One Day

I want to get mad when I think about what happened in Boston yesterday. I want to feel righteous anger at the abject horror and senselessness of the death and maiming of so many innocent people, and to an extent I do. But only to an extent. What I mainly feel when I think of those things is sadness. That’s what I feel this morning.

I’m sitting here on my couch and considering all “we” can do now, and all the freedoms we have in this country. I think of the many technological and scientific advances over the last few decades. I think of how “tolerant” of so many things public opinion says we have to be to be considered enlightened and…well, normal people.

And then I think of IEDs full of ball bearings in trash cans at or near the finish line of one of the United States’ most storied athletic competitions. I think that while the perpetrator(s) of this affront to humanity likely did not achieve destruction on the level they intended, they accomplished more than enough. I think about ordinary people and first responders picking up amputated limbs and taking off their belts to save lives, and in some cases not being able to.

It makes me want to cry, or scream, and fight back against something. How do you fight back against hate, though? Can you? Can we? Can we overcome something like this while at the same time resisting what feels like the normal desire to seek retribution?

I think of people beating down Sikhs after 9/11 and I pray that kind of nonsense doesn’t happen again. It’s just so easy to respond to hate with hate.

So I’m thinking about all that and I can see why people talk all the time about the end being near. Sometimes I want it to be because I know what will follow after. But right now I just feel sad. And feeling that way led me to this beautiful song this morning.

 

Of Conviction, Inspiration, and Change

There’s this scene in the movie Sling Blade where the camera moves through the day room in a mental hospital, passing by various patients on its way to Karl, played by Billy Bob Thornton, who is quietly sitting in a chair looking out a window.

The audience is offered brief glimpses of many of the patients, and their common features all seem to be lots of slack jaws and staring eyes.

I was thinking about my high school Sunday school class the other day and that image occurred to me.

It has been no walk in the park to try and get those kids interested and participating. I’ve been observing the other teachers and taking lots of notes, and hopefully my next lesson will go a little better.

Certainly, part of the problem must lay with the students having difficulty relating to someone so much older than they are. Also that it’s likely they are not in class by choice, but because their parents make them go.

But I think the problem is larger than that. It’s more than my teaching style and that the students may be tired from a long evening of playing Call of Duty or instant messaging their “bestie” on their smart phones.

I think we’ve raised a generation of kids that has forgotten about the passion of Jesus. By that I do not mean his long walk down the Via Dolorosa, but his zeal for his father, and his Father’s house.

It’s my job to find a way to reawaken that in them. It’s not just about Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, though he does.

It’s about reminding these kids that Jesus is relevant to them, and is not simply a set of ideals passed down from their parents like a set of holiday china. This is the same Jesus that wept over a city. The same Jesus that calmly made a whip from leather cords and then cleared the temple.

But how do you instill passion and zeal in a generation that seems to care for very little other than what’s before them at that moment?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I feel a sense of urgency about it because now is when these kids are going to learn the things that will stay with them. The urgency comes from the knowledge that if things about the world that so desperately need changing are ever going to be changed, it will be these kids that do it.

I think of movements like Jesus Culture, who get so much right. I think it will take some kind of revival to wake this kids up, and that it starts with us. It starts with parents, teachers, and pastors.

We need to find a way to not only make Jesus relevant and real to them, but also to help them realize that while Jesus is the hope of nations, they are, too.

Until (and unless) Jesus returns, they have the unique opportunity to shape their own futures.

How do we do this?

I believe there are several things we need to do.

1. Awaken in them a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. There seems to be an almost choking apathy amongst young people today–the “whatever” generation.

2. Inspire them to act for the kingdom. Retreats and conference highs are great, but we need to be there when they come off it and the real work begins. Inspiration is not a one time thing. We lead from the front and we kick them in the pants when they need it. We need to do this for them:

3. Pray for them. Lift them up. Let them know they can do anything, with effort, with God, and with accountability.

4. Teach them it will not be easy to change the world. It will be tough. Teach them that changing the world starts with their own world. Search their lives and their hearts and identify the areas lacking and bring God to those places. Invite healing.

5. Walk with them. Let them know they aren’t alone and never were. We might be out of touch with their reality in respect to our own, but if we show them consistency and back our pledges to be there for them and pray for them with the actuality of doing those things, then we can change that part, too.

I am not writing this because I think I have all the answers. Certainly the opposite is true. The conviction I’ve been feeling lately is my own, based on my own experiences and my own prayers. It could even be that the huge pile of words I’ve just expelled is solely for my own edification. But on the off chance there’s even 1 other person out there who shares my struggles and convictions, I’m going to put both this and myself out there.

