praying for people you hate

Category : revolutionary

Nothing is easier in this world than wanting bad things to happen to other people.  We seem to have a natural gift for this.  Even children quickly adopt this attitude, demanding that toys are taken away from “friends” or how quickly teenagers will say, “I wish you were dead.”

Of course it doesn’t get any easier when you’re an adult.  We hate our bosses.  We hate our politicians.  We hate, hate, hate.

In some cases it’s for good reasons.  Our bosses are evil.  Our politicians are corrupt.  And our neighbor likes country music.

The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah to come along – the person who would restore Israel to its former political and military might.  What they got was Jesus.  Jesus had no interest in military or political power.  He knew of something more.  Something that CS Lewis called “the deep magic”.

That deep magic is the transformative power of love.  And yes, I know, that sounds like a terrible cliché.  But stop and think for a moment.  Which would be better: an ex spouse falling off the face of the Earth?  Or having them change so much that they become a positive influence in their child’s life?  Is it better for a horrible boss to be fired?  Or change their ways so that they lead the company forward?  Would you rather your neighbor’s stereo break?  Or that they discover the joys of rock?

Our natural view is to want the “hated enemy” to be punished.  Or at the very least disappear.  But that’s not how the Kingdom operates.  It’s not how the world truly changes.  Jesus was onto something.  Jesus knew that if we all experienced the transformation that comes only through love, the world would experience a revolution.  We wouldn’t need to hate, because we would all benefit from a changed heart.

In one of the most famous lines from Star Wars, we hear that “hate leads to the dark side.”  If hate leads us to build giant, faceless, merciless armies, where does love lead us?

So as hard as it is to pray for our enemies.  Maybe it’s time we really tried to.

photo provided by flickr user livininoblivion

the shocking comparison of Jesus

Category : God, Jesus, bible, living a life of faith, revolutionary

Loving your enemy and not judging are forever linked.  If it’s your job to judge, you can never love.  You have to worry about fairness, outcomes, and justice.  Fortunately it’s God’s job to worry about that.  It’s his responsibility to judge and ensure justice.  We don’t need to worry about outcomes, so we can focus on our job: loving our enemies.

Loving your enemy is “advanced” – it requires faith, a trust in God’s character, hope in the eternal future, and obedience in the presence of an enemy.  It requires all of that to show the world just how different Christ’s compassion is.

It’s no wonder we struggle so much with it.

I am reminded of this as I read Elton John saying Jesus was gay.  Why did he say this?  Who knows.  I guess he just wanted to declare it.  Or maybe he just wanted to get some publicity by inciting Christians to attack him.  But frankly that’s not the most shocking part of that story – instead I was struck by the condescending nature of the article itself and commenter’s.

The condescension dripped from their “virtual pens.”

There is such a chasm between Christian beliefs and the rest of the world that it can be hard to come to terms with.  Especially for us Christians who tend to think everyone sees the world the same way we do.  Of course I think this is an opportunity.  I am convinced that Christians are living in one of the greatest evangelistic times in history.  What better way to compare just what Christ taught when we live in a world awash of other views.  Talk about a contrast!

Of course the challenge is to live out a life of faith.  Something we, as a church, tend to do very, very poorly.

While I think apologetics are important, I think what truly converts someone’s heart is when they see someone living out a life of faith.  That contrast is so shocking compared to others.  Take for instance someone who continues to give to the church despite struggling to pay bills.  That’s a shocking comparison to how the world says we should operate.

Consider Mother Teresa who lived in poverty to love on people who were deemed as unlovable.  That’s a shocking comparison.  Or consider people who sell everything they have to become missionaries because they feel called to provide medical services to people in third world nations.  Or what about people who take time out of their busy schedules to tutor at-risk children and to forge relationships across race and age.

These things are a shocking comparison.  And I think it’s the only thing that speaks to modern society’s heart.

Yes apologetics are needed to deepen your faith, but in a world of “if it feels good it must be right,” apologetics alone aren’t going to impress anyone.

hands in the mouth

Category : God, bible, faith, revolutionary

I went to the dentist today.  I can now say, “look mom, no cavities!”  For which I am very grateful.  But I was struck by how odd it is to sit in a chair and pay someone to stick their hands in your mouth.  What a strange society we live in these days.

Sometimes you hear the Bible (or Christianity in general) criticized because it doesn’t meet with our sensibilities.  Although there are many examples, a common one I hear is that “they weren’t as ‘progressive’ as we are towards women, therefore we should reject the Bible.”

But if you told a person from Jesus’ time that you pay someone to stick their hands in your mouth, they would think you were insane.  (And let’s face it, they aren’t that far off!)

