Monday
Nov172008

big and small

Last week, I was at Jefferson Street Baptist Center (a homeless shelter here in Louisville) with a couple of friends. While we were standing in the resident's pantry, we asked one of the staff members what the mission statement of JSBC was. He laughed, and then responded with this:

"We'd like to say that we are here to equip the homeless population of Louisville, and we always want to do more equipping than enabling. But the truth is, we probably enable more than we equip. But for those few that we do equip to be self-sufficient, it's a beautiful thing."

As a fellow minister (meaning a person working in ministry...I'm definitely not ordained nor ever will be), I truly appreciated the honesty of this answer. I work with a much different demographic than JSBC does, and yet I find myself facing the same battle they do on a daily basis.

It's easy to get discouraged by this...by the people who demand much of me while giving very little, take for granted the work I do, and depend on anything but God, distracted by the attraction of cool events and music and friendships that my ministry may offer.

These people will always exist.

But I've decided as of late that one of the signs of adulthood is an ability to look outside of a microscopic view of one's self and his/her immediate impact, and begin to see his/her life in the broader context of the world in which they influence over a lifetime. When I was young, my present circumstances defined me, and what my life lacked in purpose it made up for in overreactions to things that are now seemingly insignificant. After growing up some, I've gained perspective on the long-term (though I still often get caught up in the here-and-now). 

My prayer is this--that the "big" things I once thought I'd do for God become smaller in significance, and the "small" acts of obedience become bigger in priority. 

Sunday
Nov092008

instigators & enablers

Question: Have you ever claimed to "hate drama"?

If so, this blog post is for you.

Let's face it, there's no one that really LIKES drama. For the small minority that do, I will simply say this: there are much better things to take delight in besides the complications of social settings that cause awkwardness in other people's lives.

But for the majority of you, drama is something that you'd rather stay as far away from as possible. In fact, the word hate implies that you would preferably have absolutely nothing to do with it. Yet many times, people that hate drama end up having something to do with it. While you may not be an instigator, you may not be running as fast as possible away from it. Allow me to explain...

The way I see it, there are two types of people in dramatic situations: Instigators and Enablers. Now, it's usually easy to find out who the Instigators are. They are the ones who do all of the initial work to make a situation complicated, either by acting out in a way that draws the wrong kind of attention or (and this one is more common) planting ideas in people's heads about their criticisms toward another person. 

But then there are Enablers. And most Enablers don't even realize they are Enablers. They usually are the people that find themselves in the middle of drama even though they've done nothing to instigate it, and actually claim to hate it (like I stated above). But what Enablers don't realize is this: drama usually starts and spreads with words (not actions). And the only way for it to spread is if Instigators have willing listeners.

So, if you are a person who hates drama, and yet you find yourself in the middle of it...stop listening! From my own personal experience, 95% (not an actual measured statistic, only my best guess) of what you listen to will be incredibly difficult not to repeat. Which is the exact enabling power words need to become drama, even if they were only intended to "vent", make someone aware of a situation, or warn someone about another person. There are a lot of "good" reasons we formulate in our minds to share what we hear, but when it comes down to it, our motivations are anything but good. 

My challenge to you is this: if you truly hate drama, don't talk about people or listen to talk about people. Unfortunately, for some people, that means making new friends, because I've been in circles before where the only topics of conversation are about other people's mistakes or dating relationships or family history or anything else that draws the attention away from the speaker's own humility. I've stayed in many situations, hoping to be the "problem solver". Eventually, I realized there were much bigger problems to solve...like world peace. Problems that I could actually be a part of the solution, and not a temporary bandage on an issue that needed to be dealt with by the injured and the injurer.

And it's easy to become addicted to accumulating information about other people's personal lives without actually asking them about it. I suppose that's one of the many reasons people love facebook and can spend an hour on it without doing anything but scanning people's profiles for relationship statuses and wall-to-walls. I'm amazed at how many people find my life more interesting than it actually is in this way.

This is not a "vent" based on a current situation or an attack on an individual. This is something I wish I would have understood in high school, in college, and even my first year out of college. It would have made my life a lot less complicated. Hopefully everyone reading this desires to have an integrity that is a testimony to what they are living for. Unfortunately, this idea of living above the tendency to have a critical nature of others without first looking at ourselves is not only counter-cultural to the world, but also opposite of how many Christians are living their life today.

Wednesday
Nov052008

adding to the noise, pt. 2

A few weeks ago, I went to Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma City, told a story of how the Spirit led him to give all the money in his wallet (only $5 at the time) to a lady for lunch. When he did just that, he was captivated by the lady's story--she had spent her last few dollars to buy gas to get to church that morning. Through his act of service, he saw the true joy in obedience. A few years later, he had the same leading; but this time, he had $100 in his wallet. He didn't give it. He doubted because he forgot about the true satisfaction he had experienced a few years earlier in giving.

