October 25, 2010

The Average Joe Transference Theory...

The earliest census on record dates back to a piece of clay pottery estimated to be from the year 3800 B.C. The claim is made that it is a Babylonian census. In our own country, the census dates back to 1790. From these censuses we gain interesting information. For example: If the population of the earth were to increase at the present rate indefinitely, by A.D. 3530 the total mass of human flesh and blood would equal the known mass of the earth itself; and by A.D. 6826, the total mass of human flesh and blood would equal the mass of the known universe.

Kinda' boggles the mind, doesn't it? Consider this: The total population of the world at the time of Julius Caesar was estimated to be approximately 150 million people. The world population will grow by more than 150 million people over the next two years.

Now, to bring it down to a smaller chunk of reality, in the time it takes you to read this article, 200 people will die and 480 people will be born. That's about two minutes' worth of living and dying.

Statisticians estimate that more than sixty-billion people have been born in the history of mankind and that there is no way to estimate how many more will come. And yet, even more mind boggling is the fact that with the multitude of possible combinations and variations of the genetic cells of humans, none of the approximated sixty billion people who have inhabited this globe were exactly alike. Scientists also estimate that this trend can and will continue indefinitely.

There once was a French criminologist named Emile Locard who developed "Locard's Exchange Principle." If you have ever watched a show like CSI or NCIS, you have seen its theory in action, or maybe stretched to the limits of absurdity. Basically, it states that everyone who enters a room will unwittingly leave something behind, as well as take something with them. It may be something as small as a hair or particle from clothing, but theoretically everyone takes something and everyone leaves something. This nearly sixty-year old theory has even been proven by modem technology.

I have my own theory on the subject. (Call it the Average Joe Transference Theory) All of the estimated sixty billion people who have been born, lived and passed on to the next life, have brought something with them, left it here, and took something away in the most spiritual of senses. We impact the lives of others and leave a footprint on the lives of those closest to us that is indelible and undeniable. Most of this "something" cannot be seen, heard or measured in any tangible way. But none the less, it is real and though this "something" cannot be counted, without it literally nothing counts.

Who you are and what you leave behind matters more than you could ever know. Everyday you continue to impact people in ways that could be unknown to you, not to mention the people who are closest to you.

It is better to die a thousand deaths than to live one life that's not worth living.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

October 21, 2010

The Ballistic Golf Club

Have you ever seen a product advertised that you just had to have? It seems to meet a need deep within your psyche. QVC knows this and knows how to relieve you of your money because of it. A few years ago, I found such an item.

While reading the paper, I came across an article about a new golf club called "the Ballistic Driver." It's perfect for the "weekend golfer."

The Ballistic Driver was a new club on the market especially designed for people who have trouble hitting the golf ball. The way it works is, the club head has a .22 caliber load built in. All you have to do in order to drive the golf ball an extraordinary distance, is to lay the club head beside the ball and pull the trigger on the club. This trigger activates a 22 caliber load, similar to a bullet, causing the clubface to shoot out of the head an inch and a half at a high rate of speed. The Ballistic Driver Company guaranteed that the ball will fly "300 yards every time . . . straight as an arrow!"

This club comes complete with a travel case. It is equipped with a safety device to keep it from "going off” in an airport or the trunk of your car.

Those of you who have golfed with me can attest that Ballistic Driver is the club for me! You see, I don’t like golf very much. I play occasionally because I like using terms like "bogey," "birdie," and "eagle" (although I've seldom used the latter two terms in conjunction with my game). I like the camaraderie of being with friends, having a coke while sitting in an electric car, and I like sunshine. Golf would be my true passion. . . if I didn't have to actually swing the club and try to figure out where I'd hit the ball.

And to my point, the Ballistic Driver is perfect for the golfer who isn't really a golfer, like me. It is the club for the person who doesn't want to spend the time and frustration to actually develop the skill necessary to enjoy the game, like me. Just point, shoot and forget the hassle and headache of concentration and consistency. . .

. . . This product got me to thinking. Maybe I can come out with a Ballistic Bible. I'm not sure how it would work, but it would be perfect for the "Weekend Christian." It would be the Bible for the person who loves singing the songs and using words like "saved," "missional," or even "praise-elujah." Maybe there could be a trigger to be pulled when an "amen" or "that’s right" is in order.

It would come with a carrying case as well as a safety device to keep it from "going off' in embarrassing places like the home, office, or a social gathering.

It would be the perfect gift for the Christian who isn't a Christian. It's the Bible for the person who doesn't want to spend the time and "sweat equity" to learn the word. Just point, shoot and forget the hassle and headache of developing a real life that is dedicated to discipleship.

