Saturday, December 14, 2013

The One Statement I Can't Go a Day Without Saying - and It's Not "I Love You"

Saying "I love you" regularly is important, but those are not the words I strive to say daily.

I never want to go a day without saying thank you to my wife, my son, and my God.

Thank you is different than I love you.

I can say I love you when I am still hurting, angry, upset, bitter because in some sense, I own the love. In other words, love is given. When I say, "I love you," I am acknowledge that I am giving you some kind of love. In an odd way, I control the level of love I care to give and as a result I can stare directly into your eyes with a straight face and lie through my teeth about it because it's my love. Even with all that I may be holding against you, I can still say these words and pretend everything's just fine.

However, while we still "give thanks" the action implies something else first. Thank you is always an acknowledgement of a gift received. The table is turned with thanksgiving because we are remembering a reality that is not in our control. You are the recipient of some action someone did for you or someone else in your life or some thing another person gave you. Now saying thank you can still be empty and may at times be sarcastic - "thanks for doing the dishes" when they're all still in the sink - but we all know those thank you's for what they are. Think about it. When you're pissed off at someone you care deeply about, perhaps even love, can you say thank you? Think about the people in your life, your parents for example. How easy is it to say "I love my parents," but how much harder is it to say, "I'm thankful for my parents?" For some that may be easy, but for many others that's hard because the difference lies in what you can do versus what's been do for/to you.

Giving thanks means, then, you have to do the hard work of forgiving or asking for forgiveness. The only way it has a place in your heart is after all the bitterness, hatred, and anger have been destroyed and removed. I love you can be said over those, like a blanket covering the horder's nest or the vacation taken just to get away from all the problems. Thank you can only be said once they're all gone.

One of the major critiques of Millennials is how entitled we are, how much we deserve, how much we're owed. Entitlement does not have room for thanksgiving because no one says thank you for what you deserve or think you deserve. You don't go bursting into you boss' office every two weeks saying, "thanks for the paycheck!" We need a course correction, one that involves a ton of self-examination of all the bitterness that has taken root over what we think we deserve. Here is just one example (out of millions) of why the Christian worldview trumps all others. Foundational to it is the reality of what is called common grace, whereby God freely gives us all gifts without discrimination - good and evil, righteous and unrighteous, Christian and non-Christian. In it includes the very air we breathe and the lungs with which we have to breathe it. Every breath then is a gift from God for which we can be thankful. What if we were to grow in our thanksgiving, especially all of which we think we're entitled? What would happen if we became known not as the most entitled generation, but the most thankful generation? Can you imagine that?

For me, it begins by saying thank you to my wife for who she is, how she loves me, and how gracious she is towards me day in and day out. I say thank you to my son of just 4 weeks old for his utter dependence on me when I have no clue what I'm doing. And I say thank you to God for my wife and son and the countless other blessings in life I do not deserve at all, the ultimate being salvation from my own entitlement and thanklessness and the hell that will be filled with both.

And be thankful. -Paul, in his letter to the Colossian church.

By His Grace.

Friday, December 06, 2013

What Is This New Teaching?

Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities" -- because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean." Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new." -Acts 17:18-21

"Athens was proverbial for the curiosity of its inhabitants. By the first century, Athenian desire for entertainment also extended to gladiatorial shows, drawing the criticism of several famous moralists." -IVP New Testament Background Commentary, "Acts 17:21".

I am quite fascinated by two things:

  1. That the people were only interested in new teachings. We live in a post-Christendom culture, where Jesus and talk of the resurrection is passé. But there was a time when talk of Jesus and his resurrection was new. Nevertheless, our culture is much like the Athenians, whereby all we want is something new. New today is talk of tolerance, eastern religions, and flying drones that deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. Paul's teaching was new in one sense, but as he points out later, this was never new to God.
  2. That the newness extended to entertainment. The gladiatorial games had extended from Rome to Athens, and they loved it. Moralists objected in those times and I can't help but see the parallels to our culture with football and the continuous clamoring for more stuff to consume. This is only speculation, but I am guessing that the increasing demand for new, and new entertainment at that,  by the masses aided in the decline and destruction of the two greatest empires of antiquity.
Lastly, by way of brief reflection, Paul is both preaching and teaching Jesus and the resurrection. I guess, to apply to today, we must preach and teach to a post-"new" culture, meaning Jesus and the resurrection is old news to many, but we must be more aware than ever that it is old news in terms of soundbites and faded childhood memories of church and snippets of the bible. Most people today do not know anything about the Jesus of the bible or the resurrection and the haunting thoughts of soundbites and memories keep them from wanting to know. The Athenians, then, should not serve as models for them in how they want to be entertained, but instead in how they want to learn something new. This news must be proclaimed with conviction and taught with utmost clarity, as Paul models for us here, but it should also be received with some form of willingness from people who think they know but have no idea.

So I encourage you, whoever may read this that isn't a Christian and honestly doesn't know much about the bible, to let those who want to teach and preach Jesus and his resurrection to you to do so. Chances are you will learn something you never thought you could know.


By His Grace.

Friday, November 15, 2013

How Are We Rebels? Materialism, Occupy, & the New Coin

edelomahony.com
I read a lot about how this "generation" is rebelling against the baby boomer generation that ran rampant with materialism. Here is just one example in an article I read today.
The current generation of young people, the children and grandchildren of baby boomers, is not rebelling against anything. It is rebelling from neglect, a lack of attention and America's overdose on materialism. This generation doesn't reflect its parents' values because its parents were too busy chasing bigger homes and second cars to teach it any values, or its parents were simply absent for a multitude of reasons.
The article doesn't focus on this rebellion, per se, but just assumes that this generation is "rebelling from...America's overdose on materialism." I have both read and see American Psycho, which is a dark satire on 1980s materialism. I've seen assessments of the boomer generation and the key word that crops up over and over again is materialism. What does it mean, then, that this generation is rebelling against all of that? Typically, as far as I can tell, rebellion fundamentally means to be against something.

What kind of rebellion is it when there isn't much, if any, evidence of an anti-materialism cropping up by this generation at all, but in fact an insatiable hunger for even more? As I see it, we consume more now than ever before and want better stuff now faster than ever before. If that's true, what is our rebellion? I hear we are a cause-oriented generation, that our rebellion consists of wanting authentic, meaningful, real relationships and experiences. But is this really rebellion against materialism or a generation seeking these things with the foundation of materialism growing both deeper and wider as evidenced by how we are saving less and spending more?

I saw much of the Occupy Movement and laughed, to be honest. There was a neighborhood I walked through here in Seattle almost daily. I remember always passing by a house with a car parked outside that had the sticker "we are the 99%." In that neighborhood the houses go for around $300K and rent is no joke. The car was a fairly new Volvo or Subaru. Here in America, at least, we don't know what 99% gets us. Is there income inequality? Sure. Is the middle class being cut out? Perhaps. But before the Captialism experiment here in America there was no such thing as a middle class anywhere in the world. Now I'm not arguing for any one economic system. The point is that we are so numb to our own embedded materialistic ways that we decry those who have way more than us because we feel entitled not only to have our pretty decent store bought cake, but their gold-flaked cake made by a professional chef as well.

Photo by Coin
And still it continues. There is a new ad going around on Facebook for a sweet new product called Coin. It sets out to do what has been done in other areas of business - consolidate and simplify. What does it consolidate and simplify? Your cards? What cards? In the video introduction of this new product, the man begins by saying, "I'm here to tell you about Coin. It solves a problem, I think, most of us have. See my wallet is filled with cards: credit cards, debit cards, rewards cards, gift cards. Filled with them." That is a problem. What to do with all those gift cards we carry around and never use??? So what's the solution? Coin - a one-stop shop for all the cards you have in your wallet or purse. I do think it is a pretty cool product. Who doesn't want to consolidate the crap load of stuff they carry around? I've found that I can't use a wallet anymore and need a backpack for all my junk because I've never wanted to get rid of that AAA Card that expired 5 years ago. I'm glad Coin can even store that.

