Sep
24

Mick Jagger has something to teach us about ministry.

mick-jagger-rolling-stones-birthday-july-26-bMaybe it is just the fact that I am getting older.  Mick Jagger is 70 years old.  He is quoted as saying; “I’d rather be dead than singing ‘Satisfaction’ when I am 45.”  Clearly after the 5th reunion tour of the Rolling Stones, Jagger must have laughed at his prediction.  As a man knocking on 40, I can relate.

I love this line.   As a younger man in youth ministry I know that I had lofty goals of doing, seeing and being more than is humanly possible. There was a time in ministry where I enjoyed the simple elements of planning and executing.  I liked to put together gatherings and see them through with the proper amount of liability and guidance.  There was a time.

So why do I feel such a deep sense of dissatisfaction in my work these days?

Satisfaction is rooted in an old French term, which means to “atone for.”  In other words, satisfaction is about healing need.  Here in lays the dilemma.

My hobbies and my work seem dissatisfying a lot more now than in the past. Can you relate to this as you get older?  I keep trying to “do” things that will satisfy me and at the core of the action is simple self-defining motivation.  This is a rough place to act from.  The challenge is, I have changed.

In Luke 8:19-21 Jesus challenges the very basic elements of our understanding of relationship.  When confronted with his Mother and brothers (a term used for all relatives in the ancient Latin of the time), he declares, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.

Whoa.

Did Jesus just denounce his mom?  No, he rocked us all to the core.

The Lord declares a redefinition of need.  We need our families.  We need the relationships to be whole.  At the center of these relationships must not only be his word, but our actions.  We long to hear the good news and we must respond.  Living a life in reaction to scripture is living a life with deep satisfaction.  It is a life of intimacy with our king like no other.

 

We are not satisfied in relationships to things of this world because they are not reacting to the word.  When our actions do not come from the Gospel message, we feel a sense of dissatisfaction.  This is his simple message.

 

In ministry, let us act out of the truth we discover in our relationship with Christ and his word.  Let this relationship draw us deeper into a pursuit that must define our actions.  Let it change us.

 

I am not the same man that I was when I started doing youth ministry.  It is no wonder that I have different spiritual needs.

 

Let yourself be changed by the word.  Let is reign over you.  And let your actions flow from your intense need to be with your savior.

Sep
17

Interrupting funerals.

PSE-TAC-15-CrossbowI bought a crossbow some months ago, cause, you know, I am a guy.  I figured if there is going to be a zombie apocalypse I might as well look cool while defending myself against dead things before they eat my face.  That and it is a much more intimidating weapon for scaring off my daughters would be suitors.

What is it about zombies and vampires that intrigue us so much?  I suppose living things are fascinated with dead things.  When dead things come back to life we are even more excited.

Enter conversation about Jesus.

Sorry it just seems too natural.  I saw Louie Giglio give a beautiful sermon called “Interrupting Funerals” and I just loved it.  It is true isn’t it?  Jesus wants to interrupt our funeral.  There is too much at stake in letting potential beings destined for eternal lives succumb to silence and darkness.  Too much work has already been done.

Luke 7:11-17 tells the story of the widow who loses her only son.  Jesus comes on the scene as they are processing the body.  Everybody is sad.  The widow is crying.  Her husband/provider is gone and now her only means of social redemption and support has died as well.  Things are grim for the woman.  Jesus walks right up to her and says, “Do not weep.”  I love this.

Her whole life has collapsed.  Death has owned her very existence. She will most likely lose her home and enter into a life of slavery, intense service or worse.  Her beloved son has died young.  Let the women cry.

Nope.

Jesus line is not about just comforting the widow. It is more like, “I got this.”  Jesus interrupts the funeral.  He walks to the dead boy and says, “…Arise!”  Naturally, the boy wakes up.  You know, like you do after you have been dead!  Unbelievable. Literally.  And then the usual thing happens when dead things sit up.

Everybody freaked out.

Fear seized the crowd.  This is the part we can relate to.  Death scares us to the core.  We naturally love to see death conquered and overcome but when it really happens it freaks us out because we struggle to believe that we are capable of such a feat.  We are destined to conquer death right along with Jesus.  He makes a living interrupting funerals.  He raised a stinky Lazarus (John 11).  He raised Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:41-56).  He interrupted his own funeral for crying out loud!

Let your fear of death be conquered by the master of life today.  Perhaps we can giggle at our obsession with dead things and begin to become fascinated with the one who tells our hearts, “I got this…be not afraid.”  There is no apocalypse he can’t bring peace to.  There is no dead thing he cannot resurrect.  There is nothing to fear, crossbow in hand or not.

He is risen indeed.

 

Sep
11

We make crappy gods.

Bruce-Almighty-2

Nobody likes to be criticized or hurt.  I have never met anybody that finds joy is hearing negative things said about them or their intentions.  I always struggle with criticism that is not of a constructive nature.

In High School I used to have to be evaluated as a speaker in Debate class.  I hated it.  I just poured myself into what I was doing and now I just have to listen to somebody systematically take apart something I worked hard to construct.  Ugh.

This is a fairly universal opinion among humanity.  Right?

The thing about criticism is that it always communicates something about the critic and the criticized.  Somewhere there is a blessing.  We usually simply struggle to see it.  If I am being criticized I am relevant.  If I am criticizing somebody I usually want him or her to feel or be irrelevant.  Weird.