Groeschel then said, "You could say I had a $5 faith."

Yesterday, as I watched the election results unfold, I couldn't help but watch the facebook statuses speaking of people's responses to the outcome. They were rather enjoyable, and ranged from complete despair to ecstatic celebration. I commend my Christian friends who, even if disappointed, posted statements about their hope and trust in the Lord...about praying and respecting and submitting to the governing authorities because we serve a sovereign God. Profound truth is found in these very statements.

And yet I wondered if I would have been reading the same responses if my television screen would have read "President Elect McCain". I wondered if we would have remembered these promises and commands if our will (meaning the conservative Christian's will) was fulfilled.

Faith is comforting in a time of uncertainty. But in times of prosperity, we often forget about it. Maybe forget is an extreme...but we don't always declare it as a testimony to the world. But these truths about placing our hope and trust in God are true no matter who is president or what country I am in or how much money I have.

I don't want a $5 faith.

I don't want a faith that's only as big as my fear.

Fear is contradictory to faith. With faith, fear doesn't make sense. At least not the fear we experience about becoming a socialist country or being attacked by terrorists or electing a possible antichrist that will bring about the end of the world (see previous post for more thoughts on that).

And this is not to suggest we should be apathetic about preventing evil things from happening. We are called to live our daily lives as an example to the peace and justice Christ brought to the world with the SAME power that raised Christ from the dead. If this doesn't make you have the right kind of fear--the fear of the Lord--then I don't know what would.

I want my faith to be the size of my joy.

To exist in hardships and victories, trials and blessings, failures and successes.

Hope and trust IN faith is worthless.

Hope and trust AND faith in God is the richest of fare. 

Sunday
Oct122008

adding to the noise

Everyone's sharing their opinions on the election and the economy.

And if you know me, you know I have opinions about everything.

But in the grand scheme of things, I have very little to offer to a conversation on such topics. Even if I did possess a great intelligence on political issues, my opinion matters no more than anyone else's.

So I'm not going to publish who I'm voting for or what I think we should do in Iraq or which candidate has the better tax plan. However, I would like to address the growing popularity of two types of statements I have heard among Christians that are ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS. I don't like to use my blog to call people out very often, but this NEEDS to be addressed. Why? Because both thoughts are saturated with pride, which is the very reason we're in a desperate state in the first place. So let's stop adding to the problem.

1. To suppose that a United States presidential candidate is the antichrist has no purpose. In fact, it makes American Christians seem rather self-centered, to think that the antichrist will come out of American politics. It seems to be used as a scare tactic, as well as an excuse not to love an individual who may not hold the same opinions on where moral truth is to be found. I'll be the first to disagree with someone if they don't hold true to the biblical model of government and right vs. wrong (which is usually every candidate), but to put an antichrist label on them is extreme.

2. The economy's current downhill pattern isn't a sign that we are approaching the end times. To suggest so is a slap in the face to everyone facing much more difficult hardships in other areas of our world, and again, is developed out of a self-centered attitude. Are we getting closer to the "end times" (whatever that means)? Yes. And we always have been regardless of whether we've been prosperous or in despair. So we feel like our world is crashing because we're losing money. Guess what? There are much more important things than money.

Monday
Sep292008

Steve the Spider

Last week, I discovered that I had a spider living behind the mirror on the driver's side of my car. I didn't have time to kill it, but I planned on attacking it in the near future. Like most people, I generally don't like bugs or spiders or any creepy-crawly organism of that nature.

The Wendy's drive-thru lady noticed the web it had spun between the mirror and the car door later that afternoon. She simply reached out and destroyed the sticky threads with her bare "touches the food you eat" hands (but that's a completely different issue). I assumed it was the last I would see of the spider.

But the next morning, the spider was sitting on a newly spun web. And I left it. I don't know why, but I admired its determination. As I got in my car and drove to work, I noticed that Steve (yes, I named the spider) could hold on to his web while I was going 15 mph, then 25, then 35...I was amazed at his feats of strength!

Every now and then, his web gets destroyed. I try to prevent it from happening--for example, my car REALLY needs washed, but I just couldn't do that to Steve. Today, I was driving on the interstate. As I began to accelerate to 65 mph, I may have shouted (with people in the car...), "Steve, don't fall Steve, crawl behind the mirror!!!" He listened. Steve is really smart. And just in case you were wondering, his web is still intact despite the high rates of speed.

I suppose you could say I have a new appreciation for spiders. I'm not too sure how long Steve is going to stay, but it's kind of nice to be fascinated outside of the "let's see what this looks like when I smash it on the pavement" way by a piece of creation.