Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Impossible Righteousness

Imagine sitting court side at a New York Knicks game in 2010 when and if Lebron James goes there. The crowd is crazy, celebrities line the floor, and Lebron James rules the court like a king indeed. This interesting fellow that is definitely out of place, being court side because He smells horrible, is wearing ugly clothes, has disgustingly dirty feet, and some old sandals, comes and sits next to you. He says something along the lines of, “Wow, that is impressive, he is a great player, probably the best, Lebron James may be king of the court, but I am the King of Kings,” and captures your attention as you realize who this really is. It is The Christ, Jesus sitting next to you. He just watches Lebron run down the court and almost rip the rim off the backboard and says, “Hmm…you see that kid….pretty amazing...you see Lebron James…if you want to enter the Kingdom of God you have to be better than him at basketball.”

Dangit Bobby! This is unfair right? How can one be better than probably one of the only two infallible basketball players on the planet (Kobe being number 2)? Anyone who knows basketball or understands the game knows how brilliant Lebron is and how talented he is. Anyone knows that it would be near impossible to be better than him. How would it truly make you feel to hear Jesus tell you courtside you have to be better than him to enter the kingdom?

That is what is going on early in Matthew. Jesus is talking to a group of Jewish people and tells them that their righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees to enter the kingdom (Ch 5). To a bunch of Jewish people they had to feel the hopelessness that we feel being told we would have to be better than Lebron. Jesus begins His statement assuring the audience that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Then again there is this poetic echo throughout Jesus teaching too. You have heard it said, but I say…this phrases repeats itself several times throughout chapter 5, 6, and 7.

You begin to get the idea that Jesus wants something better than simply not doing or doing. The Pharisees were the kings of the court at keeping within the commands, but that is all they did. They did right and did not do wrong. That alone is empty and Jesus knew it. Jesus is offering and commanding something greater from His followers here. He is saying don’t just not be an adulterer, don’t even think about it, don’t just not be a murdered, don’t even think about your brother wrongly. Jesus wants more than our actions. Sometimes as I look at Christianity and the way people have over complicated it, I wonder if they are living in this moralistic view of the Pharisees instead of obeying Jesus call to something more, a bigger righteousness that will get them into the kingdom. Jesus didn’t say something to bring about impossible odds, like your chances at beating Lebronm James in a basketball game, but commanded more righteousness than that of the Pharisees to draw attention to the emptiness of acting as moralists alone instead of truly having a changed hear and mind. Pharisees will not enter the kingdom, don’t be fooled to think your actions or religion will, only having a truly changed heart by Jesus will. May you know this righteousness that is beyond the Pharisees and may you feel the freedom of a beautiful kingdom with a loving King.

The Simple Kingdom

I reached a point of rock bottom here lately and really have just been desperate for His presence and to experience Jesus in a real way. So I pray that I would be able to read the Bible and especially the Gospel like it was my first time. I didn’t want to drag any of my theological bents or prior education into it; I wanted to experience Jesus like it was the first time. Amazingly He answered my prayers and I’ve been able to experience this Jesus of the Bible again like new by reading through Matthew. Maybe I’m behind on times or just easily amused by I saw something poetically beautiful, almost rhythmically timed in the Gospel, this beautiful metrical pattern. This idea of the Kingdom coming near is beautiful but often misunderstood or ignored and diluted. John the Baptist was sent ahead of Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, to proclaim the kingdom of heaven/God was near and to repent (he is telling a Jewish nation to repent and turn back to God). Jesus goes and gets baptized by John the Baptizer (JTB) and it says, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matthew 4:17).’” Then after that at the beginning of chapter 5 Jesus begins teaching about what he kingdom looks like and the characteristics of that kingdom are (The Sermon on the Mount). Then after that He lives out the kingdom and brings its power to people through healings and further teachings. Then He empowers His disciples to go preach the message. Isn’t that simple? That simplicity is stunning to me. I think we have over complicated all this by making up rules and actually disobeying some of Jesus’ teachings (I’ll write about that in my next blog).

