Jerry Thinks.

Marriage. Parenting. Ministry. And anything else.

Seeing What You Can’t.

As I plummeted to earth and toward the Atlantic Ocean at breakneck speed, I pondered this question:

“What is faith?”

Fair question, right?  I mean if you think about it we all put our faith into lots of things everyday.  On the highway today you’ll be putting your faith in the other drivers to stay where they belong.  On that narrow backwoods road, you’ll be putting your faith in that oncoming driver not to drift into your lane when they look down to text a message, change the radio, or light a cigarette.

I’m putting faith in the chair I’m sitting in right now.  You put your faith in the neighbors who live around you not to shoot you when you step out your front door.  (Remind me later to tell you the story of when I got shot by my next door neighbor.)  I put my faith in the dentist when he gives me that injection that its actually Novocaine and not mercury because he’s secretly part of the Taliban and is killing infidels one by one in his suburban dentist office.  You put your faith in your coworkers to give you a heads up when the boss is passing by so that you can stop reading this blog and instead look over that spreadsheet the boss asked you to put together by the end of the day.

Yup.  Faith surrounds us.

You want to find yourself in an interesting conversation?  Ask the next person you see what they’re definition of faith is.  Go ahead.

faith-road-wallpaper_1920x1200Hebrews 11:1 gives us God’s definition of faith.  Feel free to look it up here, but let me give you the Cliff notes version (or Spark notes for those born after the mid nineties): Faith is trusting the invisible.  Faith isn’t in the chair you’re sitting on, the drivers who surround you on your commute, or your dentist.  Faith isn’t in those things.  Faith is the silent transaction you make that drives fear far enough away for you to operate.

All that is admittedly generic and quite frankly pretty benign.  You might find similar sentiments in a greeting card.

So when we talk about faith and the invisible, we can’t not talk about the spiritual realm you and I are actually swimming in constantly.  The Bible teaches us that the visible is temporary and the invisible is eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).  In other words, if you can see it, it won’t last.  If you can’t see it, it will.  I’m not trying to insult your intelligence here, I’m just trying to re-calibrate our thoughts correctly.

Faith says to fear “You’re not the boss of me.”  Faith allows you to rest when questions are unanswered.  Faith stands you up when your knees want to give way under you.  Faith assures you that despite the present conditions, literally nothing is now as it will be later.  Faith stands on the crazy idea that God is working things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

So where is fear present in your life?  Where has it elbowed its way in and declared presidency?  Let faith speak up.  Let faith have the floor.  Let faith in the loving God of heaven show you how powerful He is and what depth of peace only He can establish in the midst of chaos.

Faith isn’t blind.  Quite the contrary, actually.  Faith sees clearly.  Not in the present conditions, the tangible, or the visible details we can see; but in what God might be up to for our benefit and how in His good time He is going to prove Himself faithful as long as we hold tight.

To the Grads.

Graduates in Cap and GownHey there Graduates of 2014.  I’ve got some advice for you while you celebrate this milestone.  I know you’re busy so I’ll make it quick.

1.  Move on.

Your education thus far has been like a water balloon.  Your school is the balloon and the people you’ve gone to school with have been the water.  On graduation day, that balloon pops and nothing at all is holding you all together any longer.  The majority of those people you perhaps tried hard to impress and fit in with are people you’ll have no further interaction with.  Likewise, there are those who have squirmed their way into your heart and you cherish them.  Keep hold of those friends and move on.

2.  Stay hungry, yet humble.

Over the next year or two you’re going to have your mind blown finding out that you’re not nearly as smart as you thought.  Keep an insatiable hunger to learn, grow, and stretch.  But keep in mind that the older you get, the more you’re going to realize that you have so much more to learn.  Let that reality keep you humble as you hunger for more life experiences that will teach you valuable lessons.

