I know that I have many, many times. But as I listened to a Podcast by Rev. Steve DeNeff from College Wesleyan Church I was challenged to think about the Holy Spirit. (The Spirit, wind, and tongues of fire that fell on the upper room in the opening chapters of the book of Acts in the New Testament.)
Picture yourself in a sailboat- the sail down- sitting on a large lake. You really want to move but you cannot find anything in the boat to make an effective paddle and you don't know how to use a sail and tack. So you lean over the bow and reach your arms into the water and start dog paddling to the destination of your choice. Seems kind of stupid, doesn't it?
How long will it take you to do a job the wind could do in 1/50 the time? But this is how many "spiritual" people live their lives: looking for a paddle that may not be effective for their lives (i.e. advice from others that may or may not work), not knowing how to harness the power of the Wind (the Holy Spirit's direction), and so they give up, pick a direction, and start ineffectively dog-paddling at a snails pace toward some distant mark that may or may not be the direction the wind is blowing.
What if we started harnessing that Wind? Allowing it to guide our lives instead of imperfect people and our own ideas. Francis Chan, in his book Crazy Love, tells a story of how- after a short term missions trip- he and his wife were lead by the Wind/Holy Spirit to sell their large home and move into a much smaller home in order to be able to give more to missions and to the church they pastored. He says that, at the time, no one affirmed the decision. They were told it was bad for their children, a bad move in the housing market, and was a spiritual "just for show" move.
This is not to say we should all throw out godly council, logic, intelligence, and simply let decisions fly in "spiritual high" moments but I am challenging the reader to ask themselves: what is happening in your boat? Where would the Wind take you if you let it?
Thursday, May 07, 2009
In the book of Mark in the New Testament there is a story relayed to us that a woman, caught in adultery, is brought before Jesus. The pharisees want to know if she should be executed via stoning as the Old Testament law prescribed. Jesus doesn't answer for sometime and instead starts drawing in the dirt. Finally, after they asked him a few more times, Jesus said, "If you don't have any sin in your life, throw a stone at her."
Our lives, I think, are still a lot like this. Only we simply alternate roles from being part of the mob and the woman. If we are good (at hiding) we aren't the woman too often. We understand that the more we are part of the mob and busy stoning the guilty maybe no one will notice our guilt. If we root for a certain politician to fail, if we can make fun of someone else's sexual orientation/clothing/musical taste/job/etc., if we are up to date on the latest news of our friends that can be passed to other people, then we are successfully taking the focus off ourselves and maybe no one will notice that we are just as guilty as the people we are mocking and judging.
What Jesus does in that story is genius stuff: he makes the mob wait for an answer (I bet it got kind of quite as everyone waited for this controversial teacher to stop drawing in the dirt); then he makes everyone take their focus off of the person they want to judge and confront their own guilt.
My Tuesday night discussion group was talking about family and the church this last week and the question was posed: if you could take "family thinking" into the church what would you take in? The top two answers: safety and the ability to be "ourselves" without fear; and two, an understanding that even if we don't agree that we can still talk and work together toward a common goal (also known as "mutual respect").
So maybe in the midst of the non-stop character assassinations with public, sports, celebrity, and personal figures we should just stop and ask ourselves how much grace we would want if we were caught in the act of our darkest sin and drug in front of an angry mob. It feels different if the stones are going to be coming at you.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
My friend Kenny and I often observe that if you gave the Bible to someone who had never read it, never been to church, never heard of Jesus, and was in a completely “secular” society and asked them- upon completing their reading- to list for you 50 rules that should be in a faith community attempting to live by these writings that person would never get close to the rules found in North American Christianity today. They would have really odd things on there such as, “Don’t drink blood or eat meat offered to pagan gods” (directions to early Gentile believers) but they would never dream to offer instructions on what kind of music was okay to listen to or to have in church. If they were a very astute reader they may gather that monogamy was God’s marital design… but movie watching probably wouldn’t come into that list. The reader would understand that we should treat the poor kindly.
