The Elegance of Last Place

We live in a culture of driven, winning (thanks Charlie Sheen), hard charging, take no prisoners mind sets. As long as I have been alive that is the attitude that will carry you through life to the place where you are on top of things. When that’s the case, is it any wonder that so many people struggle with the gospel? To be honest it shouldn’t surprise anyone that so many people… Christians included, struggle to grasp the gospel message. Especially when we are honest with the fact that the gospel puts us in perpetual, life-long last place.

Last week I was watching (be prepared for surprising, or not, tv show confession) “The Voice”. The actual episode was from two weeks ago but sometimes we just rely on the ole DVR to help us catch up. Anyway… moving forward. There  was a young man who had made it through the trial rounds by offering a very stirring rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. Prior to that moment he was a mere sandwich maker from Chicago named Jamie. Having thoroughly enjoyed his performance I thought for sure he might go a long way, but alas, it was not to be. He was ushered out in the “battle rounds” after singing a duet version of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” with a real powerhouse singer named Jamar. All these details are really pointless, it probably just shows that I’m paying too much attention, but what really struck me is the reaction from Jaime as he was interviewed afterward. He said something so noteworthy…

 “I feel like there is a reason I’m here and maybe that’s to be here to let Jamar go through and win everything… he’s such an awesome person”

I was dumbstruck… through tears this young man just pointed out something that I think so many of us miss in life. He went to a place that simply elevated the elegance of last place. Jaime is a talented musician and singer, and has the potential to go far, but he has the intangible element that truly matters; humility.  This stands out in a world where we celebrate the outspoken, self-aggrandizing, and the winners (if you doubt it… turn on the t.v.)

As those who follow after Jesus, we have to realize that we are following after a Savior who, in His example to us, did not exalt those positions. This is something we miss all to often in our lives and it can have a detrimental impact on our hearts. We can get wrapped up in being good, and then can become proud of just how “good” we are. In Andrew Murray’s book aptly named “Humility” he writes this:

“The question is often asked, “How we can consider others better than ourselves when we see that they are far below us in wisdom and in holiness, in natural gifts, or in grace received?” Asking this question proves at once how little we understand what humbling ourselves really involves. True humility comes when, in the light of God, we come to see ourselves as nothing, consent to put our self-will aside, and let God be all.” (language updated/revised by C. Walth)

Murray nails it. We can never forget that we are not in search of self glory but self sacrifice, and we are not looking to be elevated but to be in surrender.

So where does the this understanding really come from? Surprise… we need look no further than the gospel. It provides us with an example, with freedom, and with sufficiency to live in a mindset that allows for the stirring, and possibly offensive, idea that I may exist in this moment not for what I can get out of it, but for how I may sacrifice myself so that someone else gains. This is the entire narrative of Jesus’ ministry & message summed up in a single verse:

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” Matt 20:28.

It echoes out again and again throughout the NT and is staring us right in the face challenging us with the example of a humble Savior who could have been a “winner” but chose to wash the feet of the man who would turn Him over to be killed. This is the example that should keep us from self-righteousness, spiritual pride, and free us from drowning in the “must do” mentality of religion. It also frees us to then love and serve those around us with an honest humility that allows for true discipleship, servant leadership, and sacrificial servant-hood.

So how do we respond? Seek to cultivate humility and weaken pride… not by efforts and checklist based religion, but by grabbing hold of Jesus and staring into His example, allow the message of the Gospel to remind you “How can anyone be arrogant when he stand beside the Cross?” C. Henry. For much better insight into this I recommend starting with Philippians 2 and a host of other texts in the Bible, and for opinions that are way smarter and more practical than mine… try reading “Humility” by Andrew Murray and “Humility: True Greatness” by C.J. Mahaney

And of course… we need to constantly die to ourselves, pray that we draw near to Jesus in His perfect example of humility and when given opportunity walk it out in every relationship we have, and in our interactions throughout each day, trusting that He is enough for us and through His sacrifice we are free to live this way. That ultimately, in Jesus, there is a beauty, a freedom, and an amazing elegance, in being in last place.

