Archive | January, 2013

Ordinary.

30 Jan

I had a 80-year-old physics teacher in high school named Mr. Webb that would read motivational statements off a bookmark to encourage “struggling students.” He was known to be a bit rough around the edges, so the administration figured a bookmark with 100 motivational statements would help him be more uplifting. So whenever a student would answer a question completely wrong, he, in the most sarcastic manner, would pull out the bookmark and read something like “you’re extraordinary.”

Everyone, seemingly, wants to be extraordinary. No one wants to be perceived as average. I’m not sure if this is something intrinsic to our human nature or something that has been imparted to us in adolescence and, to be honest, I didn’t listen enough in psychology to give you an answer. I do know that I’ve never heard an impassioned plea from a parent, teacher, or coach imploring a kid to “go out there and be average.” This kind of thing is good, I suppose. Perhaps it’s simply motivational rhetoric that could move someone out of their lethargy. I digress.

A few days ago I was reading Acts as a part of Center City’s Life Journal Reading Plan. This verse stuck out to me particularly:

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

This is the same Peter who in the previous chapter healed the crippled beggar outside the temple saying “silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth get up and walk.” This is the same Peter that told a group of onlookers after the healing, “you killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.” This is the same Peter that people dragged the sick into the streets in hopes that his shadow would pass over them and heal them.

Unschooled. Ordinary.

How could ordinary men walk with such confidence and power? (If this is the definition of ordinary, I want it to be ordinary.)¬†Look at the last part of the verse. The people were astonished and they took note that Peter and John had been with Jesus. That’s it. Spend time with Jesus and watch what happens to your life. If you lack boldness or courage, spend time with Jesus. If you lack the faith to believe that God is who He says He is, spend time with Jesus. If you feel stuck, spend time with Jesus.

I’m not into formulas but this seems to be one that works.

Will all of life’s problems go away? Absolutely not. These same men were imprisoned, flogged, and beaten in the next chapter. But, “the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”¬†When you have spent time with Jesus it’s impossible to have the same perspective. Everything is different. Even your suffering is seen through a different lens. Jesus has that effect on people.

So spend time with Jesus and watch what happens. I dare you.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
-Jesus

Do Something.

29 Jan

“We care more about you than what you do for us.” We say that to folks a lot at Center City–and for good reason. Essentially we’re saying, “we care about you as a human being beyond your functional role here. You are more than a door greeter.” It is an important thing to communicate to people.

I am sick of “functionary relationships.”
Hello (insert function), I am (insert function).

These types of conversations don’t interest me much. I like talking to people–to souls for that matter. C.S. Lewis said (as I wrote about earlier in an earlier post), “you have never met a mere mortal.”

However, I think we need to be careful when make blanket statements like “God cares more about you than what you do for him.” My friend Steve Witherup says that sometimes you must reject the premise of an either/or proposition. If someone asks me if I am married or if I have brown hair, I would obviously reject the either/or nature of the questions and say both. I think that applies here. See, when we make the aforementioned statements we are pitting one thing against the other. We are saying that what we do is divorced from who we are. This premise, I believe, is a false one.

I am reading a book by NT Wright about the nature of Christian character and virtue. His contention, as well as the belief of many others, is that what you do is intrinsically tied to who are. A belief otherwise is due to what I believe is an anemic gospel message. It is a message that sounds wonderful, and it is. It’s just limited. It is a gospel that says God is only concerned with your eternal destination–as if God only cares about two days of your existence: the day you are saved and the day you die. The Gospel is more than that. The Gospel deals with all of life’s DNA. There is not one thing on the earth that the Gospel doesn’t affect. This clearly would include your character. When you accept Christ’s invitation for salvation you haven’t arrived. You have been put on the right path for the beginning of a journey. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I am not saying that we can earn our salvation or that what Christ accomplished on the cross is limited. I am saying we limit the implications of the Gospel by making it merely about our eternal status. Salvation is not just a “get out of hell free card.” It’s not just about life after death. It’s about eternal life. It’s about life before death. Jesus is both Savior and Lord. The implication of Jesus as Lord is that he rules the whole earth and his Kingdom has come and continues to come.

So, what does this mean for us? It means that God is in the process of forming (re-forming, transforming) us progressively into the image of Jesus. It means that all of life is included in the apprenticeship. It means that what you do today matters! It means that God cares about every second of your life. It means God cares about who you’re becoming. So do something. Because what you do matters.

Nike said, “Just do it.” Or as my Jordan t-shirt I’m wearing right now says, “Just Dunk It.”

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Update: Watch this!

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Super Mario and the Will of God

3 Jan

There is a curious thing that happens amongst the people of God and I feel the need to speak to it, not as an expert but as one who has fully experienced the tension. The thing to which I am speaking is the irrational fear associated with the will of God. As a pastor, I hear questions all the time like this: How do you know the will of God? How do I know I am making the right decision? What if I’m wrong? What if I miss God? Where does God want me to be?

We are all predisposed to thinking we live in a linear world. We see God’s will like a train that leaves at 11am sharp–and you better be there to get on. Once on, there are multiple stops along the way that will again give you the possibility of missing the train’s departure. So people stay in the comfortable confines of the cabin and never leave the train. They stay because they think that if they remain motionless there will be no possible way to miss the train.

The problem with that line of thinking is that God’s will becomes reduced to you being static. There is no vibrancy. Your life has the potential outcome of an old school Super Mario game. You are side scrolling through a 2-dimensional world and there are lots of things that can kill you and various pits to fall in. There is so much fear and apprehension with doing anything of meaning. Because anything meaningful you’ll ever do will come with great risk. It’s seemingly safer to do nothing. I believe this paradigm causes people who desperately want to live inside the will of God to miss it altogether.

Jesus said, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and everything else will be added. Have we forgotten that he regards us as sons and not slaves? Have we forgotten that just as any parent loves to lavish good gifts on their children so too God loves to give good things to His children? Chad is one of our staff members at Center City. A couple weeks ago he put together a bike for his 4 year old daughter. You have never seen a grown man more pumped over a tiny pink bicycle. He couldn’t wait to give it to Allie. But we don’t believe God is like that. Somewhere burrowed in our subconscious we believe God is the headmaster at our boarding school. I guess it’s easier to believe in the cosmic-cop-god that hits you with his club every time you step out of line. The problem is, that’s not God. He gives us the freedom of choice. Notice in the story of the prodigal son, the father doesn’t chain his son to the porch. He freely gives him his inheritance, though desperately sad at his choice to leave the safety of the father’s home. We too have a choice. As long as we are seeking the kingdom and His righteousness first, we have freedom. “Where the Spirit of The Lord is there is liberty.”

So seek The Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. And seek the kingdom and His righteousness. Everything after that is up to you. What is a dream God has put in your heart? Go for it. What are you waiting on? Jesus has given you the freedom to choose. You are blessed with option A or option B. Sure, there are times when the still small voice of God will say, “No.” Obey that. Paul says in many of his letters that the Spirit wouldn’t let him go to a certain place. But he also expresses many times his desire to travel certain places and his hope for the circumstances to work out for. That’s his choice. I believe to my core that God wants you to feel the freedom of His Spirit. There is no fear in Love. Go and experience the joy of living the free life found in Jesus.

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