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.

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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-

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.

A Better Intersection…

So here it is… Monday again, and as we all know, Monday is blog day.  Well, technically, it’s the day that I’m home, the kids are at school, and there is reprieve from the “honey-do” list.

On today’s agenda is a topic that has been part of my life for a while, or at least something I have been moderately (alright at moments  this may be more like; intensely) concerned with over the years. It’s one of those things that I think a lot of people get caught up in and at times can be pretty divisive. And, though that weren’t enough, we have all been taught that it’s not something we discuss at family dinners or in polite company. So, by this point, you are wondering what it is, and I’m hoping that I’ve had you reading long enough to get you past the revealing of the topic at hand… so here we go, it’s…

politics (please move the cursor away from the close button, I promise it’s not what you think!!!)

There has been a thought rattling around my head in regard to the political realm and the Christian faith (we did, after all, just have another election year). Now usually here is where the lecture or directive on some political view would go, but that’s not what we are here for… I think there is way too much weight put on what Christians should vote on and how (again, room for debate, but that’s not the point). More important than debate is finding a better intersection for our faith and our politics than what happens in election cycles or what political cause we attach ourselves to. But I digress, our political affiliations and philosophies are not my aim, but really it’s our hearts for our leaders that I am concerned with. It would seem the better intersection can be found in the heart of prayer.

You see in two instances in scripture I see Paul dealing with this whole idea of political leaders. It’s in Romans 13 that he talks about God being over every authority, and not one of them being in power outside of His will. Then in 1 Timothy we are challenged to pray for all those in authority (1 Tim 2:1-4) and in light of these two things I started thinking…

Would God put leaders into power, that we may disagree with philosophically, politically, or even morally, in order to check the heart of His church (people) when it comes to prayer?

After all, what’s more important, the functioning of the government or our refinement as God’s people? I find that thought very challenging, but then, I find a lot of things that God does to grow me very challenging.   As Christians, if we are honest, we already know that our first allegiance shouldn’t be to country but to Christ (yes there is a point to be made about our faith informing our vote and need to be wise, but that’s not the heart of the matter here) and in that we should seek to lift every leader we have over us up to God in prayer, agree or not. In fact I wonder if we shouldn’t be praying more for those we agree with less (and not prayers that they will see it our way either). I’m not sure if this particular post counts as a rant, but I guess it could be mistaken as such, either way I just want to see our hearts change from a people of faith that are widely known for one sided politics, to a people of faith that can come together despite political difference to pray for the wisdom and guidance of our national, state, and local governments.

So.. bottom line… are we praying for our leaders at all? Are we praying for the ones we didn’t vote for? Are we praying for their wisdom (not our wisdom), clarity, safety, family? If not, are we really answering God’s charge to us, His body, to pray for those that are in authority over us? If not, let’s commit to changing that this year. Let’s start the discussion.

Be sure to check out Wednesday which is retro blog post day… I’ll pull something off my old blog that might even be related to this.

No… you can’t do better

So… here it is a hefty 5 days into the new year and I have another opportunity to write, so I will pounce on it with the ferocity of a starving man on a Christmas ham.  Opening wit aside, I come bearing a bit of a warning;

WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ (if you’re a guy) MAY BE IRRITATING, UNCOMFORTABLE, OR POSSIBLY CONVICTING…

but hey… at least I waited an entire 5 days into the new year before I posted something like that!  Truth be told, I have a laundry list of bloggable (?) topics I have been keeping in my phone, but given the sermon topic this weekend and the response to it, I thought this would be a great fit for the week. So… on to the meat of the matter:

I have heard in many conversations with men of varying demographics this particular statement, that pretty much grates my nerves (and possibly garners the occasional violent thought), when referring to their wives;

” I know I could have done better”.

Yep, true statement, heard it from the mouths of men and it is a stunner.  I, personally, do not get this! Better than what? Better looking? Wealthier? Better family pedigree? I’m not sure the answer to those questions from the minds of the men speaking, and I am not without understanding that some things are said in haste and with lack of forethought, but I would offer that no matter what, that kind of statement is over the line and has no place in the husband’s vocabulary.

You may be wondering why this statement bothers me so much (or of course you might be searching your closet for a blunt object with which to bludgeon these men) and I would say that that curiosity deserves an answer. This statement merits this kind of response because of its root nature; selfishness. It screams out that “my marriage is about me and what I want and what I deserve”, and that is a horrible way to walk through life and most certainly a wretched existence in marriage. I think for men that make this kind of statement (oh, it has cousins, it’s like a whole dysfunctional statement family) there is a motivation of self serving comfort, or at least a desire for it.

Now, before we get too far into this post I have to make sure that I emphasize my own selfishness and the fact that my marriage has indeed suffered for that selfishness at times, days where the “honey do” list gets the back seat to a Clint Eastwood marathon, or days I have pretended to sleep in while listening to the chaos of the house and just not wanting to engage. These things have come with cost, and at the same time have been used to refine me a bit.

And therein lies the answer… and the root of the problem. We have a perspective issue. We believe, and for the most part are culturally reared to understand, that marriage is about the joy and pleasure of self, that it is something that exists to feed us. Then we are told that if it stops feeding us, we are then cool to get divorced and move on a try again… and again… and again (having a divorce under my belt… I have indeed lived through this great delusion). We have to grow and adopt a new perspective and then fight to keep it. Marriage is not about us, it’s about the other, and it’s about God’s refining process in our lives.

So to those men I say; NO… you can’t do better! You cannot do better than a woman who calls you out of your comfort zone and demands that you be the man, husband, father,  you are called to be. Yes, she is going to need you to step up and be a man of character. Yes, she is going to need you to stand and lead your family in a Christ-like manner. Yes, she is going to need you to grow and stretch and be uncomfortable at times. She, that wonderful bride that God gave you, is a tool of His refinement in life. What an incredible gift! What could be better than that, than a woman who would cause you to rise to be more those things than you were before? Not much in my book.

Here is the kicker… Ephesians 5 gives us a clue (as does 1 Peter 3) as to the keys to marriage that works and lasts. Two key words SUBMISSION (hers) and SACRIFICE (his)… oh look how cute, hers & his matching “S” words… that paint a picture for us of what makes it happen. We men are called to live in sacrifice, not selfishness, that we would grow marriages and families that build up, and not break down. We are to be refined by our marriages, not just take from them until they are left dry and we are to pour out into our wives, that she would be presented before Christ without stain or blemish.

Recommended bible reading for this stuff- Eph 5, 1 Peter 3, Proverbs 31 (because you help enable that)

Recommended books – The Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart by Stu Weber (good character building)