And I’m going to pray.

The Anthem

I was listening to music this morning. This song, actually. The Anthem, by Jake Hamilton:

and a snatch of an Ozzy Osborne song occurred to me. “I don’t want to change the world, I don’t want the world to change me.”

I don’t want to change the world

I wondered why someone wouldn’t change the world, given the opportunity? There are so many terrible things going on in a place that was not designed to be terrible. I could list a million things I would change about the world so it would be more to my liking. Instead, I’ll just mention what I’d change about the world to make it better.

I’d bring God to it, bring Jesus. Like Galadriel told Frodo, “a light when all other lights go out.”

I don’t want the world to change me

That much at least is true. I don’t want the world to change me. Not because I don’t think I need to be changed, but because I want God to do the changing.

So I listened to that song again and I thought that change is possible, but that if it happens it’s up to us. Not a politician, or a president.

The change we can believe in comes from God. It breaks chains, it delivers, and it sets captives free. If you want that kind of change, you’ll have to seek it out, and work for it.

Here’s the lyrics to The Anthem. Maybe it will inspire you, too.

I can hear the footsteps of my King
I can hear his heartbeat beckoning
In my darkness He has set me free
Now I hear the spirit calling me

He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
Such a time as this

I can hear a holy rumbling
I’ve begun to preach another king
Loosing chains and breaking down the walls
I want to hear the Father when He calls

He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
Such a time as this

This is the anthem of our generation
Here we are God, shake our nation
All we need is your love
You captivate me

This is the anthem of our generation
Here we are God, shake our nation
All we need is your love
You captivate me

This is the anthem of our generation
Here we are God, shake our nation
All we need is your love
You captivate me

I am royalty, I have destiny
I have been set free, I’m gonna shake history
I’m gonna change the world

Unity in Diversity?

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The pictures above are displayed above the proscenium at the San Diego House of Blues, with “Unity in Diversity” written beneath and “All Are One” above.

Certainly, all are not one.

From the little I know about world religions, pretty much all the major ones are symbolically depicted. There’s Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Brahmanism, Islam, and several other isms I didn’t recognize.

Unity in Diversity. All are one.

I’m not sure what they’re trying to get at with that, but I’m going to go ahead and call BS on the slogans.

Diversity in the symbols depicted, certainly. There’s yin/yang, the star and crescent of Islam, and many other statues and symbols except 1.

I didn’t see a cross.

Considering the rubber stamp political correctness that’s become ubiquitous these days, the lack of representation for Protestant Christianity is perhaps understandable.

Jesus has become persona non grata for much of the world, and representing the instrument of His death and mankind’s hope in a place where secular and sometimes even evil music shakes the roof on an almost daily basis could be seen as ***gasp*** favoring mainstream Christianity.

It was interesting because while diversity and “tolerance” was proclaimed from the proscenium, the message of Christ was fearlessly proclaimed from the stage. First, by opening act Jake Hamilton.

Followed by headliner Jeremy Camp, who turned a very unlikely place and a few hundred strangers into a church service (no video for his set. I was busy worshipping).

It was a great and amazing evening, and the whole point of writing this is simply to say I am continually blown away when I see firsthand how God can use anyone at any time.

During the pre-show Q&A and meet-and-greet, Jeremy Camp was humble, and kind, and very funny. He answered everyone’s questions honestly and straightforwardly, even taking time to lay hands on a young man and pray for healing for him.

The music was great, and the word was proclaimed. During Overcome, Jeremy even had hundreds of strangers link raised hands in praise to the one who’s worthy.

The smartest and best thing Camp said came toward the end of the evening, when he had very little voice left. He looked out over the crowded floor and said “the best thing I can tell you is ‘read your bibles.'”

Simple advice, perhaps. But also the best thing we can do in a world where diversity and “tolerance” are valued far more than the sacrifice of an obscure Nazarene carpenter.

Hear o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

You can think what you want about diversity, and Christianity, and political correctness, but you will still be just as lost if you fall for that “all is one” nonsense.

All are not one.

You can serve God or not.

If not, you’d best be prepared to face the consequences.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Prone to Wander

Jon Acuff had a great post yesterday on his blog about why people think Christians are fake. Check it out and then come back.

Ok, good. You’re back.