Luke 6:20-26 (the Sermon on the Plain) is not just about criticism.  It is about strife and challenge that all of humanity will experience at one time or another.  We are all poor, hungry, sad, hated and insulted at some time.  Nobody likes it.  Most despise the feeling.

Despair and hopelessness bring emptiness to the human condition.  Nobody likes this.  Christ knows it.  He knows that in emptiness we will always long to be filled by something.  Usually we try to fix ourselves with something we can eat, say, buy, ignore or flaunt.  But, we make crappy gods.  We just are not good at fixing ourselves.

God is a good god.  In fact he is the perfect God.  The only God.

We are “blessed” in hopelessness because of the emptiness.  Emptiness is clear.  It is vacant.  There is little distraction for God to work.  This is where his blessings reign.  We are in fact called to rejoice and leap for joy when God the creator of the universe enters into our emptiness and blesses us.

When we assume perfection, self-satisfaction, invincibility and self-righteous wealth on our own, where is the king of kings?

The challenge is in the invitation to invite Christ into our suffering.  Our emptiness must be a sanctuary for the holy.  Consider your imperfection the perfect chapel for a perfect God to reign perfectly in your heart.

Long live the critic because the eternal king reins supreme and his judgment endures forever.  On this anniversary of the horrific events of 9/11 make it a day of invitation to Christ the redeemer to enter into the hearts of the violent and the bodies of the suffering.  Invite the Prince of Peace to bring peace to destruction and despair.  Heal the scars of hatred and bring life broken places.

Sep
10

Junior High Jesus.

the-wonder-years-adam-s1I “dated” a girl in seventh grade from first period to lunchtime.  By the afternoon she had grown weary of me and dumped me.  I never had a conversation with her.  Her buddy was my buddy and he did all of the communicating.  I thought this was a full proof plan of communication given the nature of my shyness and uncanny pre-pubescent good looks.  Oh Alaina how you broke my heart and lay waste my soul!  I moved on by the time I got home.  Middle school, what do you do?

I love looking back on my sophomoric childhood relationships and laughing at the lack of genuine commitment.  Friends you do not talk to rarely stay your friends.

But, there are exceptions.

Many of us maintain a number of relationships with folks that we rarely speak to.  We gather every once and awhile and it is as if time has not passed.  I have a number of friends in this category.

However, I cannot help but contemplate the intimacy with which I love my friends and how much more rich our relationship would be if I actually initiated more dialogue.

In Luke 6:12-19 Jesus returns from some time praying and makes one of the most important decisions in the history of humankind.  From his disciples he chooses the Apostles.  No small matter.

From prayer came discernment and from discernment came relationships that have affected us all.

I wonder how many of us consider the impact our relationships have on others?  Do our great friendships inspire others?  Do our marriages model healthy witness?

When we pray we communicate our hearts to our most beloved.  The relationship grows.  When we don’t pray, the relationship remains an idea in our head or a memory in our past.  God is not going to dump us.  God is, however, longing for more…much more.

Our creator doesn’t want to be a stranger, an abstract fantasy or a good friend approached on occasion.  The king of kings wants into our very being.  This is a relationship like no other.

From prayer comes the direction and clarity to enter into other relationships that will surely surround us with honest accountability.  Our friendships define our discipleship.

Pray today.  Grow in real relationship.  Let your discipleship testify to your authentic communication with your lover and true friend.

 

Aug
30

Unprepared virgins and their silly lamps.

oil lampI’m a cradle Catholic.  I was dipped in the water as a naked baby.  Received my first Communion in second grade.  Confessed sins as a terrified third grader and got Confirmed when I was 16.  Good to go.  Right?

Like most people, I love hearing stories of deathbed conversions.  They are always dramatic.  I often find myself praying for the conversion of hearts of people that are getting on in years.  My father included.

Cradle Christians (cradle Catholics especially) hear about men and women that have come to know Christ later in their life and generally celebrate along side.  Deep down, I always feel there is a little bit of patronizing affirmation.  “Oh that’s nice that you found the faith, I’ve been hear awhile,” their eyes might seem to say.

Scripture is riddled with late life conversion.  Sometimes the life long believer is disgruntled by the “born again” mentality.  We hear about the landowner paying his vineyard workers who came on late in the day in Matthew 20:1-16.  That’s nice.

What about the life long baptized practicing believer?  What about their need for daily conversion?  What about the many who strive from infancy in a life of discipleship?

Matthew 25:1-13 tells the story of the ten virgins waiting at night to greet the bridegroom.  Five were ready for an all nighter and five were just hanging on to what they had.  Traditions be told, it was their job to greet the bridegroom so that he could enter his dwelling with his bride and consummate their marriage.  Five of the virgins have to run to the store to get more oil and the other five are good to go.  The bridegroom shows up and the five enter the feast.  The other five return to a locked gate and not only are not allowed in, but are told that the bridegroom doesn’t even know them.  Then we get the line, “…Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  Boom.  Roasted. Literally.

The best time to be prepared for darkness and long for the arrival of the bridegroom was when you were born.  The next best time is right now!

This parable is gorgeous in that it rewards the prepared.  The listeners, the wise, the patient and the diligent are affirmed in their awaiting.  The unprepared and the dismissive are ignored because they ignore the reality of an imminent relationship with a savior that wants us to share in a feast.  The banquet is real and it is happening. All around is darkness and we are to be the light.

Fire it up and bring extra fuel.  You might need to share.  You might need to be patient.  You might be the witness that converts hearts.  You will be in the celebration.  This life requires daily conversion and diligent prayer.  Stay awake.  The kingdom is at hand.