I know, I’m being far too tongue-in-cheek ... but I can’t help but envision the Sham-wow guy pitching this product. I wonder how many I could sell?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

October 14, 2010

Eschew Obfuscation...

Why do some people make things harder than they have to be? I guess I'm just too simple in my lines of thought. I've been called a "big picture" kind of guy. And there is some truth to this allegation. Quite frankly, I don't feel the need to know what makes my heart beat in order to be passionate about the need of it continuing to do so. If this is big picture, then so be it!

I spoke with a young lady last night about her desire to be baptized. She and a couple of friends had come to me saying she wanted to talk about it and asked if I would take a moment for them. For those of you who know me, the world could have been burning down and I would have given her whatever time she needed. Big decision...big commitment...all fueled by simple faith.

All of my life, I've heard discussion concerning what a person needs to "know" in order to begin their walk with the Lord. In all honesty, I've heard some pretty absurd stuff. However, scripture describes this process as a rebirth. (John 3) This implies that a new disciple is much like a newborn baby.

To quote Forrest Gump, "I don't remember much about being born..." When we are born, all we know is what warm is, what dark is, and what full is. That's pretty much it. Try describing a sunset over an oak tree, or the beauty of the Pacific Ocean to the unborn. You will be wasting your time. So why do we attempt to discuss deep Christology, Theology, and Eschatology to the un-reborn? Is that not just as absurd? You see, the un-reborn cannot grasp these lines of thought. Truth is, most of the "born again" consistently struggle with them.

So, what is "warm, dark, and full" to the un-reborn? What should they know in order to pass through the re-birth canal? In Matthew 16, Jesus asks the question, "who do men say that I am?" For those familiar with this passage, you know that the disciples answer, "some say Elijah, some John the Baptist, others one of the prophets." Then comes the re-birth question. The one where the proverbial rubber meets the road..."who do you say that I am?"

Maybe I'm just a big picture kind of guy, but the gospels make it pretty obvious to me that in order to follow Jesus, you don't need special deep knowledge...you need simple faith. The journey begins by answering the question of who you think Jesus to be...the son of God?...the forgiver of my sins?...pretty simple stuff.

I used to have a sign in my office that read "Eschew Obfuscation." Two hundred-dollar words with a simple thought..."avoid making things difficult to understand."

Bottom line, simply answering the question "who do you believe that I am" is the seed of thought that fuels the beginning of our journey with Him...and is probably a good question with which to begin each day.

October 13, 2010

The Lifeguard

Lifeguard…usually a part-time Summer job given to young men and women. I remember being a kid and thinking that being a Lifeguard was the best job in the world. Plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and I could go swimming anytime I wanted. I'm sure that's what the subject of my story thought as well.

He's a lifeguard. And like most other lifeguards, when he took his training, he could almost smell the fresh air, feel the sunshine in his skin, (and let's be honest) he could envision all the pretty girls wanting him to came to their rescue.

Somewhere along the line, something went dreadfully wrong. He got a job guarding the children’s splash pool at the local city park. Day in and day out he sat by a pool that was too shallow to drown a cat and watched little children splash water all over each other. At night, in his dreams, instead of the sounds of pretty girls begging for his attention, he could hear the squealing of playful little children.

One afternoon, he was watching my kids. My wife sat by the pool and watched as well. On this particular day it was a good thing that she was watching. Olivia and Sawyer were fine, but the lifeguard wasn’t.

As Melissa watched the children, she began to wonder when the splash pool would be closing for the summer. So she went over to the lifeguard to ask him. When she got to his chair, he had the bill of his cap pulled down to shade his eyes, his hands were resting on his cheeks and his body was fixed in a posture that made him appear to be totally focused and attentive to the happenings in the pool. There was only one problem; he was asleep!

Imagine what could have happened. Parents had entrusted their children's lives to this fellow and he fell asleep on the job. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he was bored. Maybe this job just wasn't what he had in mind when he became a lifeguard. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. He should have never fallen asleep on the job. . .

Our expectations of Christianity aren't always grounded in realism. Being a Christian doesn't make us healthy, wealthy, or wise. It makes us forgiven and hopefully grateful. And with this blessing comes great responsibility. God entrusts us to reach the world with his life-saving message. We're lifeguards so to speak.

Being a Christian isn't always fun. Sometimes we are called into circumstances we would rather avoid. But who we are, and what we provide for the world, is important. God is counting on us to bring living water to a dying world. Don't fall asleep on the job!

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (Luke 22:37-38)

October 11, 2010

Burning Spiritual Calories...

Imagine its Thanksgiving. Due to obligations beyond your control, you have been scheduled by your boss, mother-in-law, and father to show up at three separate dinners during the day.

