Monday, November 23, 2009

This Weeks Idiot Award

This weeks idiot award goes to.....DRUMROLL...........

**Michael** (congratulations!)


My daily laughs come from www.fark.com if you are wondering. It makes me laugh out loud!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Free Stuff...is it good though?

“I’ve been sleeping with my best friend for 5 years and my husband doesn’t know…”

That was one of many shocking confessions made on the morning radio show I normally listen to on my way into work this morning. The contest was called Confess Your Mess and it was for the grand prize of, drum roll please, Twilight: New Moon movie tickets. There is no confetti, no horns, or flashing lights after that surprise. What a let down right? A huge city wide morning show holds a contest to confess stuff on air that could potentially end a relationship or even worse, a marriage, just to win free tickets to a freakin’ movie about vampire love drama. I don’t understand the obsession with Twilight myself, but I’m pretty sure winning free movie tickets is not worth confessing horrible things on air for.

Oprah made a big deal out of the grilled chicken at KFC when it was first released and gave away free meals with a coupon you could print off line. My friend Billy and I printed them off and went to the closest KFC. We were in line for an hour. I had never seen this many people crowded into such a small space before in my life, which I’m sure was a fire code violation. They had a police officer directing traffic because it was so chaotic. All over some free chicken (although it was tasty and free is always nice! Ridiculous!

At any given night in Conseco Field house at a Pacers game at the receiving end of a highly pressurized air gun you will find an enthusiastic fan dancing, screaming at the top of their lungs, and waving their arms around like they were having a grand mal seizure hoping to get a free t-shirt shot at them.

Do you see the trend? Don’t you get the feeling that people are crazy about free stuff? This is the point where you make the assumption of where I am taking this right? If you think I am going to go to the typical monologue of salvation being free and we should be excited to receive it, sorry you loose.

If those crazy air guns that Boomer spits t-shirts out of shot out angry spider monkeys I am sure the excitement would subside quickly. If Oprah gave away free meal coupons for a condemned and unsanitary restaurant I am sure the lines would not have been so long. If the prize for the Confess Your Mess contest was sending out a chain gang member to beat you for your ridiculous confession then I’m sure the radio station would not be flooded by phone calls. People get excited about receiving free things that are cool or exciting for them. People want desirable things to be given to them for free.

I guess my question is why don’t people get excited to receive the Gospel? I am not convinced it is solely because the world is full of wickedness and evil and hates God. I think people like good news, people like free things. Why is it that the easiest way to direct traffic on a busy Saturday night is to put a street preacher in the area you don’t want people?

Isn’t the Gospel good news? Is it something burdensome and heavy? Is it ugly, smell bad, or oppress? Isn’t it something that people should be jumping for? What has happened that it is some kind of deterrent now? The message hasn’t changed has it? If it isn’t the message changing then it must be poor representation, right?

I pray that we can all look in the mirror and ask ourselves honestly how the rest of the world sees the gift we have and if they would want it. It’s all about the gift being good….do we make it seem good?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Expectations

The doors open….”4 please,” and off we go. The exciting metal box takes us to an adventurous land of wonder, filled with keyboards, staplers, and fax machines. It is a little before 8 as I walk around the corner to a new world, filled with busy fingers, name plates, and almost harmonious incoming phone calls. The low level of chatter sounds like some sort of melodic office chant. The smell of cheap coffee permeates my sense of smell. My journey is almost finished and I am within yards of my destination when I am greeted by something like a monster, a monster empowered and fueled by negativity. Within the first 10 minutes of being at work I am bombarded with negativity. I mean it’s not even 8am yet and people have already decided that they are going to have a bad day. It is a little disheartening that this negative attitude towards things begins so early in the day and then further dictates the rest of the afternoon.

