How Might We Reach This Generation of Young People, Part Two?

I used to really enjoy the AMC original series, Mad Men, but, after a few seasons, I lost interest. I am not sure if the writer’s depiction of the 1960s is perfectly accurate, but one scene resonated with my own imagination of what that era might have been like, and how it differs from our world today.

I do not remember the season, episode, or even the context of the scene, but I do remember thinking how strange it seemed to me in my own context. In short, two men in their office building, during work hours mind you, break out into a pretty serious fistfight.  After the scuffle goes on for a while, making a lot of disruptive noise, the boss breaks into the main office room where these two were fighting, and, upon his arrival, they stop.

 In our own day, both of these men would be fired on the spot. The company would go into preservation mode as news spread through the community. It would be called an “isolated incident” that does not reflect the nature of the company. One or both of the men that fought might be arrested, and one or both might try to sue the other. It more than certainly would be made into a bigger deal than it started as.

 This is not what happens in the show. Instead, the boss asks whether or not they resolved their differences, and everyone gets back to work, the two men shaking hands and going on about their day like nothing happened. This scene reflected something of the truth of modernism and its juxtaposition with postmodernity.  We are certainly not who we were in yesteryear.

 Evangelism in this day and time was very much like the scene in Mad Men. In that day, people would see evangelical admonition from a yelling preacher as the lesson they had coming to them, just as they saw a fistfight as a way to work out differences. Sure, there are still persons that respond well to a little scuffle and there are persons that respond well to a bit of disciplinary preaching, but overall, it’s just not as effective as it used to be.

 Now, I would not jump out of one ditch just to fall headlong into the other, with messages like we get from persons like Joel Osteen. However, as I argued in my last post, we need to be able to prove our side, not through tough love, but through humility and understanding. Meek love is not tough love, but it is strong love. It takes courage to be who you are called to be without being insulted when others aren’t living as they are called. And we not only need to live this example in our private lives. Our nation is having a conversation, and the church has something to say.

 We must be submissive vessels of grace before we can be effective vessels for change or correction. In the public sphere, we often see Christians arguing for what they believe to be right. In the political arena, many Christians call for legislation that would either keep the status quo—hindering others from some transgression, real or perceived, that they are wanting to be free to engage in—or would engineer outward social righteousness—which would, in many cases, produce nothing more than white washed tombs.

 The debates rise in temperature quickly, and anger ensues rapidly when each side does not get its respective way. Like many objects exposed to extreme heat, those not insulated by grace harden, and rigidity sets in. Their causes becomes cold causes, causes fought out of spite and not love. At all cost, these people will have their way, or they will burn out trying. In this, many have lost all effectiveness.

 Have we forgotten that without grace, no change is possible? This is not simply to suggest that we remain humble, forever recognizing that God is sovereign and in control of the situation, but it is also a call to action, a call for us to remember that we have a duty to show grace as our Lord has shown us grace. We are in some sense and by some degree His means of grace in the world. We are His salt and light in a dark, tasteless, and decaying word.

If we want others to be transformed, not simply because we want to control the world and have an engineered, pseudo-peace, but because we actually care for the lost ones, then we will first need to demonstrate grace before we act to see change happen. Grace always goes before. If it does not, any change will not be lasting.

 Moreover, this does not simply happen in public, but also happens in the heart first and foremost. Check your heart the next time you see the representative “opponents” of whatever issue or issues it is you are concerned about. Take stock of your feelings as you hear these “others” lobbying for their side on the news channel or social media. What feelings fill your heart? What words come to mind? What is it that you wish for them? Are you filled with compassion or malice? Do you say of them that they are precious souls in need of help, or do you call them fools, or worse? Do you want them to know peace or would you rather see some sort of vendetta visited upon them?

 If your heart overflows with negativity, perhaps it is you whom you need to work on. If it is love that you feel, remember how to love them. We, the representatives of Christ in the midst of this present evil age, influence, not by power struggles, but by service. When was the last time you served those who you wish to see transformed?

Grace – Not your crazy old Aunt

Have you ever paid attention to the spiritual elite that tried to stump Jesus time and time again? How many times did this group of highly educated people try to use carefully crafted questions, questions that they thought they knew the answers to, and how many times did Jesus diffuse the query and use it as a teaching about the Kingdom of God? These people were at the top of the spiritual world. They were on all the committees, the board. They were elders. They taught Sunday School, and whenever the “church” doors were open they were there involved with whatever program might have been going on at the time. For all intents and purposes these were the people that appeared to hold the community together.

It’s very easy to look at the spiritual elite, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees, and judge them as blind and haughty. How could they not see the world changing being that was embodied fully in Jesus Christ? Afterall, this group of people was charged with keeping the law. No one would have understood the law and the prophesy of the coming Messiah better. Perhaps, they should have been the first to recognize the arrival of Jesus as the long awaited prophet, priest and king that would change everything.

