Monday, February 23, 2015

Gifting Makes Me Feel Awkward

God died for me. Say that to yourself a few times. Perhaps highlight each word in your mind...or allow me.

God died for me.

God died for me.

God died for me.

God died for me.

I struggle to allow other people to get the check at a shared meal. Well, at least let me get the tip. I refuse small gifts all the time, either from some false sense of deprivation or some feeling of not wanting to put the other person to any trouble.

Normal gifts; a cup of water, help with a small project, time spent listening to my problems.

Normal amounts: nothing life changing like a kidney transplant or buying me a home.

Normal people: with apologies to people who want to feel extraordinary every single day, I'm talking about people who are basically just like me. They're not better or worse...just people.

Yet I struggle to accept their gifts. So what makes me so readily willing to accept this gift of God? God, not like me in any way. Better in every way. Inconceivably more than what I am.

God's gift? Even educated in what the gift means, I know I fail miserably to appreciate the gift for what it is. I never fail to be overwhelmed at this sentence: That was God on the cross!

And when I begin to consider the amount. God gave His all for me. It covers all my sin. All!

So, say the sentence a few more times to yourself.

Two Statistics That Don't Belong Together

People on the outside of the church think Christians are hypocritical. At least, according to one survey*, 72% of people who never attend church think those who do attend church are hypocrites.

Hypocrites! I've been called lots of names, but this one, for someone trying to follow God, would have to be the single worst name you could be called. I'm guessing you may have been called names as well. As insulting as any of them might have been, to be told that someone thinks you're not really doing what you say you are doing would be, should be, near the top.

So, take this stat for what it’s worth, but one study found 72% of people who don’t attend church believe there is a God, but the same 72% also believe the church is full of hypocrites. I know surveys can often be skewed, but let's follow the progression here. 7 out of every 10 people say they believe in God. It might be a good God, an angry God, a disengaged God or perhaps even a disinterested God.

But if these 72% of people are giving it any thought at all, they are acknowledging this God to be more powerful than anything else on Earth. This means they likely believe they should be doing something in connection to God; talking to Him, offering their first child as a sacrifice, giving Him money, etc. However skewed their views might be, some response would be necessary, right?

But they aren't. Why not? I'm just guessing here, but perhaps it's because the same 72% of non-church attenders believe the church is full of hypocrites. Think about this. If you were searching for a solution to the problem of what to do with God and you saw a bunch of other people who said they believed in God, said there were certain things they believed God wanted from them, then chose NOT to do those things...would you want to join them? Would you have any impulse whatsoever that what they were doing would benefit you?

It's like this. Say you were searching for methods to be more physically fit and healthy. Perhaps you found out there were other people also seeking to be physically fit. Maybe you hear about this place where they go. You hear about the habits they say are necessary to achieve physical fitness.

Then you visit their gym. All around you are people who look no different than you, most of them eating candy bars and not actually exercising. Are you going back? Are you joining them?

We say we want to see people come to know the love of Jesus. Maybe we need to be showing the love of Jesus.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Is This Your Chance to Shine?

Here's a quick recap if you're just tuning in this week. You have a bunch of people acting as if they're drunk who aren't drunk and a spokesperson explaining it as Jesus. Then you have a crowd asking what should be done about this.

This begs the question of what you might do if you had the attention of a crowd and they were asking for your opinion. Now may be your one shot, your 15 minutes of fame. This opportunity set before you is golden, where you just might be able to get even half these people to listen to your advice.

If there's anything you want, now is your time to mention it. So what would you say?

If you are Peter in Acts 2, you are quick to focus again on Jesus. He’s kind of predictable like that!

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” ~Acts 2:38-39

Peter makes this a very simple answer. Too many people make it seem like accepting Gods grace is too elementary. Peter kept it simple. Maybe we should too.
Let’s not pretend that there isn't much growth that takes place after someone accepts Jesus. But let’s not make accepting Jesus harder than it should be. After all, when he was done talking, Peter saw 3,000 come to Jesus that day. They were all baptized that day!!!

Too many people make it seem like accepting Gods grace is too elementary. Peter kept it simple. Maybe we should too.

Where is your focus?

Is it on how you look?
Is it on who you’re with?
Is it on what you’re doing?

The problem with each of the above questions is how they focus on me.

Is your focus on Jesus?

Do you spend time defending your actions for Jesus? Or like Peter, do you turn the attention back to Jesus? Pete focuses on Jesus and not the people. Perhaps some of our actions should look more like we're drunk? Think about it.

Servanthood. Why would we take time and money to serve other people?
Patience. Why don’t we simply retaliate every time someone makes us angry?
Humility. Why don’t we brag about ourselves more often and try to be number one?

The way a Christian is called to live does not make sense to someone whose focus is not on Jesus. We will appear different. We will seem strange. But that’s okay.

Because it’s not about us.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What Should We Do?

I want to play a little game. I’ll give you a scenario and you tell me what your first assumptions are.

  • 120 people are all gathered in one place.
  • It’s windy.
  • Everyone starts seeing things.
  • Then everyone starts speaking in foreign languages.
  • They are speaking in foreign languages they didn't previously know.
  • Another large crowd gathers.
  • Some in the second crowd assume the first crowd is all drunk.

When have you seen someone who appeared drunk, only they weren't drinking? Okay, maybe you have heard this story before, but the best part is still to come.

Peter turns the focus to Jesus.