When thinking about this writing I intended it to go in a different direction than the path we will walk down now. My initial thought was in response to something I had read earlier in the day. I was casually reading through the book of Philippians, a letter from Paul, earlier that morning. Paul, who is in jail and being beaten and all kind of other things I am sure the jailing system of that day enjoyed, tells his recipients that he has found a way to be content in everything. Now this is coming from a man being treated like an animal in a cruel jail system by an even crueler government. He tells the Philippians to do everything without grumbling or arguing so that they will shine among other men like stars. My initial writing was going to go something like this:

Paul was a prisoner being cruelly treated and is content. Inspired by the Spirit he says to not grumble in anything and not to argue. You live in a free country, have a job in a tough economy, and are sitting in the air conditioning, shut up and stop complaining!

I now realize that thought process may be true but somewhat simple and shallow though.

I am currently reading, and almost finished with, Don Miller’s new deal, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It is a great book, such an easy read, and full of thought provoking insights. One of the chapters I happened to read this morning was The Reason God Hasn’t Fixed You Yet. The Danish culture is the happiest in the world. There happiness comes from low expectations. The point is not lowering your standards, but considering your expectations and where they come from, if they are fair or logical. He basically says that God will not come in and fix everything while we are here on earth or in our lifetimes like some great movie provide resolution because it is through pain that we learn and through pain we grow. I sat down the book after I read that chapter because he came at life from a perspective I had not been taught. I had been taught that everything will be alright, Jesus will fix it all. But if we do learn through pain, would God be cruel to not let us grow and learn and become more like Him if He did fix it all and not allow pain?

This got me thinking about expectations and how, like everyone else, I have them. So what is it that causes my co-workers to attack me with their bitterness first thing in the morning? Circumstances are ever changing and so it is to be understood that circumstances are not within the control of any given person. Maybe that guy who cut you off in traffic, customer who yelled at you on the phone, manager who made a decision you did not agree with, or co-worker who handled a situation in a way you contrary to yours is not crazy or as bad as you or I may make them out to be, maybe we are unfairly placing expectations on them. Maybe flawed expectations are the problem sometimes. I thought I was going to be judged and thrown out of a friend’s house one week when I made a comment in a conversation. We were talking about how cool it is to see Christians move into urban neighborhoods with the intentions of being the light of Christ. I poked fun at those Christians who say that all people need in areas like that is Jesus and how shallow I thought that theology was when I noticed the glare in eyes and eye brows perched atop foreheads. I continued to say that just going into a neighborhood and preaching doesn’t solve anything because even if they know Jesus and get the gospel that doesn’t fix all the problems, the socioeconomic grab bag of dilemmas they face daily. If the expectation set is that having faith in Christ is going to solve all of our problems and we will be all good hasn’t He failed us all then? The answer would be yes based on that expectation, but I do not know a God that fails, however, I do know a people who have some crooked expectations and theology. We are the problem in our pain, not God or the lack of His presence. Our expectations have made us wanting more and left us in need.

Idealism is not practical and leaves the hopeful empty. Utopia is not the point of this. The point of Jesus is not to create a grandeur escape from this pain, it is to make this pain beautiful and give hope that we can make it, we can live in pain, we can live amongst the fallen world. I think life looks richer like that. I’m not waiting for this delivery from here, I’m looking for completion of here. I think Heaven will manifest itself through a redeemed people, through scars and wounds, blood and tears rather than some easy cop out because our expectations are weak and idealistic. What if we took the dull prism we glared through when looking at life and flipped it upside down or better yet cleaned it (take some CLR to that bad boy!). Instead of thinking that customer is an idiot for not knowing something; we should check our expectation of them knowing it first. Maybe instead of expecting our spouse to know what we are thinking or if we’re having a bad day we could tell them so we wouldn’t get frustrated when they act like they don’t know, we’ve placed an unfair expectation on them. If we did not expect our spouse to be everything than maybe we would not be disappointed when they are not. We cannot expect the customer to understand all the complexities of our business therefore cannot expect them to ask “smart questions.” Does this make sense? Maybe the rest of the world isn’t crazy, maybe our expectations are bad. Maybe Jesus isn’t just a religion; maybe our expectations of what He is and does are wrong. We cannot expect Jesus to change the world if we expect Him to just fix it all, He does not wear a shiny white bath robe, a brilliant purple sash, nor does he have a clean shaved beard or hair. He is a nitty-gritty old Jewish guy who wants to get through the tough spots of life with you not for you.