Alcohol would never, ever, make that list.
And if we asked them, why not, they would probably point to the very person that our entire faith community and system is based around: Jesus.
These next weeks I will be looking at the teachings, acts, and sayings of Jesus that seem a little… well, odd. Since we are going in semi-chronological order we see the wedding in
This story gets read right over, gets made “holy” fast without those of us who have read it dozens of times thinking it through from the eyes of someone who was there. Imagine someone in your church/synagogue/faith community who is about 30 years old and has been a part of your group for awhile. One day, you are all at an open bar wedding reception and they tell you it is closing time for the bar. In come some more servers who inform you that (insert name person you are imagining here) has just drove up with about 60 gallons of very good wine to keep the party going… you may find it strange.
Stranger still you think if this person came into church the next day and started smacking people around and telling them they better stop desecrating the House of God.
Stop. If you think this is hyperbole then you are not reading the same text I am. Jesus did not go into a church, he went into the church of the day. THE temple. And started violently correctly people’s behavior that was unacceptable to God. This is how that story looks to someone who was there.
The characters don’t know he is the Son of God, they don’t know all the church history- none of it has happened. This story cannot lose its shock and awe.
From the beginning Jesus seems way more concerned with people being invited in a party, into discussion, into living bizarrely different lives than he does in religious traditions. This really struck me this week as I heard Bill speak in the
If you are looking for a book to read check out Crazy Love by Francis Chan. In the book Chan suggests that for the next 25 years the church should not utter the name of Jesus- they have said too much about him and done too little. They should spend the next two-and-a-half decades attempting to love each other as Christ loved. The point of this challenge is not to take anything at all away from the person and work of Christ but instead as a type of “detox” period. You see, according to Chan, when the number one reason unbelievers will not accept Christ of even visit a church is the viscous backstabbing, gossip, and hypocritical ways of most believers we have a problem. We. You AND me. We are the problem.
Maybe we need a little more party and feast and a little less temple tradition.
*If you would like to follow our audio teaching please check out “Crux KC Online” on iTunes*
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Since we are dealing with these chronologically we will first be looking at the "water into wine" incident (ironic because it is what my previous post dealt with). The reason it fits my "weirder" category is that right after Jesus make copious amounts of alcohol so that a party may continue raging he is shown going into the temple with a homemade whip and tossing people out. Seems strange to me.
But we gain some powerful insight from this incident and many others into what Jesus was and what Jesus was not.
If you would like to follow our teaching from the past weeks or tune into the future stuff check out "Crux KC Online" on iTunes for our free podcast.
Monday, April 06, 2009
It occurred to me a few years back that I kept getting upset with people "outside" the Christian faith for how they acted... and how ridiculous that was. They do not subscribe to my beliefs or convictions or faith so why would they act as I would? And in rereading the Gospels it also became painfully obvious that Jesus was constantly upset with the most "religious" people who encumbered people who did not know God with more rules than anyone could keep.
So whenever I run across someone or something that I feel is encumbering to the mission of Jesus by being overly "religious" and not loving I tend to get bent out of shape... as I did recently in reading an article by Denn Guptill entitled "Why Jesus Drank and I Don't". I was upset as a Christian, a pastor, a person, a scholar, and as a Wesleyan (my denomination)... you can read it here for yourself.
In short my response is: why do Pharisees feel so compelled to talk? In a longer way... well, you can read my letter.
"To Whom It May Concern:
For several years I have been an active member, student, and minister in the Wesleyan denomination, I have listened, watched, and read many stances- both past and present… I have never written in to or in regard to the Wesleyan Life but this last issue concerned me greatly. You posted an article entitled “Why Jesus Drank and I Don’t” by Denn Guptill with which I took great exception on numerous points which I will list for the ease of the reader:
As an ordained minister Guptill, I assume, has had the privilege of a formal education. However, throughout the article he utilizes the assumption that Jesus drank which is one from silence. We see him make wine, host the last supper, assume he participated in cultural “norms”, and get called a “drunk” but nowhere do any of the Gospels state that Jesus drank.