In his piece, Acuff talks about a worship leader changing the words to “Come Thou Fount” when he performs it. I agree with Acuff’s point in the post. The words this leader changes are in my opinion a beautiful description of a sinner that knows where they’ll be given their natural proclivities, and offers what matters most to the God he loves to hopefully mitigate his chance of wandering.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above

Like Mr Acuff, I would love to be able to say that when I became a Christian, I stopped making mistakes. It would be great if I could say that with the advent of Christ in my life came the departure of sin, but that isn’t what happened at all.

Rather, I still mess up. All the time. I get angry, or sometimes lustful. Or maybe I curse, or use the Lord’s name in a way it was never intended. Sometimes I am neither loving nor helpful to the least of these.

And I doubt, and wander.

But I love God, and I acknowledge that only through he can my heart be sealed from it’s natural proclivities.

So when people do things like change lyrics or words because they feel it indicates a more positive message or maybe because they feel they don’t wander anymore, it conveys the message that with God comes an absence of struggle with the things of earth.

That’s not true, and people need to hear that. So that when they still want to do dumb stuff after beginning a relationship with Christ they don’t just think they’re doing something wrong and walk away from the only thing that can deliver them.

I think we need to be real with our worship and our testimony. Heck, sometimes when you’re a leader, the song is your testimony.

Pretty pictures of a life without struggle don’t show Jesus to people. If I wanted that I’d move to Texas and hang out with Joel Osteen.

We need to show people there is hope for deliverance. We do that with honesty about our lives. We share in the struggle. We let people who don’t know Jesus (and also people who do) know they aren’t alone in their tendency to wander. All have sinned and fallen short.

I know I have.

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace

Oatmeal, Enemies, and Morning Catharsis

The bible clearly has a lot of instruction about how we’re supposed to treat people, and lead our lives in such a way we can represent Christ to those who don’t know him and have not heard the good news.

My problem is that I want those people to be nice. That often isn’t the case. There’s a great many red letters in my Life Application Study Bible detailing what we can expect to face from people when we share Christ with them.

Persecution, hatred, even death.

I don’t want to be persecuted. I want to be welcomed. I want to talk about God with people who already know how awesome He is. I don’t want to defend my faith, and I don’t want to turn any cheeks.

I want to hit people back. I want to go “Chuck Norris” on my enemies.

Scripture tells me I can’t. This morning I read Proverbs 25: 21-22 while I was eating my oatmeal, and I didn’t like it.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals in his head, and the Lord will reward you.

The first thing I thought about was why the heck should I do that for my enemy? And while I might not have any personal enemies, certainly it could be argued that as Christians there are a great many people who hate us for believing in something besides ourselves and trying to lead our lives so they demonstrate that.

Certainly today’s social and political climate in the United States is a vivid demonstration of how a great many people feel about Christians and what they stand for, or perhaps “stand against” would be more apt.

That’s neither here nor there.

To my mind, what it’s about is a human response to an affront vs a Godly response.

We are not God. We are people, and our human nature is to respond like to like. So if someone cuts me off (or flips me off) in traffic, I want to make sure I “get them back” in some way, even if that involves a raised finger of my own or a few shouted words.

If someone insults me, my family, or my faith, I want to respond in kind. I want to out-protest their protest. I want to make them look like idiots because they tried to make me look like one.

Jesus tells me I can’t do that. His Godly nature demonstrates how lacking in grace my human nature is.

It is solely through his presence–his inhabitation–that I can show any grace at all.

Because I have been shown grace, I can be graceful.

Because I have been shown mercy, I can be merciful.

Because I have been shown love, I can be loving.

The trick is, it’s more important I show these things to enemies than friends. My family and friends already know they are loved.

Enemies being enemies, they expect a certain response to their actions. Unfortunately, we often give them what they’ve come to expect from us. It’s in our nature.

With God’s nature, we suddenly have the ability to respond how they do not expect.

That changes everything. In my opinion, it is difficult to respond to love with hate.

Unfortunately, it’s also hard to respond to hate with love.

Yet as we progress through a season of changing political and religious tolerances, it seems clear that unless we change something, entropy isn’t just going to be a concept we learn about in high school.

We’re going to destroy ourselves.

It’s not too late to seek harmony instead of entropy.

It’s not too late to respond to hate and persecution with love.

It’s not too late too late to look at the person in the mirror and ask them if they truly know God and care about His will for their life.

It’s not too late to manifest that will for our lives in our lives.

So the next time you’re confronted with hate, or prejudice, or persecution, try and respond with love.

They won’t expect it, and you’ll heap burning coals on their head.

Live Blogging Revelation Song

1715 MST. It’s interesting to sit here with the sanctuary empty except for the worship band and myself and listen to the practice.

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There’s so much more intimacy. It’s as if the worship service is just for me.

