Tag Archives: neighbors

Do Better

Well, here I am: writing to get back into the habit of writing. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since my last blog post; over sixteen months since my last published book, These Threads of Faith; and, almost 2 ½ years since I’ve spent time with the Drifter Series in, The Privilege of Sin.
It’s not like fodder hasn’t been there. There’s been plenty of grist for the mill. But the muse has just been…gone. Setting pen to paper, or in my case fingers to keyboard, only filled me with a sense of frustration and bewilderment. With the past year’s events I’ve often been more irritated than inspired. 2017 couldn’t have been over with soon enough.

So now, here we are: 2018. Everything is new. Everything is filled with a renewed sense of hope and optimism. Everything is waiting to be reopened, reborn, like the first buds of spring.
Yeah, I know, I don’t believe that either. Continue reading Do Better

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The World is Watching: but what is it seeing? (and do we care?)

19jxqlI read a quote not long ago by the author Rachel Held Evans from her recent book Searching for Sunday. It said this:

So many people fit right into church until… the divorce, the diagnosis, the miscarriage, the depression, someone comes out, someone asks a question, an uncomfortable truth is spoken out loud. And what they find is when they bring their pain or their doubt or their uncomfortable truth to church, someone immediately grabs it out of their hands to try to fix it, to try to make it go away. Bible verses are quoted. Assurances are given. Plans with ten steps and measurable results are made. With good intentions tinged with fear, Christians scour their inventory for a cure.
But, there is a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome. The thing about healing, as opposed to curing, is that it is relational. It takes time. It is inefficient, like a meandering river. Rarely does healing follow a straight or well-lit path. Rarely does it conform to our expectations or resolve in a timely manner. Walking with someone through grief, or through the process of reconciliation, requires patience, presence, and a willingness to wander, to take the scenic route.

This got me thinking. In the past, I’ve been accused of this odd thing called “hypergrace”, of going overboard in such hot button areas as “acceptance” and “inclusion”. And at first, it was an accusation I backpedaled from. For longer than I care to admit.

But now? Now I gladly welcome the accusation.

Yes, I practice hypergrace: I take this whole “love thy neighbor” thing seriously.

My overriding motivation for this is the feeling that there should be one place, one place, where all of us who are sick, wounded, hurt, grieved, addicted, neglected, alone, bullied, unwanted, or unloved, should feel safe, heard, cared for, and made holy.

That place is in God’s house.
But here’s the rub…

The Old Testament made clear that God’s house was the tabernacle, then the temple, which today would mean the church building, the synagogue, the worship center. But, on this side of the cross, Jesus has taken this so much further.

On this side of the cross, we have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer [we] who live, but it is Christ who lives in [us] (Gal 2:2). Further, the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:5(b)). All of that (and many more) means this: God’s house is now inside of us. Scripture calls this “indwelling.”

Just as on the sermon on the mount, Christ narrowed the gap and eliminated any misperceived wiggle room on what the people of Israel knew of the law, so too is He doing the same now, with us, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There’s no wiggle room in the greatest commandment. No “love others when…” No “love others if…” No “love others as long as…”

It’s love others. Period.

Evans went on to write:

 But, the modern-day church doesn’t like to wander or wait. The modern-day church likes results. Convinced the gospel is a product we’ve got to sell to an increasingly shrinking market, we like our people to function as walking advertisements: happy, put-together, finished – proof that this Jesus stuff works! ‘The world is watching,’ Christians like to say, ‘so let’s be on our best behavior and quickly hide the mess. Let’s throw up some before-and-after shots and roll the flashy footage of our miracle product blanching out every sign of dirt, hiding every sign of disease.
But, if the world is watching, we might as well tell the truth. And the truth is the church doesn’t offer a cure. It doesn’t offer a quick fix. The church offers death and resurrection. The church offers the messy, inconvenient, gut-wrenching, never-ending work of healing and reconciliation. The church offers grace.

As she says, “the world is watching”. And though we may think, I’m not concerned by what the world thinks, I’m not concerned about how I’m perceived, it reminds me of a scene from The Newsroom I watched not too long ago between the main character, Will McAvoy, and a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement that he’d belittled on prime time only the day before (caution: language):

Will:  Your movement sucks, Shelly.
Shelly:  I’m sure it looks that way from the outside.
Will (with an exasperated sigh):  And right there is your problem, ’cause who the f**k cares what it looks like from the inside?

Yes, I can hear it now; Jesus cares what it looks like from the inside. But, Jesus also cares that “the inside” should include everyone. And isn’t it our role as His followers to make “the inside” so appealing that no one wants to be left outside? Let me ask a question: How’s that been working for us so far? Personally, I believe it’s been a role we’ve failed at. Miserably. For hundreds of years. And isn’t the definition of insanity to do something over and over again in hopes of a different result?

