crumble

For thousands of years stonemasons have been splitting rocks to build something.  If you watch what they do, you’ll notice they lightly tap on the rock until they find the one weak point, then with a chisel and one hit, the rock completely comes apart. 

I am just like that rock.  I can take the light tapping; in fact I can take some even bigger hits, but I have the tendency to completely crumble when hit in just the right spot.  When you completely crumble, your self-confidence begins to dwindle, when this happens you begin to ask what your self-confidence is even based on.  Do I draw my confidence from my own talent and accomplishments or do I get it from what Jesus has done and who He is?  Self-confidence is a crazy animal, when people lose it, there is no telling what they will do.

As much as I hate the crumbling feeling, I do appreciate the moments.  They remind me that at times I take over for God.  They remind me that I have a tendency to draw my identity from myself rather than the redeemer of the world.  In the end I think this issue of a crumbling invites me to lean into the king.  It invites me to reassess who is really in charge and what kind of leader I want to be.  Ultimately, something beautiful is built because of what was broken.

Do you guard your weak points?

or

Do you allow yourself to sit and wade in the waters of a complete crumble?

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plato, socrates & yolo

It seems like my head is always in the ancient world.  History is a definitive factor  in every conclusion I come to.  It is why I have a strong faith that the person of Jesus came, died and raised to life again and appeared to over 500 people including the Apostle Paul, who had previously persecuted the church.  I am always going back to history because it informs the present so much.  It answers the question, “Why?”

If we have deep questions about our society, they can usually be traced back to their origins in history.  I have always wondered why there were huge segments of people that say they believe in Jesus and look nothing like him.  When I became a Christian, I immediately read the entire New Testament.  I didn’t understand people who called themselves Christians but looked nothing like Jesus.

I found what I was looking for in the writings and beliefs of Plato and Socrates.  They believed that the body and soul were completely separate.  They believed that the soul pre-exists the physical body and that the body may indulge in whatever impulses it may have at the time.  The thought was that as long as the soul worshiped and the body took care of its needs, then the person would be fine, the soul lived beyond the physical anyway.

I think this belief has infiltrated our minds in a powerful way.  There is the old cliché of, “living like a saint on Sunday and a sinner the rest of the week.”  There are widely held societal beliefs as simple as, “YOLO.” (You Only Live Once) It’s what all the kids are saying these days.  The thought behind YOLO is since you only live once you should try everything once, for students who are trying to follow Jesus this flys in the face of denying yourself and taking up your cross. The implicit philosophy of this belief is everything is beneficial because you only live one time.  However, not everything is beneficial.

I think the idea of a separate body and soul that have the ability to live in opposition to each other has done a lot of damage to Christian witness.  This kind of duality allows you to physically partake in some activities that are damaging to your health or spiritual vitality.  Remember Paul tells the church in Corinth that their bodies were bought at a price, so honor God with your body.  I’m pretty sure Jesus, Paul or John don’t teach YOLO.  I think the New Testament idea is that you relinquish your rebellious spirit to God and allow him to fill you with His Spirit. When we relinquish our self to Jesus and are guided entirely by Him, this duality that I have described begins to die.

The denomination that I am a part of is a Holiness denomination,  Holiness simply describes what happens when you surrender your life to Jesus and allow Him to fill it.  It describes the change in thinking and desires to glorify God with your life rather than living for your own glory.  So, why is it so hard to call people to holiness? Maybe it has something to do with Plato and Socrates and YOLO.

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simple obedience

I am reading a book right now called, “Covenant and Kingdom, the DNA of the Bible.”  The author goes through the Bible and demonstrates how the two themes, Covenant & Kingdom are the two consistent ideas that go from Genesis to Revelation.  The author, Mike Breen laid out the relationship between David and Saul and he said this about their leadership styles,

“But Saul had not learned.  God is not looking for a clever king, just one whose heart was surrendered to the Lord.  Saul had tried to take his own approach to kingship rather than the path of simple obedience.” 

How much time do church leaders give to gimmick?  How much time do we give to events that will, “bring people in”? How much of our lives are surrendered in obedience?  Some lead from their title and authority.  Some lead by their physical stature, Saul was noted to be the tallest Israelite.  I think the most powerful leaders I have served with have lead from a conviction that comes from their obedience to God.  We have all had someone in our lives who have led from sincere conviction.  They lead from their passion and not their gifting.  They lead from their heart rather than their stature.  When people lead this way they are hard not to follow.

I have two questions for church leaders.