The first one is scheduled at 11:30 (your normal luncheon time) and is being hosted by your employer. It will be attended by all of your friends at the office...and just like four other people at this party, you're up for that big promotion. Not showing up at the boss's big shindig would be considered an unacceptable snub to him...so you go...and eat...and eat. You compliment the boss's wife on her pecan pie that tastes just like sawdust...and you eat a second helping. You leave in the most cordial manner, excusing yourself to go to your mother-in-law's home for round two of "thanksgivings from the crypt."

You arrive at 3:00. (That's 3pm SHARP because you know how "Mrs. J" feels about tardiness) Your husband abandons you with "Mrs. J" because, even though he hates the Detroit Lions, he'd rather watch them than what is going on in the kitchen. You get to hear about all of her ailments, most of which are not dinnertime conversation, and then you sit down to another traditional meal of turkey, dressing, and all the fixings. You would rather just skip this one, but you know that the price of skipping is too high. The misery of gluttony is nothing to compare with the hurt feelings and the consternation of "Mrs. J." So you eat...and eat...and eat...and thankfully its on to round three.

Finally, it's time to go see your father. This is the part of the day that you have looked forward to since August. There is just something about being home, smelling the smells from the kitchen, recalling the wonderful stories of the past, and visiting a place where you can just "be still" and experience belonging. But there is a problem.

You are so miserable from round one and two that you cannot possibly enjoy round three. You have eaten so much and exercised so little that you feel lethargic, ill, and even a little edgy. Things aren't working out the way you envisioned in August. The smells from the kitchen that would ordinarily fill your soul are making you nauseous. You are so tired that you can barely sit still for the stories about "old times." You are so uncomfortable in your own body that there is no place in the entire homestead to find rest or comfort. You can't figure out why you feel the way you do...the food was impeccable...your father was as engaging as ever...home was never more inviting, but the part of your holiday that you have longed for has become a total bust.

Welcome to the religious experience of millions of Christians. What should be time spent with the Father feasting on his presence, recalling his love and the joy of our relationship, and just being still and knowing him, turns into disillusionment, lethargy, and disappointment. Worship becomes a total bust.

Why? We're "fat on religion." If we ate like the illustration above on a regular basis, and did nothing to work off the calories, we'd be miserable to say the least. Yet we rarely think of what we are doing to ourselves when we spend all of our time feasting on the Word, but doing nothing to work the Word into our world.

We go to Bible School on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. We worship on Sunday mornings and go to Small Groups throughout the week. We are feasting, but what are we doing with all of this spiritual food we are taking in?

James wrote: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. He says that running our mouths will never change the world, but actually being missional in our service to people will.

If you are feeling lethargic in your worship...saturated to excess by your studies...joyless in your journey, it's time to stop getting fat on the word and begin exercising those spiritual muscles. If you'll do this, you'll be surprised at how soon you feel that hunger for God and joy in His presence again.

October 4, 2010

Just Do It...

A quote from “The Forgotten Ways Handbook” by Alan Hirsch: “The dangerous stories of Jesus are alive in his people, and in a very real way, we must actually become the gospel to the people around us. When we look at the phenomenal movements, we find that these groups found a way to translate the grand themes of the gospel into concrete life through the embodiment of Jesus in ways that were profoundly relational and attractive. This embodiment cannot be passed on through books: it is always communicated through life itself, by the leader to the community, from teacher to disciple,and from believer to believer.”

I once had a friend who loved baseball. He could tell you anything you wanted to know about the sport. He kept up with batting averages, player profiles, franchise histories, and team standings. His favorite team was the Reds and would endlessly argue the virtues of Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and of course, Charley Hustle-Pete Rose.

I was always envious of his passion and his wealth of knowledge of the sport, that is until I actually "PLAYED" baseball with him. He stunk! He couldn't throw. He couldn't catch. And when I say he couldn't hit, I mean he couldn't even get the bat on the ball.

It was sad to see someone who loved a sport so much be so horrible at it. The reason he was horrible? He spent so much time watching it and talking about it, he never had time to actually "play ball."

I am often concerned about disciples for the same reason. We seem to know a great deal about what Hirsch calls the "dangerous story of Jesus." But when all is said and done, more is said than done. We have not been called by God to pool as much knowledge as possible, although knowing scripture is important. We were called to "go and make disciples." In other words, we are called to "play ball."

I think that we sometimes feel that we can think our way into different actions. We seem to want to learn everything we can about Jesus, hoping this will fuel our passions for His cause. However the great commission tells us the we are to "go and make disciples," meaning we should be people who instead of thinking our way into new actions, are people who act our way into new thinking. The successes and failures we have in real life discipleship are the fuels that cause us to want to serve, learn, and grow.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. James 2:14-18