A Reminder for the Church

12 11 2016

Yesterday we had a chance to pause and focus on something positive, honoring Veterans.  When we think of a Veteran, we don’t think of a political party or race.  We simply get to acknowledge a person’s service and sacrifice.  Their identity as a Veteran is stronger than any other label.

Those who served know you have very little choice in a lot of things.  You don’t get to pick your Commanding Officer, your roommates (in a berthing on a ship…that can be a lot of roommates!!) or the people you have to work with.  You have to figure it out because the mission of your unit is more important than your personal perspective.  Is there ever conflict?  Absolutely and sometimes that conflict is significant.  It takes good leadership and proper focus to deal with those conflicts.

By now you have looked at the title of this post and you read the last paragraph and you know where I am going.  In my last post I shared my frustration about how segregated out churches are.  If we truly are a body called to work together, we must see segregation limiting our effectiveness.  Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35).  Put that alongside Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount to love more than just the people we like (Matthew 5:43-47) and the bar is set pretty high.  So high in fact the only way we could pull it off is if we had God’s help…hmmm maybe that was God’s plan all along.

If people look in our churches and see great communities but everyone looks alike and tends to agree on issues of politics or other social topics, then the church is really no different than their work’s softball team.  The only difference is they probably feel they can be themselves at softball.

I am not advocating we focus on unity.  I am saying if we truly focus on Jesus one of the byproducts will be a community with unity and a love that is very distinctive from the world.

I was listening to a podcast on a social science experiment regarding bystander intervention on college campuses.  The researchers did not know how to handle an interesting finding.  People they classified as conservative Christians were very likely to speak up if they saw someone discriminating against a person who was gay.  I was not surprised.  I expect Christians to speak up and stand by a person being wronged.  I was proud of the Christians at that college who were being true to their faith.

So what do we do?  We take this strategic opportunity to start building bridges with people different than us.  We work to make our churches distinctive communities.  A good place to start is to reach out to people who are struggling with the results of the election.  Find out why they are having a hard time.  Simply listen and try to understand.  Then, stay connected.  Build a relationship and build a church that will stand as a distinctive light four years from now…yep we will have another election…sorry.

Four years from now wouldn’t it be amazing if there were churches where people worshiped together even though they completely disagreed on politics because they loved Jesus and each other more.  The world would be shocked.  Here is the cool part.  I believe we would also be more effective because we would be a body able to draw from all of our gifts, strengths and perspectives.

What would we tell the world?  We would say we are just following Jesus.  After all he did say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”





Same Old World

1 08 2015

In preparing for a sermon I read “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley.  It was written in 1931 and published in 1932.  He attempted to capture a potential future if our primary focus was happiness.  He got a lot right.

Happiness is a tyrant that is never satisfied.  It tricks us into believing it is just around the corner.  If we can just make a little more money. get one more item. have a “new” experience.  Sure enough it visits us as we get a raise, open the box or play the latest “cool” game on our phone.  Then, it evaporates leaving a hunger so intense we blindly chase after it.  When it becomes our primary focus, we become addicted.

We know this.  So the only proper response to happiness is.suppress it.  We use rules or good old fashion guilt to conform ourselves into proper citizens.  Meanwhile, happiness whispers in our ear until we throw off the rules, justify our actions and the addiction is satisfied.but it never is.

What does it cost us?  A life of meaning and purpose.  Time marches on.  Relationships grow cold or even worse become something we use for our own satisfaction.  Our focus is divided.  It becomes harder to speak out against injustice because we waste our time being entertained.

If something is important, someone will tell us what to believe.  We will even support them as long as all we need to do is click a link or “share.”

We do an excellent job of complaining about it.  Scroll down any social media site and you will see a post or a re-post of dire warnings.  We “like” it then notice a fun distraction and get lost again in our own world of personal happiness.

Aldous Huxley warned us of just how easily we can fall into a trap that tells us, “just be happy.”

I have some great news.  All you have to do is clink on this link. not really.  The great news is the trap can be avoided with a simply shift in perspective.

Happiness is not bad.  It just has to be put in its proper place.  Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

What are you seeking first?  It is a simple question with huge ripple effects.

There is profound depth in what Jesus said.  I could tell you what it means.  You might “like” it or even “share” it.  I have too much faith in you and God created you with the capacity to grasp the depth.

So dive in and wrestle with Jesus’ statement.  Let it ripple through your life.  Hopefully I will see you on the other side and we will have shaken off the tyrant of happiness and be living a life of significance.





Jumping on the Bandwagon

20 01 2013

Yep. I am going to do it. I am joining the conversation about Lance Armstrong and not just because he has the same last name as me. I am joining because I believe it is critical for Christians to speak to the issues of life. We are not just a religion to make you feel good on Sunday mornings. We have good answers to the issues we face.

As I have matured in my faith I have learned the importance of transparency or “what you see is what you get.” Imagine if Lance had believed in being transparent when he was first tempted to try doping. Imagine if the first time he was accused he came clean and admitted it. From the news it appears doping was wide spread in the cycling community. Lance could have been a leader who brought integrity to the community instead of being the leader who perpetuated the problem and in the end brought disgrace to the community.

If you study Jesus’ interactions you will notice Jesus’ compassion for the person who was sincere and authentic. You will also notice that he always saw through the person who was trying to look good or hide their true motives. Jesus challenged those around him to be transparent.

I believe Jesus hinted at this in the Sermon on the Mount. In the first eighteen verses of Matthew chapter six Jesus challenged us to give, pray and fast in secret. I know “in secret” sounds like the opposite of transparency. However, think about it. If you are doing the right things for the right reasons that will naturally come out in every area of your life. Doing the right thing for the right reason is the byproduct of having a right heart. Having a right heart enables us to be transparent.

But we are human and we blow it. Sometimes we even lie. In steps the Bible. I love that it shows the nitty gritty reality of life. At the time the Gospels were written, Peter was “the man.” He was the one Jesus turned the reins over to. He was the “Lance Armstrong” of the church. You would figure he would want to manage his image. Instead we are told about his failure. When Jesus needed him the most, Peter lied that he even knew Jesus. How do we know this? Because Peter was open and honest about it. Most scholars believe Mark would have talked to Peter as one of his primary sources. At one level I believe Peter wanted it mentioned because for him it was not about him but about Jesus. Honoring Jesus was his focus. I don’t believe he cared what people thought about him. This gave him great flexibility to be transparent. Did he make a mistake? Yes, but he was willing to be transparent about it. This allowed him to deal with it (John 21) and move forward with his life.

It comes back to being focused on the right things for the right reasons. If you think about it when that happens you are not concerned with what people think about you. You are not concerned about maintaining a certain persona. You get to be yourself. That enables you to be a true leader.

Lance’s interview comes as we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. If you look at his life you will see he was not perfect. However, I would offer he tried to stay focused on the right things for the right reasons. We honor his life and his accomplishments. I believe the reason he could do that was because of his faith and focusing on Jesus.

This time next year Lance Armstrong will be old news. We will still be pausing to honor Martin Luther King Jr. I can’t promise we will ever make a holiday to honor you. I can promise that as you seek to do the right things for the right reasons you will become more transparent. As you become more transparent you won’t worry about the things that don’t matter in the long run. This will give you the freedom to make a real impact that will last. You will be a true leader.

For Christians this is our reality. This is what our faith teaches. I know it is much easier said than done. Remember we were not promised easy. We were promised it would be worth it.