j-

When Enough Isn’t Enough…

This season of life has had me pondering… well in actuality it has had me wrestling, struggling, and many other -ings. It never ceases to amaze that we are given seasons in life that are custom fit for our growth and maturity. It also baffles that those seasons always have to include a serious amount of discomfort… or maybe that’s just me.  Now amazement and… bafflement? baffledom? baffeledness?… you get the point, those things aside, it is an awesome thought that we have been given enough to journey (at whatever pace necessary) through these seasons.  However, inside that last sentence lies the biggest struggle for our hearts and minds; the great tension of “enough”.  (cue dramatic tense music here)

Do we really have enough? Do we really have all that we need? Lately I have been reading a pretty great book by a pastor from Florida named Tullian Tchividjian (chi-vee-jan) entitled “Jesus + Nothing = Everything” and I must say it’s a very good read. It points out the obvious struggle we have with really recognizing that Jesus is truly sufficient, or He is really enough.  Truth be told this book probably struck me because of my own season, and of course that is why I’m writing about it now. The depth of the impact of the book though, that has come as a result of what God has been doing in my heart for the last few months.  The question of enough-ness is a reality in this season and coming to a real and in depth grappling with the sufficiency of the Gospel has been a key part of the journey.

The Gospel, the best news mankind has ever received, is so often thought of as a step on the road of the Christian, and that is really tragic, and a huge mistake.  Why? Because in the Gospel is where we find enough! We want to find enough so badly we look everywhere for it. High and low, in every crevice, under every rock, and in every other place we think the world will offer it to us. The reality of this lifelong search is that we end up trying to get it from both “good” and “bad” things in our lives.  The problem is that we are left depleted and longing for more, or searching for the next new thing that will be enough. We fill our lives with those things and it leads to an insidious form of idolatry that we can’t even recognize (especially when it’s the “good” stuff).

 TRAPPED

That’s where we can end up. Trapped or enslaved to the things that we are desperately hoping will be enough. The things we hope will build our image, increase our significance, secure our identity or fill every void. Everything that, from the outside in, looks like we truly have enough, but in reality it is only keeping us addicted to those things all the while our hearts are burdened and longing for something real. Practically it may be the thing that keeps us in a mindset of putting others down to elevate ourselves, drives us to seek accolades and praise for the good acts we produce, leads us to craving a place to be needed or valued, or has us diving into relationship after relationship seeking comfort.

We can seek the solution in religion, hopeful that it will lead to a sufficient filling of our need for enough, but in the end this is also a trap. Our acts of service lead to self righteous attitudes, our identities get wrapped up in what we do, our value tied to the “goodness” we portray.

Isaiah and Paul said it best: “Our righteousness (self righteous acts) are as filthy rags” and “I consider all things (contextually all the “good” things Paul had done to be “righteous”) rubbish (literal: crap) that I might gain Christ” (Isaiah 64:6 and Phil 3:2-11)

Think about it… that’s what is written about the good we try to do to fill the void, or just for the sake of being good.

FREEDOM

Freedom is found, or more importantly, enough is found in the Gospel.  This is why it’s so desperately important that we NEVER think that we have matured beyond the Gospel, but instead we need to wrestle with it every day of our lives. When that happens there is freedom! Freedom to truly live, freedom to serve without need for praise, freedom to encourage without seeking affirmation, the list goes on and on and on. Imagine how we could live if we were truly finding enough in the Gospel, if we truly found satisfaction in the fact that while we were enemies of God, while we were far off, in the depth of our sin, when we were dead in our junk… at that point, God sent Jesus to die the death we deserved to give us the life we didn’t. If we consider that, or not just consider, but we give it significant weight each day, we really think about it, we could indeed find the enough that the Gospel has to offer each of us.

My prayer for each of us is that we look for enough where enough can only truly be found.

Truly Organic… the nature of Christian community

Recently I’ve been in some really cool discussions, a great many of which have dealt with the idea and nature of community. Other conversations have revolved around a lot of other things from what my thoughts on “KONY 2012” are and why I enjoy wearing minimalist running shoes… but that’s beside the point. The conversations surrounding community and specifically Christian community have really, really been good. Good for my heart, and from what I have gathered, good for the hearts of others involved.

Basically it revolves around the term “organic”.

This term has become a familiar one to me and to my family this year as we’ve pursued a better eating lifestyle and it’s a term that our culture has become more aware of in the past decade when it comes to that particular arena. However, organic is not a term or description that is limited to the vegetable aisle at the grocery store or that weird little natural food store down the street. Organic is basically something that is produced naturally, in the grocery universe that means without insecticides, hormones, or other chemicals.  It’s also something that can be applied to other areas, areas that are important in our development as followers of Christ.