You see, context is king.  We have people poke around our mouths because it prevents us from losing our teeth.  While the people of 2000 years ago may not have been as “progressive” as we are today, Christianity was on the cutting edge in the context of the day.  Find me a religion where women play a more important role.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

You can’t.  Because it doesn’t exist.

God was ahead of the curve.  So what makes you think he’s not ahead of the curve today?

Context matters.

biblical leadership: that you my king should die for me

Category : Jesus, bible, choice, faith, living a life of faith, revolutionary, taking action

……….

Leadership.  Each of us has an opinion about what makes a leader.  Some people will argue that leadership is all about your genetics – it’s what you’re born with.  Others will argue that leadership is something you can learn.  Or maybe that it’s about the situation you are in.  While we can’t always articulate what leadership really is, we tend to give the old cliche “I know it when I see it.”

But what does the Bible have to say about leadership?  Is there such a thing as Biblical leadership?  The short answer is “yes.”  The Bible makes a strong case for what leadership should look like.  And it looks a lot like sacrifice.

Does that surprise you?

It should.

Because it goes against almost everything we’re told about leadership today.  Most leaders have people who are willing to die for them.  That’s the whole idea behind the Secret Service or a body guard.  The idea is that the leader is so important that he (or she) can not die.  Therefore someone else must be willing to sacrifice their own life to protect the leader.  In other words we die for the King.

In the Bible, however, leadership looks a whole lot like the King dying for us.

The Newsboys capture this in the song You Are My King.  The song says, “Amazing love how can it be?  That you, my King, should die for me

The world tells us that we need to lay down our lives for our King.  That our lives are less important than the King’s.  Yet the Bible is the reverse.  The King should lay down his life for us, the servants.  Jesus had everything he needed.  He didn’t need to die for us.  He chose to die for us.  The one person who should not have to suffer chose to suffer.  To save people who don’t want to be saved.  That, my friends, really is Amazing Love.  That is revolution.

Don’t be fooled though.  Biblical leadership isn’t something reserved for an “elite few.”  It’s supposed to be lived out by everyone who has a relationship with Jesus.  It happens when you live out a life of faith.  When you chose to sacrifice to protect someone weaker than yourself.  When you chose to give something up so that someone else can have something more.  When you lay your own life down, and pick up the cross that God hands you.  That’s living out a life of faith.  That’s Biblical leadership.

That’s a revolution.

Where are you supposed to take leadership in your life?  Who are you to lay your life down for?  Who are you to sacrifice for?  Your wife?  Your boyfriend?  Your kids?  A stranger?

Where will you display Biblical leadership?

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?

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!

the average lie

Category : God, different, revolutionary, taking action

……….

Frederick Buechner once said, “The world sets into making us what the world would like us to be, and because we have to survive after all, we try to make ourselves into something that we hope the world will like better than who we originally were. That is the story of all our lives and in the process of living out that story; the original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us hardly end up living out of it at all.   Instead, we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.”

I am shocked at how true this is.  I am also shocked at how easily the lies creep into our lives.

It seems that we fall for the same lies over and over again.

I think what’s most interesting is that the lies often push us not towards destruction (although we sometimes end up there) but towards mediocrity.  The lies we believe about ourselves are almost never so bad that we end up in jail or dead.  Instead they just tell us to settle.

This, I think is why for most of us our lives are defined as “average.”

I don’t mean average in the sense of ability or skills.  I mean average in terms of our life lived.  We all fight so hard to simply fit into the crowd, to remain average.

Well I reject this.  I want to stand out if standing out is where God wants me.  I want to be exceptional if the exceptional is where God is.  I don’t want to look back on my life and wonder, “why was I too afraid to act?”  I don’t want to believe the average lie.

living a life of freedom

Category : 2 Corinthians, God, Jesus, choice, different, revolutionary

……….

Have you ever stopped and thought about your freedom?  Not your freedom in the political sense.  But your freedom in the spiritual sense.  The more I think about these issues, the more I realize just how quickly we give up our freedom.  We give up our freedom for the promise of security, for power, for control, and even for what we think is love.

But it seems that the last thing we should do is to want to give up our freedom.  As Paul told the church in Corinth:

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3: 12-18)

Think about that for a minute.  Wherever Jesus is, there is freedom.  Do we live our lives like that?  Do we act as if we have freedom?  Or do we continually give up that freedom to fit in?  To be safe?  Or to not make waves?

Paul is saying that we should be bold because we have Jesus in our lives.  But are we?

