Monday, April 13, 2015

This is your life...or some thoughts on re-engaging culture

My written notes for the presentation I gave while in Fairbanks:

Some thoughts on re-engaging culture:

We're often caught in a bit of a dichotomy in how we set out to interact with our culture. We struggle to balance the idea of "meet people where they are" with "be in the world but not of the world." If you're anything like me you probably are constantly asking yourself what that even means in the context of your life. Am I being "of the world" if I go out to a bar to meet some friends or to the movies or to a rock concert? For me the answer is no, but the Christian community has often been very much the opposite. Unless It's a Christian branded version of those things then you shouldn't participate. Only do things with other Christians so that the world doesn't drag you down. Stay inside the bubble. It may seem I'm exaggerating a bit, and probably am, but over the last 30 years it really is how Christians in general have migrated and built this isolated culture that has grown to somewhat mammoth proportions. This sprang out of the ideas of attractional ministry and building programs and myriad methods for reaching the people once we get them through the door, but it was also reactionary to what was seen as a decline in the world around them.

This idea of a segregated individual pocket was not at all what was intended by the exhortation to be in the world not of it, and when we look at how Jesus interacted with the world around Him we can see that being separate and waiting for the world to come to Him was not at all what he had in mind. Word of mouth spread and lots of people heard about Him and were intrigued enough to look for Him to hear Him speak or seek healing, but Jesus wasn't just holed up in a single synagogue waiting for their arrival. He was out traveling the countryside and visiting the region, teaching His followers and everyone He met about the Father and His kingdom. Jesus wasn't looking to create a separate identity for those that followed and believed in Him but rather a fulfillment of their true identity. In the same way, He wasn't looking to segregate the people out of their culture but to transform it from the inside. Jesus wasn't afraid that the world around Him was going to infect Him....He was called a friend of sinners by the religious leaders. They were so caught up in their own rules that they missed the point of what God was after - relationship. It was this that Jesus came to model and He went to those that needed it; and then He commissioned those that believe to follow the same path.

So what does that mean for us? For starters, we have to put away the "field of dreams" mentality and stop waiting for the world to come to us - we have to go out to them. Does that mean everyone needs to abandon their work and dreams and ship off to another country to be a full time missionary? Not at all! I am in no way saying that being a missionary in a foreign country isn't something worthwhile or amazing but I would challenge the idea that impacting those around you for Christ means being somewhere different from where you already are. In the same manner, it also doesn't mean that you should all have to be a pastor or teacher at your church to be sharing the good news of the gospel. 95% of us are not called to be in "full-time ministry" positions but I would again challenge the idea that being in ministry means teaching at church or leading a bible study or running a prayer meeting is all there is to it. Those things are part of it sure, but you're engaged in ministry every time you interact with the world around you. God is not expecting you to give up your dreams or careers or the things He blessed you with the talent to do; He wants to see you blossom in those things and use them to glorify Him! He has gifted you with those dreams and talents to provide you with ways to impact the culture you are a part of. He doesn't need a separate pocket of people who are only interacting with each other and using a lure to try and entice people to join; He wants to see all people reconciled to Him and to be in relationship with them and that can only happen if we are making the effort to meet them where they are. That means going out to a bar to meet a friend who's having a rough time or going to a family event to celebrate even though you're the only Believer in the group. It means talking to your neighbors and coworkers even though their lifestyles are not the same as yours. We cannot sit back and wait for them to be ready. We have to go and we have to be a part of their lives....because more than anything else people want to feel like they matter and that they are valued. It's not just random street corner evangelism or revival meetings...those things can be valid...but getting involved in people's lives, no matter how messy, and loving them and pointing the way to Jesus by our actions and sometimes our words. Bottom line: to truly impact your culture you have to be a part of it and influence it from the inside, you can't pull up the stakes and retreat to the sanitized bubble and wait for the end to come.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

There's a Resurrection underway...or the essence of Peter

I've been thinking about Peter's story for's one I relate to in my own journey of following Christ...I so often go back and forth between bold proclamations of undying devotion and bitter denial...I think in some ways we all is the constancy of the struggle we have to push beyond the flesh we want to leave behind....anyway I thought I would share a new piece and find it appropriate to do so on this wonderful Easter Sunday...

It started with the fish and a spirit crying out
longing to be filled with revolution and redemption
We'd read the prophets and followed John in the desert
we could sense something was coming
and then He was there calling to us
asking us to follow Him
We left our nets there on the beach
and wandered off into a new adventure

Three years in and things have been a whirlwind
so many wonders these eyes have seen
and I couldn't even begin to tell you them all
I sometimes scarce believe them myself
and yet I know deep within that everything He's taught
is the embodiment of truth and righteousness
It strikes me in those moments
The divinity of my Lord
and I wonder when He will finally reveal Himself
to everyone and purge our land of these oppressors

Tonight there's an uncertainty hanging in the air
covering our somber meal while He talks about his impending death
There is mention of betrayal, abandonment
but surely He can't mean me
yet He tells me of the onrushing denial
three times and the rooster song
Steadfast I hold to my proclamation
and we retire to the evening prayer

Roused from our unexpected dreams
greeted by the forewarned betrayal
by one of our own
anger and rage welling up within me
and my sword lashes out
to protect my Lord
yet He will not have it
He continues to proclaim events
are unfolding as they must
and we all scatter in fear and disbelief
bringing our dinner conversation
into the light

I cannot let this lie
circling back in the shadows
to watch as they take Him
into the proverbial lion's den
where hungry jackals wait
to pick his bones with the teeth
of their envy
Faces coming into view
questioning me while I try to remain apart
marking me as one of His men
I deny each one more fervently than the last
and on the third I see His eyes upon me
as the rooster song fills my ears
His words thundering in my mind
Turning away at a dead run
molten torrents of tears
carving down my face as my body
is wracked with bitter sobs

The day drags on and the crowds have gathered
covering Golgotha to see this execution
My disbelief can hardly be contained
Why has my Lord allowed this to happen?
I can hear the pounding hammer and the throaty screams
the result of nails piercing flesh and bone
and they raise Him up
hanging on this tree between two thieves
breathing prayers of forgiveness to the very last
Confusion clouds my thoughts
and we run

Three days in and things look bleak
none of us know what comes next
our world is shattered
our Lord is gone
When Mary burst in with incredible news
I could hardly believe it
We ran to the tomb
He was nowhere to be found
and His words flooded in
He is risen...could it be?

Back to the fishing nets, to what I know
maybe the adventure was just for a little while
but the fish will always be there
even if none appear to be available for the catch
Yet someone calls from the shore
"Throw your nets to the other side"
resulting in more fish than can be hauled
and I know my Lord is there
swimming for my life
in a rush to greet Him
A meal prepared to share
as was always our way
and He asks me of my love and devotion
Three times I answer
and feel the warmth of restoration

So many years have passed since then
so many trials we've faced and miracles we've seen
The revolution we craved but never really understood
is now engulfing the world
A revolution of the heart and mind
A rebellion against the power of eternal death
which forever lost its grip that black Calvary day
our Lord Jesus reclaimed the keys
and restored creation to its rightful path
I am old now and the oppressors have finally
pronounced my sentence
They are leading me now to that place
and I see the instrument of my demise
wooden crossbeams gnarled and splintered
tied and stretched out
yet I will not let them set me upright
I am not worthy to die like my Lord

hang me upside down