In the book of Acts, which my wife and I have the humble blessing of leading a group of friends through right now, we get a picture painted for us of the development of the first Christian church and Christian community. This is found in the very familiar text of Acts 2:42-47. This being said, I want to point out that this isn’t some new thought or revelation, in fact I am well aware that I’m not the first guy to point this out… it just seems a worthwhile point to chime in on.

The image of this early church community can sometimes be over-idealized, as though it was somehow without flaw or fault. To be certain, since we realize that people were involved it in no way could be perfect. However, in light of that, we cannot just go and write it off, because the reality of this fledgling community of Christ followers is that they had a significant impact while keeping it really simple. They pursued four distinct things: Gospel, Prayer, Fellowship, Breaking Bread (Acts 2:42).

THE RESULT of this kind of intentional community is really what I want to talk about, and although it would be a worthwhile discussion to have surrounding the in’s and out’s of the things they were devoted to… we can leave that for the comments section if necessary. But for the sake of understanding simply put – Apostles teaching = Gospel. This would be the main thrust of their teaching, Jesus being the Messiah in accordance with and fulfillment of the OT scriptures, and His death, resurrection, and ascension. Prayer = self explanatory. Fellowship = intentional gathering of believers for encouragement, glorification of God, and proclamation of the Gospel etc.  Breaking of Bread = meals together (that may include observance of communion) Alright… now on to the actual results.

Community impact came as a direct result of the changed lives of these believers and this new “way”. What I love is that they displayed a balanced approach to clinging to meeting corporately for worship in the temple, then continued on in worship in their homes and smaller gatherings as well. They determined to be with one another and in each others lives, to bear the burdens of those around them (even those they didn’t know extremely well) tangibly. This is a powerful display of the heart of Christian community… but there is something noticeably missing.

WHERE’S THE PROGRAM?

There is no mention of devotion to making sure the apostles were setting up feeding programs, or efforts to go out into the community and find and meet needs, or to take care of the poor. So does this mean it wasn’t happening? I would offer that it was indeed happening, but that it was such an organic, natural outcome to what Christians do together, and how the Gospel plays out in our own hearts, that Luke felt no need to mention those particulars. People outside of the Christian “fold” were certainly being blessed by this new group, and people were being impacted and coming to faith but the outworking of God through this community of believers, but not because their local church had established such great programs. It was happening because the Gospel was alive and working in the midst of people and it was driving them to be servants, love those around them, sacrifice for others, declare Jesus, and praise God through all of it.

This in my mind is what happens when believers get together and devote themselves to simply pursuing the Gospel in our own lives, having a full prayer life, connecting intentionally and deeply with other believers outside of the weekly corporate gathering, and sharing our homes and lives over meals with one another. We become active participants in the Gospel… organically. And I would challenge each of us to examine those things…

Are we devoting ourselves to Gospel preaching, sound biblical teaching of the scriptures (not morality or philosophy), and our own study of God’s word?

Are we connected in prayer, taking time to talk with, and listen to, God?

Are we in deep connected community with other believers? The kind where people are speaking the hard truths into our lives and we are encouraged to further understand the Gospel in our lives. It’s gritty and uncomfortable at times, but is so necessary. Is it consistent?

Are we exposing our homes to other people, are we sharing our dinner tables and meals with people around us? Get your small groups into each others homes! Discipleship is a matter of life on life exposure, not just instruction.

 

It is my belief that if we are encouraged to grow in these areas in our lives that we become the community of believers that moves to feed the poor, that visits the home bound and ill, ministers to our neighbors, sacrifices for others, and ultimately proclaims the Gospel to the world around us… all because it has taken root in us and grown out of us organically.

 

think about it.

 

A Preaching Perspective

This excerpt is from a sermon delivered by Dr. John Piper, May 10, 2009. It’s the second part of a series on John 3:16 (during an expository trip through the Gospel of John). He decides to take a moment in the beginning of this sermon to outline what exactly “preaching” is to the congregation… and most likely to newer congregants or visitors. In my book, he hits the target dead center. This is the kind of preaching I hope always to deliver. Read on…

Preaching As Expository Exultation

Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. Every sermon explains and applies the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all sixty-six books of it. The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Therefore, it is mainly Bible exposition—explanation and application.