1717 MST As I type this, they’re playing “Revelation Song” and I can hear my wife’s lovely voice rising to heaven, singing “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

It occurs to me that praises sung to God with 1 person in the audience are every bit as much heard as if there were 500.

“You are my everything, and I will adore you…”

They’re singing about Jesus, but they’re singing to me. I’m sitting her almost shuddering with anticipation of what the service will hold tonight.

1720 MST Practice continues…”I Cry Out Your Name”

Mad Blood Stirring

It didn’t surprise me when Chik-fil-a executive Don Cathy remarked that the company he works for supports a biblical view of marriage. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone. It is common knowledge Chik-fil-a is a privately owned, Christian-ran company. They close on Sunday so their employees can attend church–if they choose.

I think that’s great. I worked in the fast food industry for some time, and would have appreciated the day off. That’s neither here nor there, though.

What did surprise me about what has now become known as the “Chik-fil-a controversy” is the shit storm Cathy’s remarks generated, though I suppose that shouldn’t have surprised me, either.

It didn’t seem to matter to anyone that Cathy did not seek a forum to air his views. He simply responded to a question, without any particular animosity or hatred toward homosexuals or anyone else.

Then the LGBT community and those who support them completely lost their minds and started screaming hatred and intolerance from every rooftop they could get a foothold on.

The man just answered a question.

Let me also say I agree with Mr Cathy and also believe in a traditional and biblical view of marriage. Call me whatever you’d like.

That said, after boycotts were threatened and many harsh words were spoken in the name of tolerance, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee waded into the fray by organizing what he called “Chik-fil-a Appreciation Day.” I was all for that. I thought then (and do now) that Cathy has every right in the world to his own opinions, and every right to express them in answer to a question.

Opinions aren’t against the law.

Opinions are in a sense protected by the law, as are those who voice them.

So a great many people turned out for Chik-fil-a Appreciation day, and drive throughs and dining rooms were all choked with customers, presumably most in agreement with Cathy regarding gay marriage. It was a huge success, and probably several large white feathers in Mike Huckabee’s cap.

I probably would have went myself if there was a Chik-fil-a in Yuma. Instead I took the boys to Carl’s Jr.

But anyway.

I was sitting at in the cafe area at church yesterday trying to pretend there were not donuts only a few short steps away when I started thinking about how Christians really did seem to be thought of negatively these days, and more conservatively held religious and political views often at the least mocked and/or ridiculed, and those who voice them branded as intolerant.

Nothing worse than being intolerant these days. To me, being tolerant of something either means to ignore it or support it. There are things that can be ignored, and other things that can’t.

To someone that professes Christ, we cannot ignore the fact that we live in a fallen world that in many cases holds no love for us. We are called to recognize sin when we see it, while we are also aware of the sin that lives in us at the same time. Christ’s propitiation on our behalves is the only thing that can save us both from it and it’s due penalty.

We are meant to call out the goodness in people by sharing with them the good news of Christ. Part of doing that is pointing out that there is a cost to living a Godly life, and part of that is turning away from sin. The bible is clear on what is sin and what is not.

Often (and probably in this case) people focus too deeply on this sin (homosexuality) they do not struggle with, to the extent they feel justified in overlooking a myriad of other sins.

Make no mistake, the bible is clear homosexuality is sin. It doesn’t matter how commonplace it is, or how much society at large has grown to accept it. We can be as progressive as we want in our faith, and we can call things whatever we want.

We can’t change the truth of scripture.

And while I was trying to avoid donuts yesterday, God pointed out a couple of truths to me; convicted me of them in fact.

No matter what Huckabee and the participants called it, the Day of Appreciation was a protest. The motive, in a sense, did not (and does not) matter.

That day was sort of a middle finger to those who try to silence the viewpoint of the average Christian through slander, and ridicule, even intolerance (because tolerance only extends as far as viewpoints that agree with the status quo).

God is very clear this is something we are not to do.

He tells us what we will face if we follow Him. He warns us about it.

“If the world hates you, it hated me first…(John 15:18-21)

See also Matthew 10: 16-20, Matthew 5:10-12

He consoles us with Romans 8:16-18, and 35-39.

Never, anywhere, does God tell us to flip the bird to sinners, and tell them they can’t put us down. He also tells us what we are to do in response to hatred and persecution:

“but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you in the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matt 5:39

Or

“do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Lev 19:18.

I don’t really think you can get much more specific than that. And it’s important to note Chik-fil-a did not instigate any protest, and even went so far as to hand out free water to protestors.

