The sexuality of Jesus and the one big false assumption people believe about sex.

Jesus

The sexuality of Jesus and the one big false assumption people believe about sex.

If the church isn’t teaching our kids about sex who is?

Dr. Todd Wilson in his book Mere Sexuality couldn’t have said it any clearer after working through the research of Mark Regnerus on sexuality and American youth.  Listen to the results of these two researchers: “Christian teens have a decidedly unevangelical approach to sexual ethics; that is, they don’t connect Christ to sex” (Wilson, 2017).

Somehow, we have made it inappropriate or even wrong (it’s not) to talk about sex and sexuality in churchIt’s been “inappropriate” for so long the research shows most youth of today don’t connect sexuality and faith at all.

Moreover, the very few who did tie them together had basically one comment, “Don’t have sex before you’re married.”  This void has left the door wide open for anyone, literally anyone, willing to talk about sex to fill the void.  Who spoke up?  A lot of people, but most notably the porn industry.  What do they want you to believe?  That their product is vitally important, natural, and necessary to live a fulfilled life.  It’s marketing, and when there is no competing voice it’s easy to dominate.  Now, some would say, “Wait Pastor Mike, there has always been a strong voice against this type of lifestyle!”  I would say, yes.  There has always been a voice stating, “It’s evil and bad!”, but not many supported voices saying, “Here is a better and more satisfying way to understand sex.”

This leads to the one big misconception that the post-Puritan Western Christian culture has adopted.  The act of sex and exploring all your sexual desires are central to being fully human.

This isn’t true from a Christian perspective.  The Bible teaches that sex in marriage is good, but not necessary to have a full and complete life.  Let me say it this way:  You can be fully human with a fulfilled life as a single adult without partaking in sexual intercourse. 

What if single and married adults could release the cultural pressure that they must have satisfying continual sexual experiences to be whole and complete?  What if single adults could release the feeling that they have to marry to be fully human?  

Dr. Wilson points to Jesus.  He divinely chose to be male (not gender neutral) forever.  He is male and everything that comes with being male, from facial hair to a penis.  Dr. Wilson also points out that he wasn’t sexually active and didn’t marry.  Moreover, the Bible teaches that people won’t marry in heaven (Mt. 22:30).

Jesus isn’t an incomplete human or less of a man because he wasn’t and isn’t sexually active.  It must be possible to be fully human and not be sexually active.

Listen to how Dr. Wilson says it: “To be blunt, he (Jesus) didn’t need sex – not because sex is sinful or somehow beneath his dignity, but because sex isn’t essential to being human.”  Listen to Richard Hays: “Despite the smooth illusions perpetrated by mass culture in the United States, sexual gratification is not a sacred right, and celibacy is not a fate worse than death.”  After nearly 20 years of ministry and counseling I can personally and absolutely say that one of the greatest areas of personal dissatisfaction comes from the false assumption that continual and deeply satisfying sexual experiences for a lifetime are possible and necessary for one to be whole.  As a Christian I believe this is not true and my evidence is in the sexuality of Jesus.

As a Christian, before you wrestle with marriage, homosexuality, gender identity or any other cultural hot topic, I say it is wise to begin with this question: What is required for a person to be whole?  I think the answer begins in the life of Christ, the sexuality of Jesus.

I am just beginning this journey but I am fully committed to searching out deeper and deeper answers.

If you want more I encourage you to read Mere Sexuality by Todd Wilson, The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, and You and Me Forever by Francis Chan.

Want resources to talk about sex with your kids? I enoucrage you to check this blog out.  There is a list of resources at the end of it.

What if God’s view of money is a little different than Dave Ramsey’s?

Money

What if God’s view of money is a little different than Dave Ramsey’s?*
Who would you follow?

I think most Christians don’t realize how counter-cultural Biblical teaching is.

