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...

Do You Sabbath?

Do you take the time to enjoy a Sabbath? I am going to guess that you don’t. Even among those who follow Christ, taking the time to rest, be still, and be quiet is approached with a stigma. Those who do not keep busy are seen as: Lazy Wasting time Letting the world get ahead Not being productive Old fashioned Legalistic If I truly believe that my identity is not tied to the things I accomplish, then I’d be willing to stop accomplishing for Sabbath. When identity is confused with productivity, it is difficult to trust that God is pleased with you when you rest. Through this lens, Sabbath is seen as an inconvenience. Here are Jesus’ words on intentionally pausing: Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27-28 In order to justify our busy lifestyles, the tendency in looking at these verses is to focus on “not man for the Sabbath.” These are Jesus’ words to the religious leaders about finding one’s worth in legalistically following rules rather than the good things of God. Let’s not overlook the beginning of that statement – “The Sabbath was made for man.” Our ability to intentionally stop is a gift. It is necessary for us to function as we were designed. Slaves don’t get a chance to rest. Sabbath is an expression of our freedom. Sabbath is not a time of nothingness, but a time of connection. It is a time for us to be reminded that God’s love is not based on the world’s...

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...

Creating a Mindset of Gratitude

It is December. It is the Christmas season. As the song says, it is the most wonderful time of the year! But, it is also the busiest. It can be the most stressful. The most expensive. And the most disappointing. If this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, should we be feeling more gratitude? At Christmas we celebrate the Gift that God gave to the world. Out of His love, God gave everything He had. That seems to be cause for thankfulness. Busyness, debt,  disappointment, and much of our stress comes from trying to gain a sense of worth from things apart from God: Saying yes to all the commitments. Buying impressive presents. Portraying the happy image. (For the church leader, having more people at this year’s church service than last year’s.) Gratitude takes discipline. One of the ways our brains have be designed to function is the more you look for something, the more you will find it. For example, if you believe people will ultimately disappoint you, then you will process everything though that lens. Another example, if you perceive that people disrespect you, then you will see your interactions through that lens. Thus, the more your mind is set on being grateful, the more things to be grateful for you will see. Growing in your identity in Christ enables more gratitude. When you are not dependent upon roles, relationships, or results for a sense of self, you can be grateful for what God has placed in your life – not what you feel is missing. When your lens is no longer clouded by...

I’ll Be Happy When…

I will admit to you that for a long time I had a problem being present in my life. What I mean is that I was always looking to the next thing, feeling like I would be fully satisfied at the next milestone. For example, when I knew I wanted to pursue vocational ministry, my mindset became “I’ll be happy when I work in a church.” Then I worked part-time, so the mindset became “I’ll be happy when I can work in the church full time.” When that happened, the mindset changed to “I’ll be satisfied when I’m a top tier leader.” On and on it goes. Always hoping for the next thing. Not celebrating, not being grateful, but continually longing. I see this all around me: The church leader that will feel settled when their church crosses that elusive attendance barrier. The woman who will feel content when she has her first (or another child). The person who claims satisfaction will be found in earning just a few thousand dollars more per year. Continually looking to the horizon for a sense of significance and identity will cause you to stray from the narrow path. When you are not present, you will… suffer from insecurity (what if the next milestone never happens?) live in scarcity (what happens if I lose what I do have?) create division (why did someone else get what I deserve?) After I burned out and subsequently began to develop my identity in Christ, I began to understand that the inability to be present – to be always longing for something else – was a symptom...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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