Even so, moreover the problem lies in Guptill claiming that the distillation process dates back only 500 years while it is a well known fact that the Babylonians in Mesopotamia knew about and used distillation. A simple search of the Internet will prove this and yet the author apparently was too lazy, inept, misinformed, or falsely motivated to claim otherwise.
Last point here: the cultural argument was horrific. Jesus makes “good wine” at the wedding of Canaan- and anyone who drinks or knows anything about alcohol will tell you “good” means higher alcohol content (hence patrons being upset over “watered” down drinks). The claim that the wine at the time was 3-11% alcohol is so unimportant it is stunning it is mentioned. At what point does a “drink” become a “drink” then, I wonder? If beer is “only” 5-7% is that okay, then?
It would also seem to me that a pastor such as Guptill would understand that in Romans 14 the “weaker” brother is the one who has to keep more rules. That said, is Guptill then claiming that he is refraining from drinking so that other people who refrain from drinking won’t drink? So he is a “weaker” brother helping other “weaker” brothers be “weak”? This kind of circular rhetoric is logically unsound and a hermeneutic nightmare that has been promoted and tolerated in educated circles for far too long.
Romans 14 also says that we should leave our personal convictions between us and God. So why are we, as a denomination, not following the advice of Paul and simply being silent about our own opinions about food and drink?
“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” It evidently wasn’t enough to misuse Scripture but also the work of a famous author like Fitzgerald who was writing to a 1920’s flapper culture obsessed with overindulgence and greed. Any first year debate student will tell us that the “slippery slope” is a style to be avoided because it cannot be objectively proven and is one bred out of individual’s experiences and stories- not statistics.
It seemed to me that the 2008 General Conference granted local church voting rights to community members and allowed for personal conviction when it came to alcohol and tobacco use. If this is really our stance, that people who drink may be part of our membership then we cannot allow articles like this one to be printed without one on the other side of the page entitled, “Why Jesus Drank and I Do”. We are now talking out of both sides of our mouths.
Allow me to “weigh-in” on a related point that Guptill beats to death, that drinking leads to drunkenness. He is right… in the same way that eating leads to gluttony. It is true you cannot be a drunk without first drinking but by that logic we should all be anorexic. With the obesity and diabetes rate of Americans climbing annually I, for one, think it would be far more culturally impactful if we took a denominational stance against gluttony instead of alcohol… but that may hit a little to close to home. The point is the Bible speaks more to gluttony than drunkenness. We need to be against overindulgence on credit cards, possessions, money, alcohol, and food- not pick and choose to preach on just the stuff we don’t struggle with."
Thursday, March 05, 2009
We think of words as so dispensable- I heard of a girl that I know this morning sending over 10,000 texts in a single month- but they are not. There is a crossover between the physical and meta-physical when a word is spoken because it can never be taken back or changed- it is as safe in the past as the Revolutionary War and the Great Depression. Forever it will change the stream of life (think The Butterfly Effect with Ashton Kutcher).
Even with that said though it doesn't really hit home for many of us until we think of those words- you know the ones, that time your best friend betrayed you with gossip, the time your dad criticized you, the time your spouse ripped into your soul- and then we know what Jesus was talking about in Matt. 5. Words kill. We understand because we were killed.
... all that said, however, from Exodus 32, we see that there are times when killing is called for and even called "righteous" and "holy"... so what does that mean for our words.
In Exodus the tribe of Levi goes and slaughters 3,000 who had bowed their knee to the golden calf. For us, and our world of words (and less swords, knives, and guns), we must weigh words carefully but also know when to employ those "sword words".
When someone so steps out of line, so abuses someone/something else, we need to cut through them like the Levites, telling the truth- however ugly and difficult it may be- in order to bring righteousness back into the camp of God.
So, here is to swords and words, may they be used with the greatest of caution and sense of honor. Si vis pacem para bellum.