And the preacher’s job is to do that in a way that enables us to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If they come from the Bible and you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will rest on man and not God.

The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest some biblical truth that will make your spiritual bones more like steel, and double the capacity of your spiritual lungs, and make the eyes of your heart dazzled with God’s greatness, and awaken the capability of your soul for kinds of spiritual enjoyment you didn’t even know existed.

Preaching is also exultation—expository exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people do not simply understand what he explains, but the preacher and the people exult over what is in the Bible as it is being explained and applied.

Preaching As Worship

Preaching does not come after worship in the order of the service. Preaching is worship. My job is not done if I only see truth and show it to you. The devil could do that—for his own devious reasons. My job is to see the glory of the truth and to savor it and exult over it as I explain it to you and apply it for you. That’s one of the differences between a lecture and a sermon.

Preaching is not the totality of the church. And if all you have is preaching, you don’t have the church. A church is a body of people who minister to each other. Part of what preaching does is equip us for that. God has created the church, so that she flourishes through preaching. That’s why Paul gave young pastor Timothy one of the most serious, exalted charges in all the Bible in 2 Timothy 4:1–2: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word.”

If you are used to a twenty-minute, immediately practical, relaxed talk, the understanding of preaching that I just described doesn’t lead there. I won’t preach twenty minutes but twice that long; I do not aim to be immediately practical but eternally helpful; and the condition of my soul is not relaxed but standing vigilantly on the precipice of eternity speaking to people any of whom this week could go over the edge.”

 

I first heard this on my recent road trip to Oklahoma (on the return drive) and it has resonated in my heart ever since. It would be the kind of thing that I would think to listen to or read at least weekly to be consistently reminded of the deep importance of solid preaching.  You can find more of Dr. Piper’s material at www.desiringgod.org and if you are looking for this exact sermon you can look it up there or on iTunes as well.

The New Reality… or is it?

There are moments in life where we are “pressed” and in those moments people in general turn to a number of different outlets, sources, and reliefs. These moments are those times where we may think we have found ourselves facing a “new reality”, the pressing moments of life that are generally the result of big changes, stresses, or disappointments.  There is a thing that brings great hope in these moments for me, that make me step back and breathe for a moment. It’s a truth we have heard and I think sometimes we can glaze over if we are not thinking clearly…  I mean in general we are a society that hits hardship with two gears, and often we can get stuck in one of them.

First gear: Reactive… 

There are a number of different things you can call this gear, the “why me?” gear, the point of struggle, the “what on earth will I do now?” gear. Whatever label you might want to give it, it’s a normal and natural reaction to being pressed. It’s the moment of sorrow, fear, anger, doubt, or other feelings that leave us almost immobilized. Really it’s part of the process, we have to have this. However, we can’t stop or get stuck here. I’m not saying to rush through it, or that there is some formulaic approach as to how long this period should last, but that it should only be a period.

Second gear: Attack

Again, you can label the gear however you like, it’s not about the label, it’s about the phase. This is the motion phase, the “I’m going to do something” gear. This is where we attempt to hit the challenge head on, formulate plans, work hard, get in gear, and put our noses to the grindstone (my mom would be so proud I just used that statement). This is also a normal reaction to being pressed. This reaction can make us feel resolute, motivated and can drive out surface level fear, because, after all, we are handling our business. This phase is the phase that can bring about resolution, but often it doesn’t really get at the core of things.

There may be another option, in fact, I’m certain there is. The struggle will come if we linger too long in the reaction gear without looking toward shifting to the attack gear, but an equally greater problem will occur if we skip the reaction gear and processing of the emotion, fear, etc. These things are both essential to the process of moving through the process of being pressed.

Therein lies the problem, we aren’t just supposed to “move” through the process. God is interested in our growth through the process. If we lie to long lingering in the first gear, we may miss opportunities for this growth, but the same result happens if we charge into the second gear, making the work our own. In both places we lack, because we may not be in a place to hear what God has to say. The so called “new reality” of our lives is part of the plan, change will forever be a part of our growth and sanctification. It can be a struggle, it can be anything from maddening to disheartening, bringing fury and sorrow. It’s all o.k., as long as we can remember what I think is a profound and simple truth about our God:

Psalm 46:1 ” God is our refuge and strength, a VERY present help in trouble” ESV (the NIV uses the words “EVER-present help in trouble”)

Either way you slice this, it’s just plain good. It simply means God is there when there is trouble, turmoil, change, strife, when you are being pressed, and this should bring us hope. I’m not saying we should be devoid of the stuff we need to process in the first gear, but that we should know that God is present in that processing, that it matters to Him, that WE matter to Him. It also doesn’t mean that we don’t take any of the action as seen in the second gear, but it means we can lean on Him and know that He is there to guide us if we will prayerfully put it in His hands.