What would it look like to tell the world that the kingdom of God is near, explain to them what this kingdom looks like, show them what its characteristics can be played out, and then invite them in? There is no condemnation in this kingdom but we have separated a lot of people by telling them there is. This kingdom is beautiful and people just need to know Jesus in order to get to it. That in itself is very simple. Maybe I’m just simple minded, but shouldn’t how we preach the gospel just look like what Jesus did, the kingdom is near, here is what it’s like, you are invited, here’s how to get in, now go tell others. Simplicity is so refreshing, like an ice cold sweet ea in June!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Football Makes You Cry

I never thought espn.com would make me cry (outside of a headline story tha tthe Jacksonville Jaguars have won the Superbowl), but my eyes filled with tears reading this story.

Read it for yourself:



Now that is awesome, that is transformative, that is football Kingdom style! That's the power of a gentle, loving, Jesus in football!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A -22 Walk to Work Makes a Beautiful Day

Isn’t this one of the coolest pictures you have ever seen? This is actually a picture of Indianapolis!

The air temperature this morning was -5, with the wind it feels like -22. I honestly can’t believe I actually woke up in time to enjoy this morning cold. Last night was a long night for me. I’ve come to be comfortable with certain aspects of my character. Intense is one word I used to shun and be ashamed of, but is actually a very good description of who I am. There is always a danger in every characteristic one may have. Forgiving people may get taken advantage of, laid back people may come off as apathetic, quiet people may come off as arrogant, etc. I’m intense. The downside of this intensity is that it must be managed properly. I operate kind of like a dumb college kid’s stomach in a gallon milk chugging contest. I mean, I take in so much and analyze so much that I need a place to puke it up. I have to get all of this stuff out of me. My intensity mixed with me being analytical makes for a dramatic show of fireworks if I do not have an outlet to express the things I am going through. So I journal and I blog. That is still not enough because it doesn’t give me the feeling that I am heard, so things build up and I become a little more intense, very subtly, but progressively more concentrated. There are 4 big things I am going through right now and basically I hit a brick wall last night and fell apart. I needed to remove myself from my world so I called a friend and asked if I could come over.

Spitting, cursing, yelling, pacing…this is about the repetition of about an hour. I was able to finally be 100% honest and express what I felt or had questions about. No great answers were given, no crazy break through, no deep enlightenment, just simplicity and reality. After I was finished I just sat on a chair and felt free, I felt like all that stuff that was building was let out. We sat down and wrote down the things that were frustrating me and came up with some simple steps to help me not snap again. Ok, so maybe the statement about no break through made above was false, so maybe I had one break through, my prayer life is horrible. I should be venting to God, letting him know how I feel about all this stuff first. At one point last night I was pretty convinced I was going to do something that would land me in Marion Co. Hotel (get locked up), I was very upset and hadn’t felt this anger I had for years. As bad of a night that that was I learned that God brought good out of it. I went home and slept like a baby and woke up early this morning.

This morning could have started or continued with my drama from last night too. The air temperature this morning was -5, with the wind it feels like -22. I walked out to my truck and it wouldn’t start. I tried a couple more times and was praying hard core God would make it start. I tried for 15 minutes and it wouldn’t start. I knew what I’d have to do and of all days to do it had to be today didn’t it… I walked back into my apartment, put on double gloves, my biggest coat (even though it doesn’t match), my old Kevlar firefighting hood, ear warmers, a hat, and through my hood up. I walked to work and just told God how I felt until about half way there. I was struck with a sudden thought, almost like a brick was thrown at the back of my head. God didn’t not answer my prayer to start my truck; he didn’t ignore my request to start my truck at all. God knew I needed to cry out to Him and just have time to not be distracted by driving to call out to Him. Once that hit me my attitude totally changed and I found joy in my walk in sub-zero temperatures. I was probably the only person with a foolish smile on my face underneath all my coverings walking to work in the city this morning, but I’ll take that any day. I found beauty in that bitter cold, through my truck not starting, and my outburst of anger last night. God does truly does work together all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Israel the Aggresor?

My morning routine includes reading my local news, foxnews and cnn, an Iranian news page, and a Jewish news page (I like to have both sides of every story). Today I came across a very interesting article from a very educated Jewish man I've read from before. Below is a quote from the article, please follow the link to read the rest of it.