May you check your expectations at the door. May you see the world in a new light and see Jesus without idealistic or irrelevant expectations. May you change the world around you with the knowledge that expectations might be the problem sometimes. May you have a great week at work, may you not feel stressed, may your attitude not be based upon false expectations.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Inner Thoughts Part 2

You know what is great about education? It drags things out of you that you did not know existed. It inspires you to learn and grow. Have you ever been speaking and you say something that you needed to hear? Like it has been inside you, but you didn’t have the words or mental capacity before to articulate it, but for some reason in that moment you say exactly what you needed to hear. Or maybe someone says something that you needed to hear. Maybe someone asks you a question that requires you to dig so deep to answer that it actually drags something out that you need to know exist within you. I just finish writing two final papers that did just that. As I read and spoke about them I felt my heart leaping with joy again, I felt passion and peace in my life. Here is the second question and my response. I hope maybe this can inspire or encourage you as it has me.

The Question: Write a two to three page paper on “My Life Mission Statement.”

I am convinced that turning in 3 pages with 1 word a piece on them (I- Don’t- Know) would result in a failing grade, but simply put, “I do not know,” is the answer to my life’s mission statement. I have long yearned for an articulate answer to this question and through nearly 5 years of being a Christian filled with many changes, pains, joys, accomplishments, set backs, and a plethora of other circumstances a specific life mission statement still alludes me. Maybe the re-defining the term life mission statement will aid my journey though. In typical Westernized Christianity a life’s mission statement is summed up in phrases like, Serve AIDS infected orphans in Africa, Help recovering addicts break their cycle of addiction, become a pastor at a local church, etc. I find no place for myself in these definitions of life mission statements; I do not believe I have been wired to think in specifics, but more holistically. I have tried to squeeze myself into an identity that fits within the typical mission statement response, but am always left bewildered and frustrated. These frustrations have led me down a path that is leading me toward a more ambiguous life mission statement and require a new mindset towards the general idea of life mission statement. I suppose my journey trying to follow Christ has left me more disillusioned with the Western religion of Christianity than I expected therefore it is foreign to me to choose a specific mission within its context.

Jesus set forth several principles that a follower/disciple is to live by and act upon:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 23:25-26).”

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).

Love and pray for your enemies (Mathew 5:38-48).

It is my desire to follow these principles to the best of my ability, dependant on God for the strength and knowledge. In a recent reading of 2 Peter additional His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3-9). As I have read and studied the Bible I have come to more of an understanding that it is about holistic lifestyle than specific calling. I know people who have moved from their homes to go across the ocean to minister the gospel because they felt called. I cannot speak for others callings. I was born and raised in Jacksonville, FL. At the age of 21 I started following Jesus and at 22 I moved away from Jacksonville and took up residence in Indianapolis Indiana. I felt called to move here and help start a church. Everything I knew at the time was pulling me and making my bones ache for the city of Indianapolis. 4 years after this move I now find myself in the same city feeling a different calling, if you want to call it that. I’ve been on a journey for several months recently trying to rediscover my calling, trying to understand what a calling is. The one scripture I can never shake when thinking of my calling is found in Isaiah.


In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and
exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were
seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two
they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to
one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is
full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds
shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined!
For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and
my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." Then one of the seraphs
flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the
altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your
lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." Then I heard the voice
of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said,
"Here am I. Send me (Isaiah 6:1-8)!"