1.  Are you leading from a simple obedience to the Lord?

2. Do you lead out of conviction and calling or power and authority?

 

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the mark of the beast

There are several ways that the New Testament authors talk about the struggle of Christians in the first century. One of those ways is in the 13th chapter of Revelation.  John talk about something called the Mark of the Beast. I think that the mark of the beast has a lot more to do with the struggle of how Christians interact with the empire, than it does the end of the world.  Revelation 13 talks about the mark of the beast being 666 on the forehead and hand, which is a reference to two things, Nero and also a reference to King Solomon’s relationship with the Queen of Sheba.  It is thought the Nero’s name numbered up to 666.  Solomon famously departed from the ways of his father and when his gold was added up weighed 666 talents.  This was a huge amount that highlighted his alliances with other countries, which highlighted a departure of a reliance on God.   666 is a reference to a massivly wealthy empire.[1]  The idea of the mark being on the head and hand is the antithesis of the Shema.[2]   This is where God says, bind these laws on your forehead and your hands.  Every good first century Jew would have known what phylacteries were.  It is a way to wear the Shema on your head and hand.   I simply think that John is warning the early church that the allure of the empire is huge and asking the question, “whose will image to you bear?”

I think the early church understood what the mark of the empire was.  In many places in Rome along with worshiping Caesar came the right to buy and sell goods.  I think the mark of the beast was clear to the first century church.  Those who lived in the image of God rejected the luxuries of the empire lived in poverty and martyrdom.  They refused to take part in celebrations that honored the gods of the day.  They refused military service, and attended to the sick and the poor. They had to take a bold stand in their culture.  There were two options, look like the empire or look like Jesus.

Would the first century church recognize the 21’st century church.  Do we look any different from the “empires” in which we live?  Or are we walking around with the mark of the beast?



[1] 2 Chronicles 9:13-31

[2] Deuteronomy 6:8

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thoughts on groundswell

Dear Groundswell Friends,

I wanted to give you my take on the groundswell dilemma.  I know that to some extent, we gave a voice to the voiceless and now it seems like it is being taken away, when in reality it is just being moved. And please be assured, we can have great discussions on this new page.  It will be highly linked through facebook and this is a better move for the long term.  I know that many of you don’t see it but we are asking you to look into the future with us.  What we are saying here is that Groundswell deserves its own webpage because of the massive amount of content.  What we are hearing is, “don’t get away from your roots.”  We can consider ways to stay grounded to facebook.

I do want to unload on all of us and call us to something that I think is of massive importance:  Jesus is so in love with us it is stinking crazy.  I can’t fathom all of it and am in awe of His grace and mercy daily.  I think when we love each other; we display the gospel in ways that cannot be spoken.  When we show division we actually lessen the power of the cross.[1] The stakes are to high; we simply can not afford to treat each other poorly on facebook or in any other medium of exchange.

Some of us are ordained, licensed, commissioned or members but we are all believers.  Therefore we are all called.  We must continue in the spirit of unity.  We can work out the kinks in Groundswell on facebook or word press, but the bigger issue is the Gospel.  Will you put it on display or remain divided?

“In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.  In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.”[2]

We gave people almost complete autonomy to post what they were thinking and feeling.  Unfortunately we saw a number of comments and posts filled with rude and self-righteous tones.  This became the undercurrent of groundswell.   I can not tell you how many people have been turned off or how many private messages I’ve gotten from people who have said, “I’m sorry I posted, I’ll never do that again.”  The gentleman, who asked what the church’s response should be to the Occupy Wall Street movement, told me he would never post again on groundswell because of the type of response he got.  Since then he hasn’t even liked a post.  A friend told me that one of his Wesleyan college students who went away to school stumbled on Groundswell and was so disappointed with the tone of conversation that he found.  His response was that, “this wasn’t the Wesleyan Church he knew.”  People have written blogs or simply stopped engaging because of the tone of many contributors.  We have to remember that Jesus is bigger than the Wesleyan Church and far bigger than Groundswell.  It really has become difficult to find a loving and respectful tone on this site.  Therefore we have to ask the question, “is groundswell doing more harm than good?”  I think we are 50/50 on that and we can do better with monitored discussion on a Word Press site.

The World Wide Web is exactly that…worldwide.  People stumble across Groundswell all the time and I wonder what they think.  We can do better.  The world already hates us lets stop giving them reasons.


[1] 1 Corinthians 1:17,  Paul argues that when the church is divided and elevates people over Christ then the cross of Christ is emptied of its power.  He is also talking about Classical Greek Philosophy vs. the Wisdom of God.

[2] 1 Corinthians 11:17-18, Paul’s entire letter has the theme of unity admits the division of the church.  In this instance the believers were taking a divided approach to the Lord’s Supper.  Here Paul continues to argue that division does more harm than good.

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