One of these areas is money. It’s become passé or even inappropriate to talk about money in church over the last 20 years.
In comical contrast the Bible talks about wealth and what to do with it a lot!
So, I find myself at the first point of tension. Something addressed so frequently in the Bible is addressed very infrequently in the church… unless there is a building project. 😉
But what are we supposed to DO with our resources?
I am working towards teaching a stewardship series in the next few months and I want to do my best to figure out what the Bible actually says about money. I would love your help! So far here is what I am finding while comparing popular (Christian I might add) books about money with the Bible.

  • Most don’t work to understand what the Bible actually says in full context, they work to find selected verses out of the Bible that support a pre-determined belief.
  • We tend to think we own what we have control over. We far too often forget that we will have EVERYTHING material taken away from us and will be held accountable for how we managed it. Even our bodies.
  • Those that do study the Bible don’t spend enough time on meta ideas. What does the larger narrative teach? This is why I won’t list specific scriptures until the end. In this article I will talk about the overarching ideas about money, generosity, work, and philanthropy.

C.S. Lewis seems like a decent voice to start a conversation about the overall Biblical concept of money. So, I will let him speak up first.

In the passage where the New Testament says that everyone must work, it gives as a reason “in order that he may have something to give to those in need.” Charity—giving to the poor—is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns. -C.S. Lewis

Big Ideas:
• Here is the actual Biblical meta instruction. All should work AND all should be giving to people in need.
• Moreover, generosity isn’t an optional subsect of Christianity, it is in the DNA of Christianity.
Application Question:
• Are you doing your best to work?
• Are you giving to those in need? (We will talk about the amount in a minute.)

Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to be producing a society in which there were no poor to give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce this kind of society. But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality. -C.S. Lewis

Big Ideas:
• Is it wrong to establish a society that has a culturally wide means of helping those in need? No. That’s fine and does honor God.
• Does this excuse Christians from participating in directly giving to the poor? No.
• Moreover, after examining the scripture C.S. Lewis seems to believe a Christian that doesn’t live generously towards the poor isn’t really a Christian.
Application Question:
• Do you use state-based charity to excuse yourself from giving PERSONALLY to those in need?

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. -C.S. Lewis

Big Ideas:
• One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is what am I willing to live on? Then ask God to bless you far beyond that in your work for the purpose of generosity. Contrary to popular Christian books, Lewis doesn’t think we are to keep up with our income peers.
Application Idea:
• Do you live a lifestyle BELOW your income for the purpose of GIVING IT AWAY?

Most Christian financial advisors have two flawed presuppositions that I can see:

  1. “The goal is to save for retirement.” I know this will be unpopular, but I don’t see retirement supported Biblically. If retirement means self-indulgence or ”finally living for me.” Am I wrong? I don’t think we are to “coast” at all in this life. If retirement is financial freedom to serve in another capacity that may be different.
  2. “You deserve what you have.” Nope, it’s a gift from God. Even the talent to get what you have is a gift. You could have been born into poverty in India or been born with a severe mental disorder. Everything you have is a gift from God to be used to make Jesus famous and usher His ways into this world.

Thoughts, ideas?

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) (p. 86). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Here are a few verses that deal with generosity. Remember to read them in FULL context.
1 Timothy 6:17-19; Luke 12:33; Matthew 6:21; Malachi 3:10; Ecclesiastes 5:10; Romans 13:8; Psalm 37:16-17; Proverbs 13:11; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 6:24; Exodus 22:25; 1 Timothy 6:10; Deuteronomy 23:19; Matthew 19:21; Proverbs 17:16

*I don’t necessary think Dave Ramsey is bad. We even teach it at our church. FPU is so much better than typical American financial management. I am just curious how FPU (and other financial methods) stack up against the Bible directly.

Why God is the only being who can say “Everyone praise me!” and it’s gloriously good for all.