Does Coin solve a real problem? No. Nope. No. He - and we - aren't asking the obvious question: Why the heck is my wallet or purse filled with all these cards? Why do you need debit cards and credit cards and reward cards?  I'm sure if you run a business it's a bit more complicated, but it can't be that much. "You don't understand, Andrew. I have a credit card that gives me rewards for trips and I use that for fixed costs and then I want to be responsible with my money so I have cards for the stores I shop at the most to get discounts. And what's cool is I can use one rewards credit card to help pay off other rewards credit cards. It's awesome." Yup. This just proves the point. We are hyper-microconsumers, thinking we can game a system that just exposes our failures to keep up with it. Coin is what happens when you accumulate a bunch of stuff in an old house, move into a bigger house and feel like you have nothing at all. Do you see? The problem isn't that you don't have a big enough wallet or need to get all your cards on one card. The problem is you have too much to begin with. The card won't make you feel organized; it will make you feel naked, and before you know it you will have more cards and more debt than you know what to do with, but hey, since it's all on one card, it's not a big deal.

Perhaps our rebellion is multi-colored, spread out and not really able to be pinned down. Just like the acceptance of the notion that truth is relative, perhaps our rebellion is much the same way. Maybe it's like a bunch of cards in the wallet just waiting for that opportunist to seize the day and make it all come together in a digitized utopia of simplicity, ease, comfort, and bliss.

That person would make billions. And our overdose will continue...


Must Read: Guest Post by My Wise Wifey

I've heard it said that a great way to help grow your blog is to have people guest-post. Because my blog is already that awesome, I've asked my first guest, Stacy. She is my ever-wonderful wifey who is writing some more as we wait for Asher. She wanted to share some really good stuff regarding our misconceptions of what's actually in the Bible. Check it out!
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In many ways, this is a light-hearted blog. It's a compilation of things I've been noticing over the past few months as I've spent time in the Word, as well as something I've thought about for a long time in terms of cultural misconceptions about the Bible. It's amazing to me how many biblical principles have become mainstream phrases or ways of thought (albeit often taken out of context).  If anything, I hope it's a good conversation starter for you if you hear these phrases, or that this information helps you to look at these phrases in a different light. 

First, phrases that I'll bet you didn't know originated in the Bible: 

"The blind leading the blind"- Luke 6:39 "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?"
I might be alone in this, but I had no idea that phrase came from the Bible. Here Jesus was teaching multitudes of people who had come to receive healing and to learn from him.  He is cautioning against judging others while ignoring your own faults.  This is the same parable that goes on to talk about trying to take a speck out of your brother's eye, while ignoring the log in your own.   

"Practice what you preach" - Matthew 23:1-4 "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you- but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger."
While Jesus walked the earth he spoke some very harsh words, not to people caught in sin or rejected by the community, but often to church leaders and the religious elite of that day. The religious leaders were adding all kinds of additional requirements on people, claiming that they needed to do a myriad of additional things in order to be saved (not unlike many churches today).  Jesus instructs the people here to follow what the church leaders said in terms of their teaching of the Old Testament, but to do away with all of the additional bologna that they claimed was needed to be accepted by God.

"What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6)
I really think here I'm revealing my ignorance. I had no idea that this familiar line from weddings actually came from the Bible.

"A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating." Proverbs 18:6. I just think this is funny! 

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (AKA the "Golden Rule"). Spoke by Jesus himself and still permitted to hang in public classrooms everywhere. It's just that good. 

Phrases that you may think are in the Bible, but they are not:

"God will never give you more than you can handle." 
This is a comforting thought, but I'll give you $50 if you can show me where God promises that. He actually often gives us more than we can handle, because that causes us to rely on Him and see our need for Him. He does promise never to leave us or forsake us, He promises to comfort us, to lead us, and to sustain us through difficulty. He is good like that.

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime."  
I sadly saw this quoted in someone's eulogy....It was a quote where she said she believed in this "biblical principal." This is a truism...but I'm not sure where it came from. Aesop? Anyway, it's not in the Bible. Although there are a lot of fishermen in the Bible.

"God helps those who help themselves."
I don't know where this came from. Maybe an attempt at "Christianizing" the cultural idea of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps? It is certainly not in the Bible. The God who we see over and over again in the Old and New Testament is a God who helps people who are utterly helpless.  He chooses the small, meaningless tribe of Israel to be his chosen people. He choses Moses, a man who did not have great public speaking skills,  to announce His orders to the most powerful ruler in the world, and then to communicate the 10 Commandments to God's people. He chooses Gideon, a terrified soldier, to defeat some of God's enemies. He does it in such a way that it could only have been God (I love that story...Judges 6-8). He chooses Mary, an unassuming, poor, teenager to carry and raise the Son of God. Over and over again, He rescues and saves people who make the same foolish mistakes over and over again...not because they have anything worthwhile in and of themselves, but because He is good.

Thanks for reading my very scattered thoughts! I hope that the information presented in this blog encourages you to dig into your Bible and consider it's teachings for yourself! 



By His Grace.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The One Aspect About Being a Parent I'm Dreading - and How to Fight It

Stacy is a day overdue. As the days get colder, it seems Asher prefers the warmth of the womb. Apparently there ain't nothing like that cozy fluid he floats around in while his future belly button grubs on several courses a day by way of the umbilical cord courtesy of executive chef, Stacy, and sous chef, placenta.

As we wait, we get to hear stories of all kinds from friends and those who we don't necessarily want to be friends because of what they say. We hear about all the ways a woman knew she was having her baby; we hear about all the stories of what a birth is like; we hear about the first weeks and how, no matter your expectations, you're not ready for what awaits you. We hear it all - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the you-should-never-share-that-again-with-any-living-human-being-whose-ears-still-function-normally.

We also get to hear stories from moms who get told by complete strangers what they should be doing with their kids that very moment.

A friend of ours was out running a quick errand with her one-year old daughter. Some random woman came up to her and told her point blank, "your daughter should be wearing a coat." She kindly told the woman that they were just out quickly and that her daughter was just fine. To me, this just makes sense because, well, she's a responsible, loving mother and she's the mother to that little girl. But that woman must know best. She pressed on with our friend, saying, "well you're wearing a coat." She was wearing a light womanly piece of clothing I am told is called a cardigan, but again, if we backtrack just a bit in this story, our friend birthed that little girl. She has been the sole source of her nutrition since the womb-days, she took care of her when her daughter first got sick, and since this is her first child, she's been super sensitive to making sure she does everything right and best for her daughter. But who is she to say she knows what she's talking about when it comes to mothering her daughter? She probably does need a ton of help from some pompous woman who's never met her or her daughter and all of a sudden feels this incredible sense of duty to spew ignorant nonsense to our friend, implying with utter self-righteousness that clearly she was a better mom to our friend's daughter. Thank you, woman who performed a Random Act of Wickedness for our friend who wept after you were through with her.

Are we going to get that a lot as parents? Are we going to get told by complete strangers how to take care of our son in that specific moment? Current parents, is that the case? Is my wife going to have moments when she will be weeping because of someone else's harsh words? We all have to put up with unsolicited advice as parents at any stage, but unsolicited commands in the form of some snooty statement should be off limits immediately. I'm picturing some kind of alarm system where, when someone says something like that, that person is hears 1,000 nails on a massive chalkboard for one year or Lloyd Christmas' most annoying sound in the world for a decade.



