Natalie Grant in concert

Category : just for fun

I’m a little tired today.  Life has been busy.  I’m getting married in 2 weeks.  And I just finished moving all my stuff into the house I bought a couple of weeks ago.  But that’s not why I’m tired today.

I’m tired because I only got 6 hours of sleep.  And for a change it wasn’t because I was working.  Instead, I had the chance to hear Natalie Grant in concert (at the Festival of the Bells).

The venue was in a smaller, rural town that’s been hit very hard by the recession.  I’m sure she could have played in other, bigger venues.  Probably with a lot more energetic of an audience.  But she encouraged a lot of people last night.  In a town that hasn’t had a lot of good news recently.

Now I don’t go to a lot of concerts, but every time I go to a Christian concert where people sit cracks me up.  People seem to fill up a Christian concert just like they do church – starting in the back.  How many times does Dave Matthews or Lady Gaga have empty seats at the front of the stage?  Of course for us this meant, even though we were running a bit late, we had seats right up front.  (here you can see from the exclusive crap cam, as Dave Barry says)

NatalieGrantConcert

Some artists are better in the studio than they are on the road.  But Natalie Grant was great in concert.  There was definitely no need to auto-tune her!

So there you have it.  She was awesome.  We had a good time.  And I still made it into work.

what does god think about healthcare reform?

Category : living a life of faith

Today was an historic day in this country.  Major healthcare legislation was passed.  This legislation has been highly polarizing, meaning that you are thrilled or dejected, excited or fearful, energized or overwhelmed.  I rarely talk about politics here, because faith isn’t about joining a political party.

This is the lesson the disciples had a hard time understanding.  The disciples fully believed Jesus was going to reign as a new David-like King.  That he was going to kick the Romans out, free the Jews from oppression, and make them world players.

They were so wrong.

Sounds a lot like today, huh?

A lot of people are terrified of this legislation because it threatens their way of life.  They see healthcare “reform” as bankrupting the country.  Almost certainly changing America’s standing as a world power.  And, according to some, may not actually improve healthcare at all.  Ironically it may make it worse.

So they are upset. They are fearful.  And they are angry.

That’s why I wanted to talk about this today.  This is an important conversation.  The stakes are high.  If we don’t act today, we may be doomed.  But the stakes aren’t for what most of us think.  We aren’t playing for healthcare; we are playing for something much more important.  We are playing for the Kingdom and eternity.  Unfortunately most of us don’t keep that in mind as we respond to the passing political whims of the day.  We get caught up in the excitement and the emotion, and we forget where our true loyalties must lie.

When we belong to the Kingdom, we play by different rules.  And no matter what happens, we need to live by those rules.  Not by what makes our lives easier or more comfortable.  That’s the radical and revolutionary nature of God.

Even if healthcare reform is worse than all those predictions – it is nothing compared to what believers have experienced through the centuries.  It is nothing compared to Daniel being thrown to the lions, or Paul being thrown in jail, or the early Christians in Rome being burned alive.

We are called to live by Kingdom standards no matter what’s happening to us in the world at large.

This holds true for people who love the healthcare bill too.

Don’t think this is a post just for Republicans.  This is a post for Democrats as well.  If you are thrilled by the legislation, where is your faith?  Is it in government reform?  Or God?

Is healthcare reform good or bad?  That’s not for me to say.  That’s for political pundits to discuss.  What I’m concerned about is living out a life of faith.  And it seems to me that no matter which political party we belong to, we are all too quick to throw God under the bus.  We’re all too ready to live our lives without him.  We are quick to put our hopes into political parties, wealth, or our intelligence.

Thousands of years later, we make the same mistakes the disciples did – we root for the wrong Kingdom.

photo provided by flickr user boliston

don’t manage your risk, embrace it

Category : barbarian, bible, different, faith, fear, living a life of faith, taking action

While most of us were busy celebrating the holidays, the world was in full motion.  In a matter of about 24 hours we learned that a terrorist tried to kill 270 civilians by blowing up a plane.  And while all of this was going on, the Pope was attacked during a Christmas service.

Fortunately both the passengers on the plane and the Pope escaped any significant injury (although a Vatican diplomat broke their hip and a passenger suffered 3rd degree burns wrestling the terrorist).

