welcome to the revolution

Category : God, R3, barbarian, faith, living a life of faith, revolutionary, taking action

……….

Revolution.  That’s a big theme around R3.  In fact, that concept is a core part of what drives R3 (hence the line: radical, revolutionary, different).  Being a revolutionary is part of what it means to live out a life of faith.  Why am I talking about all of this?  Because I am preparing to teach a new community group called Welcome to the Revolution.  The class is based on the book written by Brian Tome.  The book version of Welcome to the Revolution focuses on what it means to live out a life of faith as a new believer.  The class I am teaching condenses these ideas into a six week period.

Because this is such an important topic to me, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to teach.

As I was preparing for the class I began to think about how you define a Revolution.  What makes something revolutionary?  What are the key components of a revolution?  At the very core, what does a revolution look like?  What does it mean?

As I thought about it, three concepts came to mind.

  1. Revolutions are all about doing things differently.
  2. Revolutions are about action.
  3. Revolutions are hard.

While there are many different ways to describe a revolution, it’s these three things that define a revolution.  Especially the Kingdom revolution.

Revolution = different.  If things are working perfectly in your life you don’t need a revolution.  If your government is doing the will of the people, you don’t need a political revolution.  If you’re ok making your clothes by hand you don’t need an industrial revolution.  If you’re content writing using only pen and paper you don’t need a technological revolution.  But if everything isn’t perfect, then maybe it’s time to do things differently.  Maybe what’s needed is a revolution.

Revolution = action.  There isn’t time off in a revolution.  You don’t go to commercial break.  You can’t call “time out” so you can go get a drink of water.  Revolutions are 24/7.  That doesn’t mean there will be “fighting” all the time, but it does mean you are always on duty.  You never know when the next battle will be fought, and if you aren’t ready, you’ll find yourself quickly defeated (metaphorically, spiritually, and perhaps even literally).

Revolution = hard.  If someone told you a revolution was easy…they are lying.  Changing things is never easy.  This is especially true with the Kingdom revolution.  The more headway you make the harder it gets, the bigger the challenges, and often, the more it costs.

If you aren’t willing to accept these costs then your revolution will fail.  In the physical world this means that your idea won’t catch on.  Or your political movement will die out.  It will mean that change doesn’t happen and the status quo remains.  In the spiritual world it means your faith will falter, your trust in God will fail, and you’ll find yourself in a very dark and lonely place.

That’s the trade-off with a revolution.  You can change the world, or you can fall in defeat.  Revolutions aren’t half way affairs.  You are either winning a revolution or losing a revolution.  But the pay-off for being a successful revolutionary is amazing. Despite the danger, despite the cost, the Kingdom revolution is worth it.  Which is why I encourage you to seek out revolution in your life.

Become a revolutionary!  Change the world!

religious group protests video game

Category : barbarian, humor, living a life of faith

……….

Well sort of.

“The fake religious protesters passed out pamphlets and held up picket signs with messages such as ‘Hell is not a Video Game‘ and ‘Trade in Your PlayStation for a PrayStation.’”

Apparently Electronic Arts (the makers of Madden as well as many other video games) hired a viral marketing firm to promote their upcoming Dante’s Inferno video game.  To do this, the marketing firm hired a bunch of “protestors” and gave them Christian-sounding slogans.

The only thing that makes this a potentially successful viral marketing ad is that there are enough “religious” protesters out there chanting similarly stupid slogans.  I don’t believe the Kingdom advances through protests of video games.  The kingdom advances when local churches (and Christians) build into their communities.  When we become integral to the health and well being of a community, that’s when people’s hearts and minds are changed.

Trying to shock people into believing never works.  All it does is get you mocked.

job and the job-less

1

Category : God, Job, barbarian, faith

……….

The book of Job is perhaps my least favorite book in the Bible.  It speaks so much truth that it’s painful to read.  It’s essentially a story about a guy who lives life by the book.  He gets up on time.  He brushes his teeth.  He probably even flosses.  Yet his life falls completely apart.  He loses his family, his wealth, and even his health.  He has nothing but his relationship with God, and even that begins to teeter toward the end.

The point of Job is this – sometimes the chaos and destruction in your life isn’t your fault.  You may be doing all the right things.  Making all the right choices.  But things beyond your control are determining the outcome.

This really struck me as I’m still looking for a job.  I’ve been looking for a job, in one format of another, for almost a full year.  I’ve applied to dozens of positions, interviewed at a few, got to the last steps in a few more, and still nothing.  I’ve always been a “successful” guy, well educated, blah blah blah.  So this failure has been hard.