“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.' ~Acts 2:16-21
Then Pete goes on to preach and tell them about Jesus being killed and rising from the dead. (Of course, if we heard such a story happening today, we might assume the speaker was drunk as well.) But Peter preaches and concludes by telling them God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ.

The people respond. Acts 2:37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Brothers, what must we do?

To be continued...

Monday, February 16, 2015

This is What Beer Drinkers Look Like When They're Not Drinking Beer

I've never been a drinker. I've never even tasted beer. It's just not an interest of mine. But, even with my inexperience now clearly stated, I want to take a guess about something.

Most people don't want to be referred to as drunks. Call it a hunch or whatever, but since drunkenness is, at the very least, associated with looking stupid, I'm guessing I'm right about this.

If you're with me so far, then picture this. There's a large group of people gathered. The wind is howling and all of the sudden, there's a whole lot of talking. It all sounds like nonsense to you, but everyone in the crowd seems to be understanding each other, sort of the way two different animals seem to understand each other. Then someone tapes the animals, the video goes viral and girls around the world say 'awwww!'

All it would take is for some guy to come along and say how stupid the video is for girls everywhere to stand up and make a defense. This is exactly what happens in the case of the howling-wind, everybody-is-talking-nonsense crowd. Someone on the outside snickers and calls them all drunks. That's when their spokesperson stands up and cries out:

These men are not drunk!

You might recognize this story from Acts 2. The howling wind is the Holy Spirit. The 'drunks' are the believers in Jesus. The spokesperson is Peter. Peter does not stay long on defending the actions of the people. instead, he states that 9 a.m. is too early for them to be drunk. You will notice that he does not say that its improbable these men will be drunk later. He just does not focus on that. He brings the focus back to Jesus.

How would you like that as your defense? Well, uhh, I'm not saying some of these guys won't be drunk later, but come on. The day is young.

To be continued...

Monday, February 9, 2015

Everybody Makes Choices, Even If We Don't Realize It

We all make choices. We do. We choose and we choose, over and over again, day after day after day. From what flavor we'll brush our teeth with to what foods will dirty them all over again. From what music we will distract ourselves with while performing any myriad of tasks. From what we will say or not say to those we have chosen to visit, call or pester.

We all make choices.

And let's not dare question that we have a right to our choices. From what we are offended by to how we might offend others, we like having our ability to choose. Isn't that why Americans claim the prize of 'there's no better place to live'? I like living here. I just chose to use that as an example of how much we like our freedom to choose. (See what I did there? I talked about choices by choosing my words. So clever...)

Tell someone they have no options and watch them squirm. Deny me of something, even if I didn't want it 5 seconds before, and now I can't get my mind off wanting to be able to choose that very thing. Oh, psychology, how you mess with me!

What I find remarkable is how, in all of our choosing, we seem to overlook everyone else's ability to do the same. If we all make choices, shouldn't it be assumed that others will choose differently? And isn't it likely that their different choices will impact my choices in some discernible way? And won't some of those affects be less than desirable?

Choices. It's what makes this world so difficult to live in. It's also what makes the gospel so beautiful. Wait, come again?

For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. ~1 Thessalonians 5:9
Did you see it?

For God chose. God made a choice. He chose.

The fact that God chose to save us meant He could have chosen to condemn. The fact that God chose to send Jesus means He could have chosen not to. God chose not to pour out His anger on us. You see where I'm going by now. God could have chose differently.

I'm so glad God chose like He did. What, besides love, would motivate someone to do that? We are the ones who get to be the object of His affection. Now that we know this to be true, how will it impact the choices we make?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Watching the Super Bowl is a Family Learning Experience

Super Bowl 49 just ended. It was the first time in my adult years that I watched this game with just my family. I normally have my guest list confirmed a year ahead of time. That would be the names of every teenager in my youth group. (Yeah, it gets a little crowded, which is why we added a second TV this year.

But the the Snowpocalypse hit and we were stranded, left alone to celebrate the night together. 

We managed. 

We watched the game. We watched the commercials. We even tuned in to the halftime show, with one finger at the ready, just in case things got out of hand. But one might question why I might be alright exposing my kids to all the media had to throw at us tonight. Well, I have an answer. 

Watching the Super Bowl is a family earning experience. You tell me where else my kids are going to be exposed to the most expensive messages ($4 million is what I heard) while in the safety and proximity of their Bible-believing and discerning parents. Where and when else can questions be asked without fear of criticism? And questions were asked.

When the woman calls 911, pretending to order a pizza. Dad, what is domestic violence?
When the Snickers commercial came on. Dad, who is Marcia Brady?
When the car commercial came on. Dad, what's the blue pill all about? Thanks Fiat!

We engaged the media. They asked questions. I gave them answers. (In case you're wondering, I told them the blue pill was about sex and asked them if they really wanted more information than that. Because of how we are honest and open with them about the touchy subjects, they knew to trust me when I said they didn't really need more info.)

In a single night we talked about the value of a dollar, purity, teamwork and good sportsmanship. None of it would have been had if I had chosen to emulate the ostrich and stick my head in the sand. 

Yeah, some of the commercials made me uncomfortable with little eyes watching. We chose to pause and skip over a few. Some of the commercials made me sad for the state of our culture. Some of the commercials just made me shake my head and wonder aloud where all the funny writers went this year. Seriously! 

But we don't live in a world we wish were true. We live in reality. I teach my kids now how to engage with media so when they are having a Super Bowl party somewhere else, they will know how to respond. 

God came into our world to get messy. I believe it;s time for His followers to stop being afraid to do the same.