Use whatever God has given you to serve others!

Use whatever God has given you to serve others!

I could not be more excited about this new series.  For the next few weeks, we are going to be leaning into our true calling, taking on the mantle of Jesus, and figuring out how to be good news to a world that is in desperate need of it!

The basic idea is simple; Jesus came to bring good news.  And we, by being followers of Jesus, by being adopted into the family of God, part of the body of Christ, a masterpiece created for good works, it is time to live more fully into our calling!

As followers of Jesus, we don't simply use our time, efforts, and resources to deepen our faith and intimacy with Jesus.  That spiritual work is done so we are fully equipped to do the incredible things that God has called us to do!  To be good news!

What the #nashvillestatement has to teach us about our post-Christian context.  

What the #nashvillestatement has to teach us about our post-Christian context.  

The Preamble of the Nashville Statement could not be more correct in its assessment of where we are as a culture.  The authors of the statement begin with:  "Evangelical Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being."

It was this statement beginning with this sentence that has set the internet on fire!  (For those of you who have missed it, the Nashville Statement is a series of 14 affirmations and denials that clarify this groups understanding of a traditionally Christian view of sexuality.)  

What I have found fascinating is that every single thing that has come across my Facebook and Twitter feed has been nothing but fire, anger, hurt and hatred towards the signers of this statement.  With all of this heat, I began to wonder that the signers of the Nashville Statement unintentionally found themselves firmly planted in the post-Christian world they identify in their opening statement.  

Will you love your enemies?

Will you love your enemies?

One of the things I love that young adults are bringing to the table is their compassion, mercy and justice bent.  Almost everything is seen through that lens, and their heart is to stand with the oppressed and leverage their power against the oppressor.  This is always framed through Jesus teaching on the Kingdom of God and using Jesus righteous anger against the religious leaders, specifically in the 7 woes passage and Jesus turning over tables, as examples of this righteous anger.  

I love this perspective and I love the way this pushes many of us older Christians past our comfort zones.  Thank you for that!

As I was studying and preparing for Sunday's sermon, I couldn't escape the cultural and political chaos that is ever present on the news and on social media.  We are living in a time where hatred is proving to be more and more ugly.  And I am afraid that we are sliding towards a world view that makes hatred towards those who hate acceptable.  

A prayer for the church in light of the events in Charlottesville

A prayer for the church in light of the events in Charlottesville

Our Gracious and Heavenly Father,

We come before you heartbroken over the news over the weekend.  For some reason, personal brokenness and random tragedies seem to naturally fit into a separate category compared to the ugly brokenness wrapped up in hatred and racism that was on full display in Charlottesville.  

We recognize that you are a God of life and of love.  Out of your goodness and grace you made humans in your image, each and every human, women and men, black and white, together bearing your image.  And when people who bear your image are dehumanized, marginalized, oppressed, and terrorized, we who claim you as our Heavenly Father, your disciples, and followers of the Way must be clear on who we are and who we are called to be

How would you do ministry if you owned this reality?

How would you do ministry if you owned this reality?

90% of your students are going to walk away from Christianity and the Church after High School?

There has been a lot written lately about what is going on with our students and why are they leaving the church in record numbers after they graduate from college.  It seems to me that this is a problem that has been around forever, or at least since I graduated from high school.  (Back when Pearl Jam was King!)

What would it look like if we quit wringing our hands about this awful statistic and accepted this as reality.

Everything I have read says that part of the adolescent journey is separating their identity from their family and faith of origin and develop an independent identity.   This process of individuation is understanding who they are, where they belong, and if they matter.  And these questions can not be done under the thumb of their parents, or their parent's youth pastor.

Are you dressed for success?

Are you dressed for success?

It takes a brave and mature soul to be quiet and reflect on what might have to die in order to more fully run after Jesus.  This passage of scripture helps spur us along.  There is quite a list to choose from:  Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying.  

Would you be willing to simply be quiet for a second and ask God what on this list is a little too rooted in your life, what is some habit or sin that is feeding your flesh and squelching the Holy Spirit?   