"WHY IS it so easy to blame the Jews as aggressors even when it is perfectly clear that they are the innocent victims? Unfortunately, the allegation traces itself all the way back to the New Testament's claim of Jewish complicity in the death of Jesus. The Roman governor, by all accounts a callous, bloodthirsty brute, is portrayed as benevolently trying to save Jesus while the Jews are portrayed as a bloodthirsty mob who want a docile and peace-loving prophet dead."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

American Essenes

I just started reading this book by Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus. I’m only 4 chapters in and I’m blown away. I know that many people have problems with him, his theology, and ways of doing things, most Christian conservatives would say at best he is scary, or coin terms like pudding theology in reference to him. I’m not interested in debating what anyone thinks about him right now. At this stage in my faith I am very dissatisfied with the faith that so many can change the world. Not my faith, the establishments and movements that boast this faith’s name, my faith doesn’t ever fit into them, so I am more dissatisfied with them than my own faith, although there is plenty of things to learn and be disappointed in there as well. In one chapter McLaren says something about a political/religious group that Jesus was born and operated within historically, The Essenes.

Another group, the Essenes, thought that both Zealots and Herodians were unenlightened. They said, “The only way to please God is to leave the corrupt religious and political systems and create an alternative society out in the desert.” They established various wilderness communities where they sought to be faithful by isolating themselves from the culture at large, which they felt was sick beyond remedy.

As I was reading this my mind was flooded with memories, stories, and thoughts of the American establishment of the Christian church that had left me so disappointed in my past and present. I wonder if the Essenes are not a parallel of modern American Christianity… This is just something I find fascinating because in a lot of ways the typical majority populace “follower of Christ” seperates themselves from the world or culture at large like the Essenes in Jesus’ day did. Jesus never intended for a homogenous sub culture. We have not created alternative societies in the wilderness because we have desolated any idea close to what one would consider wilderness in our urban metropolises. Now we created alternative culture within cities and large populations. Beside the apple store you can find a Christian store. I’m not sure what defines it being a Christian store outside of selling things inspired by Christian principles, but you don’t ever here of random thought stores, selling things inspired by random thoughts of the creator/author/artist. But the reality still reigns true, we have Christian stores. In these Christian stores you will find Christian candy, clothing, music, books, art, food, cards, games, movies, and other tacky item with a cross slapped across the front. The Christian industry is a multi-million dollar industry. I just wonder if all this is necessary.

Have the essene-like wilderness subtly crept into metropolises around the nation? This is not to trash everything with a Christian label on it. This is to challenge myself and you to think about your lifestyle, your context, atmosphere, or environment and ask yourself, is it a alternative wilderness among a bigger population. Think about the people and things you are involved in, does it speak of any diversity. Are the poor, broken, or lost a part of your world or just ones on the outside that you feel sorry for? Are you an Essene American?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Education

Education is the hinge on which humanity swings.” Adam Sloope

I said this in a conversation with a co-worker this morning and had to run back to my office to get into this thought. I go and visit people I have come to know well at work and just chit chat about whatever really, nothing specific, but just shooting the breeze. Two were talking about their experiences at The Bodies exhibit here downtown. One makes the comment, “It sure gives you a different perspective on abortion.” She actually came face to face with the reality of a baby over the typical 9 months gestation period. Seeing those little finger nails and small human shaped body within the first three weeks of pregnancy made a huge impact on her. She gained some education about a baby’s development and applied it to her view of abortion. She still doesn’t think choice should be limited or dictated, but sees education as something that would probably end abortion choices. This is a totally different topic to take up at another time, but for now the focal point is this idea of education.

The interesting part of this is not a change in her morals or sudden conviction from some mystical place, it is based on education. In a society as academically driven as ours I would think this process of education being important would not be novel idea, but it is truly an under appreciated aspect of life. Emotions are typically what drive most people in life, they dictate action. I believe education should. Emotions are a part of it, but education should be the firm foundation on which one stands. This is not to say education alone is the objective, the application of that education is what can make life worth living. Education is not to become a god though. Education is not the objective, but it will lead to it, and that objective is to find the meaning of life, it is the journey we are all on right?

Every religion leads in some way or another down this path of finding the meaning of life. Every one of them leads to only a way to show the way to something else. They are full of disciplines and cool rituals that only lead down the path of education, but that education actually goes no where, so education in those instances has become a god. The God I believe in and serve, the living God who created everything, that God gives meaning to life. God does not call one to ignorant faith though. If you read through the scripture you will see that every time man responded to God it was because He revealed Himself first. Man had an education of who He was or what He was asking. Many Christians will be uncomfortable reading this because it may seem that I am placing education above God. Obviously there is nothing above God and He is what humanity is seeking, they just may not be aware of it. God gives meaning to life. Jesus came so we could know God. The big dog here is and always will be Jesus.

