Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pain Unimaginable

A friend of mine lost his two baby daughters this week. They were conjoined and the doctors didn't expect them to live very long outside of the womb. They had about an hour to spend getting to know their children before they went to be with Jesus. I cannot image the pain of such a loss. Well, I can image because I have two boys, and losing them both would be a torture unimaginable.

There is far more to this story that inspires faith in many, watching this family struggle with God's design, perceptions about how babies should look, and succumbing to the knowing that it is only a matter of time before they will have to deal with this loss. I know many charismatic Christians would have said that they needed to have faith that Jesus would heal these two little girls. Some may even say that it was their fault that they weren't healed due to a lack of faith. Those people have probably not dealt with the loss of someone extremely close, but one day they will, and this crisis of faith will either lead to their distancing from God our the changing of their doctrine.

I personally have been impacted more than many looking from the outside in. Recently, my family has been going through difficult times as well, which pail in comparison to what this family was going through. What is amazing is that the father of these two little girls was a great encouragement to my family, in spite of the fact the he know that in two days, he would lose his little girls. He was fully justified in letting us handle our own problems, because his were much bigger. My friend Mimo wrote a great blog called, "Not now, I am Trying to Save the World" which speaks on this topic. The basic point that he makes quite well is that far too often we are too self absorbed in our own issues, calling, or ambition to spend any time helping others through their difficult times.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Church has always demonized those individuals that walk by this beaten down man without lending a hand. Maybe the first person was late to a lunch appointment. The second had lost his job and was wondering how he would make rent that month. The story of the two is no different than most of our daily existence as believers, but my friend is not that person. He took the time to spend with our family when his family was hurting. The thing that breaks my heart is that I am not sure that I would do the same. To be honest, it never even dawned on me during the time that his circumstances far outweighed mine. All I could think about was how we as a family was hurting and concerned about what we were going to do next.

I am inspired by this man. I am inspired by his humility, genuine love, and the fact that I can't mistake the face of Jesus when I spend time with him. I trust him with my family, even when many times in the past, men in his position have betrayed that trust. This family has been through the fire, and they are still burning, but the fact that they faced it head on despite the pain makes them worthy of trust.

My prayers are with you. Thank you for being a real example of Jesus in a world full of counterfeits. I am very fortunate to have people like yourself in my life.

Interruptable

I was reading a LA Times article today on the phenomenon of Twitter. I subscribe to Twitter and put post and ideas up there fairly often. The article mentioned how people are allowing interruptions to happen in their lives through this service. Me personally, I have the Twitterfox add-on for Firefox and every time there is a number that pops up, I open the window and find out that a friend is bragging about running 5 miles or telling me where they are going to eat dinner. Then I hop on there and brag about some thought that I have, and my narcissistic tendency waits with baited breath for a response from someone to legitimize my thought, action, and/or existence.

So I can see why people would post to Twitter. After all, we are probably the most self centered generation this planet has ever seen, myself included. We have successfully isolated ourselves in such an efficient way through the web and our cultural circles that we have to somehow create a marketplace around us that will celebrate our ideas and achievements. No longer are the influential few celebrated widely. The internet can make us all stars.

Now what about those, like myself, who spend their day being interrupted by people's updates? I find it curious that privacy is no longer a value in our culture. We used to value the ability to disconnect and be unreachable, but today, we invent ways to divert our attention and be distracted. I am a multi-tasker. I like having a number of balls in the air to juggle at once (your welcome Office fans). I typically don't like to focus on one task for an extended period of time, but I rather treat my life like a multiple download. I don't have time to sit and wait for one song to finish downloading before I start the other. For some reason, I think that downloading all the songs at once will get it done quicker. Of course it won't, but in my mind, it is certainly faster. There are hundreds of other ways I do thisl.

Because of the way that I am wired, I have always had to force myself to stop everything and spend time with God, but one thing is certain. I am interruptable...but not by God. I interrupt myself countless times a day to check email, read a text, check twitter, read status updates, and the list goes on and on and on. I very seldom find myself being interrupted by the voice of God, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or intimacy with Christ. I feel as though my life is getting entirely too cluttered. There are too many items in my life that I have added to make communication more simplistic and efficient but are having the opposite effect.

I guess I can equate this movement to something like film making. Making a film typically involves a symphony of artists working together in concert to create one collected work. That was the case until Blair Witch came along. Now anyone with Final Cut and a camcorder can be a film maker. True, we have some some incredible works of art come from this movement, but it has also created a tremendous amount of noise out there. The same is true with Myspace and the music industry. While the independent artist has opportunities like they have never had, it also have introduced so much material into the marketplace that has no business being there in the first place. Noise.