Remember.. the “new reality”, isn’t new to God.

(In reviewing this I don’t want to change anything because I think it communicates the truth I’m looking for, but I feel really rusty in my blog-skills… which are like nun-chuck skills.. if you don’t use them you could get really sore hands)

 

 

Jesus & TOMs…. would He?

SO… it’s been a while since I’ve tread into the blog-o-verse but there is some stuff on my mind this morning. Well really it’s been on my heart and mind for quite some time (it’s actually in the original list of blog-able topics that I wrote on my iPhone) and today is just the kind of day to get it out there. Big question for us to wrestle with…

WOULD JESUS WEAR TOMS?

Ok… that might be a little to divisive and politically incorrect to ask so maybe a better question is this:

ARE WE LETTING SOCIAL JUSTICE (or actually mere social awareness) REPLACE THE GOSPEL?

To be honest, frank, and maybe a little brutal here for a second… TOMS (which is not the guy’s name, it stands for TOMorrow’s Shoes) really really bother me. It’s like the most self aggrandizing way of helping someone. It’s the way to be hip and trendy, yet… make a statement that says “I’m aware that people around the world are going without shoes”.  They go against the very idea that helping others is supposed to be a selfless act.  Now I’m not ignorant to the fact that it does give some shoeless person somewhere a pair of shoes, and that’s awesome (sort of) and I realize that some people are now reading this very angrily, but before you come to my office with pitchforks and torches… please allow me to further illuminate my point.

The real heart of the matter is that in the American church, we seem to have grown into this idea that it doesn’t matter the motives for good things, as long as good things are happening we should support it with all we can, whether or not the Gospel goes forward or not.  WHAT!?!?!?!?!

This seems completely crazy to me. If we believe that Jesus is the hope of the world, we should in turn believe the most incredible message of His life, death,substitution,  resurrection, atonement, and victory are a pretty important thing to spread around. Even more important than shoes! Now… if it goes hand in hand with some shoes, great, if it goes hand in hand with whatever you do to serve those who are hurting awesome!!! But at what point did we decide that we should just omit the Gospel from those actions? or that we as Christ followers should jump on whatever trendy bandwagon there is out there whether that organization promotes the cause of Christ or not?

Thus the issue with TOMS…  the company itself doesn’t allow for any sharing of religious beliefs (proselytization) while taking part in their shoe distributions. Which bug, because that seems to point to hope being in shoes… or hope being in humanity. That is a different lens than the average Christian is taught about, not to mention that the vast majority of folks wearing TOMS are probably less than aware, or don’t really give a rip that someone got a pair of shoes, to many it’s just another hip fashion statement.

And so many organizations out there romance the young hip believer to really buy in to the fact that they are helping so that must count… right?

Why not get involved with organizations that promote not only clothing, feeding, sheltering, or educating people around the world, but also promote the idea that the greatest hope humanity has is not in itself, but in Jesus Christ?

Instead of buying trendy shoes that make a statement, take it a step further and take that money and invest it in a micro-lending organization like World Vision, or why not use it to put money toward a mission trip you could go on? Volunteer, serve, go, do something!! The possibilities are endless.

So to answer the question.. would Jesus wear TOMS… probably not. He would probably buy them and give them to someone he knew was in need of shoes around Him, then share the heart of His Father with them, and then there would be two people in need getting shoes, and at least one getting a real picture of hope.

Think about it… you could even comment about it….

j-

The Traditional Valentine’s Day Manifesto!

So every year I have a tradition of posting this document which I once wrote for a church news letter (previous church, not Bridgeway) So… in the time honored tradition, even though it’s not technically “Retro Blog Day”, here it is:

Annual Valentine’s Tirade… but not what you think.

