what if…the church led the way?

1

Category : barbarian, different, radical, revolutionary, taking action, worship

……….

What do spiders, silk and missionaries have in common?

For one missionary living in Madagascar in the late 1800’s they meant inventing a device to extract spider-silk from spiders, without hurting them.  While this invention didn’t go very far (it’s hard to get enough silk to work with) it has spurred modern inventors, who have now created a 2-pound rug out of spider-silk.

One of the things that I think the church (in general) has moved away from is leading society in the areas of science, art, and thinking.  Some of the greatest minds in history have been from the church.  For many years the church was the repository for knowledge.  It held the scholars, the educated, and the literate.  Much to our shame, the church used it’s knowledge to secure it’s position in society.  Which in turn held back literacy and education.

However, the church also did remarkable things.

What if the church led the way today?  What if we focused on giving back to society instead of changing it?  What if the church led scientific research?  What if the church was tops among inventors?  What if the church was the most innovative organization on the planet?  What if the church made a tangible, day-to-day, impact on everyone’s life?  What if the church didn’t just improve the spiritual well being, but also physical well being?

What if…

What if the church led the way?

Can you imagine the possibilities?

what if I had given everything?

1

Category : Jesus, Luke, hope, radical, revolutionary, trust

   

‘Cause I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

- Matthew West, The Motions

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to follow God.  Especially as we are hammered every day by bad news.  How do you follow God when you have no job, no money, no future?  How do you manage to live out a life of faith when your home or car is being repossessed?

There’s only one answer I can think of, and that’s being ”all in.” 

We can’t worship God half way.  If we’re to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, we can’t carry it just part way.  We can’t just say “I’m in it for the good times.”  Because when we take that approach, the minute bad things hit, we jump out and lose hope.

Jesus warned us to weigh the consequences of following him.  And I think he was serious.

He knew we could never withstand suffering if we haven’t fully committed to God.  If we’re holding onto the world, we’ll never be able to say “everything I have is yours”.  As long as we still crave what the world offers we know, deep down, we’re not being honest toward God.  Which is why our first reaction to bad news is anger towards him.  We’re upset he’s taken something that belongs to us.   

When we split our between the world and God, our focus always ends up on what makes us happy and healthy.  

When I look at passages like these, I don’t think God is trying to be harsh.  I don’t think Jesus was trying to scare people away when he said a follower must “hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life” (Luke 14: 26).  Jesus was trying to show the problems of having our focus on something other than God.  He wanted us to understand that we will never be able to handle life if we grasp him with one hand, but cling to the world with the other. 

Being a Christian is an all or nothing proposition. 

Until we’re willing to go “all in” we will never have the piece of mind that comes with trusting God.  We will never believe we’re really doing what God wants.  Because we will always crave something else.  It’s only when we learn to put God ahead of our families, our lives, and our comfort, that we can escape hopelessness.   

Knowing that we’ve given everything, instead of going through the motions” lets us withstand suffering.  It may even allow us to enjoy life in the midst of our problems.  But without giving everything, we have no chance when real suffering hits. 

Being “all in” is what puts this world into perspective. 

virtual church

Category : barbarian, love, radical, taking action

 

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with bad news.  Every day it seems like another problem crops up, or society takes another step away from following God.  And perhaps that’s true.  Perhaps today really is “worse” than yesterday.  But let me tell you a secret…

None of that matters.

God doesn’t call us to judge non-Christians.  He calls us to love them, and share our faith with him.  In a way, the more problems the world has, the more opportunities we have to share His message.  Now clearly a broken world is not a thing to rejoice over!  But we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves.  We have a mission to accomplish.

That’s what I love about organizations like LifeChurch.tv.  They saw a situation and instead of defining it as a “problem” they recognized a need.  This “need” was a lot of people, who probably don’t know God, in a game called Second Life.  So they bought some virtual land and built a virtual church. 

But they aren’t alone, Catholic missionaries are getting into the act.  And others are asking important questions

Now as much as I love video games, I’ve never played Second Life.  So I don’t know if these virtual churches are still open.  But that’s not really the point. 

What matters is that people recognized a need, and they acted.  Instead of treating the game as a problem, they saw it as an opportunity to share a life-changing message.

I wonder what things in my life I treat as a problem, instead of an opportunity to grow?

what are we here for?

Category : God, radical, taking action

   

Do you ever wonder what you’re here for?  I mean really wonder?

I think that’s one of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself.  Because the answer really changes the way you live your life.  If you’re here only for yourself, well you’re probably going to be selfish.  If you’re here just to make a lot of money, then you’re probably more likely to move the family for a new job.  Or pick a career with a higher earning potential than enjoyment factor. 

But what if you’re here because God has a plan for you?  What if you’re here because God wants you to change the world?  And what if you embrace that?

Kind of makes you look at your life differently, doesn’t it?

the dangers of following God

Category : God, bible, choice, radical, taking action

   

I often wonder if I would be willing to drop everything and follow God.  As I sit in the comfort of my home, surrounded by my things, I think, “of course I would!”  But would I?  Would I have the guts to follow God?