Education is what gets us to Him though. Education is what gets us anywhere in life. Education or lack thereof determines your path in life. Think about this before you just come to your own decision on things though. Everything you know is because you learned it in some fashion or the other. Your knowledge throughout life makes you. I have a friend who did some study on animal cruelty, how we get the meat we eat, and what effects this meat can have on us, now she is a vegetarian. Her education made her this. I have a friend who learned life the hard way and did a ton of drugs and got involved in a ton of other things. His education of these drugs and the effects they can have on him through experimentation made him enjoy them so much that he became addicted. I have an education on who Jesus is and therefore I am a follower. Some people have studied the people who call themselves followers, their organizations, and all the wrong they do and so come to the conclusion that they want nothing to do with Jesus at all. You see how education has effects on lives. The lack of education is the same. People who get abortions typically don’t do a ton of study or educate themselves and therefore minimize the gravity of the decision. After it is done they realize how weighty of a thing it is. Their lack of education haunts them the rest of their lives. I have another friend who is interested in finding out what life is about, they want to find meaning. They have a ton of assumptions and general ideas on religions, but no education for themselves. I told them to go study all of it so they can make an educated decision.

No man comes to know God without education. Education can take on different capacities, but education is what reveals truth. Moses became educated about God through a burning bush, Paul through a really bright light during the middle of the day that blinded him, tons of people in the Bible by seeing miracles, Lee Strobel knows Christ by studying the Bible for himself with the intention of disproving God exist, I learned about God through being skeptical of everything “christians” said so I studied the Bible for myself. God reveals himself in different ways to humanity, but it is always man becoming educated and responding that gets him there. This is why we preach the gospel or teach about the Bible in sermons. We seek to educate folks on God.

Jesus knew that education was key. He knew this so much that He told 12 ragamuffin men to go educated the whole world (Matt 28). The entire point of Paul’s journeys was to educate people on who God was. Jesus was sent to earth to educate. Educate people that God is loving and wants to forgive us for being full of sin. Jesus educated the world that we can be saved and forgiven forever! The writers of the Bible were inspired to educate generations to come by providing a book of education that reveals God. The whole idea is that education in every aspect of life is important, but for some reason when it comes to God we are satisfied with presumptions, emotional preferences or rumors, but don’t seek education. People who don’t know the grace God provides typically have not educated themselves on who God is, but simply let experiences dictate to them what they should think. People who do know the grace of God through Christ and have accepted it need to always educate themselves on God because there is so much to learn. It is unacceptable to stop learning. If a person is in a vegetative state and their brain has stopped operating medical professionals call them brain dead and they have to be kept alive by a machine because the brain dictates to the rest of the body what to do. Is that really life though? The same rings true of those who get to a point where they do not seek education or stop learning. Christians who don’t seek God by studying His Word or spending time with Him are as good as brain dead.

In such a society as ours where education is what we love, we desire to be open minded and be well rounded, it is surprising to me that anyone is comfortable with being ignorant. Educate yourself on subjects. Education is not the objective, but it is the only path to it. May we be a people who seek education. May we be a people who seek to become knowledgeable of God. The world tells us to never let anyone tell us what to think, but we ignorantly let it tell us what to think about God. Educate yourself on God before you accept ignorant dictation from uneducated people. May those of us who know grace always seek to know God more and more, never be satisfied or think we have arrived. May those who don’t stop being bullied around by everyone else’s education of God and get their own. Education is important isn’t it?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Circus

The more you learn the less you know. I never quite understood this saying and just thought it was one’s feeble attempt at humility in the face of great understanding. Well, I think I’ve got it now. As I have learned more and more about Jesus, the Bible, and the church I have become unsure of things I was once sure of. I walked into this whole church-planting deal with tons of non-negotiable ideas. This is not to say I have wavered in my core belief that Jesus is God and offers grace fully to all humanity. Church has become a beautiful mess in my eyes. I love it, I love Christ’s bride, but as I study the Bible and reflect on what church is I am forced to question establishments and traditions I am now involved in and even part of. In general as Christians we are all involved in the church and this is something I have come to have peace with. The definition and all the specifics have changed though. This has brought me to a couple neat realizations and strong opinions.