If it is inevitable, how should we respond? I told Stacy tonight that if anyone comes up to her to tell her something like, "your son should be wearing a coat" she should stand strong, stare at them, and speak back confidently, "you should be wearing a muzzle and never have the right to speak in public." Now that I'm thinking about it, I should just buy two now, keep one and give the other to Stacy, so that when it does happen we can just offer it to them right on the spot because, you know, we care about them.

Loving parents who are deeply committed to their child's well-being should never have to put up with cheap nonsense like that from anyone, especially some idiotic imbecile who makes it a point to suck all the joy and life out of people like Dementors.

This type of self-righteousness should amaze me in Tolerantland, but it just provides another example of how the preachers of tolerance have such thick walls surrounding them that trap them in their own stupidity. They are 12-inches thick with steel, padded on the inside so they can cuddle with one another and talk about how loving they are, but as soon as they see someone through the small window on the door that is always locked, they stare down incredulously. Their tongues are doubled, one to yell about how awesome and kind and compassionate and free and loving and perfect they are and the other to shout how stupid, close-minded, intolerant, and hateful the people on the outside are. That's the mouth that speaks, "your daughter should be wearing a coat," and it's the same mouth I want to punch - intolerantly.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where Do You Run When You're Empty?

Last night I was driving home from a long day at the church. I taught in a number of different environments to varying groups of people. Not only that, but I taught on a number of different subjects. Having spent time prepping to teach, then teaching, prepping again, then teaching again, I was spent. I was empty. It was 10:00 by the time I got to drive home to see my very-ready-to-have-a-baby wife.

I knew she had made dinner earlier, a tasty kale hash. You might be thinking I'm sarcastic. Kale and tasty should never go in the same sentence, like Miley Cyrus and modesty or turkey and bacon. But, because Stacy excels at pretty much everything in life, she finds a way to make healthy be scrumptious.

I was empty though. I was drained. And I was driving by McDonald's. What do I do??? I had a few bucks on me, which even in these days is like a King's Feast at McDonald's. Kale hash is good, but it ain't got no meat or special sauce or crack-like fries in it. The Golden Arches stood as a beacon of light in on a dark, foggy street and I was drawn.

I was empty. I was drained. I deserved that burger. I deserved those fries. I deserved the milkshake, the chicken sandwich, the nuggets, the wrap -- I deserved it all after such a long day, after spending myself in prepping and teaching. There's nothing wrong with that, right???

As I got closer this was running through my head. I just wanted to fill that emptiness with something that...

And that's when it hit me - I just wanted to fill the emptiness with something that in the end is just more emptiness.

I learned a huge lesson last night: When you're empty, you will want to fill yourself up. In a world that promises filling only to keep you empty, run toward that which will make you full.

This is more than food. This is the attraction of running after all the false promises of fulfillment. When you're empty, what do you think you deserve to have? Last night, for me, it was food, but it could be any number of things. It could be a drink or two or three or four; it could be an hour of TV or two or three or four; it could surfing the Internet an hour or two or three or four; it could be looking at a picture too long of a woman on Facebook, then more, then more; it could be blowing money you don't have, flirting with someone other than your spouse. Do you see it?

The point is that there's a slippery slope in our emptiness where many of the places we go to fill ourselves up just keep us empty. They may provide some sense of gratification in the moment, but they never really fill us up. I know this is a danger for many pastors, but applies to everyone. They teach and preach the Word regularly, emptying themselves for the sake of the gospel, only to succumb to the cheap pleasures of the world, sinning against a spouse or their congregation and often disqualifying themselves from ministry. Why? Because they would think they deserved just that drink that led to alcoholism, that picture that led to porn addiction, that friendship that led to adultery.

That place of emptiness is the place where you and I will always be most vulnerable because it's the place where you often don't feel anything and you just want to feel something, even if that's feeling numb.

So when you're empty, where do you run?

The kale hash was good.

By His Grace.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Convinced of This

Tonight, I am more convinced of the atrocities of my own heart & mind than any other moment in days, weeks, months, or even years.

Am I alone in this? I know places that say I am not, but when I talk to people they tell me not to be too hard on myself. When I ask if they feel the same way about themselves, they seem to not want to go there.

Is that because it's true and just too scary to admit because you wouldn't know where to go from there?

Thankfully, the place that exposes my atrocities is the same place I can go to for refuge. If you are seeking refuge, but don't know where to go, I can at least point you in that direction because I'm going there too.

By His Grace.

Friday, November 08, 2013

A Question You're Probably Not Asking Yourself - But Should

"What in your life provides you the most self-worth?"

That's a powerful question. I heard a ton of answers tonight in a class called The Story of God. As I write I'm wondering how much we even ask the question. In today's culture I think it is assumed that we are valuable. I get that from the massive amount of pop songs that are about how valuable the singer is despite those in their lives that make them feel otherwise. Take Katy Perry. Her new, freakin' catchy JAM, "Roar" (a JAM that my wife insists she has on our playlist for labor JAMs) has these lyrics as the chorus:

I've got the eye of the tiger
A fighter
Dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion
And you're gonna hear me roar
oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
(and it goes like that)

This becomes the anthem of tweens and women everywhere. And as much as dudes don't want to admit it, I'm sure many of those cats are singing that JAM in the shower, pretending like the don't like it all the while shadowboxing and dreaming about how awesome they really are.

It's back to self-worth.

It is assumed. But is the question ever asked? The lyrics don't serve so much as a reminder of self-worth as they do an attempt to convince herself that she does have worth and value in the face of rejection by someone who, on some level, doesn't think so. Thus the key poetic line in the whole song, I went from zero, to my own hero.

I think the song strikes a chord with millions of people who are trying to figure out how to prove their self-worth because they know that it exists somehow. But, if you're tracking with me, I'm questioning whether we ever question where we go for our self-worth. Is it a relationship? Your husband or wife? Is it your sexuality? Your politics? Is it your job? Is it your craft? Is it your gifting? Is it your family? Your kids? Your success? Your money? Is it the ever popular, "look within yourself?" Do you ask where you find your self-worth and, if you do ask it, do you ever ask if it is enough?

What if self-worth can't be sustained in any of those things? What if we come to realize that we are stuck because in most cases we are trying to find our self-worth in something or someone that's trying to do the exact same thing? What if it is given to you by a means defined by someone else and carries more weight and sustainability than any other answer we can provide? In a world of despair, pain, anger, sorrow, shame, hate, greed, envy, jealousy, and a longing for acceptance and approval, what if self-worth was provided by Someone who had nothing to prove to anyone, but just chose to make you valuable regardless of what you did or didn't do?

So I'm boldly asking the question and daring you to answer, "what in your life provides you the most self-worth?"

By His Grace.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Billy's 95th Birthday: What He & Woody Allen Teach Us Today

Today is Billy Graham's 95th birthday. He was born this day, 1918, in Charlotte, North Carolina, just four days before World War I ended. He has been alive through all the brutal wars of the 20th century. He witnessed America turn from growing prosperous nation to the world's great superpower of all time.  And through that all he has been considered "America's Pastor."

Though both of his parents were strong Christians, Graham didn't become a believer strictly through his upbringing. At the age of 16, he heard evangelist Mordecai Ham preach on sin and repentance, and believed the gospel then. He was ordained at 21, but it would be about a decade later until we began to come into the evangelist we know him to be. Since his first Crusade in Los Angeles in 1949, Billy Graham has preached the gospel to millions around the world. According to the profile on his website, "Mr. Graham has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history--nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories."

There are many other words that can be written about Billy Graham. In fact, many have done just that. Some of the places I checked out for this brief post are the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Biography.com, and Reclaiming the Mind, which recounts his relationship with another great evangelist, Charles Templeton, who eventually renounced the faith and remained an atheist until his death.