To be honest I’m afraid of what true surrender looks like.  I enjoy my stuff, and there are certainly days I can’t imagine giving them up.  It’s one thing to be a leader like Moses.  Someone who, in a sense, got fame and glory.  He was The Man.  But what if that wasn’t the mission God wanted to give you?  What would you do then?  Would you volunteer?

Because that’s what Isaiah did.

Isaiah was eager to obey God.  He didn’t even stop to ask who, what, when, where, or why.  He just said, “send me.”  It makes me wonder if Isaiah knew what he was getting in to.  Did he even care?

In some ways Isaiah ended up with the short end of the mission stick.  His job was to tell Israel they were going to be judged and punished.  Talk about a job description!  In fact, in my NIV Bible there are dozens of pages devoted Isaiah’s speeches dealing with Israel’s punishment. 

That’s my dilemma though.  I want to be obedient, but I also want an easy assignment.  I think that’s something most of us share in common.  We all want to do something noble and exciting with our lives.  We just don’t want it to cost too much.  We all want to be the leader, and none of us want to give up our lives to do the grunt work. 

No matter who we are, or what we believe, God will eventually ask us to do something radical and crazy.  He will ask us to be different, to stand out, to make a choice.  When God says, “whom shall I send?” I want to be like Isaiah and shout, “send me!” 

a sick woman and common sense

Category : Jesus, faith, hope, radical

   

“She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’” (Mark 5: 26-28)

   

I’ve seen this passage several times over the years and always thought of it as “just another miracle.”  But one day something new occurred to me: this woman rejected the logic of the world, for the reason of God.  She turned her back on common sense, and took a radical and dangerous step (being socially “unclean” as this woman was, and touching a “clean” man was a major deal, and she could have been in big trouble with the religious police).

The smart thing to do would be to continue with her treatments.  Even though the doctors had failed to heal her, at least she was trying something.  At least she was doing something.  But this woman recognized a truth that most people that day were missing.  She realized that there was something more to this world.  She knew there was something special about this Jesus guy.  She knew that doing exactly what the world prescribed to heal her was the worst course of action she could take. 

So she came up with this idea that if she just touched him, somehow brushed against him, that would be all she would need to be healed.

Think about that for a moment.  That’s completely ridiculous.  If all of the world’s medicine wasn’t helping, why would touching some guy?  But it did, and she was healed!  It wasn’t until she did this radical thing – trusting in Jesus – that she was finally cured.  Her faith, something not of this world, saved her.

How often do we follow the “common sense” path, even though it leads us to death?  How often do we latch onto an idea and refuse to let go, even when it’s painfully obvious that it’s not working?  Sometimes we need to make a radical decision.  Sometimes we need to be revolutionary in our approach, because what the world is telling us to do just isn’t working.

marrying a dog?

Category : Jesus, faith, radical, sin

   

Have you heard about the man in India marrying a dog?  Sounds pretty crazy, right?  Sounds like something you’d never do, right?  That’s what I thought until Thursday morning.  (And no, I didn’t find myself asking Lassie to marry me.)  You see, that guy believes that his actions can atone for the mistakes he’s made in his life.  And what he did to those dogs was pretty bad.  So a bad sin requires a major correction, right?  

When I first read about this story I thought about it from a Hindu perspective.  I figured if you believe people are reincarnated into all manner of things (including dogs), and you did something horrific to that dog, then that doesn’t bode well for you.  As they say, Karma’s a bitch.  Ok, I don’t know if anyone says that.  But maybe the should.

That was the framework I was using until I read Bob Hyatt’s blog.  His take fundamentally shifted how I look at this (and other) problems.  Hyatt said, “We find endless creative ways to atone for our own sins.”  How true.  So many of us, myself included, are trapped into this mentality that we need to earn our way into salvation.  That somehow what we do impacts how much God loves us.  And that can drive us to do strange things. 

For this man it meant he needed to find a way to make up for his mistakes.  And because he did something radical to the dogs, he believed a radical step was needed to fix the problem.  The irony here is that in a way he’s right.  A radical step is needed to atone for sin.  It’s just that Jesus was that radical step.  He took the hit for all of us.  He died so we don’t have to. 

Nothing we can ever do will atone for a sin we make.  There are no “do overs.”  There is only grace and forgiveness. Thank God (literally!) for that.

sneezing and the cross

Category : God, barbarian, radical

   

I’ve been fighting a nasty cold the last few days (hence the irregular updates for R3).  As I’ve been shuffling along with my achy muscles, taking medicine, and generally being miserable, I began to think about the cross.

That may sound like a strange train of thought, but bear with me for a moment.  Sometimes I have a tendency to gloss over what Jesus did for me.  “Yeah, yeah” I want to say, “I know he died for my sins.”  But, man, that’s such an understatement!  He didn’t just die – he died in a way that is possibly the most vicious method man has invented to kill someone.  God chose to die a painful, humiliating (crucification was for criminals), and slow death.  Just so we could be saved.