AHHHHH… Valentine’s day… the old tradition of flowers, candy, AND POTENTIAL DISASTER!!!
What I am about to write mostly pertains to men, so ladies please feel free to read and encourage the men in your life…. or if this all backfires… write me and tell me what a twit I am. Hopefully this will somehow be a small blessing in your relationships (present or future).
Now any man reading this can probably recount some time in his life where he has made a valentinian blunder, and can identify with what I am about to write. This is why I have become a Valentine’s Day cynic; this “holiday” just does not sit well with me. Now before you ladies get a rope and plan to lynch me … just keep reading. What I am writing about is a love that makes no mistakes, no blunders, and is wonderfully sufficient.
In February, as we look in the local flower shops, peruse the See’s candy store, or (if you need to make a big splash) the local Jewelry store, let’s make sure our thoughts are turned toward the One who has given us the incredible ability to love another person and has blessed us with the gift of other people that love us as well. Our relationships with one another are a huge part of this walk we call Christianity, and those relationships are only held together by the relationship we have with Jesus.
This month you will be inundated with commercials, articles and jingles that all revolve around this premise of “true love”… I’m sorry but when did true love become something bought off of a store shelf. We are blessed to know the reality of a love that is truer and more complete than can ever be coined by some Jared Jewelers commercial. I urge you not to forget this fact during the frenzied rush to show your “true love” to your significant other, crush, or recent hook up.
See… I have a challenge for you men…. ALL OF YOU!!… Stop buying the lie. Stop being sold on this idea that this one day of the year is more important than all others to tell the people you love that you love them. Especially if that person is your wife!!! There is no way one day a year will make up for the other 364 that you ignore that opportunity. I absolutely spit on the idea that roses on valentine’s day are more special than the random bouquet of flowers brought home for no reason at all. I GUARANTEE YOU… if you love the women in your life correctly… we could stamp out valentine’s day all together… if we could love our wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25) we wouldn’t be subject to the guilt laden valentine’s myth.
If we would rise up together men and love our women as we should… Valentine’s day wouldn’t matter anymore… it would be a distant memory. But for now it remains a guilt ridden, marketing feeding frenzy that prays on men who know that they have spent too much time at work, too little time appreciating their wives and families, and now they are fed this line of crap about how this one “special day” a year will make it all up.
So men…. get it right… love consistently… and stamp out the valentine’s lie!!!
that’s right….

I said it.

down with valentine’s day….

It’s Not Illegal to Pray

So it’s Wednesday and that means another retro blog post… WOO HOO! (really the thing that excites me is the efficiency, maybe when the retro blog posts are done, it can turn into re-posted blog day, someone else wrote this blog day, or totally plagiarized blog day… who knows. We’ll vote on it later)

OK… so this blog dates all the way back to April of 2008. I was kind of on a tear then and I wrote this in a bit of a huff. I still totally believe in the principal of this article, and I hope each person who reads it can see the heart behind it. It really speaks to the need to be aware of what we say and/or promote and the effects those words can have. Read on!!

It’s Not Illegal to Pray…

April 1, 2008

Ok… this blog was scheduled for about a month and a half ago but got sidelined while I worked out some other stuff. Since it’s a political year and I am a recovering political addict, I should hope that this would speak to those much like me, or that need to start the recovery process from rabid politicalism. It all started with this thought…

“You know… It’s not actually illegal to pray in schools.”

There is a growing exasperation within me for those that run around spewing forth (whether vocally, by those horrid e-mail forwards, web-sites, pulpits, whatever) this blatant lie that it is illegal for our kids to pray in school. That’s such a load of crap. No where in our country is it duly established that our students cannot pray in school. So the propogation of this lie by Christians at large infuriates me, and I am pretty sure that it’s not a real jewel in the eyes of Jesus either.

Why is it that while real persecution of Christians is going on in other parts of the world the american church has the audacity to whine about a complete falsehood? The problem is the underlying unspoken truth of the matter in the hearts of these people. MANDATED PRAYERS in school. This becomes the true crux of the matter. What some Christians want is for schools to return to a mandated prayer time in the morning, a time where those that don’t believe in what we do are forced to recite some prayer, all the while holding malice in their hearts toward the Church, Christianity, and ultimately God. So… it seems that in order to cover up this issue and give people a cause they can rally around they tell all of these stories about our children’s rights being trampled on because it’s illegal to pray in schools, or that… and this one kills me… God is not allowed in schools (I’m sure some of you have seen that shirt, bumpersticker, or e-mail). How can we presume for a second that God is not allowed anywhere? Or that by some mandate of man God himself is forbidden from entering someplace? It’s crazy on it’s face, but how many forwards have passed into your e-mail box, propogating this kind of crap.