Why God is the only being who can say “Everyone praise me!” and it’s gloriously good for all.
One of the most common complaints I get against Christianity focuses on the seemingly needy God of the Bible. No, he doesn’t need food or money, but God is over and over again wanting praise.
Many scholars over the years have picked up on this. Listen to the way C.S. Lewis stated it while he was wrestling (and I do mean wrestle, spiritual formation for Lewis was often a battle) through it.
“We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand… Thus a picture, at once ludicrous and horrible, both of God and of His worshippers threatened to appear in my mind.” –C.S. Lewis
Harsh words. However, he is right. We don’t like glory hogs. Something deep in use despises the person who thinks they are amazing. Yet, over and over again in the Bible that’s what God seems to be doing. Right?
Look at Psalm 111:1-10 as an example.
1 Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Glory hog. Right?
How can a being be truly good if he constantly demands to be worshiped?
Here is the difference. It manifests itself as good in three ways as I see it so far. Honestly, it has taken me years to wrap my brain around this. My understanding is still in want, but it’s growing.

First: For all finite creatures attention and glory are a limited substance. When one demands glory or attention it is being taken off another. The greater something is worshiped the more likely something else is to ultimately suffer. The more that is demanded of worshipers the more the worshipers keep losing. Look at human history as an example. Why is this not true with the God of the Bible? God is the only true giver. All other things must survive by drawing something from others, but God doesn’t draw or need. He is of something totally other. The truest of givers. To pour out unto him isn’t a draining, it’s a filling as he pours back into us even more than we give.
This begs a question – what is God giving?

Second: C.S. Lewis says it better than I can.
The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.
Here it is, the one substance that doesn’t run out, the thing that is the very attribute of God as expressed in Jesus – true love.
You see glimpses of it in beautiful little ways. When we were pregnant with our second child I remember being nervous that I wouldn’t be able to love him with the same depth as the first. Somehow love didn’t grow thinner, it grew deeper. With every child and their subsequent personalities love took on new types of expression and grew bigger and bigger.
Worship of God is participating in making love bigger.
Worship of God is participating in making joy bigger.
Worship of God is participating in making peace bigger, and so on. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Third: As I see it, God demanding our worship is a calling for us to grow the number of those who participate in this cosmic expansion of good.
Matthew 28:18-20 says that we are called to go and make disciples. What does that mean? That we are called to bring others along to see and experience this beauty too, like wanting someone to share in the enjoyment in a beautiful work of art.

Dr. John Piper says it well. “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Do you see it? It’s not a cosmic needy old lady demanding attention. It’s a marriage proposal from a lover who wants us to join in a relationship that is ever growing in beauty. The kind that all are hearts deep down really want. The kind that fairy tales are based on. “Happily ever after” wants you.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (1st ed., 1958; reprint, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1986), 80.

Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 94.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+111&version=ESV

Why does everyone hate on America these days?

Why does everyone hate on America these days?

Do you remember the old Superman movies? The ones with Christopher Reeves? For a decade or more he was a hero many of us pretended to be as we ran around in our back yards with towels draped over our backs.

christopher-reeve-superman

Truth, justice and the American way.

That was his motto.

It was cool to be an American back then.

Acting justly. Speaking truth. Standing up for those who needed a voice and a helping hand. Even Superman himself was an immigrant of sorts trying to find his way through “E pluribus unum.” (Most aren’t even taught that famous Latin phrase anymore. You should look it up.)

e-pluribus-unum

That feels like another world, another America.

What happened?

Oh, it’s complicated and the blame is without end. Yet, over the last 50 years the journey to utopia turned into dystopia.

People became obsessed with the very real broken parts of America. Instead of hyper focusing on racism, immigration, gender equality or the many other points of tension let me offer another way to look at America. The core of what it means to be American.

America isn’t a static thing. It’s a trajectory. Something we are always working to become. From the abolishment of slavery to the big screen with Superman, it wasn’t that we WERE America, this perfect place. It’s that we have ALWAYS believed we were made for more than what we currently were. That’s what being American is all about. Not primarily the realization of what is broken, but the fearless commitment to continue to become more.