Reading headlines like this makes it easy to want to stick your fingers in your ears and hum Christmas carols really loudly. (I personally recommend Here Come Santa Claus.)  But is that what we should be doing?

One of the things that struck me in the story about the Pope was a simple sentence that read: “Security analysts have frequently warned the pope is too exposed in his public appearances.”

Now Security Analysts are paid to keep people safe.  Their job is to limit risk.  To create “risk management scenarios.”  But is that the job of a Christian?  To stay safe?  To manage risk?  When I look at the Bible I see people who constantly put themselves in danger because that was where God was headed.  They lived a life of faith so intensely that all that mattered was following God.

The Pope is a high profile figure.  He’s part celebrity.  Part politician.  Part religious figure.  Which means he represents a very “appealing” target to people who may have psychological issues (as was the case with this woman).

I’ve never been the Pope.  And not being Catholic, it’s very unlikely I’ll ever be the Pope.  I’ve also never had anyone care enough about what I do to want to hurt me.  I’m not famous, rich, or a religious figurehead.  So I can’t really understand what all comes with that.  I also don’t really understand what it’s like to have my life constantly in danger.  The most dangerous thing I do every day is scrape the ice off of my car.

But being the Pope is different.

He experiences all of those things.  He has to make daily decisions that may cost him his life.  And there are many people just like him, making those same kinds of decisions.  But far too many people make choices based on risk management scenarios.

There is something seriously wrong with our churches when we put risk management above living out a life of faith.  I applaud the Pope for being so accessible and putting his life on the line.  I applaud the Christian who walks into danger, because that is where she sees God calling.

As we head into 2010 I want you to think about one question: Are you living a “safe” life?  Or are you living the radical, revolutionary life that God calls us to?

the waste of faith

Category : God, barbarian, bible, miracles, trust

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Every year my church does a crazy Christmas show.  This is a full out, laser-snow-machine-giant-screen-booming-bass show.  It even has 50 foot tall battle-hardened angels.  In fact, it’s one of the best produced (and written) show’s I’ve ever seen.

But almost every year I hear someone complain that it’s “over the top” or “too expensive”.  Some even wonder “why go to all that trouble?”

I understand their points.  Part of me even agrees with those thoughts.   I don’t know how much money is spent on free coffee, free hot chocolate, free cookies but my guess is over the course of two weeks it probably runs into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Shouldn’t we be better stewards of God’s things?  Doesn’t God want us to cut out the waste?

Frankly, no.

Because what we are doing isn’t wasteful.  It draws somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 people every year.  That’s a lot of people to connect with God.  Many of them are making that connection for the first time.

All of this has been running through my mind as I’ve been reading the “minor prophets” in the Old Testament.  As I’ve been reading I’ve noticed (for the first time) just how many crazy, outlandish, unnecessary things God calls prophets to do.

He calls Hosea to marry a prostitute.  He had Jonah swallowed by a big fish (although that was more because Jonah wasn’t cooperating than anything else).  He asked Ezekiel to lay on his side for more than a year.

I am sure that some people, even today, would say that those things were a bit ridiculous.  “Come on!  A whale?  Can we really afford something as big as a whale?  What about something more the size of a large tuna?  Or maybe a mackerel?”

That was a problem even with Jesus.  Some people saw his ministry as too extravagant.  Too relaxed.  And so he was labeled a glutton and a drunkard.

You know why these aren’t unnecessary?  Because God is willing to do anything, short of sin, to bring us into a relationship with him.  He asked these prophets to do these crazy things so that their actions would cut through the cultural noise of their days.  Sometimes the way to get someone’s attention is to go bigger, louder, and badder.  And sometimes

Do you really think God has suddenly stopped trying to connect with us in any way possible?

Now I’m obviously not advocating waste.  But I am advocating crazy generosity.  I just hope God doesn’t ask me to shave my head.

christian humor: billboards

Category : barbarian, different, humor

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I love to laugh.  I especially love to laugh when Christians are being funny.  All too often our “humor” is pretty lame.  It’s nice to know that not all Christians are Ned Flanders clones.  While some people may consider this a clever marketing campaign, I consider it good Christian humor.  Way to go LifeChurch.tv.

lifechurch-billboard

what if…the church led the way?