So why didn’t they get it? Why did they work so hard to disprove Jesus? To challenge him? To make him look like a fraud? It is in my estimation, it seems that these people were too focused on being Jewish than they were about being Godly. They were too busy holding on to what they thought was right than to listen to what Jesus was teaching. The spiritual elite of Jesus day were critical, hostile, and often at times malicious. Focused on their own piety and their own interpretations, they had little time to entertain paradigm shifting events and teaching from the very Son of God.

I’ve been on my share committees, boards, teaching positions, and filled pulpits; how many times have I committed the same egregious actions that the spiritually elite of Jesus day committed? How many times should I have noticed and proclaimed a teaching that was right, but, instead, forsaking it for my own personal preferences? The next question is how many times does this happen in the Christian community at large? Are we too focused on being Christian that we forsake being Godly?

A long time ago when I was in my first position as a pastor I had mentor and friend give me a piece of wisdom that rings in my ears almost daily. He said, “If you’re going to error, error on the side of grace.” How true this piece of Godly wisdom has been year after year. There is a lot of personal thoughts and feeling that percolate through the Christian community, some good, some bad, but more times than not, well intentioned. Having the ability to error on the side of grace rather than holding to what we think is right is one step we can take towards being more Godly.

Discipline Is All About The Small Things

samsonThoughts on Judges 13-16

 Discipline is about everyday battles. It is really about the small things. We do not avoid slipping up only by jumping over the big pitfalls. Moreover, while one success is a victory, it takes many grace-fueled successes each day to move forward in sanctification. For example, we do not avoid weight gain by avoiding one desert. It is a daily struggle of fighting many battles in which we have choices to make. We do not avoid being out of shape by avoiding one lazy afternoon. No, we fight against the desire to avoid work each day as we lace up our shoes to go to the gym or out for a run. Continue reading

Blurred Lines

“In nothing has the Church so lost her hold on reality as her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious or at least uninterested in religion… But is it astonishing? How can any one remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with the nine-tenths of his life?” ~ Dorothy Sayers –Why Work?

Dorothy Sayers was a prolific novelist famous for her detective novels, but was also a Christian apologist – a contemporary of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. Her observation of the compartmentalization of the Christian life just after the turn of the previous century was, in my opinion, ahead of her time. Okay, maybe not ahead of her time, but it certainly illustrates how long Christianity has had this problem. Perhaps, if the church would hear her words of warning, we would be living in a different world.

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Why Work Now If God Will Do It Later?

progress-chart-mdIn my last post (last Wednesday), I argued that God wants us to work with Him in the dirty work of facing our sin and ridding ourselves from it. Like dead roots, sin has no life, but clings tightly to that which it penetrates. In this case, sin penetrates our being. God’s call to us is to deal with this deadness. In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds us that we are to “put off, concerning your former conduct, your old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts and be renewed in spirit” (vv 22, 23). Continue reading

Miley…Robin…and the Big Mac

What can we learn from Miley, Robin and the Big Mac???

We’d be hard pressed to find any blog or talking head that has not talked about MTV’s VMAs from a week ago.  First off, I have no intentions of getting on a high horse about MTV or Miley or bemoaning how far society has fallen (please note the sarcasm in that last phrase…).  This is not one more blog jumping on the bandwagon.  I am much more appalled at too many pastors’ responses and enjoyment of casting verbal stones her way as if John 8 never happened.  Not to mention how heartbreaking it is that no one seems concerned about the backup dancers who have been dancing and over sexualized for decades.  Or the atrocity that no one seemed upset with the male on stage!?!  But I digress…. Continue reading

Are we still talking about practice???

Why are we so set on just talking about practice???  Practicing healthy eating or activity or living…practicing heaven on earth…Why are we still talking about practice?

Allen Iverson thought the same thing in an interview a few years ago after missing a few practices.  Here’s a brief clip from that press conference.  Try to count the number of times he says “practice.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGDBR2L5kzI Continue reading

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right (Pt. 2)

Part Two: Antinomianism

 While there is no new heresy under the sun, the heresy of antinomianism had its biggest hay day in rather recent history, namely right after the Reformation. It has always had its adherents, perhaps not calling it by name, and it continues explicitly or implicitly in the minds of many Christians today. But the Reformers had the biggest battle with persons trying to pervert their message so as to have their cake and eat it too.

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Food For Thought…(1/2/12…New Year’s Resolutions)

Food for thoughtBack in November we released an article, “Think Your Way To A Leaner Body.” While the title might seem to reflect some new meditating technique, titles are often never what they seem on The Echo Life. Instead of meditation, this article explored more of an ethical issue, rather than a physical one. In the end, the argument was made that we cannot just “do” things to change. We must “be” or at least “become,” by the power of grace, what we wish to be before we can do what we wish to be. Continue reading

It’s ok to look…just don’t touch?

“And then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand:  it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles…Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.” ~Matthew 15:10-18

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