This dystopian melodramatic obsession that plagues blogs, Hollywood, our professional sports teams and even national news… the continual beating of the anti-American drum is missing the whole point of what being American actually means.

America isn’t a failed perfect society. America has ALWAYS been flawed.

It’s never been about a “current perfection”, but what we are working to become. America is a collective of people obsessed with taking a country in a direction.

America is a type of direction. (Read that last sentence a few times.)

Thomas Jefferson could see it long ago.Thomas-Jefferson-Wearing-Sunglasses--87643

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

That’s what America is. It’s not dead unless we stop growing towards this end.

America is a trajectory. I find that I am ever more proud to be an American. Why, not because we have it all figured out. We don’t! And that’s the point. America is a good PROCESS to be proud of. It’s worth fighting for and defending nationally.

When some confused professor or fellow citizen says, “I am embarrassed to be American because they owned slaves and kept woman from owning property.” Remind them. “We don’t now, and that’s the point!”

  • We had an African American president!
  • Woman hold some of the highest paying jobs in America!
  • Minorities can be famous and multimillionaires!

Oh, we have a long way to go, but we are going.womansrights

The only thing that is embarrassing about America are those who see her flaws and STOP being proud to be American. The journey by ALL people towards life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Yes, we have to work out what exactly this means, but that is part of the trajectory. That’s being American. It makes us so incredible and unique.

Yes, we are all ashamed of some parts of America right now, but that’s ALWAYS been true.  However, I am not ashamed of what America is about, what it originally meant and what it still means today.

Out of many we are one. One people group that believes that all people are valuable* and deserve justice, to know, pursue and wrestle with truth, and finally find happiness.

It’s a long and hard process, but it’s the American way. It IS being American.

So, if you are frustrated with America, don’t stop being American. Be more American!

(Cue the old Superman music with a voiceover of “I stand for Truth, justice and the American.”)

What does being an American mean to you? Have you ever shared it with someone?

*By “valuable” I mean ETERNALLY valuable. I believe people are uniquely created by God. Many of our founding fathers believed this too.  The immense worth of the individual as defined by God is an essential part of being American.

Is it true that smart people disregard the Bible and believe God isn’t real?

Is the Bible valid

“Dear Pastor Mike,

Aren’t there a bunch of really smart people who don’t believe God and think the Bible is just a collection of made up stories?”

Yep, you are right.

There are some really intelligent people who don’t believe in God.  

Instead of offering a definitive defense or apologetic on God or the Bible at this time, let me simply say this:  There are also really smart people who do believe in God.  If you dig deep into philosophy and the differing fields of science you will find that some of the world’s leading scientists and philosophers alive today believe in God and also stand with the collection of writings we call the Bible, including biologist Dr. Francis Collins, astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross, and even analytic philosopher and epistemologist Dr. Alvin Plantinga, just to name a few.

Check out the message below as we talk about the Bible, rather than just speak out of the of the Bible.

 

Our hyper-individualism is making everyone miserable.

pexels-photo-220444

Our hyper-individualism is making everyone miserable.

Hyper-Individualism: A tendency for people to act in a highly individual way, without regard to others around them.

Different cultures have different core values.

If you travel much you already know this. Visit parts of Africa or China on a business trip or a short-term missions trip and you may see nothing more than a few odd differences in how they do life.  Live there as a long-term resident and you will begin to see the different underlying values behind these odd cultural differences.

For example…

Some cultures value honor, where respect is the prime directive.  Some cultures value community.  The health of the “tribe” is vastly more important than one person.  Individuals in other cultures may see it as noble and honorable to sacrifice time, talent, treasure, and even desired pleasures for the health of the community or honor of the family.

Here in America we have an underlying growing value that stands out like the Dubai Tower. Individualism.