A quick tour of the modern American church at face value would often lead you to say it is event driven. A quick tour of the church and its beginnings in the Bible would always lead you to say it is lifestyle oriented. Terms and phrases that have grown to make my skin crawl include going to church, see you at church, what church do you go to, outreach, assimilation, growth strategies, etc. Offense is probably taken right here for most readers. I am comfortable with that. I assure you I do not mean to offend and know plenty of great people who use these terms who have very good reasons for using them. I on the other hand am not comfortable with the as is approach to all this. I am not ok with getting myself all comfy in a context that I am not too sure I am 100% sold on. Why squeeze a square into a circle hole? These terms and this general idea of the American church are all based around an event oriented religion. It can create unhealthy boundaries, separation, and ideologies.

Obviously anyone who is a follower of Christ has or should have the main intention of introducing someone to Christ and helping them grow in a relationship of obedience and love towards Him. The way we go about this is what has become an issue of focus for me though. I call it event oriented religion. Our ideas and traditions tell us that this Sunday event is what will get people introduced to the Gospel and the more we get here the more possibilities we will have to share the good news. As far as practical logic this works brilliantly, but we’re not selling Tupperware or a new computer program. If we believe this event is of the most importance in this process then we are likely to spend more time thinking of how to supplement it. This supplementation generally includes marketing and other ways of drawing people to this event. In my own personal opinion as I watch Jesus through the gospels, anytime there is a big gathering with people who want to come see some circus show, He says something or does something to get rid of that crowd, like eat my flesh and drink my blood or anyone who wants to live must die. He did this to seek true followers. I often think that we have foolishly become convinced that Jesus likes big gatherings… I think the bigger the gathering the more possibility of circus attendees, just looking for a good show.

The other possibility is a lifestyle oriented Christianity. This is where I find my comfort and where I flourish most, so obviously I will have a biased opinion here. Every time the Gospel is preached it is consequent of some relationship or common denominator. I’ve done the research and cannot find one where this doesn't hold ture. A person focused on lifestyle and relationships is focused on getting into other people’s worlds. Strong relationships are built and a ton of trust is earned. Through this meshing of lifestyles Christ has to be the focus though. Any person who is a Christian working towards seeking others through relationships must do so with a genuine concern to get to know that person first then begin to cross bridges as God opens them. As I look at Jesus' ministry throughout the Bible, I see a focus on relationships and lifestyle, not events. Jesus is no circus God, He wants those who will accept grace. Jesus never chased around people frantically trying to convince them of who He was. Jesus did take every opportunity though. Maybe if we focused more on lifestyle and taking every opportunity we have to create relationships in order to share Christ we wouldn’t be so anxious about filling a building or an event.

I believe the Bible never teaches or illustrates an event oriented faith. This is something we have inherited from generations of traditions made by men. I’m not saying down with the Sunday gathering, I just think it consumes too much of our focus. Yes, if you have read any amount of my writings you will agree that I am an idealist, but I think that is what Jesus wants me to be. I dream of seeing the Bible lived out and Christ glorified, this is an ideal that I’m willing to die for and you should be too. I’m not trying to say close all the church buildings down. They can and have had a huge impact in people’s lives. So I am not saying that they are wrong, I am saying that our reliability on events hinder our efficiency. God will use any mess, I just think we should seek the best way, not just any, to spread the news of Christ.

Out of Focus

There are tons of assumptions people base their opinions and actions upon as they go through life. This reality easily transfers itself into church culture. Within the context of the church gathering on a Sunday morning there are those who base opinions off assumptions they have of church or Christianity and those who behave based on a similar set of assumptions. I think assumptions are dangerous and have turned our teaching opportunities to the masses into step programs than anything life altering. The assumption made by far to many Christians is that the Sunday morning event we call church is full of those already knowledgeable of the Gospel message or consistently seeking its truth all the more.

The question that always arises when I sit in the back of these services is, “Are all these steps and plans going to change the world? Is this what Jesus dies for?” We are good about making sure people walk out the door with tons of suggestions of what to do or how to act in view of Jesus. I think that approach is weak by itself though. I think when people walk out of a teaching environment they should be challenged at the core instead of the reflection of that core. So instead of offering so much advice, the church should be asking more questions and challenging more people to think for themselves. That is also good, but can quickly look like a philosophy class with no point in challenging oneself than just becoming more of a well rounded person. I think that anytime something is said within the Christian context it should be gospel-centric. This term is to say that the focus, the core or everything said will always point back to the Gospel message.

