It’s Not My Gift

This is the second message in our series “Think About It: Christian Cliches… what’s this even mean?” Last week’s cliche was “Let Go, Let God.” 

Imagine for a moment that all the church leaders came to you for advice, seeking your vast wisdom on the question, “What should the church be doing in the world?” What would you say?

You’d probably encourage the church to talk about God, to pray for people, to help the needy. What else would be on your list… and honestly ask yourself, “Am I doing those things?”

It’s so much easier (and comfortable!) to tell others what they’re supposed to be doing. When it’s our turn to be the doer… it becomes far more risky. When it’s our turn to start evangelizing or sacrificing our time and our stuff in order to serve those in need, that’s when we’re tempted to cry out, “That’s not my gift!” Too often, that’s nothing phrase is an excuse to avoid doing something risky and difficult.

Not my gift Continue reading

Worth Your Time 2/13/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

The Real Abuse at the Heart of ’50 Shades of Grey’ Kristen O Neal
“Far from ’empowering,’ Fifty Shades seeks to remove agency. Even though it’s supposed to seem ‘sexy,’ the book even includes several instances of rape, where Ana is coerced into or outright forced to have sex. The BDSM community itself has been outspoken on the issue, distancing itself from the horrific lack of safety or consent in the novel: ‘Fifty Shades is not about fun,’ says BDSM practitioner, Sophie Morgan, in The Guardian. ‘It’s about abuse.'”

Sexual Integrity Initiative Walt Mueller & Jason Soucineck
This isn’t a blog post, but a new ministry website that launched today. This site will prove very useful to parents who are looking for resources to help their teenagers develop sexual integrity. My recommendation: Bookmark the site and check it often.

God, Protect My Girls Tim Challies
“As a dad, I pray for each of my kids just about every day, and I take it as both a joy and responsibility to bring them before the Lord. Praying for the kids is a helpful way of training myself to remember that they are his before they are mine, and that any good they experience will ultimately find its source in God himself. And I believe that prayer works—that God hears a father’s prayers for his children, and that he delights to answer those prayers. One of my most common prayers for my girls is a pray for their protection. Here is how I pray for God to protect them.”

You’re Never Going to be Fully Ready Shauna Niequest
“What have you been over-thinking, wiggling like a loose tooth? Are you hiding, planning, and information gathering, because you’re scared to plunge into something new? Are you letting your desire to do it flawlessly keep you from doing it at all?”

Yeah, Well, But What About the Crusades Kevin
“We are right to deplore the cruelty meted out by crusading Christians, but should not ignore their plight.  Christians lands had been captured.  Surely, they thought, this could not stand.  For an American, it would have been as if Al-Qaeda sacked Washington D.C. following 9/11, set up shop for Bin Laden in the White House, and turned the Lincoln Memorial into a terrorist training center.  It would be unthinkable, cowardly even, for no one to storm the city, liberate its captives, and return our nation’s capital to its rightful owners.  We should never excuse the atrocities that occurred under the banner of the cross during the Crusades, but we should, at least, take pause to understand why they set out on what seems to us to be a fool’s errand.”

Dangerous Faith

(disclaimer: this is very much a “stream of consciousness” post, just thought I’d warn you)

A friend of mine posted the following story to Facebook with the question, “Would you go to church on Sunday morning if there was the potential of the church being attacked?”  Here’s the link to the story: Warning to Western churches after al-Qaeda call to attack sacred places. Here’s an excerpt:

According to a report by ABC News, a new video message released this month showed the American-born al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn calling upon jihadis in the West to get hold of guns and carry out lone terrorist attacks on institutions and public figures in their home countries.

“What are you waiting for?” said Gadahn, in the first video message to be released after the death of Osama bin Laden and published by Al-Jazeera’s English language channel.

He also stated: “Muslims in the West have to remember that they are perfectly placed to play an important and decisive part in the Jihad against the Zionists and crusaders, and to do major damage to the enemies of Islam, waging war on their religion, sacred places, and things, and brethren.

So would you, would I, go to church if there was a threat that we might be attacked?  This isn’t just about going to church on Sunday morning, but, in the bigger picture, about meeting together publicly with other Christians.  Around the world, many “churches” are simply gatherings of people in homes or small buildings.  The reality is, this dilemma is commonly faced by many Christians around the world.  However, this isn’t something most Americans (I’m absolutely including myself here) give much thought to… we take our religious freedoms for granted.