We need to stop teaching our young people that this is the case. We need to start telling them that they can pray at school, that they can talk openly about God and their own faith in or walk with Him. We need to instruct them to do it in a way that meshes with scripture (2 Peter 3:15 “do so with gentleness and respect”). They don’t need to be turned into the next generation of whiners about our rights, they need to be raised into a generation of those who God has empowered with a spirit of Strength, Love, and Self-Discipline. We must stop relying on the institutions to do our job for us. We (that is parents, families, friends) must rise up and teach those in the generations to come that they can and should pray at their school, pray for their school, pray for their unsaved friends, pray for their teachers. They have been called to be salt and light and to shine like stars in a darkened world, SUPRISE SUPRISE… the darkened world includes the school campus. Stop waiting around for teachers, counselors, and other school adminitrators to come on line and start doing what we should be doing in the home, the church and at large.

thoughts?

Kən-ˈvik-shən… Part 1

So… There might be a little bit of confusion surrounding the title of this week’s blog, and rightly so. It seems that culturally there is a lot of confusion around this word… but before we get into that, a brief update on where the posts from last week were…

First, it was a holiday on Monday and so I took that call very seriously and spent a wonderful day with my family enjoying the chaos of John’s Incredible Pizza Co. and of course all that that entails. It was a great day!! I think Dr. King would have approved.

Second, I was illing on Wednesday and I thought a post on NyQuil, though entertaining, would probably not serve much purpose and possibly get me in trouble.

Now on to the things related to the current post and what that mess of letters at the top of the page mean.

CONVICTION – kən-ˈvik-shən – (it’s the phonetic spelling) and let there be a clear reiteration that, there seems to be a great deal of confusion around the concept of conviction.  One might say there is a bit of frəs-ˈtrā-shən surrounding conviction, from both sides of the coin (or actually a few different sides of the coin). Conviction is a multi-faceted aspect of our growth as Christ followers we must allow for, grow in, and live with conviction.

Now of course,  because we are pretty broken, we struggle with all of these things (which is pretty normal since all areas of growth seem to be areas where we struggle, imagine that), but the problem is when we push back and decide we will not be subject to the growth and we engage in running from God, or deflecting what God is trying to do justify our current state as being “good enough”. So let’s tackle these areas one by one and see if there can be any light shed for each of us…

ALLOW FOR…  As God’s kids we have to allow for His conviction to have weight in our lives. This is what Webster’s describes as “the act of being convinced of error or compelled to tell the truth”. God has imparted to us His Holy Spirit, and through this He will bring conviction into our lives, through a number of different means. Our struggle is we often don’t like the means. When a pastor preaches a sermon, or speaks into our lives to correct or rebuke our actions, we dislike it. We’re not talking the typical go to church and hear a good motivating sermon that reminds you to be more active in serving, sharing, or giving, type of conviction (that’s way to comfy), no more like the good old fashioned root out your sin and smash you in the face kind of preaching, the kind that sets on your head & heart and DEEPLY convicts you. This we don’t like, the first kind we can laugh and smile and tell the pastor “man you really got me with this one”. In fact the typical reaction is for us when faced with truly deep conviction is to react with anger, after all it’s judgment right? At least that’s the normal claim. Judgment, legalism, Pharasiaism (which is being like a Pharisee) are the usual default when we are challenged at a deep level, when really called on the carpet. It seems we are not conditioned for conviction on this level. We assume that God wants only for us to be mildly uncomfortable, and we also assume that God would never use our pastor to bring that kind of news. Why, for that level of conviction there should be some sort of direct line communication right? Maybe.  We have been conditioned to think that any time a human being speaks to us with authority that challenges our comfort and tells us to “STOP IT!!” they are only operating out of anger and judgment, that they are proponents of legalism, or are in the same camp as Jesus’ favorite bunch; the Pharisees (which if you want to know the level of how bad that is, just read Matthew 23) . That is just plain wrong. In 2 Samuel God used Nathan the prophet to Go to King David and deliver a healthy dose of conviction. Imagine that, a pastor going to the ruler of the land, a dude with tons of power, and delivering a message of “stop it!!”.  Oh.. and what was the conclusion of that interaction? David, who could have easily continued in rebellion and even had Nathan killed for any number of trumped up charges, repented, submitted and allowed the conviction to grow him.

