The censorship of Christian community

lion-predator-big-cat-cat-162093There is so much I want to say.

So many comments I’d like to make.

More questions I’d like to ask than anything else…

But the Christian community is extremely sensitive. We–I include me in the we–are so sensitive! [don’t use an exclamation point unless you mean it!] What are we so scared of?

It’s like anything we disagree with or anyone who disagrees with us is immediately blacklisted and deemed a heretic or apostate or, dare I say, liberal!!!????!

Scott Sauls, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Nashville, tweeted on February 12

“I am too conservative for liberals, and too liberal for conservatives.” – Everyone who follows the whole Jesus

2,400 people retweeted. I can only assume it’s because more persons don’t know who Scott is.

Point being, yes. This is an amen deep in my soul. One  of the hardest aspects of doing ministry of any kind in the South is being pigeon-holed by others, feeling like there’s a mold one has to fit into, and then fearing the backlash of not fitting in.

I get diplomacy, I do. But what if the prophets of the Old Testament had been diplomatic? Would they have been prophets? No. They wouldn’t have been thrown into cisterns or killed. They probably would’ve been…wait for it…promoted.

Prophets speak.

         They are a voice.

                      They ask.

                                They tell.

                                           They prod.

Subsequently…

They are isolated. Lonely. Blacklisted, ignored, imprisoned, fired, demonized, etc.

I guess what I’m saying is, can we Christians–bought with the blood of Christ and freed from the strictures of this political world–be truly free? Can we refuse the titles and categorizations that the world requires in order to make enemies?

Why the titles, the categories, the sides? Because we have to know who’s wrong, right?

Following the whole of Jesus really leaves us as misfits. We can’t be contorted to fit into any one corner or box. Too liberal. Too conservative. Can’t be nailed down. Enemies on every side. Sounds like Jesus.

Here’s the thing. If nobody is upset with you. If nobody is frustrated by what you say. If nobody is really bothered by you. You’ve picked a box.  And turns out it’s a perfect fit.

 

Weary Mama, Jesus has been there

jesus-feeds-5000

Moms, the struggle is real. I’m not a mom, but I am married to one. We have four kids, the oldest of which is five, three of which are girls, which means there’s more drama in my house than on all of daytime television.

And when I find myself taking care of all of them solo, I wonder how my wife does it the other six days of the week. But what’s that have to do with Jesus, you ask?

Jesus performed two separate feedings of thousands of people with minimal resources.

In Mark 6, there are 5000 men and who knows how many women and children. The disciples have just returned from their maiden missionary voyage to report all they’ve done in Jesus’ name. But Jesus says, “Shhhhh….you need to rest.”

Out on the boat they go for some rest and relaxation. After all, you can only pour so much of your cup out before the thing is empty. Time to refill.

BUUUUUUUUUUT here come all those needy people. It’s like no matter where Jesus and the boys go, the crowds find them.

Jesus has compassion. “They’re like a sheep without a shepherd,” lost, wandering aimlessly without a clue of how life is supposed to look. After instructing them even more, Jesus feeds them. Actually, he makes the disciples feed them after miraculously multiplying the fishes and loaves.

So I’m reading this in preparation for Sunday’s sermon, and I think, hold on one daggum minute. I’ve seen this happen. In fact, I see it almost everyday.

Lindsey has 2 or 3 kids with her depending on the weekday. Inevitably I get a call or text about 2pm. That’s supposed to be nap time for the kids, which would mean mommy time, which would mean rest or something productive for her own sake.

But that 2pm text usually reads something like, “Addie sabotaged nap time today” or “Caroline is still awake and asking where you are” or “Why do my kids hate me?”

I try to reassure her it’s only a season…that’s going to last another 5 YEARS!

And before you do the whole, “Cherish it because it goes by so fast and you’ll miss it” thing, I hear you. But I’d be better off slapping a lion in the face and trying to outrun it than telling that to my bride.

There will be times, dear mommies–maybe every single day of the week–when you’re at the end of your proverbial rope.

  • Physically exhausted.
  • Mentally shot…like you just found the milk in the pantry that you thought you put in the fridge mentally shot.
  • Emotionally worn.
  • Spiritually sapped.

Because you pour yourself out and out and o..u…..t.

And still, here come those needy people. They’re hungry, tired, scared. They have a belly ache or need a drink of water for the fourth time in 14 minutes. They have no idea what life is supposed to look like. That is, no idea except what you show them.

You’re poured out for them. You resemble the disciples, called by Jesus to shepherd and feed and love those who can’t seem to fend for themselves.