I want to share two short videos of an interview between Billy Graham and none other than Woody Allen. Allen had Graham on his show back in 1969. Check it out!

The 2nd half of the interview can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upbkJHNTs4I

Here's the one concept that stands out like a sore thumb to anyone who watches this: This is what tolerance looks like.

  • Allen opens with kind words & sets the stage: Right from the start, Allen, the interviewer sets the tone. He has kind words about Billy Graham. He says, "My next guest is a very charming and provocative gentlemen. Whether you agree with his point of view or not on things, he always is extremely interesting to talk to...He certainly is the best in the world at what he does." Allen mentions as well that he doesn't agree with Graham, but the glowing words set the stage for a cordial, friendly interaction of opposing views. 
  • The humor goes both ways: Neither of the men are seeking to crowned the funniest between the two or who had the best argument. It's not a debate. Convictions are put on the table (at least by Graham) while being soaked in humor by both men. Allen never acts or looks offended at what Graham says, even though he tells him and some audience members that they are sinning and wrong, nor does Graham get hurt at how Allen pokes fun at him. Graham never backs down from the gospel, but there are more laughs, claps, and fun in this than anything I've seen in my lifetime. 
  • Two opposing views: The entire interview is a clashing of views. They both know that they don't agree with each other. Graham spends a ton of time preaching and inviting. Allen spends a ton of time deflecting and having fun. Neither one of them gets angry or fights. Allen doesn't say Graham is "toxic," "spewing hate," "intolerant," "bigoted," or "unintelligent." Graham doesn't say Allen is "foolish," "hellbound," and a "disgusting human being." We see it all go down without the call for Graham or Allen to be accepting and approving of a particular lifestyle. There are some points of persuasion, of making a case, etc., but there is no blanket call for acceptance just the way you are. 
This was filmed over 40 years ago. What this screams to me is what I'm calling ancient tolerance. It's the tolerance of old that dates way back, where two people can present an argument while bantering, having fun, and enjoying one another as humans. This is not the modern tolerance of today that is equated to accepting universally without any argument or case under the guise of love. Ancient tolerance, at least in this instance, has the power to bring together even through opposition, while modern tolerance is dividing more and more through opposition.

Both Billy Graham and Woody Allen in this interview are key examples of what it means for us to engage one another in a world of opposing views. They are teaching us. I admit I am not the best at this; I get way too worked up. This interview helped me see that. This isn't a Christian or non-Christian issue; it's a dialogue issue. It's both sides.

For all the talk of progress, this is one area I believe we have digressed over the years. Tolerance is not what it once was. In at least this one way, I say "give me the good ole days."

And with that, I'd like to wish Billy Graham a happy 95th birthday. I never saw a Crusade or have read any of your books, but that does not mean your ministry hasn't impacted my life. I saw it in the halls at Trinity and I witness it whenever I read Christianity Today. Millions know Jesus because of your faithfulness, and I am so blessed to have lived in some of the same years and decades as you. I look forward to meeting you some day in eternity as we worship Jesus together.  Tonight, the video below is being shown around the country. Thank you for your ministry and how, even today, on your birthday, when we are celebrating you, you want people around the world to repent and trust in Jesus.




By His Grace.

5 Big Takeaways, 1 Big Idea, & Picketers - Day 2 of R13


Day two of R13 is over. Many of you who read this will either be home already or traveling back some place around the world. Pastor Mark shared some of the stats on how many people participated in the conference and it's just amazing. Thousands upon thousands wanting to hear the gospel preached boldly and learn from great men to lead us in the charge toward preaching Jesus even more boldly in the face of growing opposition.

As with yesterday, I had five big takeaways from the day. I also share the one big idea I grabbed that was at the core of all the teaching and I have a nice little bonus for you. I'd love to hear what your takeaways were, so I'd encourage you to share in the comments below, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

  1. You're not great: James McDonald took the privilege to tell Mark Driscoll, you and me what we should already know, yet can tirelessly pursue in our sin: you are not great. Greatness is reserved for the only one who is truly great, Jesus Christ. There is no need to be a great Christian, great husband, great father, great preacher, great counselor, great friend, great evangelist, great strategist, etc. But, and this is enormous, are you faithful in these? With what God has given you, are you faithful to the one who is truly great? Faithfulness isn't sexy, but it's what God wants. Oh, the freedom that comes with remembering that I am not great, but run after, praise, point to, and lead others to the one who is truly great. This, then, takes you and me to the only place we can serve best as pastors, and that's the place of humility.
  2. Willing to risk failure: Rick Warren had this gem. This dropped on me like a massive hammer. It is too easy to settle for a regular paycheck. Now, I am not saying that a regular paycheck anywhere is bad or evil or that you're in sin if you do it. Warren wasn't saying that either. But the key term is settle. We know we're settling when we think we deserve it, that we've earned it, that it's our right and we try to protect it like a newborn child or our favorite baseball card growing up. You know what I'm talking about? It's encased and secured. Warren said point blank, "If you don't trust him with your money, you don't trust him." When we do that, we will become too quick to compromise the thundering force of the gospel in those moments when people need to hear it most. On the flipside, then, is to risk failure. With regard to the gospel and serving others, are you and I willing to dream as big as our God is, run after it, risk it all for the sake of Jesus' name, and fail?
  3. Years of wanting to give up: Rick Warren stated this near the end. You and I tend to think that Warren, and all these guys, have it easy. Because we may only be exposed to their preaching, which includes the massive crowds that hear them, we tend to think they have no doubts, no fears, no moments of despair. But Warren shared that through the years he has had so many moments of all of that and probably more than you and I will ever have in our lifetime. But he said that he himself hated some of his sermons and wondered how God could use him. It's important to know that he, and probably all of them, have been there, just as you and I have. I remember reading that the great 20th century theologian, Karl Barth, said preparing to preach was like banging his head against a brick wall. How do we respond? We persevere! We keep preaching, keep teaching, keep looking like fools so that Jesus is glorified all the more when our dumb talk about the gospel penetrates peoples' hearts. You and I pull the string on the bow with our eyes closed and think the arrow is missing the target, but the Holy Spirit controls the wind. 
  4. Anticipate the objections of your hearers: Mark Driscoll's closing message was huge and there are a ton of points from it that refer to where we are in the culture today. That is timely. What I also appreciated was the timelessness of some of his words, particularly the point on anticipating the objections of your hearers. There will always be opposition to the gospel. The Puritans knew this and while many of us think the world of the Puritans was pretty much all Christian, that wasn't the case, otherwise they would have no need for this key aspect of preaching. Too often we preach knowing the objections, but not addressing them directly. So you may assume it in the words you say, but you never directly tell people you know their objections. Or, perhaps more often, you just don't know them because you aren't doing our homework, you don't know non-Christians, and you aren't talking to or praying for your people. This is much harder work than translating the Greek or Hebrew, exegeting the text appropriate, finding illustrations, and making application. It is exegeting the culture, people, interpreting where they're at, hearing their objections straight on, and addressing them both in truth and love. I wish there were classes upon classes for this in seminary, where they just tell you to go out and talk to people, listen to them, take notes, and say thank you. That's it. But we don't need a class for that. Just do it because you love all of those who are made in the image of God and need the gospel desperately.
  5. Teach the Bible: This is so important today. I heard a story about a teacher who tried to teach his class about Jericho and the walls coming down. The kids said they didn't do it, the principal said he would try to find out who did and the police would help with it all. We live in a biblically illiterate culture. More and more people aren't agreeing with the Bible while they know less and less of what is actually in it. In an experience-driven culture where feelings lead first, people respond emotionally to it without ever being informed of what is in it or the story God tells. So our job is not only to preach, but to teach. We must get back to the basics and teach as if anyone who listens is like a child opening up the book for the first time, not even to read it, but to tear out the pages. So we tell what the Bible is, who its about, the central message, the key people, the historical facts, and assume nothing. Our preaching and call to people cannot be devoid of solid biblical teaching. 