I don’t want to live my life in bondage.  I don’t want to give up the freedoms God gives me.  I am not interested in ritual if it doesn’t draw me closer to God.  I am not interested in answers that sound nice, but have no substance.  I want the radical, revolutionary, different nature that is God – not the watered down things that make me feel better.

I want the God that brings freedom – not bondage.

Jesus died for freedom, not religion

Category : Galatians, God, Jesus, faith, hope, revolutionary, sin

………

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Jesus died to bring us freedom.  Not death.  Not rules.  Not religious checklists.  Not mind-your-p’s-and-q’s religion.  Freedom.

This is what I wish someone would have explained to me when I was a kid.  Sadly I didn’t hear this message until I left the church, abandoned God, and became an atheist / agnostic.  I had to suffer a great deal in order to learn the truth.

Which is why I find it so heart breaking to hear someone ask why God is punishing them.   It’s one thing to carry the burden of guilt if you’ve been sinning.  It’s wrong, but I understand.  It’s completely wrong to be sick and told that the reason you are sick is divine punishment.

I wish I could say that it’s because people are using “god language” as a way to control and manipulate people.  That it’s some nefarious plan.  And I suppose in some cases it is.  But I think there is something worse going on – I think a lot of well-meaning Christians say and believe these things.  They want to help, but they honestly believe God is the type who is waiting around to smack us with plagues and disaster if we don’t sit still in church.

And the result is a lot of pain and suffering.

My biggest wish, I think more than any other, is to find a way to let people know that you don’t need to be perfect to talk to God.  He’s not the Giant Rule Counter in the Sky.  He’s not the angry father who hates us.  He’s a loving God, who cares so much that he gave his one and only son.  That if everyone else was perfect but you, God would still send his son to die for you.  That’s who God is.  That’s the God who radically changed my life, and can revolutionize yours.

It breaks my heart to know that so many people who believe in Jesus, believe he punishes us to make us behave.  It is no wonder so much of religion is seen as unChristian.  It’s no wonder people work so hard to stay away from him.

it’s not about me…

Category : God, choice, faith, fear, revolutionary

 

No matter how hard, or I suppose how little we try, we tend to be pretty self-centered.  I don’t mean this in a negative way.  Being self-centered doesn’t always mean that we are selfish.  Although it could.  Being self-centered can also mean that we appropriately focus on ourselves.  Which can be healthy.  After all if we lack self-focus we would end up with a lot of people forgetting to take showers, making the world a much stinkier place! 

Think about it this way: during the course of a day we make hundreds of decisions about ourselves.  What pants do I wear?  What do I eat for breakfast?  Is it safe to pull out into traffic?  We are constantly forced into making choices about ourselves.  So it’s no wonder we end up being fixated on oursleves.  It’s not that difficult to go from “Do I feel like going to the gym?” to assuming everything is about us. 

Which is why, when we say “God told me to do X”, we are acting under the assumption that “X” is for our own good.  What if it’s not?  What if “X” is for someone else’s good?  What if we need to do “X” to step out of the way?

Any time I feel God prompting me to do something dangerous or out of my comfort zone I assume that there must be some benefit for me.  I ask the reasonable question, “why else would God have me do this?”  It must be for my own good.  Right?

But does it have to be?

John the Baptist spent his ministry doing crazy things.  Not the least of which involved wearing camel hair and eating locusts.  Yet his entire ministry wasn’t about himself.  It wasn’t about growing his own followers or becoming safe and secure.  It wasn’t even about staying on a low-carb locust diet.  The whole point of his ministry was to prepare the world for Jesus’ ministry!

In other words, the whole point of “X”, for John, was to get out of the way once Jesus showed up.  That has to be hard on the ego.  Yet get out of the way is exactly what John did.  And for his troubles he was beheaded. 

Looking back at John’s story there seems to be very little benefit to him.  Sure he’s remembered, but he was also beheaded.  And knowing that it makes it hard for me to want to follow in his footsteps.  Frankly the same can be said of a lot of people in the Bible.  I don’t really have much of a desire to be martyred. 

But that’s the catch isn’t it?

The story isn’t really about them.  And my story isn’t always about me.  Sometimes in order for “X” to succeed, I need to get out of the way.  And maybe, just maybe, that means I must lose my life in the process.

As long as I remain convinced that every time God asks me to do something it is for my direct benefit, I will never want to take a risk because I may lose everything.  But as I learn that the story isn’t always about me.  That sometimes my role is to get out of the way, I don’t need to worry about losing everything.  Because all that stuff didn’t belong to me in the first place.

Sometimes it’s just not about me.