As Christians, we believe in a dangerous faith that calls us to give our everything to Christ.  There is a line between being stupid (needlessly walking right into a situation that will certainly cause you harm) and walking by faith in a risky situation (obeying God even in the midst of risk).

This article is making me ask myself a few questions today:

  1. What am I really trusting God for?  What am I doing that would fail if God doesn’t “come through?”
  2. Why don’t I pray more for the Church (with a capital “C”)?
  3. Would I go to church if there was a standing threat against Christians meeting together, or would I isolate myself from other Christians in order to stay safe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If It’s Not Fun, Why Do It?

As my family and I were driving home last night from a short vacation I saw a bumper sticker that caught my attention.  I’ve basically had this blog post written in my head since then.  Here’s the bumper sticker that got me thinking:

This bumper sticker made me think of the Cheryl Crow song “If It Makes You Happy” that was popular when I was a teenager.  I just looked it up on YouTube and saw that Miley Cyrus recently sang it with Cheryl Crow… somehow that just seems very fitting.  The chorus of the song says, “If it makes you happy it can’t be that bad; If it makes you happy then why the hell are you so sad.”

This type of thinking sounds good: Do fun stuff and avoid what you don’t like.  The only problem comes when the police sirens chase you down for breaking traffic rules (“But officer, I don’t like stopping a lights, I have places to go!”) and the electricity in your house goes out because you don’t like paying bills.  Again, something that sounds good just doesn’t work.

Life isn’t all fun all the time… even if you’re a Christian and have the joy of the Holy Spirit.  The times we experience the deepest joy from God are often the times when we’re the most uncomfortable, while the times we crave joy are the times when we’re totally “secure” and “safe.”  So if you want to live with a “All fun all the time” lifestyle, then be prepared for very little joy… because God gives it to those who are willing to live bold, sometimes risky, always faith-filled lives.

Exploring the Inter-connectedness of Risk & Faith

According to http://www.dictionary.com:

  • Risk: “Exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance.”
  • Faith: “Confidence or trust in a person or thing.”

Much of what I have to share below is taken from a lesson I taught in youth group a few years ago while we were studying John Piper’s book, “Don’t Waste Your Life.”  It’s a great read, I very highly recommend it!

“Risk” involves two assumptions.  First, risk involves some degree of ignorance.  You don’t know what will happen or result from your action (or inaction).  You cannot foresee the future, therefore you’re taking a risk since there could be a result that’s opposite of what you hope for.  Second, risk assumes that living a risk-free life is possible to begin with.  Driving to work or school can be risky.  More people die from car accidents each year than from airplane crashes.

Just last month I emailed the former youth pastor from EBC and asked him how he dealt with “safety concerns” parents had about missions trips.  His reply was only two words long: “Define safety.”  Good reminder, Jim…

This being said, we need to prayerfully discern the difference between foolishness and faith-filled risk.  To those who don’t have faith in Jesus Christ, these two categories will look to be the same thing: foolishness.  As Paul wrote,“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Below is a video of John Piper answering the question, “Should I consider not doing missions if it means constant danger for my wife?”  His reply is specific to missions, but I believe we can easily apply his answer to Risk-Taking in general.

The following is a great article entitled “Dealing With Risk” by Christian missions organization Adventures in Mission.  The article is not short and isn’t a light read, but if you are willing to really explore this relationship between Risk & Faith, then take a look.

Finally, I want to share two quotes that God has used to change my life:
  • “If there is no element of risk in our exploits [actions] for God, there is no need for faith.” Hudson Taylor
  • “Had Levi stayed at his post, Jesus might have been his present help in trouble, but not the Lord of his whole life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We learn faith best when we’re forced to actually rely on God’s faithfulness.  We must not “dare” God to rescue us by making foolish decisions, but when God commands we ought to obey… even if it’s risky to do so.  In the process, we’ll find that our faith really does hold us and that God is as faithful as Scripture proclaims him to be.

A Lesson from Domino’s

One of my favorite Youth Ministry blogs is written by Josh Griffin, the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church.  He wrote a recent post on Domino’s Pizza’s recent overhaul that has made me think about how open to change I am.  You can read his post by clicking this link to his blog: More than Dodgeball (named because youth ministry is “more than dodgeball”).

Here’s the video that sparked Josh’s thoughts:

As a pastor and a Christian, what do I have to learn from Domino’s Pizza taking the huge risk in completely changing how they do business.  Our product (the Christian Gospel) must never change, but how we communicate the Gospel can (and should!).  This is certainly worth thinking about.