There's so much more from this conference. Each of these points could be long posts in and of themselves. I will be chewing on them for days and weeks. God moved powerfully in my life throughout this conference and I honestly hate conferences. I hate them because in my pride I think I have nothing new to learn. Thank you, Lord, for breaking me of that this week. And that leads to the biggest idea that was communicated by every single one of the speakers over the last two days:

Let your character be shaped by God's character and the Spirit of God will do a greater work than we can all imagine. And have a ton of fun in the process.
Got to chat with Trent and hook him up
with Pastor Mark's book.

BONUS: Two fundamentalists were picketing the conference. They stood outside the exit so that as everyone was leaving they could tell them to repent. Many who left were baffled. "We're all saying the same thing as you" they would say, passing the picketers as they went to their hotels.

I decided not only to talk with one of them, Trent, but also hook both of them up with Pastor Mark's newest book, A Call to Resurgence. It just seemed to make sense. Trent's basic problem with Mars Hill and the conference was that "too many people in our church look like they are of the world." I tried to graciously explain that it might very well be the case that they are of the world because they aren't Christians at all! I shared that we have non-Christians come to the church and see their lives change through the gospel and the call to repentance. The conversation was very good, overall, and I hope he sees the short-sightedness of his preaching and general inconsistencies of his definition of being "of the world." I was struck by this when kept pulling his worldly cell phone (old school though) out of his pocket. He then ended the conversation abruptly because his meter had ran out and he had to move his worldly car.

By His Grace.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

5 Big Takeaways From Day 1 of The Resurgence Conference


The Resurgence Conference is off to a huge explosion around the world.

1,500 have gathered together in 5 locations. Downtown Seattle is sold out. That space was packed all day and even with a cool, dark day in Seattle, it was piping hot in there with no AC and ridiculously powerful preaching from Mark Driscoll, Crawford Loritts, Greg Laurie, and Matt Chandler.

Additionally, 14,000 people joined us online for free around the world. We have to take a step back and think about something like this happening even 18 years ago before Mars Hill began. The number of young men and women longing to see a revival of hearts toward Jesus without compromising the powerful authority of Scripture is growing, like a wave gaining more and more force. On top of that, to see the global impact through the Internet is just staggering. God's providential timing for a ministry such as this should blow us all away. Where were you 18 years ago? Where were you 5? Chances are, if you're reading this, you have been impacted by the ministry of Pastor Mark, Mars Hill Church, Acts 29, or the Resurgence in some way. We have to give glory to God alone for that!

In case you missed the first day, you can still watch what went down as we are replaying it all throughout the night.

Here are the five big takeaways that stood out to me:

  1. Christendom is dead. This is the main observation of Pastor Mark in his new book, A Call to Resurgence. The big question for us in America today is, "how will we as Jesus-loving, bible-believing Christians respond in a culture that is more and more hostile toward us?" How will you respond? Will you fold within that or will you move? I am honestly asking myself that question this very moment, seeking God to see how I have cowered in fear and where I may repent and trust God with what is next.
  2. The core of your ministry is not you, but others: Crawford Loritts drove this point home for me immediately in his introduction. You know it is about you when it you are finding significance in the ebb and flow, the decline or increase, the praise or the persecution of your ministry. You know it's about you when it's about your significance. So for young men in particular - we have to fight early on to ensure that the core of our ministry is not about us, but about others. We have to master the art of self-forgetfulness and others-remembrance.
  3. It's not about charisma, but character: Crawford Loritts, Greg Laurie, & Matt Chandler hit on this. You can have all the charisma in the world, but your gifts save absolutely no one. People can be drawn to you, to your teaching, to your motivation, but if they do not respond to the call to Jesus and repentance, they will not be saved. All of this is the work of the Holy Spirit alone. So as a preacher you are to give them the gospel and entrust them to God. That's the bottom line. And the way it is on display most is not merely through our preaching, but the character that undergirds all the words you spit out for people to hear.
  4. Work hard: Matt Chandler just laid it down. Ministry is hard work. If you want to rest, if you want ease, if you want security, do anything else but this. Anything. You come off as a jackass if you're lazy in ministry because as a shepherd, God is entrusting His people to you to shape them, mold them, and call them to follow Jesus at all costs. That means you have to go there with them! If this is anything, it's hard work!
  5. Spiritual fatherhood to the fatherless: Pastor Mark touched on this with Crawford Loritts in his interview. The big idea is that pastors, especially as they age in their ministry, must see themselves as spiritual fathers to a growing fatherless generation. As young leaders, especially those influenced by Mars Hill, we have a tendency to fight for respect, much like a younger brother with older brothers. As we age in ministry, many continue in that mindset, though we are no longer younger brothers, and we end up damaging the younger men and women in our church with our rough, edgy, defensive attitudes. Regardless of years in ministry, we must always be in a position of seeing ourselves as both serving as spiritual fathers and as needing spiritual fathers. We need to be examples for the younger generation. If we are in our 20s or 30s, we should be "fathering" those who are younger than us in years, but also younger than us in the faith. The young, fatherless men need to see older men walking with Jesus and looking to our heavenly Father for our identity, hope, joy, and love. Likewise, we must all seek out godly counsel of those who are older than us, so we don't fall into the trap of arrogance like Rehoboam, surrounding ourselves with a bunch of dudes our own age just tickling our ears with nonsense (1 Kings 12).

If you went, or listened online, what did you takeaway from the first day?

I'm sure there's much more to glean from this conference and I'm just getting started. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and you should be too. It is still free, so make sure to tune in for Rick Warren, James McDonald, and Mark Driscoll for the close.

By His Grace.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

We Live in Seattle - What If You Came to Visit???

It'd be swell to have you in Seattle.

If you came, Stace and I would give you a tour of our massive two-bedroom apartment, culminating in a long, standing moment of silence in Asher's room. We'd tell you all about how we're "ready" to have our first child. Then we'd play a ton of French Jazz music on our new TV, but never watch it because who does that in Seattle?

Then we would take you out in our sweet new (new as in 2006 new) Honda CRV. We get mad crazy heads turning in that bad boy. Our drive would take you around the glorious hidden gem of West Seattle, where Regular Seattlites fear coming because of the daunting "bridge", which in reality a toddler could cross on his own, blindfolded. Out of all the aspects I'm fascinated by here - how beautiful the sound is, how majestic and terrifying Rainier looks on a clear day, how there are about 17 different bins for trash, recycling, compost, napkins, forks, plastic spoons, biodegradable plates, your saliva, dirty words, and darkest secrets - it's the aversion people have to the West Seattle Bridge that most blows me away. They miss out on the small thumb of of Seattle that feels like California with the beach and Colorado with the parks, combined with great restaurants on a major strip of town, combined with easy access to the city while also providing suburban meccas like Home Depot and Target.

But you, YOU, would get to see it all, take it all in, and never have to worry about that blasted bridge.