So you have compassion. You shepherd those little hearts (sometimes with the spanking spoon), but always with love. Even when it doesn’t feel like love, it’s love. You’d roll yourself across burning coals for those little punks.

Jesus was literally broken and poured out that we might be blessed and filled. You are figuratively broken and poured out that they might be blessed and filled. But what a calling that is. What a season.

 

Real Life is (often) a Better Education than Seminary

Real life–that’s the life you actually live in case you haven’t been there in a while. It’s not the one on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest where everybody is having an awesome day and their hair never looked so good.

Real life on my end also excludes the imagined life that professional theologians pontificate about behind their blockade of black-rimmed glasses. I mean can’t someone buy tortoise shell?

Real life, with some common sense and wisdom attached to it, teaches more about theology than I ever learned in seminary (which makes me miss that $20,000 all the more).  I’m not discounting seminary, but I am saying it isn’t the be-all and end-all of theological training or ministry preparation.

I say that because on a handful of occasions I’ve processed something for a long time, years even, in the theological realm, and confidently asserted my position to Lindsey (my not theologically trained common sense, wise wife). And I reached a conclusion, or at least a satisfactory resting place (such as with predestination or with what life looks like for someone who is saved). And on these occasions, I stand on the other side as my wife.

But on these occasions, I’ve ended up on her side. And it was real life that led me to reexamine my otherwise studious position(s). Staring into the eyes of my first child, fresh out of the womb, undid all that I’d surmised about predestination.

No w283193_528197791803_7519239_nay…no way God looks into these big blue eyes and says, “To hell with you!” no matter what you wish or will.

The point of this post is to say that Jesus entered the real world, not simply to die. He became incarnate to show that the real world matters. That life communicates truths about the Source of life. That all of our theologizing has to be done through Jesus, the embodiment of God’s purpose and personality.

To whom did Jesus say, “Sorry, you were damned before the creation of the world”? To whom did Jesus say, “Sorry, you’re beyond the reach of the Father’s grace and mercy”?

I think part of maturing as a believer and theologian (they can’t be separated, by the way) is being willing to ask, “Is there something I’ve missed?” “Is there something to other position I haven’t considered or have mischaracterized?”

Advent Anxiety

Waiting.

  Wondering.

    Questioning.

  What will he look like?

 Will he be healthy?

Does he really have a role to play in God’s grand story?

Lindsey is about six months away from giving birth to our third child. In a few weeks, Lord willing, we’ll find out if the balance of power will rest with the men or women of the house. From the fatherly side of things, it’s difficult to wait on the arrival of a child. I realized with Ben and Nora Jane and now unnamed child 3 just how powerless I am.

I’m powerless to make my child healthy. I’m powerless to protect Lindsey from drunk drivers or freak accidents that make headlines every day. The waiting (advent) can breed anxiety. That is, if trust isn’t placed in the only place that matters.

Imagine the myriad of questions that Mary had 6 months away from Jesus’ birth. 3 months. 3 weeks. 3 days before, as she’s journeying for the census and knows the time has come. Oh how intense that anxiety must have been!

She had the anxieties of every woman who gives birth. But she had the added anxieties that come with giving birth to the Savior of the world. That’s something we can’t imagine.

Waiting is a humbling experience. I can’t do anything. Waiting teaches me where to place my trust, namely, in God.

To all you moms, you know the Christmas story more intimately than a man ever will. May we all, like Mary, humble ourselves before God this Advent season. As we wait, we give thanks: “for he who is mighty has done great things for me…

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What if we Forgave Like We’ve Been Forgiven

I won’t run off a list of scriptures that talk about how God’s forgiven us for our sin and did so through the sacrifice of His own Son. But I will ask, what if you and I forgave others to the extent God has forgiven us?

Some of this depends on how you view yourself in relation to God. If you don’t believe in God this ‘what if’ falls short. But even if you don’t, pretend you do. Just for a minute, buy into the belief that sin is a willful decision to violate the word of God. In essence, sin is like spitting in the face of a parent or guardian who is trying to protect you by setting boundaries. We’ve all done that at some level.

Yet regardless of the seriousness of our sin, God forgives. Through Jesus, God absorbs the insult, absorbs the rebellion, absorbs the slap in the face, and He offers reconciliation, relationship, and redemption. What if today you did that? Is there someone who has wronged you and doesn’t deserve your forgiveness but would be humbled by your gracious offer of it? Maybe they wouldn’t be humbled, but would it release you from the bitterness and anger you harbor as a result of not offering forgiveness?

What if you forgave…what if I forgave? Could that possibly uproot some of the hatred or anger in the world?