Friday, February 20, 2009
1. Do chimps make good pets?
2. Even if they do, should you give them Xanax?
3. Where does the government get their money?
4. ... therefore, if they give money away, who is technically paying for it?
5. Should you buy a home that you cannot afford?
6. If you cannot afford said home, what happens?
Anwers: 1. No; 2. No; 3. Taxpayers and business (they earn none of it); 4. Same as #4; 5. No; 6. The bank repossess it, a bailout happens, the irresponsible get the home back;
Note: This is not a political bias. It is an exercise in cause/effect and if words mean anything. It's not so much what people say that bothers me, it is when their "yes" does not mean "yes" and/or they are not intelligent enough to figure out that an animal that can lift 200 lb.s with each arm and is prone to aggression may not make the best of pets.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
"Tired", comes the reply.
How many times throughout your week and year do you have this, albeit brief, but honest conversation? My father is fond of telling me that, "Tired people run the world."- his not-so-subtle way of telling me that I need to shut up and work harder.
And maybe for some that is true but I think that many of us are stressed out at work (putting in more than 40 hours and thoughts of it occupying us well into our home lives), trying to balance our family time, hauling kids around, and trying to occasional spend time with that person sharing our bed. Truth is, it all feels like work sometimes. It all feels coordinated, scheduled and laborious.
I, for one, want to stop. Even the 10 Commandments tell us that we are supposed to have a day off during the week. Given that 3 of the major world religions supposedly subscribe to this code its a pretty ecumenical barometer of spiritual health... and we take MOST of them seriously. We haven't killed anyone, slept with anyone's wife, built an idol to worship in the backyard- but rest seems like a suggestion. Like, "Why don't you take a break?"
But it is listed as an imperative, a Top Ten, something that is "holy" and set apart "to God". The truth is many of us will not get a two-day weekend that is hassle free but here are some steps towards planning your "holy day" off:
1. Leave work at the office (physically and mentally)
2. Do not take work calls/texts/e-mails (ideally, turn off your phone)
3. Plan time with people who fill you up spiritually and emotionally (and are not draining)
4. Do a couple of things just for you (take a walk, go for coffee, read a book, enjoy an album)
5. Play time with your kids/wife/husband/significant other (they need you relaxed to enjoy you)
6. Journal/reflect quietly. If only for 20-30 minutes, this time can really put some problems in perspective and let your spirit tune into the divine. When was the last time you had a spiritual epiphany while talking on your bluetooth, stuck in traffic?
God wants to talk to all of us and knows that without rest we don't function well. Sometimes, when I think about Him as a Dad, I think, He probably thinks of me like I do my kids when I know they are tired but won't go to bed.
Now, go take a day off. The tired will run the world while you rest.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
FYI, as usual, it will be a bit off the beaten path. Look for it in the next week or two under my home page or on my facebook account.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The other day was frustrating... Sarah (my wife) had a lot of work to do, our kids were sick (Eva spent a couple of nights in the hospital), and I had work piling up around me and was in a REALLY good mood (that is blogger sarcasm). Basically, I was grumpy with everyone and finally Sarah sat me down and said, "What's wrong?" And I started talking and a whole bunch of stuff spilled out that I did not even know was bothering me but was festering in my subconscious.
Then Eva went to the hospital for walking pneumonia and I spent the week running my son around, trying to accomplish SOME work, updating concerned friends/grandparents/everyone as to Eva's status. I know I ate and slept but don't remember much- it's kind of hazy.
During all of this (relatively) minor disaster I thought to myself just how big stuff becomes little and little stuff becomes big... that is until you get whacked with something like this. We piss and moan about how we want/need more money, better job, different spouse (other people, not me), how annoying school/job/home is, and how we want _____________. But that blank is, almost certainly, a "little" thing- but that little thing now occupies a lot of brain space as we contemplate how to improve or change or eliminate that thing.
The past few days I have not watched movies, played video games, eaten healthy, gone to the gym, read much, or spent time with a lot of people who are directly seeking me out- all things that I try to do when life is going well.