1

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

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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?

church humor – church signs

Category : God, different, humor, just for fun

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Religion can be a serious business. People have tough questions about their lives, their futures, and even their decisions. It’s no wonder that many churches are so solemn. But I think this is a shame. Humor is one of the ways God has made us unique. No other creature can tell a joke. Humor is a reflection of God’s own personality.

It’s unfortunate that Christians are seen as the ones holding everyone back. We should be on the cutting edge of science, literature and yes, humor. God has given us great freedom. Why don’t we take that freedom and make people laugh?

So on this warm summer day, are a few funny church signs.

church-sign01

church-sign02

If you have a favorite church sign, leave a comment and we’ll see about getting it featured on R3. We could all use a little more laughter in our day.

prayer thursday: why do you lead

Category : God, different, faith, prayer thursday, sharing faith

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The more involved I become with my church, the more I ask myself, “why do I lead?”  Do I lead because I want to serve people in my community?  Or do I lead because I want to be seen as insightful and intelligent?  Or maybe even to be useful?

Right now I can say with confidence that it’s because I want to serve.  I want to make the world better.  I want more people to know Jesus.  I want more people to experience the freedom I have because of my relationship with God.

But there’s always a temptation there.  Satan is clever, and he’s good at using our own strengths against us.  I am no exception.

Serving

God – Please keep me centered on you.  Don’t let the excitement of new opportunities, new challenges, and new contributions pull me from you.  Don’t let me think that what the church needs is more of me, remind me that what it really needs is more of you.  Help me fight back the temptations to be seen as smart, to be seen as clever, to feel that I am needed.  Let me serve because I love you, and nothing more.

what’s the point of a memorial day?

Category : hope, sharing faith, sin, worship

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Today I was out eating picnic food watching the rain fall.  As I was sitting there in the breeze I began to wonder about memorial day.  Why is it that we celebrate?  What are we hoping to remember?  Should it be enthusiastic and fun?  Or quiet and solemn?

As I thought about it, I decided it doesn’t really matter.  The point isn’t how we celebrate, it’s the fact that today should be different than every other day.  The whole point of Memorial Day is to remind us that what we experience isn’t free.  It was bought at a price.

Our lives are so hectic, so busy, it’s easy to get sidetracked with the countless responsibilities we have.  We can easily lose track of the sacrifice our freedom cost.  The same is true of our faith.

One of the biggest reasons I go to church isn’t for enlightenment, relationships, or worship (although I get all of those things from church).  I go because it breaks up my week.  It forces me to do something I wouldn’t normally do.  It forces me to remember that our freedom from sin cost God his son.

In the broadest sense it doesn’t matter if I go to a Catholic church, Presbyterian church, nondenominational or what have you.  It doesn’t matter if worship is lead by a rock band or a choir.  What matter is I break my normal routine and focus on what my freedom costs.

I would like to remember that more often, I think.

why I’m not excited about easter

Category : different, faith, hope, living a life of faith

  

Just this morning I realized Sunday was Easter.  Oh sure on some level I knew Easter was coming up.   And I even knew it was Sunday.  But I didn’t really know.   Know in the sense that I actually was going to change my Sunday routine.

This isn’t because Easter is important.  It is.  Ask any Christian and he or she will tell you that the reason we celebrate Easter is because Jesus rose from the dead, thus defeating sin, death, Satan, and the need to eat your vegetables.

Okay, maybe Jesus had nothing to do with that last one.

For many Easter and Christmas are the two biggest days of the year.  They represent the re-birth and birth of Jesus.   They are exciting times if you are a Christian.  Yet I’m not excited.  But it’s not because I don’t believe in God.  It’s actually the exact opposite.

Because God is such an important part of my life, I tend to celebrate his birth and death on a daily basis.  For me Christmas and Easter come 365 days a year.  Fortunately the candy doesn’t or I’d have some issues.

One of the advantages to living out a life of faith is that you aren’t restricted by the calendar when you want to celebrate Jesus.  You can do that whenever.   You can reflect on the cost of his death.  You can be excited that God would humble himself and send us his son.  It doesn’t matter what day, because every day is a celebration.

And that’s why I’m not excited about easter.