Are we allowing God’s conviction to course through our lives? Are we allowing the people (yep people) who are placed in spiritual authority over us to lead us and bring those words to us? Are we rejecting God’s conviction because it’s poking at our own personal golden calves?

David was a broken man, who clearly struggled, but when he got it right… he really got it right. My hope is that our hearts are to seek like David did, and not hold our lives in clenched fists. That our hearts would be soft to God’s leading and we would allow His continued refinement of our character, and our journey with Him.

 

Next Week: Part 2- Growing in Conviction.

Indivisible… with Christianity for all?

But who’s counting right?

In all actuality I was sickly yesterday, laying on the couch sleeping, watching netflix, and having a great conversation with an old friend. Which brings me to another retro-type thought… Is it just me or did the movie “DUNE” seem so much cooler when we were kids? I watched it yesterday and thought it was kinda weird. I loved that movie when I was younger.

BUT… that is a totally different conversation. Today, since we missed yesterday, is “Retro Blog Day – the make up day” where I will take something from my old blog circa 2007-2008 and publish it here, for the fun of it. This one goes out to my man PC over at http://www.ragamuffinpc.com who asked a great question (or made a bold statement with instruction) in his comment on my last post:

One thing I have been thinking from time to time is that it seems American Christians seem to wait on the government to enact movement to situations and areas that the Church should have been a long time ago. Chew on that!

So this sort of answers my thought to that question/statement…

This was originally written Spring 2008 during the Presidential election cycle and the talk radio rhetoric was at an all time high in quantity, and low in quality. As I re-read this post, I do realize there was a bit of an angry tone, so I ask for your forgiveness in advance… I was much younger then! READ ON…

Indivisible… with Christianity for all? April, 1 2008

So… The second half of this exasperation; political agenda. I fear we have place political conservatism above the cross. That “good Christians” should vote or think only in very specific ways and that we should only be caught up with certain issues. Again… CRAPOLA!! The problem with the zealous political wing of Christianity (if you can really put all that together) is the underlying insidious nature of what they really want. They basically want a new messiah.

Much like the pharisees in Jesus day, they want a politically established leader who will affirm all that we believe as Christians as right and good and start to legislate as such. Now some may wonder why that is even a problem. It’s a huge problem, we shouldn’t want mandated Christianity, in fact it should scare the crap out of us. The thought of it should cause us to run out and get motivated to stop it. We should desire passionate, authentic, zealous faith that people gain from their interaction with the Holy Spirit, not something that they are doing in fear that the government will come barging in to their home to decree that they are not fulfilling their duties. Now… do I desire a Presidential candidate that has biblical wisdom and is a professing Christian… sure, but I don’t want a government that will start legislating Christianity as law, because the reality of the matter is… how long will it be before I don’t measure up?

I’m not sure which aspect of this gets me most riled up, but to be sure there is a level of Hypocrisy that is extreme. We have certainly come right out and bashed any of the Arabian and Asian governments that have established any form of religious law and to be sure we praise the founders that fled England due to religious oppression under the established church state. Yet for some reason there are those that think that it would work here, that power and corruption would never take hold in these modern times. My response to that is… are you crazy?

The question that must be asked… or the warning that must be leveled at this line of thinking;

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

The major problem with this whole thought is not just having a faith mandated (establishment of a religion) and having people forced into a way of believing which never works, and I have no doubt in my mind that is not what God desires. The issue is again relying on governmental or institutional powers to do the work of the Church and God’s people. If faith and all morality is legislated, then faith and morality in and of themselves lose power.

I certainly think there is a place to stand for what is right, and to be vocal about it, but there are times I fear the underlying motivations, and in the over-zealous politicised Christian conservative, even though I do not doubt they are my brother/sister… I do indeed find fear. So weigh your convictions, act on them, live with them firmly in place. As the word came to Zechariah the prophet:

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’

We need to seek true justice… and many times that will not come in the form of the government. It will come in the form of God’s people going forth and acting as His hands and feet to a fallen and broken world.

Now please do not take this as a call to vacate the political process in general. It’s not.. go and vote, exercise your right to do so, vote with that same conviction and wisdom that guides you in life and trust the God, who is Sovereign over all, will see that the outcome is to His plan.