When ESPN celebrated Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner after undergoing a sex change, the message was clear, laid out for the Western world to see:  Courage is being true to you, whatever that might be, at any cost.

From the pop culture perspective, his courage to follow his heart into this transition was vastly more important than any potential lateral issues that may come because of it.  ENews’s video of Kris (Bruce’s ex-wife) grieving the loss of Bruce as they knew him is really interesting as you watch values collide and individualism painfully win the day.

Someone’s heart is fulfilled for the moment, but another heart becomes broken.

Even in my own personal experience I have seen many people deeply hurt others while trying to follow their own heart.

What about the husband who chooses another lover and leaves behind a devastated spouse and children?  Do I tell the kids and their mom, “Be proud! Your dad followed his heart!”  Or the young adult I counseled with a few years back who basically said, “All I want to do is smoke weed with my friends and live off of welfare.” Should we be proud of him?  I can assure you, he was passionately following his heart. I have so many examples…

Here is what I see.

  • The heart is erratic and inconsistent.
  • The heart is most often driven by appetites, that change.
  • The heart can be really selfish one day and amazingly selfless the next.
  • Hyper-individualism hurts others and ultimately leaves people more lost and lonely.

Remember, most “be true to oneself” actions come with a cost. What, or who, is in the chopped-up wake of you pursuing your heart?  Moreover, the very joy you thought you would achieve often ends up being the doorway to deeper pain. Not only others, but yours.  I believe Jesus is a better guide than your heart.  I also believe Jesus can lead you to a vastly superior joy than you could ever find following your own appetites. Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost. (Luke 19:10) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Here is the truth.  Humanity is lost and some of the most lost of our race love to pretend that they know the way all while leading people into more loneliness and darkness.  The Bible literally says that the truest us is found in following the ways of Jesus (John 3:16).  The Bible isn’t a cage to keep you from fun, it is a map that shows you the way to the deepest and truest joys. (Romans 6:23; John 10:10; Revelation 21:4-8)

I say your heart isn’t the best compass, the one who made it is.  I believe your truest joys don’t end up coming from, “What do I want?” but “What does Christ want for me?”

It may be time to try a new, Christ-centered, compass.

 

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hyperindividualism

http://www.espn.com/espys/2015/story/_/id/13264599/caitlyn-jenner-accepts-arthur-ashe-courage-award-espys-ashe2015

http://www.eonline.com/shows/keeping_up_with_the_kardashians/news/700055/kris-jenner-cries-going-through-bruce-s-old-clothes-it-s-just-crazy-that-he-s-gone-watch-the-emotional-kuwtk-clip

 

4 Reasons I LOVE Millennials

 

4ReasonsILoveMillennials

Most of the time when I read or watch a video about generation Y, the Millennials, they are being picked on.  The emotionally soft result of helicopter parenting, everybody gets a trophy, and everyone has a college degree because professors aren’t allowed to give bad grades anymore generation.

I think people are looking at this all wrong. I see incredible potential.

I was born in 1979 and my wife was born in ’81, so I am not officially in but my wife is and we both love Millennials.  I have spent most of my adult life working with them. As a pastor I am excited to see this generation light the world on fire.  Are they perfect?  No, none of us are.  Yet, I think there is something great in them. 

As a pastor here is what I see:

1.       They love bridging gaps.  Earlier generations love clubs – country clubs, church denominations, even corporate loyalty.  The earlier generations like to focus on what separates them out from others.  Patches, badges, bumper stickers, and club cards.  Millennials push against this.  Here is what I see: They are reaching across generational, cultural, even denominational lines.  They are very interested in what unites, not what separates. Yes, they need to be willing to wrestle with what is true and truth by nature is exclusive, but as they lock into what is uniquely true this generation’s values will provide a powerful anchor to unite many people.