But people still protested, on both sides of this particularly ugly coin. No one wants to feel marginalized, or to have their thoughts, beliefs and worldview mocked and ridiculed.

But Jesus told us it was coming. I think it has come.

I think worse is coming.

I know we have clear instructions as to what we should do.

We should pray for those who persecute us.

And as odious as it might be, as unjust as it might be, we must turn the other cheek, and not seek revenge or retribution.

The world is not friendly to righteousness. It never has been. Sometimes I feel the world has gone completely mad, and as Shakespeare pointed out, “The day is hot, the Capulets are abroad, and if we meet we shall not escape a brawl. For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” (Romeo & Juliet Act III, scene I)

Indeed it is. And we must prepare for it to get worse.

Controversy: It’s not just about chicken

Over the last couple years, there has arguably been no more contentious topic than that of homosexuals and marriage. There were propositions, proposed amendments to the constitutions, protests, boycotts, and much shouting from rooftops from both perceived “sides” of the situation.

Many of the people leaning a little more to the left side of things decry the views of those with a more conservative view of things as archaic and hopelessly out of date. A First century viewpoint on a 21st century issue.

What is typically thought of as the “Christian Right” has been particularly vilified in this regard by the mainstream media as being intolerant to a lifestyle that is now universally accepted by most people.

I wondered how true that was? What about other religions? If Christianity is the chief assailant on homosexual rights then other major religions probably support them, don’t they?

What does Islam say about homosexuality, and by extension gay marriage?

Do they support it?

Not so much. I wonder what would happen if an imam commented against gay marriage? Actually, Louis Farrakhan referred to President Obama’s public approval of gay marriage as “sanctioning what the scriptures forbid.”

Ok…what about Judaism? What does Jewish scripture have to say?

Obviously, the same thing the Christian bible does.

Where does that leave us? With the knowledge that many people of different faiths neither approve of homosexuality and hold it sinless, nor recognize homosexual “marriages” as legitimate unions.

Having said that, I know that at least most Christians that I know who do not recognize gay marriage also do not deny homosexuals in domestic partnerships should be granted the same legal rights as hetero couples who marry.

My point in all of this is not to condemn homosexuals or deny them any basic human rights. I am just pointing out that many people from many walks of life and religions share the beliefs of Christians regarding this extremely volatile issue.

No one is commenting on that. I haven’t seen anything in the clearly very biased media. What I have seen lately is an executive from a privately owned and privately governed, publicly and admittedly Christian principled company being asked a question and giving an answer that should have surprised no one.

Following that answer, this executive has been vilified to the nth degree. Boycotts have been threatened and licensing for new franchises has been threatened.

All by people screaming about tolerance at the top of their lungs, while at the same time practicing their own special brand of intolerance and prejudice.

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking “come, Jesus, come” more than once.
A friend pointed out 2 Timothy 3 to me not long ago regarding the Aurora shootings, but I think it applies here, too. I’d list it below, but I’m writing this on my iPhone.

Go look it up.

Done? Ok. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me how people react to biblical values, when they’re expressed plainly.

The bible is nothing if not clear about what God calls sinful, or lawful, for that matter. Call me whatever you like.

Images

I saw an image today that captivated me. Carlos Whittaker had a great post the other day referencing a picture from the People of the Second Chance website. Go read it.

Ok. If you haven’t looked at it or read the blog, it shows a kind of scruffy young man in his mid twenties looking into a mirror and carving “f—up” into his neck.

A shocking image without question. In his article, Whittaker talks a little bit about his past. He says he’s had moments where he looked in the mirror and saw that exact image.

I know what he means.

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That image is how I look right now, this very minute. Yet I am not defined by it. You might look at it and think it tells you something about who I am, and that is only partially true.

I look at that picture–or in a mirror for that matter–and I sometimes see the same thing the scruffy young man did. Like Whittaker, I have thought that word

F—up

and much worse about myself over the course of my life. It is only through the intercession of Christ that I know differently. His truth supersedes any lie I might believe about who I am based on how I perceive myself or how others perceive me.

I am not defined by the things I’ve done or that have been done to me.

I am defined by the life, death, and resurrection of a first century Nazarane carpenter.

So when I look in the mirror and see

F—up

Loser

Idiot

Douchebag

Or something worse, the truth is that over those images is the face of Jesus.

His image is greater than any mask we might wear for a time.

His truth is greater than any lie, greater than any label. So before I pass judgement on myself or anyone else, I need to consider the actions of Jesus, taken on my behalf.

And on the behalf of whomever I might consider passing judgement.