So instead of just doing, do because, instead of thinking, think because, instead of being, be because, all because of the Gospel. So these assumptions often times make the church service teach higher level thoughts of someone who may be constantly focused on the Gospel and reality that Jesus is the Christ. When this message, the message of Jesus as Savior, is what is driving every other thing, every thought, every behavior, then one who learns or listens must eventually be faced with that, the Gospel. To teach the message with the assumption that people know is heresy really. There is no reason for the Bible or anything in it if God did not completely reveal Himself in Christ to us and offer us salvation through Him. It all falls apart without Christ. If the entire deal is dependant upon the Christ we call Jesus then why is not everything that pours forth from our mouths pointing right back to the Cross? In 2009, we must be careful to assume or take the Cross as a given, it cannot be subtle and must be the primary reason for all we do and think and say. This gospel-centric church will change people. These gospel-centric people will change their city. That gospel-centric city will change the world! Are you gospel-centric? To say do something because it is in the Bible alone is foolish. I would not believe anything or follow any of this book if it were not for Christ. We should not expect anyone else to either.

I’ll ask again, are you gospel-centric? May you not get lost in the hustle and bustle and forget the reason you do and think. May you always point everything you are back to Jesus. May we be a church, a city, a people so focused on the cross that we point others towards it. May we passionately study the Word in order to better understand the reality that is the message of Christ so we can further challenge and educate others. May we live out the great commandment and make disciples of all nations. The only thing this is based upon is Jesus authority as Christ. May we seek to be focused on the gospel.

Brandon Whyde

I walk into the room, gaze through the curtain of smoke to see a little man in a cool hat under yellow lights on a big stage in an open room. I know not to be fooled by what I see, I know what to expect, and that is the reason I drove out of my way to this place. Brandon Whyde played at Birdy’s last night. I can’t say I’m a groupie because I am a male and stalking others dudes is not quite my deal. I can say I am an avid supporter though. I will say this about Brandon and his music; it is soulful music led by a commanding voice that pierces silence and crushes any expectations complimented by unique guitar manipulation, voice effects, and a passion that leaves audiences in a big crowded smoky room speechless, just staring and thinking to themselves, “We are witnessing greatness here, this is special.”

I’ve never heard music song with more passion, more soul, or a more powerful voice in my 25 years here and there. I’m all about local music and love discovering new talent. The reality is though, that local talent I normally find, although talented, will remain local for the most part as a hobby for eager music lovers. Brandon, however, is on to something, he has hit a niche that the music industry has yet to uncover and the possibilities are endless for him. The selfish side of me doesn’t want to see him get big because of my fear of mainstream slavery. I used to watch Yellowcard play their hearts out at local house parties in Jacksonville Beach where I grew up and the mainstream has robbed them of the pure sound that everyone was captivated by. I don’t know Brandon, I do know his music and I do know that I’d hate to see him loose that sound he has now. Most cd’s are better than live sets. I watched Hinder last year and was horrified by their live music, as I am with most major recording artist. Brandon’s music is something totally different though, the songs on myspace and recordings don’t do it near the justice it deserves after watching a live show.

Remember the name, Brandon Whyde. If you are in Indianapolis, go see him at local shows with cheap covers while you can, I promise you will never hear anything like it again. After you’ve heard this young man’s music, pull your jaw back shut and join the club of avid supporters of the next big thing. For now all I can do is offer a thanks to him for dumping his heart on the stage with a wicked guitar, gnarly harmonica, and deeply moving voice. Kudos Bradon Whyde, play on, sing your songs, inspire your audiences everywhere.

Another review of music to grace my blog soon will be upshot, they are doing some big things too!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Grace Abounds

Happy New Year Everybody! It’s funny how much we make of a night that just flips us from 2008 to 2009. Most people look back on the year and decide to make resolutions for the next year looking forward. Last year I went out with a couple friends. It was all couples and we basically argued all night, every couple had an argument and it was just a lame way to bring in the New Year. This year I told myself I was not allowing that to happen again so me and a friend decided to go to this Masquerade Ball in a cool old train station downtown, Union Station. Tickets were $60 a head and we were dressed to the nines! That’s what begins my journey of illumination that ends up at the bar of a café downtown trying to get some breakfast the next morning.