The general idea here is that God revealed himself to Isaiah, forgave him, broke his heart for something, and then sent him. This is a very simple principle that I have wrestled with for years now. What God broke my heart for 5 years ago is much different than what my heart aches for today. The reality is that I find myself sitting in the same coffee shop on the same block downtown, surrounded by the same people, but feel much different than I did before. No outside factors have changed, but everything is different. This leads me to believe that the difference is within me. I have come to an awareness that callings change. I allowed guilt to haunt me for months because I did not understand that a calling can change. I felt called to move to Indianapolis to start churches, but felt myself falling further and further from this passion I believed God placed within me. The guilt was that I thought I was dishonoring God or had fallen away and become so far from God that I no longer even felt called. Operating from a fixed calling principle does not allow for adjustable factors. I wonder how many people continue within their calling when passion has become a distant memory and the calling feels empty. I wonder how many people are aimlessly active physically, but paralyzed emotionally, spiritually, and mentally? I have listened to a watched many men on Sunday mornings preach who feel called, but you cannot feel a bit of passion in them. Their messages do not seem to be empowered by anything. These men continue to follow their calling when it is possible that God may have changed their passion or calling. I’ve also offered counsel to friends who long to escape their current circumstances to serve God. They feel like they must flee from their trivial life in order to serve Him. I I think that specific callings are not life long and given more in seasons. That opinion makes it difficult to answer a question intended to reveal a life long mission statement. The traditional definition of a calling, a specific act or ministry, suffocates my own understanding and application of following Jesus in a holistic way.

My life mission statement is to follow Jesus in a relevant way where He calls me to act. The circumstance may change, what my heart aches and longs for may change, but He will not. Love will not change. Jesus calling me to love others will not change. I suppose my life mission statement is simple, follow Jesus the best I can within the context I find myself in. It has taken me a while to get there, but I find comfort in that ambiguous calling, that vague mission statement. I thank God that I am able to say I can follow Jesus and know Love and because of that I live my life in response to Him.

Inner Thoughts Part 1

You know what is great about education? It drags things out of you that you did not know existed. It inspires you to learn and grow. Have you ever been speaking and you say something that you needed to hear? Like it has been inside you, but you didn’t have the words or mental capacity before to articulate it, but for some reason in that moment you say exactly what you needed to hear. Or maybe someone says something that you needed to hear. Maybe someone asks you a question that requires you to dig so deep to answer that it actually drags something out that you need to know exist within you. I just finish writing two final papers that did just that. As I read and spoke about them I felt my heart leaping with joy again, I felt passion and peace in my life. Here is the first question and my response. I hope maybe this can inspire or encourage you as it has me.

The Question: Write a paper on the topic: “The Measure of Spirituality.” This should be at least 5 pages or not more than 7 pages.

Holy Roller, self-righteous, pious, virtuous, upright, moral…A description of a spiritually mature person typically includes these terms. In the same breathe though, these words have also hurt, oppressed, and violated people and their creator, the God Almighty, and ultimately, they crucified Him. Many righteous have betrayed God, much piety has fueled oppression, but that does not mean one should dismiss the importance of these terms, in their intended meaning, and adopt emotionally driven mysticism. God is an orderly God. God is a loving God. He is loving and just. Humans have failed being like Him because we all swing like pendulums. From one an extreme to another we sway, conservative to liberal, religious to heathen, loving to hateful. Somewhere in the middle of these extremes is a beautiful ground Jesus calls us to live in. The extreme of religion, piety, virtue, and self righteousness created a system of analysts. The problem with the analysis was that the data group scrutinized was the wrong group of data, not intended to be evaluated. The wrong data is other’s spirituality. I am convinced that the Gospel is truly beautiful and that if everyone lived a life full of self examination that it could change the world in a very powerful way. If we would get out of the way the power of God could be tangible in the city and across nations. I suggest that any measure of spirituality must begin internally to be effective.