We'd take you to some of our favorite neighborhood jaunts. Breakfast would be at Easy Street Cafe that is part record store, part destroy you with an awesome breakfast. We actually haven't been there yet, but it's one of our favorite places because everyone we know says it's their favorite. We're bandwagon folk - who isn't? For lunch we could take you to Ma'Ono for some of the best fried chicken around, though we would have had to call the day prior to order it because they have to catch it, name it, give him a talk on why he's being killed, make sure he agrees, have him sign his death certificate after he sleeps on his decision, then they can serve him. With consent like that, how can the chicken be anything but amazing??? Then, because you hate the word "Pho" we'd take you to Pho Than Brothers for Pho. You're life would change. For dinner, we'd take you to Buddha Ruksa for the best thai food in Seattle. To end the evening, we would blow you away with a twice-baked chocolate croissant from Bakery Nouveau. This cat won the world baking competition back in 2005 with this creation. Your tears falling on the croissant as you eat it actually makes it taste better (I think it's the salt). Now that the evening is over and we're into the night, we'd take you to Husky Deli to select ice cream from their 252 choices. And of course, to top off the ice cream, would be a beer from Beveridge Place, a sweet German-like neighborhood brew pub that has a ton of local microbrews on tap.

You might be upset we didn't do any of the touristy stuff of Seattle - Pike Place, flying fish, gum wall, Space Needle, listen to Nirvana (which you can do anywhere), visit Bruce Lee's grave (yup, he's buried here...and Brandon Lee). Instead you get a tour of the apartment, a CRV ride of your life, too much eating for any one person in a day. And that's it. Oh well, you came to visit us!!!

That's why you get to sleep in Asher's room with him. That's what I call a sweet trip to visit the Lisi's!

By His Grace.

Monday, November 04, 2013

4 Key Reflections on a 'Highly Reluctant Jesus Follower'

Photo Credit: Len Spoden
Just seven years ago, if someone had told me that I'd be writing for Christianity Today magazine about how I came to believe in God, I would have laughed out loud. If there was one thing in which I was completely secure, it was that I would never adhere to any religion--especially to evangelical Christianity, which I held in particular contempt.

So begins the story of Kristen Powers, a woman who has worked in the Clinton administration and currently contributes to USA Today and Newsweek. She is no slouch and is more influential than you and I will most likely ever be. You can read the rest of her recent article here.

Her story is compelling and as I read, I gleaned four key reflections that both non-Christians and Christians should keep in mind and consider as we engage with one another. They touch on a lot of issues, including cultural open-mindedness, politics, intellect, and experience. I hope you find at least one that relates to where you're at right now.

Being open-minded applies means being open-minded to Jesus: One of the first points Powers makes is that she claimed to be open-minded when she really wasn't. She shares about a time that her boyfriend, who was a Christian and went to church, asked her if she believed Jesus was her Savior. She  said, honestly, "no." She goes on to write,
Then he said the magic words for a liberal: 'Do you think you can keep an open mind about it?' Well of course. 'I'm very open-minded!' Even though I wasn't at all. I derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world.
Let me just ask point blank - is this what you think about Christians? I know most people who read this are already Christians, but there may be a few of you who come to this blog out of sheer curiosity. Thank you for that; I really appreciate it. But I have had enough conversations with people to know that I am usually viewed as closed-minded, smart, but in a limited way, and extremely restrictive in my understanding of how to love people. When I try to flip it and ask people to be open to Christianity, they are strong to reject me. Why is that? Why would they, or perhaps you, not even consider having an open mind about Jesus as the Bible shows us who he is? It may be because of your experience as a kid growing up in the church. It may be because of all the news you read about so-called Christians and how they picket funerals of dead homosexuals. It may be because of how political Christians are and how they want to have a Christians nation. I hear you on all of that. I'm not advocating for any of that stuff and I can see how it affects your view of Christianity. But what if there is someone in your life who genuinely loves you and cares for you and wants you to have an "open mind" about Jesus? Will you let him and her walk with you through that journey?

Christianity is not about being Democratic or Republican: Back to the political issue. Powers writes that "one of my most pressing concerns was that Christians would try to turn me into a Republican." She is a strong, highly successful, intellectual woman. Yet, she had done what many of us do - reduce Christianity to a political party. Christianity becomes about the political issues and not about Jesus. He is co-opted for votes. Her fear is probably like many of yours, that if you become a Christian you have to be a Republican. That is not the point. In fact, you don't have to be Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Socialist or whatever. Jesus is King. God owns all. That's where we have to begin. And, for the record, Powers is the Democratic commentator for Fox News.

Christianity is intellectually viable: Powers shares that her first visit to Redeemer Presbyterian Church was initially appalling. It was just like the church she had grown up in, all high-churchy.
But then the pastor preached. I was fascinated. I had never heard a pastor talk about the things he did. Tim Keller's sermon was intellectually rigorous, weaving in art and history and philosophy...Soon, hearing Keller speak on Sunday became the highlight of my week...Each week, Keller made the case for Christianity. He also made the case against atheism and agnosticism. He expertly exposed the intellectual weaknesses of a purely secular worldview. I came to realize that even if Christianity wasn't the real thing, neither was atheism.
You may have heard stupid sermons that go on for minutes or hours about dumb minute details of English versions of the Bible. You may have heard a sermons growing up that assumed a lot belief and answered none of your pressing questions. I talk with many people who have walked away from Christianity because the pastor couldn't answer their questions, only to never ask them again. However, Tim Keller is one of many examples of people who show that while it doesn't necessarily have to be, Christianity is intellectually viable in a world of competing ideologies. I would argue that it is more than that; it has the strongest explanatory power out of all the ways we look at the world. If you're not a Christian and struggle with the intellectual side of it all, I'd encourage you to check out Tim Keller and his book, The Reason for God. I'd also recommend anything from Ravi Zacharias or go old school with C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. If you are a Christian, point your friends in the direction of these men or try to understand what they're saying in such a way that you can articulate some of their thoughts.

It takes more than intellect; it requires an encounter with Jesus: After months of hearing Keller preach, Powers was at the place where she didn't believe in Jesus. She was only at the place where she knew atheism and agnosticism aren't viable alternatives. Eventually, after eight months and beginning to read the Bible, she "concluded that the weight of evidence was on the side of Christianity." Even as one reads that line, it comes off as an agreement from the mind for her. She says herself that she "didn't feel any connection to God."

Powers goes on to share about two experiences. The first one"felt like a strange cross between a dream and reality" where Jesus came to her and spoke to her. She tried to write it off as some weird delusion, but she couldn't. She writes, "I suddenly felt God everywhere and it was terrifying. More important, it was unwelcome. It felt like an invasion. I started to fear I was going crazy." Her second experience was a Bible study led by Tim Keller's wife, Kathy. She shares about that experience:
I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdoes and zealots went to Bible studies. I don't remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I'll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, "It's true. It's completely true." The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy.
Intellectual assent is not enough. It's a place where you can acknowledge that Jesus is God, Savior, King, and Lord, but it's for the world or for others or it makes sense, but there's no real encounter where Jesus enters in and changes your life. While he may begin in your thoughts, intellect, and reasoning, it's a short stop on the destination to the seat of your will, desires, and identity resides. Since God created every part of you and me, he wants to save every part of you and me and the core of where that begins is not the mind, but the heart.

By His Grace.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Words of Jesus Most People Don't Want You to Read

Shared below are brief excerpts of exchanges between Jesus and various groups of people beginning in John 6:35 and going through John 8:59. I'm sharing this because I found the thread woven throughout it all extremely fascinating. Most people don't want you to even come close to these words. There's a point to John's writing that he wants us all to see.

Please consider the words below and ask what is happening there. How do people respond to Jesus? How does Jesus respond to the people? I provide some thoughts at the end.

(Jesus' words are in italics. The words of the Jews, crowds, or religious leaders are in a normal font)
_________________________________________________________________________________

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world...I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, 'I am the bread that came down from heaven.'

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
_____

Not even his brothers believed in him.

My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

Where is he? And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, 'He is a good man,' others said, 'No, he is leading people astray.'
_____

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?

You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.

He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.