So we walk into this master piece of architectural beauty called Union Station expectant and yet totally clueless as to what we were really going to do. There is a guy painted silver acting like a statue to our right, beautiful women all around, a table full of little snacks (pretzels, popcorn, and nuts), and beer. The table is in the back of the room giving us a clear view of all that was going on up front. Break dancers, belly dancers, magicians, and physics roamed the room giving my A.D.D. mind plenty to be occupied with. We sit and just talk for hours while we enjoy our drinks and the fact that we are dressed pretty rad if I do say so myself. It gets about 5 ‘til midnight and we decide we must get up and do something. 5…4…3…2…HAPPY NEW YEAR! Random people kissing each other all around and so we reign in the New Year at Union Station rosy cheeked and floating. I kissed a girl, like more than I would normally have and with more passion than I should have. We got white castle afterwards and I felt dizzy and a little sick, my body is not used to drinking on an empty stomach, so we march back to my friend’s house where I dive onto the couch just in time to avoid thinking about the night.

Day light breaks along with my sleep and I decide breakfast is a good option. We all go to a café and place ourselves evidently hungry in front of the waitress. This is where my mind starts to catch up from last night and I literally have an instant replay of everything that happened. Hands cover my face, my head is down in disappointment, and my stomach is roaring like an untamed beast by this point (we waited an hour for our food before we decided to get up and walk out). We get to talking and remembering the night of adventure. My mind is steadily racing and my normal million miles a minute analytical processing of everything seems to have a fat turbo on it because I am now in over drive! I didn’t do anything crazy or really dumb, in comparison to everyone else I had a rather tame night, but for me, all I could think was, “I did so bad, I can’t believe it!” After watching a movie with about 5 friends I finally decide to walk home, shower up, and get ready for the first day of the New Year.

The whole walk home, “I did bad,” just echoes in my head like a large gong in a cavern. Then I start thinking, if I think I did bad, just think of how much bad everyone else did. I get myself caught up in this bad vs. good thought process and out of the blue like a comet crashing to earth I am reminded of this:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (exerts from Romans Ch 5).”

You get to a certain point as a Christian and you are pursuing Christ with such passion and zeal that the reality that you are just as sinful as everyone else becomes more like a mythological idea that you just have to say is a possibility. But really, you don’t think you’d screw up or do bad because, after all, you are a Christian. I think this is probably the most dangerous mindset to have though. As I was walking and just praying and talking to God, I just had to stop, look around at the beautiful city I was walking through, look at the beautiful people enjoying their first day of 2009, and thank God for humbling me. I was and still am humbled to know I can still mess up. In this new found humility grace becomes so much bigger, so much more important, and something I realize I am desperate for, something I should rely on.

Now I am thinking of how many people go through life with this right vs. wrong approach, how many Christians see their righteousness and avoiding the pitfalls of sin as something they do, and how real the war between flesh and Spirit truly is. Guilt is a cruel slave master that beats you into the corners of oppression and isolation. How many people think they are bad and feel guilty? Christian or not, the reality is that we are all bad people, there are those who just have accepted the grace. So looking back on that night and all the things I am sure would be considered sin, I don’t see a bunch of bad people doing bad things, I see the beauty of grace and forgiveness, and my hearts breaks for those who don’t know of it, who haven’t accepted it, and walk around in the warped world of right and wrong.

Right and wrong within themselves are meaningless, it is grace that abounds and frees captives, and it is grace that is stunningly more simple than right and wrong, it is grace that gives meaning to this entire existence we stumble through. I spent the rest of my day thanking God for His grace and am still amazed like a young man getting to drive a super car (Saleen s7) for the first time, I stand in awe of grace.

May you know grace! May you know there is more than right and wrong, there is freedom from guilt’s chains, and may you know grace abounds all the more where sin does...This is not to say sin to make grace abound more on purpose, but it is to say that we all fall and need it and should appreciate it all the more when we do.