 

2.       The Millennials have a passion for community. Building off the previous observation, this bleeds into what they believe is actually authentic. Previous generations see things as more valuable the bigger they get.  The “best” is the biggest. They believe this is true from the size of a country’s army to the size of the church you attend. Don’t hear me wrong, bigger probably does mean stronger or more likely to control others, but to the Millennial this isn’t better. Better to them is about knowing and being known, understanding and being understood. Oh, how so many bloggers have made fun of this, but I see huge potential in it.  Hear me clearly, they want to understand others and want others to take the time to understand them.  Who is most likely to get to know the immigrant in my church?  Who is most likely to take their atheist friend out for coffee?  The list goes on.  They aren’t afraid of getting to know “different” people. They prefer smaller organizations, including churches, precisely because of the type of community they offer. I see incredible potential in this! 

 

3.       They are highly educated skeptics who like to hang out.  Okay, fine, so the college degree your grandpa got was way more difficult than the degrees offered today.  Even if that is so, more of the populous is educated than before. I think the overall rising base line of education is a good thing. Moreover, the skepticism that they have is clearly the result of the culture they have been raised in. False marketing, empty promises, and organizations that demand obedience with little clarity on why have left them scratching their heads and questioning nearly everything.  This is even true in churches.  They bring hard questions or see really bad things happen in the world and the church responds with, “Be quiet and don’t drink.” No wonder they have left the church.  Real historical (and Biblical) Christianity deals with messy, broken situations in very forward ways.  As these Millennials come to faith I believe they won’t be afraid to take the good news of Christ into places many in earlier generations just wouldn’t go.  I don’t mean geographically around the world, I mean across the street into their neighbor’s house.  You may pick on Millennials for being soft, but I think that is false. They just view strength in a different way. To them it’s not overcoming someone else, it’s bridging the gap to them. They will get to know their neighbors and aren’t afraid of the hard questions they ask. Moreover, they love deep theology and are well read. I love that! Come on, you must see the potential in this?!

 

4.      They are our future. Like it or not, they are who we have. I commit now to love them, coach them, pastor them and prepare them to be handed the world. They will eventually get it and all of us born before them will die away. Instead of standing at a distance and throwing stones, get to know them. They are amazing people! Lastly, if you are a Millennial and live in the Indianapolis area we want you in our church. I promise I will challenge you and you won’t like everything I say, but I believe in you and I can’t wait to see what God will do with your generation. 

So, to the Millennials…let’s change the world. 

Very few people have real friends.

In almost 20 years of ministry I have found very few people have real friendships.

Let me define “real.”

If friendship to you is merely a shared goal or common annoyance then yes, you have lots of friends. Nearly the whole of the Indianapolis Colts stadium are my friends as we cheer or bemoan the progress of a game. Yet they don’t really know me and I don’t know them.

Maybe you are blessed to have friendships that go far beyond this. You have moved to the level of shared significant experiences, like a soldier or someone who faces serious illness. You have bonded with those who have joined you in something intense, even dangerous.

These are much better, but still not necessarily the level that brilliant authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or C.S. Lewis have described.

Don’t hear me wrong – your real friendships can include the experiences mentioned above, but those don’t necessarily make someone a true friend.

Let me offer two things drawn from the works of the aforementioned authors.

  • Do you TRULY share in your friends’ personal victories and hurt in their personal failures? When you walk into a friend’s nice new house do you feel resentment and jealousy or do you truly take joy in their success? If you find your heart and mind working to protect your pride or justify away their success, you aren’t actually for them. A way C.S. Lewis deals with this is by asking these types of questions: Can you be transparently you with them, or must you exaggerate, play a role, or wear some mask while you are with the person?

 

  • Does your connection with this person go beyond a single experience or type of experience? In my youth it didn’t take long to realize some of my friendships were only because of a sport we played or parties we went to.  Remove the sport or the beer and there wasn’t anything really there.  The more transcendent the bonding agent, the truer the friendship can become. Bonhoeffer calls for spiritual connections.  Brothers and sisters that share in an eternal purpose can bond in a way that transcends many temporary things. Take time to identify the bonding agent you have with your friends.

