What about differences?

The political and social upheaval that is going on in the United States can give great insights into what each of us, as followers of Jesus, are clinging to for significance and hope. Paul wrote something to the Galatian church that applies to our context: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 The ways that the world uses to judge significance and valued are meaningless in the Kingdom that Jesus founded. So using race to justify power, entitlement, or worth is not part of the way a follower of Jesus should be living their life. Using economic status (see James 2) or nationality or education level or gender to ascribe worth, meaning, or purpose is contrary to the gospel that Jesus left us. This gospel is one of repentance and forgiveness for those in Christ. Segregation, self-justification, and unforgiveness are hallmarks of the world’s political, economic, and social systems. For, if someone from the other party has political power, that makes them an impediment to something you need and thus the enemy. Their actions are unforgiveable or have no rationalization. The same can be said with any identity based outside of Christ. Sadly, as I check twitter and facebook, more and more what I see of both left and right leaning Christians is the adoption of the narratives of the world. If you are spending more time checking for and outraged by the sliver in your brother or sister’s eye, then you likely have adopted a political or economic...

Being Hated

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. – 1 John 3:13 How does the thought of begin hated for following Jesus make you feel? John says not to be surprised if the world hates us. Reflecting the image of God will elicit a response from a world that does not understand and must confront their own sense of shame. It was this sort of shame that incited Cain to hate and kill his brother Abel. Looking around at the church in our culture, we do seem genuinely surprised when the world pushes back against our beliefs. One response we offer is to compromise. There are attempts to make the truth that we are immersed in more palatable. This effort to be liked and win affirmation voids the power of freedom and transformation that Christ Himself promises. There are many tough truths in the gospel, whitewashing them or saying that they don’t apply to modern culture takes away the cross that some must carry to be conformed into the image of Christ. People are being held back in captivity by compromise. Another response is to intentionally drum up hatred. As if Jesus and John saying to expect resistance means that we need to produce it ourselves. So we see a version of “in your face” Christianity that seems very far from the example that Christ demonstrated. This warning about being hated is not to be used as a way to build identity. Every effort is to be made to live in peace with everyone. Yet this goes hand in hand with holiness (Hebrews 12:14), because that...

An Idea About Evangelism Training

I went to a Friday night race in Daytona with my dad a couple weeks ago. We had a great time together experiencing the atmosphere and the sounds, smells, and power of the trucks on the track. As we entered the speedway grounds, there were three men at the entrance gate. One had a bullhorn and was reading a Bible passages about the judgment of God. The two others had signs with similar messages about perishing and hell and stood with their free arms outstretched holding tracts. While I am giving them credit for being well-meaning, there efforts were ignored by the large crowd walking past them. These men were doing evangelism. In our Christian terminology, evangelism is what you are trained for; having gone through a program, and been trained in the right steps in presenting the gospel to others. This type of training takes a variety of forms, but the commonality is that evangelism is seen as a separate discipline for the follower of Christ. Think of the fear response that is so common when people are told we are going to talk about or teach ‘evangelism’. Evangelism is presented as a discipleship elective and in practice comes off feeling forced and unnatural. What if we simply taught people to love others? That the people around them and that come into our churches are more than a statistic or a project. They are people who are struggling with their place in the world. What if we simply taught people to listen to others? Rather than giving enough attention to throw in the appropriate Bible verse, this would take compassion...

Seeing Jesus

It is election season. From things I’ve read, if Jesus were alive today, He would support every political candidate. Or at least that is the case people make. There is a proliferation of bumper stickers saying that “Jesus is an environmentalist” or “Jesus is a capitalist” or some other such identification. Many churches teach their opinions as if they were doctrines of Jesus. Things like kids must be home-schooled or that some standards of discipleship are old-fashioned. Here is the truth: we view Jesus through the lens of what builds up our false sense of self. We want Jesus to affirm the things from which we are seeking value. Thus, we don’t see Jesus as He actually is, we see a Jesus created in our own image. Jesus did not come to affirm our broken philosophies, He came to show the world the love of the Father. When we make Jesus in our image, that leads to division rather than unity, condemnation rather than acceptance, and judgment rather than forgiveness. Jesus was concerned that we do two things: love God and love people. Loving God is about rooting our full sense of identity in Him. Loving people is a fruit of the freedom that source of identity provides. Where loving God and people conflicts with our desires we are to abandon our self. In what ways does Jesus look more like you rather than you looking more like Jesus? ————————————————— I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and...

Keeping Christ in Christmas

I have to confess to you that I have a little pet peeve regarding the “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers, church signs, and car magnets that seem to pop up this time of year. Of course, they are a reaction to our culture’s growing tendency to refer to this as the holiday season. Boldly I say, count me as one follower of Christ who fully supports this cultural trend. First, it IS the season of holidays. There’s Thanksgiving. And Hanukkah. Ramadan. Kwanzaa, the New Year. Probably others of which I’m not aware. It seems the height of Christian arrogance to make everyone use our name for a certain time of the year. It dismisses others’ points of view. Whether or not we agree with their belief system, diminishing their traditions does not put us in their good graces to have an open discussion about Christ. It creates defensiveness; an us-against-them which closes people off. More importantly (in my estimation), do we really want the name Christmas associated with the consumerism and commercialism that runs rampant in our culture and amps up at this time of the year? Short answer: No. No, I don’t. So if Wal-mart wants to call it a “Holiday Sale”, Starbucks wants to put coffee in plain red cups, Best Buy wants to have a giant “Happy Holidays” sign on the front of the store, or the mall wants to promote “Winter Savings”, they can do it with my blessing. I am totally on board with that. In fact, I view it as a favor. One less battle I have to fight with those who argue Christmas is nothing more than...

‘Tis the Season to Be Busy

With one of my clients, the subject of coaching has turned to discipleship. A one size model does not fit all, that is one major structural hurdle. Another hurdle is the obstacle of busyness. What does it mean to be a disciple in a busy culture? People are too busy to attend a group or a workshop. Perception is that there is not enough time to read the Bible, or slow down to pray, or to be still and listen for the voice of the Father. What is true for those we observe is also true for us. We all live in a culture that demands busyness. To be still is not just counter-cultural, it is cause to be labeled lazy or unproductive. This view pervades the workplace, at home, on vacation, and – very sadly – this perception is common in our churches. Now we are entering the season where demands upon our time amp up even more. Being busy, having a never ending to-do list, saying yes-yes-yes, is a product of identity. It is an attempt to cover feelings of worthlessness with productivity and affirmation. The decisions we make are based on what we value. Our values are a function of where our identity is rooted. If you are empty before the Christmas season, then the coming weeks will present many opportunities to perform or accumulate or generate affirmation. It is hard (or impossible) for an identity apart from God to say no to new possibilities. For the church leader, this season is a minefield of comparison and expectations. Services to reach the lost and programs for the devout on...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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