That’s all pretty shocking to think about, and it makes me a little uncomfortable.  Especially because I get pretty grumpy when I’m sick.  I tend to snap, and be rude towards people who are just trying to help me.  I tell myself that I’m not a ‘people person’ when I’m sick.  As if that somehow justifies my behavior.

So each time I’ve reached for my medicine I’ve been reminded that God suffered for me (and you).  And he did it without Tylenol.  The bottom line is my suffering is nothing compared to what he went through.  I don’t have much excuse for being mean while I’m sick if I want to follow the example God set.  If God loved us so much that he sacrificed his own son, then I can at least smile at people when I’m at the store picking up more Kleenex.

I believe God can use any circumstance to teach us something.  For me I now have a better appreciation for what God did for me.  So now, instead of being sick, I find I’m also grateful.  Grateful for God’s salvation, and grateful for modern chemistry! 

losing sight of God

Category : David, God, choice, radical

   

Have you ever had one of those days where you find yourself irritated at everything?  For me that day was yesterday.  It was as if the world was conspiring to test my patience.  Everything “seemed” to be going wrong, and yet, nothing bad actually happened.  Sure my plane was delayed (both of them).  Sure I missed lunch.  Sure I had to walk to the furthest part of the airport for the rental car.  But I lived.  Nothing broke.  Everything worked out in the end.

And yet, I was furious.  I was embarrassingly angry with people for no particular reason.  Why?

Maybe I was cranky.  Maybe I was tired.  Maybe I was hungry.  But I don’t think those are the “real” problem.  The real issue is both deeper and simpler – I lost sight of God.

The Bible says God is a “jealous” God.  That’s kind of a weird thing to say about an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-existing God!  Why should God be jealous?  I mean, what could he want from us?  But I think that question misses the point.  God isn’t jealous because he wants something we have – he’s jealous because he knows that bad things happen when we shift our focus away from him. 

Our lives are designed to operate with God as the center point.  When that shifts, our lives, attitudes, and behaviors shift.  This is one of the challenging truths about Christianity.  It is a religion that requires us to make a conscious decision to believe in God.  It is not something that is passed on, it is something that must actively choose.  And in some ways it must always be actively “chosen.” 

Once we commit to God he asks us to walk a very radical path.  A path that goes against what we consider our “nature.”  And my nature tells me it’s okay to get angry over stupid things.  It takes, literally, an act of God to make me rebel against that notion. 

That’s why the minute I lose focus on God, I end up doing things I regret. 

Of course this is something we all do.  It’s called sin.  No matter how intentional we live our lives we will mess up.  But that’s okay, because God forgives us (it comes as part of the package of believing in him).  The trick is to pick yourself back up and say, “okay God, I screwed up, but I’m still committed to you.”  We have to actively make that decision to once again align our lives with God. 

That’s what David did in the Old Testament, and God did some pretty cool things through him. 

So yes, I lose focus on God all too easily.  And it gets me in trouble.  But I am confident that God is always waiting for me to realize my mistakes and turn back to him for help.  And you know what?  Every time I’ve turned back to him, he’s always there waiting for me.  And I’m sure he is for you.  Even when your plane is running late.

will God forgive me?

Category : God, hope, radical, sin

   

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the idea that I don’t earn my forgiveness through deeds and actions.  Instead I receive forgiveness by turning to God and asking for his help. 

In everything we do we are measured.  We get raises based on our performance at work.  We graduate based on our test scores.  Heck, we’re even measured in how well we play video games through Xbox Live.  We are a measurement obsessed society.

And to be honest I don’t think that’s necessarily bad.  There isn’t anything wrong with knowing where you were and where you are going.  The problem occurs when we assume that God works that way.  He doesn’t.  And we don’t want him to.  If God was into measurement, how in the world would we ever live up to perfection?  I don’t know about you, but most days I fall a tad short.

If I had to live up to perfection every day I would have no hope. 

According to 2 Kings, Manasseh was so sinful that he (almost) single handedly destroyed Israel.  His sins were so great (e.g., he sacrificed his own children for cryin’ out loud!) that God turned his back on Israel.  And yet, “in his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom.” (2 Chronicles 33: 12-13).

Wow.  Think about that for a moment.  No one would consider this guy “innocent” or “deserving” or in any measurable way “good.”  And yet God was moved by Manasseh’s humility, and listened to his plea.  Manasseh didn’t earn anything by his behavior, God gave him something because that’s what God does.  He gives us freedom, and hope, at no cost.

What we see time and again is that as soon as someone turns to God and says, “God, I screwed up, I’m sorry.  Help me!”  God always steps in and gives them help.  If God is willing to help someone like Manasseh, why wouldn’t he be willing to help you or me? 

  

God – I know it’s easy to start thinking I haven’t earned your forgiveness.  That my behavior isn’t good enough.  But the truth is, it never will be.  No matter how hard I try, I will never be perfect.  Help me to remember that it’s turning to you in humility that matters, not earning my way to you.  Amen.