Yet not so nearly as hard as when friends and well-intentioned people say, “you haven’t found a job yet?!”  As if there’s some huge magical supply of jobs sitting out there right now.

These comments are always meant to encourage, and they are meant to be supportive.  But to me they remind me of my failure.  Job’s friends meant to encourage him too.  They sat there when everyone else abandoned him.  But eventually they turned on him, wondering “what is his problem?”

That doubt seeped in Job’s life.  He began to wonder what his problem was as well.

The truth was – nothing.

Nothing was wrong with Job’s life.  Job’s life fell apart because of events outside of his control.  God had allowed it to happen, in part, to teach us that failure isn’t always because we’ve sinned.  Sometimes the reason we fail is because the world is fallen and broken.

Maybe my joblessness is my own fault.  Maybe I need to be working harder to find a position.  That’s a possibility.  Or maybe there’s something else going on.  Maybe something spiritual is occurring.

Of course none of this changes how I should react.  If I need to work harder to find a job the best thing I can do is lean into God and trust him.  If this is some form of spiritual warfare, the best thing I can do is lean into God and trust him.

To live a life of faith, I must do the same thing regardless of the specifics.  That’s just how it is sometimes.

On the flip side, if you have a friend who’s in trouble, offer them support.  Offer them some constructive criticism if that’s what’s needed (sometimes it is!).  But don’t forget to focus on the warfare side.  Some things are beyond our control and the best thing you can do is fight with them.

the pope, nazis, and Israel

Category : Jesus, barbarian, bible, different, living a life of faith, sin

……….

This week the Pope is in Israel.  Surrounded by history, tension, politics and controversy.  But no lions and tigers and bears.

I rarely talk about current events for one reason – when you live a life of faith current events don’t matter.  This isn’t because current events aren’t important.  They are.  Or that current events can’t affect you.  They can.  It’s because living a life of faith is about following principles not trends.  If you stay true to what the Bible teaches you will be able to live a life of faith in any time, in any situation, under any circumstances.  The more you leave that path, the harder it becomes.  The more you will fall.

So while current events may be important, they aren’t always relevant to living out a life of faith.  But sometimes current events help to highlight themes.  They can show just how challenging Jesus’ teachings are because we have invested emotion in current events.  These topics become “very real” to us.

I think the Pope’s visit to Israel is one of those situations.  The primary controversy surrounding the Pope is the fact that he may (or may not have been) part of the Hitler Youth.  Because of this, some people are questioning his speech to the Jews in Israel.  And his support of a Palestinian state.

I have no idea if the current Pope was a member of the Hitler Youth.  I have no idea if he believed in the Nazi teachings when he was a kid or if he was forced into service.  In a dictatorship you hardly get to say “no”.  And before anyone starts saying, “he should have said ‘no’ anyway” think about your own life.  Do you have the courage to face the consequences like that?  Most of us, myself included, probably lack the courage.

God redeems each of us, no matter what horrible things we've done in the past.

But this isn’t the 1940’s.  It’s an entirely new situation, with presumably an entirely new person.  When you enter into a relationship with God, he transforms who you were into something new.  Even if that starting point was from the Hitler Youth.  That’s the whole point of baptisms and being “born again”.  This is why Paul said, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  God redeems each of us, no matter what horrible things we’ve done in the past.

I believe the Pope should own up to his involvement (or non involvement) in the Hitler Youth.  Doing so wouldn’t weaken his position – it would make it stronger.  It would show how a powerful God takes someone from the hate of Nazism to the love of Christ.  It would put him in the company of David (murderer and adulterer) and Paul (chief of all sinners).  Plus, as I mentioned, there is this whole “no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” thing.

Of course this isn’t the approach the Pope’s handlers are taking.

The Vatican has said he “had ‘never, never, never’ been in the Hitler Youth.”  Of course that “never, never, never” statement didn’t last long.  Because in a day of internet it’s easy to find out that the Pope had written about his time in the Hitler Youth.

Oops.

Now as I said, it’s entirely possible that the Pope was forced into the Hitler Youth.  Hitler wasn’t exactly a nice guy.  But every time the Vatican spokesman has to back off a quote it reeks of political maneuvering.  It makes it feel like the church is playing politics.  Something that should never happen.

I say, so what if the pope was associated with the Hitler Youth.  I say if the Pope has repented, then it doesn’t matter.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  We all have dark sins.  We all have hatred toward someone.  If we didn’t we wouldn’t need Jesus.  But we are all fallen.  It’s time to forgive our enemies and move on.  Harder to do than say, I know.  But that’s the model Jesus left us, and the model we need to live out.

