“He’d be such a GREAT Christian”

I’ve heard it over and over as long as I’ve been in the church. 

“Man, could you imagine what would happen if <> became a Christian.  They have so much influence and don’t you know that the youths really listen to them.”

I’ve always hated that line of thinking.

One, because it’s an absolute lie.  We make the failed assumption that their influence is inherent within them.  But we know that’s not true.  Influence remains only as long as contemporary culture says they are relevant. And relevance is measured by the ability to cater to particular appetites.  Those are surrendered rather quickly once someone identifies publicly with Jesus.

It seems we’ve convinced ourselves that the reason that the world doesn’t love our videos, and movies, and music, and books is because of our production values.  If we could only be slicker, sharper, edgier, whatever they would give us their undivided attention. 

The truth is our culture only celebrates and gives attention to those things that feed their desires.  In a world carnally driven, the Spirit is not a hot commodity.

The other reason is because it’s a cop out.  The subtle undertone to this train of thought is that we are waiting for someone to show up and make a difference.  We need someone to take the reins and reach the world. 

We all to ready to wait for a white knight to ride to the rescue than we are to be the white knight ourselves. 

We’ve resigned ourselves to the thinking that programs, events, special services and meetings will make the difference in the world of those around us.

Imagine what could happen if we became great Christians…

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Give Victory a Chance

An amazing thing happened this past weekend.  It helps if I set the stage a bit.

My family has never been accused of being particularly athletic.  The greatest accomplishment I ever experienced on the field of sport was with my high school marching band.

Now, people generally assume that a guy my size had to have played some kind of ball at some point in his life.  When asked what position I played in high school, the answer is always easy.  I played bass drum.

So, it was with a certain mix of trepidation, bemusement, and hope that I watched as my son began his first experience with organized football.  I am not one of those sport parents who imagines that their child is destined for a pro contract.  My interest is to present him with enough opportunities to discover what may or may not click with him.

All of that said, an amazing thing happened this past weekend.

His team won.  His team won and he played a big role in the success.  I saw the light in his head come on and saw him begin to understand the game and enjoy himself.

In watching him play, I was struck by a simple thought.

You can never know for sure that you don’t like something if you never experience a measure of success with it.  You owe it to yourself not to quit without first experiencing a taste of victory.

Sure, it’s easy enough to decide to stop when it’s hard and you don’t understand and it all seems pointless.  But only until you get to a place where you have pushed past the initial awkwardness and difficulty and experienced a little epiphany, you won’t be able to distinguish between your dissatisfaction with the activity/job/responsibility/role/etc and your apparent lack of success.

It may not be that you dislike what you are doing.  It may simply be that you have yet to see what it’s like when you are successful in it.

Give victory a chance.  Then decide if you want to quit or not.

Living with the Asterisk

The asterisk is the little guy in the corner who gives you your first warning that the statement you’ve just read may not be as simple as the statement you’ve just read. He is your gateway, your Looking Glass, into an entire world of fine print and legal jargon. All for the purpose of allowing two competing mindsets (marketing vs. legal) to occupy the same space.

Marketing wants to tell you all of the AMAZING things that will happen once you buy-consume-read-attend-clickon-watch-etcetera their item. Legal wants to tell you that it’s not their fault if it doesn’t really happen.

And, the reality is, whether we see it or not, we’ve all become accustomed to adding asterisks to what we see in our lives. We’ve been trained as consumers since we were small children to see between the lines of marketing and legal.

Remember, opening a Cracker Jacks box for the first time? There was a PRIZE inside!! OMG! Never once did I stop to think about what kind of prize could actually fit inside a Cracker Jacks box. All I knew was there was a PRIZE inside!! A prize that you couldn’t just go buy at the store. No, my friends, this was a prize that you could only find if you were fortunate enough to have the very same box of Cracker Jacks that I had. But you weren’t.

And opening it to discover the teeny baseball card, or tattoo, or whatever prize from the Island of Misfit Toys had found it’s way into my box left me a little deflated. But I knew from then on, I knew that Mr. Cracker Jack’s definition of prize and mine were not the same.

It becomes so easy to apply the same asterisk thinking to faith. Sure, we know that Jesus said to love your neighbor, to turn the other cheek. We know He said to take up crosses and follow Him. But, I mean, that’s not really what He meant, right? Where’s the legal fine print to tell us exactly what the terms and conditions of our love, sacrifice, and discipleship are?

We’ve read John 10:10 about Jesus offering us life and life more abundantly. To the full until it overflows. Or that God promises to heal, to save, and to redeem. But, surely, that’s just marketing talk to get me to become one more church consumer, right?

Maybe they didn’t have the asterisk in 6 AD.

Pulling Our Boats: When Culture and Technology Hinder

arctic-overview1I was watching PBS recently (as always) and saw a great episode of Nova titled “Arctic Passage“. It detailed the failed Franklin Polar Expedition from the 1850’s.

Outfitted with the best 19th century technology, Sir John Franklin set out on a journey to navigate a northwest passage through the Arctic waters north of Canada. It was a journey with a thousand horrible decisions and even worse outcome.