Many have acquaintances but few have friends. Job 16:20, My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God. Oh how beautiful and dangerous when we move from observing the lives of others to deeply participating in them.

Honesty, I only have 6 people I would place in this category.  We have been friends since childhood, they know every part of my life, and we are all followers of Christ.  Though we live hundreds of miles apart we have a bonding agent in Christ that keeps us in communication weekly.  They are my brothers, my friends.  Any need, any time, any place we commit to be there for each other.  These friendships are worth the work.  If you have someone who is this for you send this to them and thank them for their real friendship.

 

How activists against racism may be reinforcing it deeper into our culture.

indiangirl2

I watched a video the other day of a passionate young adult working to prove that racism is a very real problem that must be dealt with.  By the time it appeared on my Facebook feed it had been watched hundreds of thousands of times. 

Actually, he did a good job identifying problems that do exist and areas in our culture that need to be improved.  The problem is HOW he was making his viewers aware.  He basically said repeatedly in different ways, “You’re a racist!”  He was bold and passionate. 

Before we proceed let’s assume his information was 100% accurate and his heart was in the right place.

I still think he, along with many others, are making things worse. 

Here is why.

There is an important piece to the maturation process psychologically – identity.  Professional counselors and educators have been aware of this for a long time.

If an alcoholic is trying to improve, it’s one thing for him to admit he has a problem.  It’s something else to have him come home night after night to a spouse that calls him a “worthless drunk.”  Counselors long ago realized that berating and name calling doesn’t help.  In fact, it makes it worse.  Being made aware of a problem is very different than being told your problem is your identity… repeatedly. The wife may hate that he is an alcoholic– and at the same time reinforcing it IS his identity more deeply into his heart and soul! 

In education, it’s the same way.  If you have a young child who struggles with math, it’s one thing to identify there are places he needs extra attention; it’s another to remind him repeatedly he is “stupid.” You can absolutely point out an area in which he needs to improve, but ratifying in him that being “stupid” is a part of his identity will do more damage than good.  He may even actually come to believe it is who he is, accepting it even deeper into his identity. 

Moreover, social uniqueness (identity) is formed by what you are for AND by what you are against, from religion, politics, national identities, even artistic preferences.  Identity IS divisive and being unique is a basic human desire.  What’s important is HOW we approach uniqueness.  Racism (used broadly), by practice, is not only preferring a unique trait, but also believing the PEOPLE who have or prefer other unique traits are somehow less valuable or even worthless.  Our culture has ignorantly tried to throw out both sides of this by pretending to be blind to differences in general.  Trying to say there is no gender, color, intellectual or athletic gifting and the like is silly and limits the beautiful diversity of humanity.  For example:

People need to stop saying things like “kids don’t see color.”  Yes, they do.  They just aren’t bothered by the difference.  In fact, they can openly talk about it because a difference in skin color is a vastly inferior issue to the friendship they have.  What needs to be elevated is the priority of love.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We don’t want to live blind to the complex beauty that is humanity, or be afraid to see differences in each other. However, the binding agent of this uniqueness is love. 

Lastly, abhorrent name calling, violent marches, and belittling trigger the primal fight or flight instinct.  There are countless articles and research papers showing that people struggle to learn when they are deeply angry or afraid.  Every well-intentioned video or article that provokes the primal fight or flight may be highly effective click-bait (meaning a lot of people see it) but will not help move hearts toward love and respect.  In most cases as your blood pressure goes up, your ability to reason goes way down. 

So, what do we do?