So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
_____

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

When the people heard these words, some of the people said, 'This really is the Prophet.' Others said, 'This is the Christ.' But some said, 'Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?' So there was a division among the people over him.
_____

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life...I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.

Where is your Father?

You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also...I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.

Who are you?

Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.

As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you ail know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

We are the offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is that you say, 'You will become free?'

Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin...So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place with you.

Abraham is our father.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?

I do not have a demon...I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.

Now we know that you have a demon!...Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?

It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, 'He is our God.' But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.

You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?

Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.

So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Jesus was a polarizing person. To say he was a nice guy is to get him all wrong. He had hard, direct, confrontational words with everyone and never backed down from what he was communicating. He said he was hated, the world is evil, the very people who were supposed to know God didn't, that they were sons of the devil, liars, and murderers. If Jesus were in America today and had just as much fame as he did then, he would easily be one of the most offensive people alive. How dare he say people are evil??? Even when people believed, he pushed them to expose their hearts. Do we really think Jesus would come to the world today and tell us we're all good people and God is cool with us?

On the other hand, the groups were confused about him. One minute they want to make him king (John 6:15), the next minute they want to arrest him, and the minute after that they want to kill him. They're always asking, always trying to figure out who he is. Some think he's the Christ. Some think he's a good person. Others say his teaching is toxic and is only hurting people. Some think he's nobody. His brothers didn't even believe in him. Many think he's scum of the earth, demon possessed, and absolutely insane. Massive confusion and controversy surrounded Jesus his entire time on earth. The Bible does not paint a picture of a detached guru who everyone enjoyed being around. He was a guy that many wanted to see dead and soon they got exactly what they wanted.

These are the words of Jesus most people don't want you to read. These are the exchanges we never hear about when people try to use Jesus for their own teaching, pleasure, or profit. They can't handle a confrontational Jesus who calls people out. Who wants a Jesus like that? The question is, where do we see ourselves in these exchanges? Will you let yourself go there, or will you try to remain distant and say something like, "Jesus was a good teacher and I believe his teachings"? Or something like, "I'm not like those people in the crowds; I don't have a problem with Jesus"?

As C.S. Lewis said, "He has not left that open to us."

By His Grace.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Nothing Profound...Mundane In Fact

I learned a lot today about the biblical concepts of friends and family. Mind-blowing and too much to even begin to type through.

I also learned that an actor got converted around 250 AD, left acting because of how jacked up it was back then, so he had no means to provide for himself. So he started an acting school. The leaders of the church found out and didn't know what to do. If he couldn't act and couldn't teach, how could he afford to live? Cyprian of Carthage said he had to quit that mess; if he was going to leave acting, why would he teach people how to act and put them in a compromising spot?

So what next? Cyprian said the church needed to support that cat. If that local church was too poor Cyprian told them to send the actor to his church and they would provide for him. That's mind-blowing to me. So much can be said on that.

And we bought a TV today. It's the first time ever that Stacy and I bought a TV with our own money. This, too, is quite strange to us.

By His Grace.

The One Truth Deepak Chopra Has for the Whole World

Today I watched a number of videos featuring Deepak Chopra. You might ask why I'm doing this? Well someone very close to me has asked me to check him out. I told her that I have a general idea of where he's coming from and what he believes, but before this week I honestly had only heard soundbites, second hand thoughts, and a short debate featuring him and Pastor Mark.

I began with the video she shared with me on one of his meditations regarding gratitude. It was a 2:42 minute clip and the comments below were just astounding. Regardless of what you believe about him and his teaching, the man has had an impact on thousands, if not millions, of lives. I plan on writing more in the future regarding this impact, but this post doesn't have anything to do with that.

After watching the video, I went to the sidebar to watch some more videos. There are some videos that related and of course there's always those "featured" videos that are outlandish and completely out of left field. The one that caught my eye the most was titled Richard Dawkins Exposes Charlatan Deepak Chopra. The reason I wanted to watch it was because these are two men who I know aren't Christians and wouldn't even come close to saying that they are. Yet, even in the commonality of not being Christians, they were at odds. I thought it would be a video that just featured Dawkins attacking Chopra's approach toward the world, so I was surprised when near the end there was a brief exchange between Dawkins and Chopra. They go back and forth, primarily on issues of objectivity, which is Dawkins' position and subjectivity, which is Chopra's position.

My curiosity was peaked. What next? This led me down the trail of a number of videos featuring these two men. I had not been aware that public disagreement and vitriol were waving back and forth between these two men. Instead of following the trail, I checked out Chopra's public apology to Dawkins. You can see it for yourself here.

First, I have to say I'm super impressed with Chopra's willingness to make this apology. As far as I can tell it is sincere and genuine. He seeks to be humble and while he may get into some unnecessary details and others may see it as a ploy for legal reasons, I thought it was a strong move by Chopra to make a public apology for public actions. Second, I can't believe this cat is 65 years old. Dude looks like he will be living another 65 years. Especially with those glasses. He's got some style.

Now, to what Chopra gets right. It is so crucial that all of us see this. It's the one essential truth that Chopra teaches that all of us can actually nod our heads in affirmation. If we miss it, then we miss one of the most important aspects to how we think, talk, interact, believe, and live in this world.

What is it? Deepak says it as clearly as anyone can as he speaks about the differences between him and Dawkins: "We represent two different worldviews." Again, in this blog I'm not going to get into what the worldviews are, though I plan sharing more about Deepak's later. But the key word we cannot miss is "worldviews." The big idea here is that Chopra, Dawkins, you, me, and everyone else in the world without exception has a worldview. This is the one absolutely essential truth on which I wholeheartedly I agree with Chopra and I trust you agree with him to0. Your worldview requires it of you. Boom.

So, what is a worldview? We get our term from the German, Weltanschauung, which literally means "worldview," but is intended to express a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity's relation to it. In other words, worldview is the set of glasses by which we see the world and try to explain everything around us. Deepak's got a set of stylish ones on right now. These glasses never come off, meaning we are constantly interpreting every little detail of everyday through them. It is all-encompassing and flows through every thought we have. 

Here's another way of thinking about worldviews. Consider the Periodic Table. The Periodic Table in chemistry shows us the fundamental elements that make up all of what we know in material existence. There is nothing that exists materially that doesn't have something of those elements in it. They are the fundamental building blocks of everything else. So think of a worldview like the Periodic Table. The elements make up all aspects of your life - who you're going to marry, what kind of job you're going to take, how you're going to raise your children, where you will live, your views on God, your belief about love, equality, justice, and so on. Nothing goes untouched without those elements.

Here is where we get confused. So often we believe we're all functioning off the same Periodic Table, but just choose different elements by which to live. So we look at the element of "love" for example and think that we're working with the same one. But, in fact, we're not. When it comes to differing worldviews we are not working from the same Periodic Table, but two completely different ones. The elements that make up one worldview are not like the elements that make up another. That's why when we use the word "love" we have to figure out what each worldview actually means by it because as soon as that question is raised we see how different our definitions of the word actually are. It would be clear in just a few seconds that this is the case between Chopra and Dawkins. These two men don't copout and say, "we are just saying the same thing in different ways" or "why can't we just put this behind us." They can't even say "let's just love each other" because they would disagree on what that means. 

So you and I have to understand first, that we have a worldview, whether or not we know it. Second, if we aren't aware of what our worldview is, we should come to know and be able to articulate what the elements are. This is super helpful when having conversations or getting into a debate and I do think we should be both conversing and debating our worldviews because there are massive implications.

The truth of having a worldview is the one thing I can absolutely agree with Deepak Chopra on, even if I think everything else is nonsense.