3.  Never ever settle.

I’m not advocating workaholism.  I’m not advocating greed.  I’m not advocating discontentedness.  I’m saying always be on the lookout around you for what else can be bettered, who else can be loved, where else can you serve.  Don’t settle for a life that has its focus on your own comfort.  If you do, I promise you you’ll reach the end of it all and kick yourself for being so shallow.

4.  Eat the termite.

I was once on a boat in the mangroves of Costa Rica.  The driver of the boat pulled it up to a tree with an enormous termite nest on it.  He took out his knife and sliced off a slab of that nest while termites crawled all over his hand.  He lifted his hand to his mouth and licked several termites off.  He then offered anyone who was willing to join him in his little feast.  I jumped at the chance to eat termites with Raffa in a boat in the jungles of Costa Rica.  Whenever you get a chance to do something, do that something.

5.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Make your life about Him and He’ll make your life matter in ways you never saw coming.  It really is as simple as that.  Whether you know it or not (and whether you like it or not), this man died to purchase you.  Until you embrace that, living your life will be like driving a stolen car.  Your life isn’t yours.  It’s His.  Turn it over to Him and see what happens.

Congratulations graduates.  Stand still for a minute, soak in the sun of this milestone, then get moving.

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A Different Perspective on Consumer-Driven Worship

consumer drivenA hefty indictment has been leveled against modern worship services in the past years.  The term “consumer-driven” has emerged as the front-runner for describing what we as worshipers have created.  In a well intentioned desire to be relevant, attractive, and welcoming, we have served up a worship service that is geared mostly toward the idea that worshipers are best viewed as customers coming to consume.

I’ve even heard the term “customer service” come out of the mouths of church leaders when they’re talking about caring for people we’ve been entrusted by God with.  And you know what?  I get it.  I understand why a local church should position itself as a place of refreshment, enjoyment, and acceptance.  I get why we should seek to make people feel at home, feel welcome, and feel at ease.

But at what expense?  It seems far too often that its at the expense of forgetting an even bigger, far more important truth.

I have no problem creating a “consumer-driven” worship experience as long as we agree that God is the consumer.  God is the one to be focused on.  God is the one to be adored.  God is the one to be made welcome.  Consumer-driven?  Sure.  As long as God is consuming us instead of us consuming our preferential entertainment and calling it worship.  THAT’S the only kind of consumer-driven worship I can get behind.

Hebrews 12:29:  “for our God is consuming fire.”

1 Corinthians 6:20: “You were bought with a price…”

1 Corinthians 7:23: “God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.”

Sounds a lot like God is the purchaser here, doesn’t it?  So how are Christians reckoning themselves as the center of attention?  As the ones consuming?  As the ones to be catered to?

Do I think churches should do all they can to be engaging, to meet needs, to embrace anyone and everyone who comes to worship, to go all out in creating an atmosphere of love and acceptance?  Absolutely.  But in our quest to win the guest, we have lost our grip on Who is to be the ultimate object of our affection and attention.

Bill Hybels has made Willow Creek famous for this.  For all intents and purposes, the concept of “seeker friendly worship” was coined at Willow Creek.  Its now commonly referred to as the “Willow Creek model” of ministry.  Popular?  Sure.  Effective?  It surely can be effective at certain things.  But it can also be taken to the extent where we lose sight of the One we are worshiping in exchange for the comfort of those who come to worship.

What do you think?  Am I off?  Where have you seen consumer-driven ministry?  Can this approach be done “right”?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Come & See, Go & Be.

For the last several years (that I’ve noticed anyway), an argument has been raging among Christians (and ministry leaders) about whether our churches should be “attractional” or “missional”.  The attractional camp throws their stage lights at the missional camp and the missional camp throws their Toms shoes at the attractional camp.  We’ve been shaking our fists at each other for far too long.

Can we stop now?  Please?!?