The fear in this approach is that a measure may look a bit different depending upon the individual. We are all made unique, none being the same, thus we cannot expect an analytical process to be static. You do not measure a solid the same as a liquid, nor is an ounce of salt as powerful as an ounce of Cayenne pepper. The idea is that we have so many things different about us that it is asinine for any one system of measurement to be considered standard. It is more practical to consider principle over method and mean. I used to have a mentor that would ask me tough questions about dating relationships I found myself in. I started dating one girl and by the second week of dating her my mentor told me that I needed to walk into her house and pray with her entire family, hand out tracks together, and do street evangelism on our weekends. This seemed odd to me, but for him this is what he measured as a spiritual relationship. There once was a blind man, born that way, who had been waiting by this pool for 38 years hoping to become healed. Jesus heals him and opens his eyes. The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. So because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath the Jewish leaders began to persecute him (John 5:15-16). We read this and scoff at such a response to healing. However, a very real measure of spirituality for the Jewish leaders was keeping the Sabbath. Jesus’ message opposed this mentality and irrelevant measure of spirituality directly. Jesus was less interested about measuring spirituality of others than he was in empowering and challenging others to measure their spirituality within themselves. There was a widow that came to the temple to give her offering. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on (Mark 12:41-43)." The measure of spirituality in that day was putting in large amounts, like a carnival game or something, the greater the input the greater chance of a big furry prize. Jesus was not interested in the amount or that measure of spirituality, rather He was interested in her heart. Jesus is very interested in the hearts of those who follow Him, those who are spiritual. Maybe the measuring stick looks different, but it comes in response of the same grace.

I do believe principles can be measurements of spirituality though. John states that God is love (1 John 4:16b). Jesus calls us to be His disciples. A disciple of Christ is now called a Christian. The term Christian was first given as a scarlet letter, a provoking insult. The early followers were being made fun of because they were like little Christs. What an honor it is to wear that badge now though. Jesus said that He and the Father are one (John 10:21). Jesus claims equality with God. God is love, therefore Jesus is love. What is love though? If we are to seek to become like Christ who is love then what is love? Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Francis Chan eloquently and very challengingly says that you can replace the word love in that passage with Jesus. If you can replace it with Jesus and we are to be like Jesus then you can transpose our name for His in place of love as well. In principle, a spiritual person is like Jesus, who is love. So a practical measure within oneself would be the practice of reflecting on that principle. Am I patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered. Do I keep records of wrongs? Do I rejoice in truth, always protect, trusts, hope, and persevere? This is a way one can measure their own spirituality.

If the Spirit of God resides in you then it will produce fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:22-26). Does the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control characterize our lives? If the answer is no then it is worth looking into for yourself. These characteristics can look different in a variety of circumstances. Maybe patience looks like not pumping your fists in the air while sitting in the morning commuter traffic. Kindness may be as simple as listening to someone in great distress or lending money to the needy. Faithfulness could be being faithful to a spouse or as simple as sticking with God through rough times. Gentleness could be holding your tongue and not being so highly opinionated and argumentative. Self-control may be a diet or fasting. The practical application of the principle will and often does look different for every individual and thus must never have an inert set of measurements as methods.

Paul suggest to the Colossian church that as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15). Peter writes and advises that we reflect on our faith and Jesus often. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter:5-11). Disciples of Christ wrote the New Testament to remind followers to examine themselves. They wrote to promote measuring spirituality. The measures though are individual, not corporate or to be counted by others.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul gives a very clear avocation here. Overall I think that the measure of one’s spirituality must begin within. When that self examination is rich and full and active then I think they gospel will bridge the gaps so many external spiritual measurements have caused over history. By measuring your own spirituality you can be spiritual working at a call center, a home improvement store, being a basketball coach, a soccer mom, or a parent. Any aspect of life can be casually impacted by Christ’s power if we would all examine ourselves before we look to others. We would be wise to heed to Jesus’ critique to the spiritual people of His day, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye (Matthew 7:5).” Self examination of internal spiritual measures will make themselves apparent to others as they watch you live life. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)… In being able to give a reason for your hope Jesus’ message and love is spread much more than ever trying to recruit others into a system of measure that is irrelevant to them. The danger in measuring others spirituality is you might just crucify God. The early spiritual people took that path. Let us always learn from history and seek to measure our spirituality within.