By His Grace.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Do You Know What Drives You? It's Totally Different Than You Think

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, has a new book out called The Map and the Territory. This cat is 87 years old and is dropping books on us now. That's amazing, especially after nearly 20 years in what has to be one of the hardest jobs in all of the world. How hard was it? Well, in the words of the famous Margot Tenenbaum, "I couldn't even begin to think about knowing how to answer that question."

While reading Time magazine (thanks to a free subscription using airline miles we were never going to actually use for flying), I came across a 10 Questions interview with him. In it, he comments on what happened to his outlook on economics back in 2008. The question asked to him was "what is the biggest change of mind you've had since 2008?" Here's his response:
It changed [when Legman Brothers collapsed] on Sept. 15. Most basic economics up to that point was was based on the presumption that human beings are rational in that they look after their long-term self-interest. My real shock was that what we now call animal spirits has a certain consistency about it -- in other words, you can demonstrate that fear is a far more potent emotion than euphoria or greed. That changed the whole way I look at the world. I started from scratch, going from equation to equation. I learned more in the last two years than I did in the previous 10.
This isn't a place to jump into the crash of 2008, or what "animal spirits" are. Quickly though: why are "we" just "now" calling them animal spirits? Who's "we"? Economists? How come it's just happening "now" in 2013? Aren't we advanced enough to have had a term like this back in the 1960s? Shouldn't it just be a name of a person, say Miley Cyrus, or a song like "Roar"? As to animal spirits though I have somewhat of an idea what they are when I'm hungry and delicious penne pasta with homemade meatballs are awaiting me this very moment. I digress.

If I get what Greenspan is saying, he means that in the range of emotions that drive the decisions of consumers - or if you're old school like me, human beings - the rush of making a ton of money or the pursuit at getting it at all costs are not nearly as strong as the overwhelming sense of doom at the loss of it. To gain clarity, the interview pushes on the notion of demonstrating how fear drives us. Greenspan provides an example, clarifying that fear, to him, is nonrationality:
You measure it indirectly by looking at spreads of interests rates, both by credit raiting and by the maturity of the bond. Today, 30-year U.S. Treasury bonds yield more than five-year notes by the greatest margin in history. Long-lived assets are very heavily discounted. It should be a normal recovery. But it is not, because of the high degree of uncertainty.
Basically, if you keep your investments as they are, they will yield great returns over time. But because of the volatility in the market, people are pulling out in fear of losing more money, which, as I understand it, perpetuates the problem. We can't see the big picture, only the short term, and for many it's scary.

I am not fascinated by his conclusion that fear is more powerful in this world than euphoria or greed. What I find fascinating is that Greenspan is just now coming to this conclusion. Philosophers have been expounding on this for millennia. Fear is so fundamental to our everyday lives we probably just see it as normal. I see it as another indication that we are not merely rational beings or thinking animals, as materialistic philosophies will tell us, but fallen image bearers of God. When God created us, there was no fear in this world and we had mad crazy access to the Living Creator of all things. After the Fall, what's the first thing Adam and Eve do? They hide. They were afraid. And what happens later? They die. This is speculation, but I submit that the greatest weapon the enemy has over us since death entered the world is fear. The author of Hebrews hints at this when he writes that the devil has the "power of death" and puts us in slavery through the "fear of death" (Hebrews 2:15). Slavery is driven by fear. That foundational fear permeates all other fears in our lives. It even permeates our rationality to the point where we make massive "nonrational" decisions. Perhaps I've seen this most clearly in abusive relationships, where one person won't leave for fear of being alone forever and dying alone.

What are you afraid of? After thinking about it, do you see it as something that drives your decisions, thoughts, and actions more than other feelings or even your rationality?

Yet the story of God is one of true joy and true hope with true redemption. It's where we see the presence of God come into our lives and while we are afraid because of his power and might, he comforts us with the command most given in Scripture, "Do not fear." It's the story of God coming into this world as the flesh and blood man, Jesus Christ, not merely to teach us nice things or tell us to stop being afraid because it's all going to be okay (which we know never works because fear screams "IT WON'T BE OKAY"), but providing freedom from fear through his death!!!
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. -Hebrews 2:14-15
It's the death of Jesus that conquers death itself, therefore, any power or fear found in it is caught up in the rubble of its destruction.

By His Grace.

5 Crucial Lessons Boiled Down to 1 Phrase Which I've Learned in 8 Short Days of Writing

It's 9:42 pm.

Stace and I just got home from what at Mars Hill is called a Community Group gathering. For those of you who are got the church stuff down, this is like a small group, but a little different. For those of you who don't know about the church stuff, just consider it like something where you get together with friends weekly for a specific thing, like watching a show or playing games. The gathering tonight was the regular rhythm we keep of grubbing, talking about the sermon, praying, and grubbing some more. However, we also function as a community outside of that night, getting together to grab drinks or help one another out in babysitting or serving the community or just whatever.
That's me in The Hobbit. I was Kili. This might be
the best part of this entire blog post.

It's a pretty fantastic thing to walk 6 minutes to a friend's house where 8-10 of us gather from all different places in life. In our group there is a widow, some young married couples, some folk with young kids, and some singles. We all take turns providing a main dish. Tonight was delicious chicken pot pie. We talked through Pastor Mark's sermon from this past Sunday, which was on adultery. We prayed, and then had ice cream cake for dessert, talking a bit more.

Why am I writing all of this out? Truth is for the three of you that will read this specific post, sometimes you just gotta write. This is the one big idea I'm learning through the challenge Stacy put before me about 10 days ago (though I've only been writing for 8). She said, "I challenge you to blog every day until Asher is born." That is a commitment I want to live up to, but today I am straight up struggling on a number of levels. So here are five quick lessons I've learned in fighting through that:

  1. Fight through with perseverance: The most important lesson is perseverance. As with anything you are committed to, some days are going to be better than others. My post yesterday received double the traffic of any of my other posts. This one I know what get as much. In basketball, it's like going 12-18 from the field for 30 points to 2-15 from the field with 8. Some games are like that, but you don't stop playing. You fight. 
  2. See the long, long, long term: Writing every day is helping me see the beginnings of the long, long, long term. The archive on this blog shows I have been writing for a while, but I've never considered myself a writer. I have many friends and acquaintances who write a ton more than I do and do so much more effectively, which has always hindered me (that could be a post right there). How I'm turning away from that is to write now and to write often. The long, long, long, term helps me see the current situation as a start and not the end. The long, long, long term has much to do with development over time, to look back and see the progress, to learn from mistakes, to grow, to improve.
  3. Know the purpose of why you're writing: What I am prepping for is what I've talked about for years - to be a writer. I'm doing this because I know God has gifted me to communicate, to teach, to write, to preach in order for people to know His grace through Jesus and glorify Him. I can't squander it any longer. Even if no one or just a few listen, the point is to keep writing. I write because I'm a writer.
  4. Be super honest with words & emotions: I didn't want to write tonight. I don't want to be writing now. I'm judging all I've just written. I hate it. I am lazy and want to quit all the time and I've only been doing this for 8 days consistently. I want to say, "well, what's missing one day going to do?" I convince myself that the great writers have their blogs of ineffable wisdom shot out in 30 seconds as if they have some kind of mind incubator.
  5. Plan better: I hate planning writing. I don't know how I made it through seminary. I would never outline a paper; I would write and see what happened. It was a horrible approach and I regretted it every time, but I kept doing it (sound familiar to anything in your life?). If you have any suggestions, I'm very open to them, but I'm also disgustingly stubborn so I probably won't listen. For me to say "I'm open" is to say I have control right now and I seem willing to learn. But, even with the nasty rejection that may await you, I encourage you to help me.

I've also learned a lot about "catchy headlines" like this one. And hyperlinks - I think there are too many hyperlinks people put in one blog post to lead to a ton of other ancillary things.

It's now 10:25. Good night.

By His Grace.