In my home: I will not label my kids as a racist, idiot, bully or the like. Even if I think their values are wrong. That’s not their identity and not who they have to become.  That said they are unique and absolutely can improve themselves in many ways.  Not everything they like or dislike will be right, but that has no bearing on their value as a person.  In Christianity, human value is not subjective but objective. I will teach them there is space to love people deeply and talk about differences, even debate them. As a Christian, I tell them all humans are made in the image of God and have immeasurable value– from the unborn baby to the elderly dementia patient, from those born in the heart of India to those born in the heart of Kansas– and we should treat all as Christ sees them over how we may feel about them.  So, in our home we may challenge each other’s ideas and prefer different music styles, but love remains.

Identity: People are eternally valuable creations of God. 

Objective: Teach my children to approach a complex world the way Jesus did. You can challenge people, wrestle with ideas and ideals, but you cannot take away their transcendent value.  You don’t have that power.

In our culture: The battle is won by education and in relationships. I decided to do a little “research” and spent an evening watching interview after interview on YouTube of people who overcame racism.  I couldn’t find one that overcame racism with more physical or emotional violence.  The victory was always won through relationships and education.  If the objective is to win HEARTS– tangible forgiveness, mercy, and love are far more powerful than taking up arms and stone-throwing. If you want to change hearts, don’t work to prove there is hate without also working to demonstrate how it can be overcome. Don’t divide people further, build a bridge to speak into their life.

There are a lot of people in this world I disagree with and I actually enjoy a well-mannered debate.  Yet, I do not have any power to remove someone’s value. Even if I disagree with them. In my opinion their value is assigned by the Creator. 

He loved people so much that he sent what was dearest to him, his son, to die, so that they may be rescued.  The very people he knew had wrong affections and values.

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I’ll let pastor King be my final thought…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

picture: https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-dark-black-and-white-eyes-12087/

 

An innocent little girl and a God asleep at the wheel.

Prayer

A few thoughts on what extraordinary prayer is.

This last Christmas as 6-Year-old Ashlynd was playing on her mom’s phone, advertisements started popping up.  Naturally, she clicked on what she liked.  After accumulating about $250.00 of various Pokémon toys, she was prompted to confirm the order. She walked over to her sleeping mother and put the fingerprint scanner on the phone against her finger. 

Brilliant!

When her parents noticed the order confirmation email, they assumed foul play.  As little Ashlynd overheard her parents she said, “No, Mommy, I was shopping. But don’t worry — everything that I ordered is coming straight to the house.”

This illustrates well the way many of us treat faith.  We pray for whatever we want and bring our list in for the big Guy-in-the-Sky’s stamp of approval.  Moreover, most professing Christians live like God is disengaged and that their actions go unnoticed. Somehow many still believe if they show up to church and offer a prayer in just the right way, they can still get their order through. 

Doesn’t the Bible say faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains? (Matthew 17:20) What I want isn’t nearly as difficult as tossing a mountain into the sea! (Matthew 21:21) Come on, doesn’t the Bible also say God wants to give us the desires of our heart? (Psalm 37:4)

This is a good example of how Scripture applied out of context creates heresy. The flaw is pursuing what we want without submission to what may objectively be needed.

God wants to show Himself to us as the greatest source of transcendent wholeness, not because He needs it, but because we do.  Our life is like one period on a page in a library full of books. Your prayers for things that diminish the clarity of needing God only appear good from your tiny perspective, but in the end, might dilute the embracing of the greatest good – becoming metaphysically whole.

C. S. Lewis says it well:  “For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” 

What the old Oxford scholar meant is embracing “your will be done” is vastly more important than chasing “my will be done.”

Phillips Brooks takes it further: “Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance, but taking hold of God’s willingness.”

Real prayer begins with awareness of how finite we are, followed by submission and trust in Him. Christians don’t follow God because they “get it,” they follow God because they realize they don’t. 

In Christianity, ordinary people become extraordinary not by mighty natural gifts or by controlling the power of God but by humility, trust and obedience before Him. 

Ashlynd: https://www.yahoo.com/news/brilliant-devious-child-used-her-194246787.html

Prayer Picture: https://static.pexels.com/photos/213316/pexels-photo-213316.jpeg