Heritage

There is something beautiful about heritage. Antiques bring warmth to a room, stories of heroic ancestry tantalize, and inheriting a rich heritage is generally rewarding. There are only a select group of individuals who appreciate antiques though, most see them as old dusty things saved by pack rats. Most cannot truly value antiques because they do not know about them, they are not well studied in their quality or beauty. Commonly, most cannot see significance in something they have little education on nor can they accurately adore it. Or you run in to the flip side of the problem and things are taken for granted because they are just handed down to them. It is hard to care for something unless you’ve invested yourself in it. This is what leads to the inevitable argument between myself and my brother every summer. We get along fine and argue about few things, but this, I mean this, is something I argue about. I was born and raised in Jacksonville, FL and lived there until I was 22. I have been in Indianapolis, IN for almost 3 years now and so have become acclimated to only seeing concrete creation, living downtown. I remember the first time I flew home to visit from Indianapolis. It was one of those moments where everything goes quiet, a bright light shines, and you hear a heavenly choir singing Alleluia, like the clouds rolled back and a peek of God’s glory was revealed. I looked out my window to see water EVERYWHERE, the beach, the river, the inter-coastal water way, and for the first time ever I realized how beautiful it is in Florida. Growing up there you don’t appreciate it because it is always there, you take it for granted. When I visit in the summer I always want to go to the beach! This is what begins the inner wrath, this response to my request for a day at the beach, “It’s too hot dude, let’s go to the pool.”

I think baseball is a dumb sport. I think it is simple, try to hit a ball, run as fast as you can to a base, and catch a ball if it flies around you. I know that it requires athleticism, but don’t appreciate it because I don’t know the game. My brother desires a chlorine filled, static tub of water called a pool over the beach because he takes it for granted because it’s always there for him, children inherit what they think is junk and don’t value it as priceless antiques because they don’t know the history behind it all. The reality is that man does not appreciate things that are always at his finger tips, frequents his path, he inherits, he does not understand, or has little education on. Heritage is not valued.

As I meet new people and get to know them, naturally, I tend to ask them about what drives them, what they believe, what kind of lifestyle they are into, etc. I have friends who admit they are looking for something and are on a journey for answers. The conversation is ok when I say things like God, greater being, something else out there, or creation, but it always turns uncomfortable when I say Jesus or Christian. What’s interesting is at some point in my conversation I will hear several of these comments:

“My whole family is really religious, but I just don’t like it…”

“Christians are so mean though, I know Christians and they are closed minded and hypocrites…”

“I don’t want to be churchy, like I’m not into going…”

“I just don’t believe in it all…”

I understand and can relate to a lot of these things. I never argue with them or try to impose my faith on them, I always just ask them if they’ve ever researched it for themselves. I would say of all the people I have met that I have these kind of conversations with a striking majority answer, “No.”

So what does that have to do with antiques, an annual argument with my brother, and heritage? Those who have access to an overwhelming amount of Christianity or have a large Christian heritage typically inherit faith and do not and cannot fully appreciate it by inheritance alone. This is not to knock a Christian heritage. I have no Christian heritage. My life would look much different if I did. Because of that when people started talking to me about Jesus I was so skeptical and didn’t trust anything they said. The distrust and skepticism is a direct effect of the large exposure I had to “American Christianity” and the opinion I had formed without education. I am nerdy or dorky I guess, by the way, in saying that last week in another conversation I made up a new word, “Norky,” a combination of nerdy and dorky! That makes me laugh…my randomness is amusing to myself at times. So because of my astuteness I decided to not just have an uneducated opinion, but inform myself and do a little digging. I had to research and study this Jesus/Bible thing myself. When I did that I found that a lot that I had thought or didn’t believe was actually not in the Bible or was just terribly represented by messed up people. I guess the point here is that once I made an investment of myself into it, I began to appreciate, understand, and even enjoy it, I actually started to live it. I came to know Jesus because I had no heritage and I pushed the exposure of a religion I had away and studied for myself. Most people who do have a heritage don’t do this, they accept what has been passed down. The danger in doing that is you don’t have your own faith, you don’t understand, you don’t appreciate, and you eventually reject something you don’t even know why you reject.

Heritage is rich, antiques are beautiful, the beach is worth going to even if you live 5 minutes away! Don’t miss the opportunity to experience something stunning because it is foreign to you and is only faith that has been handed down or based on an uneducated opinion. The life Christ offers is the most amazing thing I’ve studied and try to live, so many people miss out because they don’t know…

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).”

Appreciate truth because you’ve studied it, not inherited it.