However, the "big" stuff shrinks in size when life is well: we neglect family (at times), watch stuff we should not, read meaningless magazines, kill hours at malls/coffee shops/bars, we play video games and worry about people's opinions of our lives (most of whom are not that involved with us). We forget to call that friend back or tell people we love them because our minds are busy with all of that "important" little stuff.
I think this is why, as Americans, we can be the most guilty of idolatry. Our lives are good. We have free time. Expendable money (well, some of us). So the little stuff grows in importance while the big stuff shrinks.
My daughter can make me crazy: she is wound up, noisy, can pester me and her mother, and needs a lot of attention so she can seem draining. But when push came to shove that 30lb. little girl taking an ambulance trip reminded me of big an little... and just how big she needs to be.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
It's true, God didn't write the Bible- at least not in the sense that He did not heft a great and holy pen and script verbatim what we see to this day. The writers of the Scriptures were entirely and wholly (and holy) inspired by God to write what they did but God Himself we only see write on two occasions: the first being the first of the Ten Commandments; the second would be Jesus writing in the sand as an adulteress is about to be stoned.
When you stop to think about it, the fact that God wrote IN STONE with his finger is pretty wild so as I am taking time to really read those famous Ten, I felt a little guilty about my first thought after about verse 8, I thought, "Man, God is kind of repeating Himself because the Second Commandment just seems to repeat the first." So I kept reading for a few chapters and went back and re-reread chapter 30 of Exodus and then it hit me (I can be slow so forgive me): God's First Commandment is not a rule, it is a choice in paradigm, stating, "You will have no other gods, only me" (The Message translation).
God is saying to us that we should read the rest of these Commandments, listen to them, follow them- but they are not the point. They are not the point anymore than it is the point of marriage to not commit adultery or the point of being a parent is to not beat your child. The point is love. If you love your spouse you will, by default, not commit adultery and if you love your child you will not beat them. Love dictates this, inspires this, lifts our hearts to the point where we don't have to be told HOW to love only inspired to love better.
So again, the First Commandment is not a rule but a choice between legalism and relational love with God. Between outward masks of piety and honest confessions that none are righteous and that we all need God because we are not going to make it on our own.
John, in his biography of Jesus, tells us that Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness... will be added..." The searching, longing, finding of the Kingdom is first in the list, righteous comes as a natural by-product of love, not as a prerequisite of a relationship with God or event to attend church.
Recently I was having a conversation with someone who had just become a Christ-follower during one of CRUX services and we sat after our Tuesday discussion group and they said to me, "I am just afraid of telling people what has gone on in my life- they would just be too shocked."
I replied, "If you looked around this room (there was a large gathering of us) and could have seen everyone's baggage you would have seen rape victims, recovering alcoholics, porn-addicts, drug-abusers, miscarriages, abortions, and attempted suicides- there is not a lot we haven't dealt with here."
They said, "I guess my view of Christians has been really wrong."
I guess so, but why? Because as the church we (generally speaking) have not practiced the discipline and necessity of honest and brutal confession so as we do enter into a real love of God the transformation that takes place within our hearts is so private that no one is inspired by the change. We learned to wear a well constructed mask whether we grew up in church or came in later: we pretended to know what words like "righteous", "worship", "redeemed", and "holy" meant and then pretended that we did not curse, fool around with our boy/girlfriend, smoke, party, drink, watch R-rated movies, or look at pornography. Those were some good looking masks.
And when some unfortunate member of our mask-wearing brotherhood was caught at church or elsewhere without his mask (or it just slipped off) we were quick to denounce him or her. Given this, are we honestly surprised that the church has been said to be "full of hypocrites"?
God knew this and so gave us the First Commandment, "No other gods, only me". Only your spouse, only your child, only your best friend. Only a unique and amazing love that would inspire, draw, and lift you to where you only wanted to be close to a God that so wanted to be close for you He paid a debt you could not.
The heart of the following nine Commandments lies in how we choose in the First one. Legalism or relationship? Rules or love? That is the lens with which we see the world.