I love this passage of scripture because if you read it closely, Paul gives us a picture of how to move forward in the process of sanctification.  It is a three part process.  And it is very similar to the process you already have in place every morning.

Pot, Prostitution, and Pornography: Developing a biblical morality in an a moral context

Pot, Prostitution, and Pornography: Developing a biblical morality in an a moral context

As the context in which we do ministry gets exponentially more complex, the foundational truths that we have based many arguments on are becoming less and less helpful.  For me, growing up in a suburban context with majority culture being mostly "Judeo-Christian," the youth workers in my world helped us navigate theology and morality with a very light reading of Romans 13.

"Obey the laws of the land."

Is it ok to drink? Is it ok to use drugs? How fast can I drive?  Can I shoplift? Fill in the blank.  For a teenager who wanted maximum freedom and wanted to experiment with any and everything dangerous, this theological foundation sort of worked.  It, at its very least, provided a theological foundation for right and wrong.  

When something wasn't explicitly affirmed or rejected in scripture, we could use the laws of the land as a guide.  

But as our culture changes and as the laws of the land are becoming less concerned with individual morality, I am finding that many of the young people I work with have little to no moral foundation in which to make their decisions.  

Pot is legal, I am supposed to obey the laws of the land, therefore it is ok to smoke pot.  

Is your brokenness leading to devestation or redemption?

Is your brokenness leading to devestation or redemption?

Looking hard at the relationship between David and Absalom this last week highlights the deep dysfunction and brokenness that mark many of our lives.  It does seem that there are several ways to deal with this sort of chaos when it breaks into our lives. We can:

1)  Pretend it isn't there.  Actually, what is worse than pretending it is there is being totally oblivious to the fact that we have food all down our shirt as we go on with our normal lives.  Every one of us has been a victim of our context, by others, and by ourselves.  This has caused us to live with a limp, and to pretend it isn't there is just foolish.

2) Embrace your dysfunction.  In fact you are offended that someone might say that your uniqueness, the thing that makes you one of a kind and has made you into the beautiful butterfly is actually a broken version of yourself and you are in need of healing.  So, instead of reflecting on some of the darker and more hidden parts of your personality and past to root out the garbage, you celebrate it.  

Leveraging doubt for spiritual formation. (Brought to you by the class of 2017)

Leveraging doubt for spiritual formation.  (Brought to you by the class of 2017)

If we are honest, most of our faith formation ended at 12.  For those who have grown up in and around the church our brains are full of bible stories, veggie tales, flannel graphs, and Noah's Ark wall paper.  We know the basic gospel and love that Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!

But the second adolescence begins, our wires get crossed and our brains get consumed with trying to figure out who we are and who we can make out with.  Developing our theology, deepening our intimacy with Jesus, and being shaped by the Holy Spirit get put on the back burner, sometimes for the rest of our lives.

Most of us have a childish faith.  Jesus does call us to have a child like faith, but that isn't what I am talking about.  I am talking about the childhood faith that is housed in the body and mind of an adult.  What stunts our growth is that by the time we reengage our faith in early adulthood, we bring significant questions and doubts that are no match to the flannel graph stories of our childhood.

Thank God for OLD WOMEN!

Thank God for OLD WOMEN!

When I reflect on my own spiritual journey, some of the most significant markers have been by some old women.  It started with my aunt was the only spiritual influence in my life when I was a child.  She took me to camp, took me to Vacation Bible School, and prayed with me often.  Her investment opened the doors for Jesus to grab a hold of my heart and launch my walk with God.  

Over the years I have had several other women come into my life and be used by God in huge ways.  The one I would like to share with you is my dear friend Marti Burger.  She works at the denominational offices in Chicago and was the head of youth ministry for our denomination for many years.

When I think of where I am where I have come from in both my professional, and personal development, Marti Burger, single handedly, got me here.  Professionally, she saw a diamond in the rough and took a chance on me for some denominational leadership when nobody had any clue who I was.  And with every little opportunity for leadership I was given more opportunities to grow and develop.  Everything I get to do outside of our church and all the writing I have done is because of her encouragement and coaching.