I fear that with these social movements, the same will happen with our relationships and our connections with one another and with God. I am afraid we will start having the mentality that we can communicate our love, affection, and even testimony in 140 words or less, but even more so, that our communication and connection with one another will be so full of noise that it loses all meaning. There is just something about this social networking thing that doesn't sit right with me. For some reason, I don't think that God needed a college geek in a dorm room to create methods for us as humans to connect with one another in meaningful ways, and I certainly don't think that God intends for the daily ins and outs of our lives to be extraordinary in the least to one another, especially if we spend more time in the discover/communication of the mundane than the consistent discovery of the eternal and never ending glory of God.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Impressive

Being here in Dallas, this is the land of impressive fellowships. The fellowship which employs me is fairly impressive. Down the street, there are fellowships with huge steeples and parking garages. They are really impressive. Even further, you have fellowships with moving lights, multiple projection screens, worship leaders with cool hair, and pastors who look great on 20/20. Very impressive indeed. You go even further and you have all of that plus about 20,000 people who join in the impressiveness. Yes, I live in a region of the world where the Church is very impressive.

I am kind of impressive too. I have a beautiful wife. I have reared children that everyone adores. I can do allot of stuff really well. As individuals go, I would think that I am just north of average on the impressive scale. I hang out with impressive people who do even more impressive stuff than I do. Their blogs and podcasts are impressive. Their songwriting ability is impressive. Their ability to attract others like them is impressive as well. With all of this impressiveness floating around, it has led me to one central understanding that is quickly becoming core to my understanding as a believer.

There is no way in heaven or hell we are going to impress anyone into the Kingdom of God. The phrase will never be uttered, “I came to know Christ because I was just so impressed by those Christians and their impressive lives!” The entirety of the attraction that the family of God brings is not that God makes us more impressive to others. It is that we as sinners, depraved and broken, have been adopted into the family of God. We once were orphans. Now we are heirs, and although we will remain depraved and broken until God takes us home, we are covered by a grace that both stays the wrathful hand of God and allows us to know our Father, His Son, and His Spirit in a radical, counter cultural, unimpressive and humble way.

The Sexy Christian

Ok, so I have been trying to figure out why I want a Mac so bad. My work provides me with a perfectly good PC to check my email, hop on the internet, and post to this blog. In the creative world, Macs are simply better because of their processing power and OS, but that doesn't matter too much for me checking my email and posting to this blog. So why is it that when I walk in to Starbucks, and pull out my Dell, I feel embarrassed?

Tonight, I watched a Mac commercial. It was about how Mac is green. The battery last a long time and has a longer shelf life, etc. I thought to myself, I need a Mac so that I can care about the environment more. How retarded is that? If I don't have a Mac, I am the pudgy, dorky, slightly overweight guy who could never get laid, especially if you are standing next to Mac guy. Fortunately my wife lives me for my Dell!

So what does this say about us as consumers in America? How about all of my Mac friends out there? Why do you have a Mac? Is it for the processing power? Is it because it offers you more programs than a PC that you use for your business? Or do you have one because it's more sexy than a PC? Or even more so, do you have one because you subconsciously believe the ads that the Mac itself makes you more sexy, greener, artistic, and/or hip?

I think it would be a far more interesting discussion to think about how the Mac influence has worked its way into what we do in ministry. I only bring this up because as I look at myself in ministry, and even the motivation behind why I do what I do, I can see allot of the same mentality creeping up in my drive and purpose. How can I be a more sexy Christian? What do I need to do to be more artistic, greener, and/or hip? Is it possible that I have been influenced by a very effective marketing campaign whose book deals and growth techniques, or better yet, the crafty lies and deceit of an enemy set on destroying our intimacy with God, have convinced me that there is a formula, product, or program that will make my ministry more attractive to others. It will make my band be more attractive, my art be more attractive, and the list goes on and on. How can I make my ministry more sexy? How can I be a more sexy Christian?

Paul warns against this kind of stuff. He warns of us being more influenced rather than being an influence. I am going to paraphrase here, and possibly take a bit of artistic license. He speaks of how he preaches the cross and Him crucified. He says that this is the only tool that he has to be an affective minister, but I really don't think that we as believers today actually believe those words. I mean, it has to be the Gospel...and. Yeah, we have the Gospel and a sweet multimedia presentation. We have the Gospel and a television ministry. We have the Gospel and a drum circle. I am certain that I don't think that any of these things are bad, but my concern is that I have come to the conclusion that the Gospel isn't sexy on its own.

My wife and I are involved in a ministry that goes into brothels to minister to prostitutes. For the last year, they have tried everything to gain entry into these people's lives. They tried serving them, gift baskets, being covert, but none of that worked. One day one of the team members got a really dumb idea. She suggested that they go in and wash these whore's feet. I use that word because that is the typical stigma that Christians put on these men and women, much like the people did when Christ loved on Mary Mag. It's the reason why these sons and daughters are the most marginalized people in our society.

So they started doing that. They started praying really hard, and going in and sharing how Jesus came to serve and would wash his disciples feet. All of the sudden, they began to be invited into the brothels. They were asked to stay for dinner by the House Mommas. They were asked to pray with the girls, read scripture, and share about the life of Jesus. Low and behold, people started getting saved in the whore houses! The Gospel worked! It really worked! It was sexy enough.

So I think that I'm bringing sexy back, and am going to stop this nonsense that says that God needs my anything to reach the lost. He has already done so, and the greatest story that was ever told is my story to tell, and is the only thing that will be affective should I allow my giftings to tell it without Mac pollution.
 
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