As the ships were crushed under the immense pressure of the surrounding ice, Franklin and his men decided to abandon them and set out on foot to safety. They were able to convert the dingys into sleds which they used to haul their gear and belongings. One of these sleds was actually recovered by archeologists.

What might you expect to find in a sled of polar explorers making their way overland to safety? How about brass buttons, button polisher, books, and silver plated silverware? Rather than focus on the things needed to survive in their new environment, they continued to hold on to the trappings of Victorian England. So much so, that archeologists estimate that each of the sleds weighed more than 1400 pounds.

But there fate was almost officially sealed before they even left port. Their choices of provisions reflect the popular tastes of the time, but were grossly unable to sustain the men in their time of need. Among the provisions were 9450 pounds of chocolate, 3684 gallons of concentrated spirits, 7088 pounds of tobacco. All things to be enjoyed and make life better, but not able to fuel a crew of men pulling 3/4 ton sleds across arctic wilderness.

If this was not bad enough, the literal killer was found in the technology that they thought would actually be their life saver. Included in the provisions were 33, 289 pounds of tinned meat. The revolutionary canning method would allow meats to be transported without spoiling and guarantee the men sustenance in the gravest of conditions. With one major drawback.

Forensic testing found that the men did not only die of exposure to the Arctic weather, but that most of the men were struck with severe lead poisoning. Studies proved that the food they had consumed had been tainted with lead. The lead came from the tinned meats.

The cans would be soldered closed and the soft metal used to seal the cans would taint the meat with lead. The men were already poisoned and sentenced to death before the ships were ever encased in ice.

I watched in amazement at the thought of trying to tackle foreign environments and situations from a traditional, cultural mindset. Sitting in London, the answers to their needs would be easy to solve. Faced with frostbite, scurvy, and lead poisoning, they quickly found that the culture of London did not translate to the Arctic.

It’s easy to scoff at the idea of dragging 1400 pound sleds full of novelties and trinkets across the frozen ground, but I wonder if we don’t often do the same thing? Why do we burden ourselves with so many needless weights when we are trying to survive in a new culture/environment?

How much of our own cultural irrelevance is found simply in the fact that we refuse to stop pulling our boats?

What are you waiting for?

Woke up with this question bouncing around my head this morning…

What are you waiting for?

As I was coming up in church there was always a sense that we were waiting on God to bring revival or to do something stupendous to that would be like flicking the first spiritual domino in a long chain of dominoes. Always hoping that we would be able to say “I was there!” when whatever hocus-pocus took place.

It was something that we all hoped for, but I’m not sure we really expected. Like Santa, the Easter Bunny, or Keiser Soze… But we continued to march in place wishing for it to come.

But that leads to the real thought I’ve been pondering…

We’ve never had to “wait for God” on things. It’s always been us. God has never held us back from advancing the kingdom or moving forward. It’s always been us, slouching towards greatness, but too afraid or weak to really try.

I don’t believe there has every been a time where we’ve been so pure and put together that we are simply at the starting gate waiting for God to arrive.

I believe God has great dreams for us and this world. But, let’s not naively think, that He is just biding His time. We are not waiting for the great “end-time revival”. We ARE the great “end-time revival”.

Permission and Mindset

Continuing some thoughts on permission and creating environments of innovation…

The “big news” of the weekend was Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama.  

I think there will be some Republicans who hear what the General has to say and will be influenced by it.  Certainly, some will join him and “convert”.  Not all, but some.

Colin Powell has broken the matrix.  He has stepped beyond what many dutiful Republicans see as very clear lines.  And in doing so, he has granted “permission” for others to do the same.

I believe that if you asked most people they would probably say they are pretty open minded.  We all like to think of ourselves as objective and logic based.

The reality, however, can be quite different.  

Most of us have constructed a mindset based on feelings, teaching, training and experience.  It is the feelings, teaching, training, and experience that create the boundaries of our thinking, and in fact, wall off our thinking.  

These walls often prove to be immovable and impenetrable.  Instead of confronting them, we shrink when we encounter them.  They act like mental bumpers. 

But very rarely, someone (or something) will come along.  Someone we have trusted or respected.  Someone we identified with and considered to be like us.  

And in viewing their journey beyond our carefully constructed walls, we will find freedom to think differently, believe differently, and live differently.

Their actions create permission that we grant ourselves to step into new possibilities.

Hello, my name is…

For the past nine months or so, I have been thinking and writing and talking to God about identity.  

Who am I?

Why am I?

You know, the basic existential questions that make up most teenage angst and mid-life crises.

The big question I have been asking is, “What am I using to define who I am?”  

I have come to the revelation that I am relying on other things for my identity outside of what God has done. 

And now those things are being peeled away.  Some by my hand.  Some not.  The things I have used to define myself are being removed.

Tumultuous and invigorating.  Terrifying and exhilirating.  

There are some big changes coming.  I will share them as I am able.

Meanwhile, I am discovering a whole new me.  

Anyone with me?