Church-on-wheelsWhat neither camp seems to recognize (or admit) is that Jesus’ ministry was (in keeping with current terminology) both “attractional” and “missional”.  In other words Jesus ABSOLUTELY drew a crowd, and Jesus ABSOLUTELY sent people out in His name, for His Kingdom, and on His mission.  Another, more succinct way to put it is that as followers of Jesus, we need to recognize the invitation Jesus gives today to “come and see”; see what Jesus is about, see how people worship Him, see (and taste) the goodness of God and fellowship with those who call Him Lord.   And we need to equally recognize the call for His followers to “go and be”; be the agents of grace He has shown us how and told us to be.  Be the unashamed lovers of God and love those around you with His kind of love.  Be the salt of your community and the light of your world.  Come & See, Go & Be.

So if you’re part of a group that snubs its nose at traditional churches, and you meet in an open meadow thinking that churches like Northpoint and Saddleback and LifeChurch shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, then quite honestly you need to check your heart.  And likewise if you think that people are just clawing at the church building doors to get in and that’s how it should be, then you need to check the current stats (no claw marks on church doors) and then re-read the Gospels and especially the book of Acts.

 

Whatever you do, please STOP arguing over “Attractional vs. Missional”.  You’re actually hurting the work we’re called to do for the Kingdom.

Against? Not again.

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It’s taken nearly 2000 years but I think we Christians have finally done it. I think we’ve successfully turned following Jesus Christ into something more like standing opposed to a mile-long list of this and that. We’re known more by what we stand against than what we stand FOR. Ugh. Gross.

So as a follower of Jesus, let me tell you what I stand for…
God’s glory
Holiness (my own; yours is between you and God)
Passion for Jesus
Grace
Being a husband and dad I’m not ashamed of
People, who are God’s prize creation
Zeal
Forgiveness
Reconciliation
Making my flawed faith vulnerably visible
Healing
Laughter
…and little else.

What about you?
Forget “against” for a few minutes. What are you FOR?

I’m not a “homophobe”.

“You’re such a homophobe!”  “Why don’t you just go back to your bible study, you homophobe!”  You’re nothing but a narrow-minded homophobe.”  “Stop spewing your hate, you homophobe!”

If there’s one word I’m incredibly tired of hearing, it’s “homophobe.”  It used to make me angry.  Now it just makes me sad.

homophobia-739571I’ve heard this term used so many times, and it’s always coming from someone who is for gay marriage toward someone who is against gay marriage and/or homosexuality.  But what the person using the term doesn’t understand is that the term “homophobe” doesn’t fit at all.  What they are saying is that you have to agree with homosexuality and if you don’t the only other logical explanation is that you’re afraid of homosexuality. Its just a misused scare-tactic and a terrible one at that.

A phobia is, simply put, an irrational fear of something.  Like heights, or spiders, or enclosed spaces, or planes, or clowns.  I have no fear of homosexuals.  None whatsoever.  Gays that know me can vouch for that fact.

And yet it seems that if someone has a conviction that the marriage relationship should be reserved for one man and one woman, then they are viewed as holding an opinion that stands in the way of the homosexual movement in our country, they are therefore slapped with the label “homophobe.”  I don’t get it. I mean, wouldn’t it make just as much sense to call someone in favor of gay marriage or homosexuality a “heterophobe”?

For all you Christians out there who are trying to fight the tide of gay marriage in America….you can stop now.  That ship has sailed.  The snowball is way too far down that hill and its only a matter of time before every state in America recognizes the union between two same-sex individuals and legally calls it “marriage”.    (In case you’re wondering the current state count where gay marriage is legal is 17 and counting.)  Despite what you might think, I’m not “surrendering” or turning my back on conviction or changing my mind.  I just recognize a foregone argument when I see it, and I know what a cultural shift looks like.  This is the biggest one since the 50′s and 60′s in my opinion.