Don't buy it? When is the next time we see God write? When a woman is caught in the act of breaking one of the Ten Commandments, what does Jesus do? An act of love.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Some REALLY cool things have been happening within our community for the past several weeks: Crux on Sunday nights has had amazing music and we are doing a sweet series on God's Top10; we had Micah Kephart from Reach4Life in to promote a benefit concert (we raised over $1000) and 5 bands came into to play for FREE; and then our discussion group on Tuesday nights, which has been meeting at my house, has been blowing UP with people coming out to talk and hang-out. So I decided to post a few pictures so people could see what is going on. Here you go.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
When I was only in 4th or 5th grade we went on our yearly vacation to Sarasota, FL. One morning I was happily playing in the sand with my brother Christopher when my happiness was shattered by my shirtless father jogging over to us and telling us to go get our shoes: we were going for a run. So we went, grumbling, and put our shoes on and proceeded to huff, puff, and whine for two miles on the sand.
Yesterday, for the billionth time, I met my dad at the local gym and then ran and lifted until I was gasping. I had a blast.
This friend of mine named Kenny keeps telling me that our job as Christ-followers is to tell people about God's personality- to talk about Him in a way that conveys to people that we know Him (as best one can know God). This is fascinating to me, to read the pray, engage others, and read in way that is a pursuit of understanding God better so that we can better complete our meaning in life.
This "knowing of" of God is not a checklist anymore than me being friends with someone. Being with someone means just that: being WITH them. It may include time alone with that person, going to a movie, out to eat, going to each other's homes, watching shows together, giving each other books or whatever else you may do. But you aren't taking perpetual gauges on how many movies you have seen with them or how many hours you have talked with them- that would seem like you are "cheapening" the relationship to checks on a list.
So when we are not spending time with God in conversation or engaging in a faith community or reading Scripture we shouldn't feel guilty about THOSE things... instead what we should do is evaluate why our relationship, knowledge, and love of God is not driving, inspiring, and making us WANT to do those things.
The reason I went on that first run was out of fear/respect of my father: I didn't want to and it was uncomfortable as I had anticipated. But after years of seeing positive results both in my physical body, mental happiness, and in my relationships with workout partners I have realized how much joy has been brought to my life by that initial discomfort.
God is like that. We may not enjoy the run at first, we will huff, puff, and whine... and years later look back with a grin.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
The holidays, as always, had some enjoyable and some stressful moments in them. As the years have passed it seems more and more difficult to really come up with things you want for Christmas. It's not that you don't want stuff it's just if you really want something as an adult you go buy it... so the presents have gotten smaller in some ways but more significant. The same is true for the adults in my life- I know they can buy their own things so the things that I get for them tend to be more significant than expensive.
Really though, what I want more and more of, is quality time with the people in my life. I want coffee breaks, meals, movies, and events with them. I want to experience the life in the best and worst times, making memories with them and loving them when it is difficult and when it is easy. I desire this because family is like this and so I think true friendships are born the same way.
What I mean is that families are dysfunctional. All of them. In some way. And what makes a family great is their ability to talk through issues and not just bury them. There have been family get togethers where I could barely walk because of all the elephants seated in the room- those elephants being the secrets and issues that everyone has but no one is willing to either try and fix or even acknowledge.
There are two parts of the Bible that always come to mind as I think of relationships: the first is when Jesus is talking to a group and tells them if they have "somethings against their brother" they need to leave their sacrifice right there and go make it right; next is Romans, chapter 14, the Message translation says that correcting other believers "behavior" at the table of God is terribly rude.
The reason I pause in my mind at these two places is that in the new year I've determined to be better relationally and to do that I either need to fix issues faster (you know, maybe actually apply Jesus to my life :-) or get over it and tell my mind to shut up. The older I get the more I find not only that I want love people more but that to truly live as Christ has called us that I need to love people more.
May your community be a rich one... and best of luck if you decide to join me in hunting elephants.