The world is looking to destroy the church.  It desperately wants to live in a secularized society, devoid of consequences and responsibility.  The world wants to push people of faith out of the way.  Why must we be so unChristian and give them easy opportunities to ignore our message of grace, love, and hope?  Why must we look more like politicians than Jesus?  Why can’t we just say we’re horribly fallen people in need of a merciful God?  Why can’t we say, “yes I was forced to be a Nazi, and I’m sorry.  Let me support you now.”?  Why can’t we let the fact there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus be enough?

Repentance frees us from the guilt of sin in God’s eyes.  Maybe it should free us from the guilt in man’s eyes too.

did Jesus come to create a religion?

1

Category : Exodus, Jesus, barbarian, bible, different, love

……….

God spent a lot of time explaining every detail he wanted in his home with the Israelites.  He didn’t leave much to the imagination or ask us to do “whatever works.”  God had a very specific plan in mind for his home, and the people who would be directly interacting with it.

Interestingly Jesus didn’t do this.  Jesus was messy.

There wasn’t a lot of formality around how to approach him.  There wasn’t a lot of people wearing only certain types of clothing.  Or saying certain types of things.  In fact, Jesus constantly had people touching him who were “ceremonially unclean,” meaning people who couldn’t enter God’s presence.  And yet he didn’t do anything but love them.

Sometimes you hear people say that Jesus meant to create a religion.  But I don’t buy that.  I think Jesus came to establish a relationship with us.  This is why he always loved the people who needed it, and why the New Testament isn’t filled with rules on how to establish a physical church.  Jesus went out of his way to break social conventions in order to build relationships.

Relationships are messy.  Religion is organized.  Relationships have sacrifice, love, compassion.  Religions have rules, structure, bureaucracies.

What would Christianity look like if we were more interested in showing that same love, and less interested in showing religious protocol?  How would your life be different if local churches worked to create a relationship with God and not to create a religion?

question of the day: are you a failure

Category : God, barbarian, different, question of the day

……….

The world constantly tells us we are failures.  From commercials to “shock jocks” we’re told without their products, without their input, we can’t make it.  From rankings and ratings of every kind to the let-me-see-how-loud-I-can-shout-on-TV programs, we are told we don’t measure up.

We are told we need to do more.

Be more.

Achieve more.

But…if God loves you, can you be a failure?  If God loves you, and gave his one and only son for you, can you be without worth?

I say you can’t.  I say you have unsurpassing worth.  And so does God.

living out a life of urgency

Category : barbarian, faith, living a life of faith, taking action

 

God asks us to live with urgency.  But what makes up that urgency?  How do we get there?  Why should we be urgent?  Is this just another way to get me to volunteer?

Those were some of the questions that went through my mind as I thought about this issue.  Especially that last question.  But when I think about life two realities strike me.  

1.)  We only have so much time to live. 

Even the longest lives last only 90 or 100 years.  In the grand scheme of things, that’s just not much time.  Our lives are a blink of an eye compared to trees, the planet, or Spam.  And as morbid as this may sound, many of us won’t make it that long.  We constantly tell ourselves “I’ll get to it tomorrow.”  But we can’t predict the future.  We can’t be sure there’s a “tomorrow”, let alone a “future!”  If you want to live urgently, don’t count on being able to do things years from now.  Do things now. 

2.)  The desperate need of people.

At any given moment there are people in desperate need of a loving God.  They are also in desperate need of another human showing them just what it means to live out a life of faith.  They don’t want theories or theology.  They don’t want empty promises or distant gestures.  What they want is to know God is real, and that he hasn’t forgotten them.  When we don’t act, people suffer, often alone.  As much as I love my freedom, my individuality, there may be nothing more terrifying than suffering alone.  The more I think about this, the more I feel a sense of urgency.  I don’t want my inaction to be why someone suffered alone. 

How you can live life with urgency:

  • Find a way to help someone achieve their dream
  • Invite someone out for a drink, even if it’s just coffee
  • Talk to someone this week who thinks you don’t like them
  • Buy dinner for a friend
  • Listen, really listen, when people are talking to you

Advancing the kingdom, living life with urgency, living a life of faith, aren’t always big things.  We don’t always need to give tons of money or move to Africa.  Sometimes it’s just enough to be there now and to be engaged.

upside down kingdom

Category : barbarian, different, faith, taking action

 

Sometimes the Bible scares me. 