Okay, we get it.  The homosexual movement is well into the process of changing the cultural norm so that same-sex couples are commonplace and nobody looks or thinks twice anymore.  And we’ve got to hand it to the mainstream media.  They’ve been pounding away at this drum for years upon years upon years.  They’ve played the leading role in the desensitization of this issue.  Congrats.  No matter what I think, say, or do, my children and grandchildren will live most of their lives in a country where homosexuality is as wide open, wide spread, and widely accepted as heterosexuality.

But simply because my conviction differs from yours, please don’t call me a homophobe.  You actually couldn’t be more wrong.  I’m not fearful.  I’m faithful.  And hopeful.  I’m not bigoted or narrow-minded.  I’m not enemies with homosexuals.  I’m enemies with Satan and I hate him for how his deceptions are destroying our country and world.  All I have for all people; gay or straight is love.  And God helping me, I want you to see that just because someone calls Jesus their Lord and Savior doesn’t mean that they fear you or hate homosexuals.

Is there a loving God who made us all?  Yes.

Have those who love Jesus failed at showing His love as they should?  Yes.

Is our country in a new day of identity and definition?  Yes.

Have we marginalized the God of the Bible on the basis of his “irrelevance”?  Yes.

Do we ALL need a spiritual awakening?  Yes.

Does any of this mean that I’m a homophobe?  No.

 

 

Boo-hoo.

cry_babyWe’re turning into crybabies.

All this declaration of our rights is making us weak.  Follow the progression…

I deserve X.

When I don’t get X, I get to cry foul.

Why? I deserve X because somebody else has X and they’re no better than me.

Therefore, if I don’t get X, I’m going to complain until I get X.

My neighborhood has a Facebook page.  It’s a place people can post things like “My dog got out, can you let me know if you see it” and “We’re having a yard sale” and “Hey, there’s a shady guy in a hoodie. Lock your doors” and stuff like that.  But there are frequent rants too.  One recent post was someone complaining about how the local elementary school had a fire drill and their kid was made to go outside without a coat.  This particular wall post had lots and lots comments, many commiserating with the troubled parent.

Boo.  Hoo.  Hoo.  Your kid went outside without a coat.  Let’s lynch the teacher, principal, and administration for the uncaring, unthoughtful, and reckless monsters they are.  My kid was a tad uncomfortable for 10 minutes.  Boo.  Hoo.  Hoo.

Now, the irony that I seem to be complaining about people complaining is not lost on me.  I know you could point the finger at me and say my complaining is no better or more justified than anybody else’s.  I get that.

But I want to point out the fact that it seems that by and large, we’re becoming a spoiled people. And an entitled people. And a complaining people. And therefore a weaker people.

I’ll put myself in the shoes of that parent who had their kid outside for 10 minutes without a coat (my kid goes to the same school).  My child comes home and I say, “How was your day?”  They say, “Good, except we had a fire drill and I had to go outside without a coat.  I got cold out there.”  I say, “Oh really? That’s a bummer. Well, glad you’re okay and it was just a drill.”

Was I uncaring? Was I calloused to the fact that they were cold for 10 minutes?  You make the call.

Taking away my kids' problems robs them of the lessons those problems come loaded with.

Taking away my kids’ problems robs them of the lessons those problems come loaded with.

What I’m trying to do is to teach my kids that the inconveniences of our lives are usually where the lessons live.  That with discomfort comes strength.  That when we see something that seems unfair, we should remember that we’re not always the best at defining fairness.  And that yep–life is sometimes if not often quite unfair indeed.  But that unfairness is by no means a license for whining.

Are there things worth fighting for?  Sure there are.  Are there injustices that ought to be righted?  Of course.  But from what I can tell we’re becoming a people who are bent on trying to make EVERYTHING okay for EVERYONE.  It can’t be, it won’t be, and it shouldn’t be.

And on a grander scale, us trying to complain ourselves into a better future is simply as nonsensical as it sounds.

 

“Complaining is the language of cowards.”  -Dan Webster

 

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