Maybe it’s time for an entirely new conversation. Maybe even an entirely different course of action.

Maybe, instead of telling people what they need, we should ask them what they need. Get down in the muck—into their muck—hip deep, armed with only a shovel and a compassionate heart. To get our hands dirty in this messy, long, intentional, heart-wringing, gut-wrenching process called relationship. To be invited in, instead of feeling the need to bust the door down with a cross and a Bible.

What would it actually be like? Invited to share in these burdens of grief, pain, hurt, or anger: These things that all of us feel, that the world feels, that they live, that they experience? Would it be a surprise to find that many of these things have been caused by us? By believers? By religion? Often through our own misguided sense of need, or fear, or ego?

Only when our faces are sweat soaked and filthy, our hands calloused and bloody with the back breaking work of intentional relationship, will we even know if the world is ready for anything that we may have to offer.

Yes, Jesus cares what it looks like from the inside. But He also cares what the inside of the world looks like. And wouldn’t it be more effective, more real, more authentic, to dive in and change the world from the inside out?

Though it may be more effective, it won’t be a quick fix, and I think that’s our biggest fear if we turn and face the world. It’s not an easy “say this prayer” theology. And it certainly isn’t as simple as “love the sinner, hate the sin”. It was never intended to be. Jesus never said that anyway.

What Jesus gave us was good news of great joy. At least it should be. But I’m not seeing a lot of “good” in our message, or a lot of “joy” in its delivery, or in our walking it out.

I suppose the question comes down to this: What will we receive for our actions here on earth, and for the relationships we choose to form in the world? Matthew 25:21? Or, John 11:35?

I know my answer, but I invite you to wrestle with yours.

What is All This Life-on-Life Stuff?

What the typical model of “church” and “relationship” has devolved into today is more akin to disciple-making through imparting information. In other words, if I tell you something, Biblically speaking, that is “true,” I am discipling you. Doing life together means that we know each other well enough that we can speak truth to one another, regardless of time, regardless of distance, and regardless of circumstance. This truth does not have to be doctrinal, though it will be Biblically based. This truth can be social, it can be relational, and it can be speaking into a struggle, an addiction, or a conflict. It can be any number of things, spoken honestly and, at times, courageously, into the life of another person.

Courage flows both ways though in this type of relationship. Of course there is the courage to say what may need to be said rather than what the other person wants to hear. But there is also courage within the heart of the listener in order to be receptive and responsive to what may be said in love and honesty. We may not agree with what is being said, but we also don’t automatically lash out in anger or defensiveness simply because the person is speaking to us what may be difficult for us to hear. There is a certain level of superficiality that permeates a good amount of today’s church culture. I may see you in church and know you well enough to say, “Hi,” or maybe ask, “How’s it going?” You would likely respond, “Fine, praise God!” Then our families might sit with one another during the service, and afterward we would go our separate ways. And we would call this interaction “friendship,” maybe even “relationship.” Turning that into a life-on-life relationship, or for us to “do life” together, means that you and I know each other to the point where we’re actually going to be honest with each other about how we’re doing in our marriage, how we’re doing with our kids, how I’m doing in my walk with the Lord, how my prayer life is going, and what am I struggling with. We’re going be honest enough to be able to talk with each other about these issues and help each other through them by pointing each other to Biblical truth and holding each other accountable. It means when my wife is physically sick or mentally down, your family might bring us a meal. It means when your child is injured and in the hospital, we come and visit you there, consoling and praying, offering help or whatever it takes to usher you through this crisis. It also means having fun together, going to dinner, or going to ball games or to a concert, whatever our shared, common interests may be. It means that if you have to call me at 3 a.m. because of something that has come up, you can do that. In fact, I would want and expect you to do that. In other words, this deeper form of relationship means helping each other through this journey called “life,” and focusing on how we are doing at being disciples and how we are doing at making disciples.

~ from “Disciples Unleashed”, my first venture into non-fiction, co-written with Dave Campbell, World Missions pastor for Real Life Ministries, AVAILABLE NOW FROM AMAZON.COM, PAPERBACK HERE FOR $11.99, OR E-BOOK HERE FOR $2.99!

BEING RIGHT ≠ BEING LOVE

“…to people who think they have the power to read the entirety of another person’s story after a glance in a store aisle, or a report in a newspaper, or a 140-character tweet.”

BABY

Mom Has A Powerful Response To Woman Who Said ‘You’ll Spoil That Baby

I ran across this article the other day and, as they often do, this one got me thinking. I decided it was worth passing on, not because I agree or disagree with anything that was said within the post, but because it raised a larger point that I do think needs to be brought up:

Most all of us need to place ourselves in the position of the “other person”—regardless of our thoughts, emotions, points, or valid excuses—because most often, we have no idea the journey that other person is on. Continue reading BEING RIGHT ≠ BEING LOVE