I try and pretend I don’t understand, but deep down I do.  I know all too well that the Bible is clearly teaching a message I don’t want to hear.  In the book Titus, Paul says, “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

That does not make me feel comfortable!  That’s such a dangerous statement.  If slaves must be obedient, pleasing, and trustworthy toward their owners, how much more must I be?

God calls Christians to an unbelievably high standard.  We are called to be set apart, to live differently, or as Erwin McManus says, to The Barbarian Way

We’re called to live this way in every area of our life.  Not just an hour or two on the weekend.  Which is why I found it interesting that I came across two sports stories in the same week. 

1. Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School

2. Covenant vs. Dallas Academy

Each story had one team from a Christian school.  But the endings were miles apart.  Grapevine demonstrated Christ-like love to Gainesville by cheering for them.  Why?  Because Gainesville is a prison.  They had no one to cheer for them.  They had no family or friends on the sideline.  They don’t even have freedom.  Yet Grapevine Faith created a moment of love for kids who may have never experienced that type of love before.

Covenant on the other hand destroyed Dallas Academy by 100-0.  Is there anything wrong with that?  Maybe not.  But can you imagine Jesus running up the score on a bunch of kids?  Neither can I. 

Compare that with what one kid from Gainesville State School said, “everything about it was upside down.”  Do you think anyone is saying that from Dallas Academy?  We don’t like to say things like this – but was God glorified in any way by running up the score?  Did it teach anyone anything about who he was?

Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and make poor choices.  It happens.  And we must learn to live with our failure and move forward.  God’s Kingdom is an upside down Kingdom.  Our lives should be upside down too.

 

suffering: a hard lesson

Category : barbarian, faith, fear, hope

 

Israel spent a long time (500 years or so) suffering in Babylon.  Perhaps the one thing that they learned, perhaps even the main reason for the suffering in the first place, was to learn that there was only one God. 

In other words, they became monotheistic.

Now this may not seem like a big deal, but Israel really struggled with this idea that Yahweh (God) was the “one true God”.  They kept getting distracted by all the other religions around them.  They couldn’t learn that lesson while Moses was leading them.  They didn’t learn it during the period of Judges.  They couldn’t really even grasp it under David and Solomon.

It took 500 years of captivity, punishment, and slavery before they finally learned that there was only one God.  We live in a safety first world.  We can’t even imagine the need for suffering.  We can’t even conceive that suffering might be useful.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think God causes suffering.  I don’t think he wanted Israel to go through 500 years of exile.  I don’t think he wants us to have to suffer.  But because we have free will, I believe God has to let these things happen.

G.K. Chesterton once said that it wasn’t suffering that caused meaninglessness, it was too much pleasure.

We live in a world where all of your pleasures, no matter what they are, can be met.  And yet, we also seem to live in a world that is overrun in hopelessness.  Could part of the reason be that we focus completely on pleasure, and never take time to seize the opportunities suffering presents?

The Bible is filled with people who suffered, yet found meaning.  And I think if we look at our own lives, we’d find that same pattern.  Sometimes, just like it was for Israel, suffering is not only informative, it’s necessary.

thanks giving: suffering

1

Category : CS Lewis, God, Jesus, Paul, barbarian, faith, fear, hope

 

As I alluded to in the post yesterday, I am thankful for suffering.  I know it sounds strange to say that.  Frankly it seems weird to type it.  But almost everything I treasure has come through suffering, including R3. 

We all want our lives to be easy and convenient.  I think this is especially true in America, where we are used to having everything within minutes, if not seconds.  But no one escapes suffering.  Not even God.  Which leads me to believe that maybe suffering isn’t something to be avoided, it’s something to learn from.

God has a way of taking what the world means for evil and flipping it on it’s head.  In the Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch thinks she wins by killing Aslan, the Lion.  But she couldn’t be further from the truth.  The suffering, and death of Aslan (a stand in for Jesus) was the exact thing that ends up destroying the evil of the White Witch.  In the book, CS Lewis describes Aslan’s return like this,

“…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know.  Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time.  But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there ad different incantation.  She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.” (Chronicles of Narnia, p.160)

Without suffering the White Witch never would have been defeated.  Without suffering you and I never would have been saved.  Without suffering countless miracles never could have occurred.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t look forward to it.  I am not happy about it.  I wouldn’t want to give up a Friday at the movies for malaria.  But I’m learning that sometimes the best teacher is suffering.  And I am willing to do anything that draws me closer to God. 

Because of all of that, I am thankful for suffering