It might be time to get back to some good old-fashioned personal responsibility.

It might be time to get back to some good old-fashioned personal responsibility.

If you have been paying attention to the outside world, to your kids coming back from college, or to the cultural debate about everything from Sexual Harassment to Race to Economic Policy, you will notice that there is one thing that has gone absent from these discussions.  Personal Responsibility.

Personal Responsibility has gotten a bad rap in our culture.  I mean, how can you expect people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when you are talking about poverty or the deep systemic issues that are hindering women and people of color.  In every conversation I am a part of the issues always are about environmental factors for the situation people find themselves in.  (Don't get me wrong, situational factors are significant and worthy of conversation.)  

But there is another part of the conversation that no longer gets air time.  And on a public policy level, this has some implications, but those are for another day over a drink.  I want to talk about how this cultural shift is hindering the work of the church and worse, hindering the work God longs to do in His people and the world.

Adoption as a helpful way to share the good news about Jesus

Adoption as a helpful way to share the good news about Jesus

I find it interesting that Jesus' first words to people were not a fierce call out compelling people to repent of the kingdom of God is near.  John the Baptist had that ministry and it was pretty successful until he got his head cut off.  When you read through the Gospels, Jesus does have some stern words for the self-righteous but does seem to have an entirely different approach to the alienated and disenfranchised.

I would argue that people in our context have much more in common with the alienated than with the rebellious sinners or self-righteous. And if that is true, we can look and see how Jesus engages people, and when he does, it is rarely with confronting language, or finger-pointing, or even rebuke.  Rather, Jesus simply invites:

What the church can learn from Louis C.K.

What the church can learn from Louis C.K.

It seems like the floodgates have finally opened up and the years of sexual abuse by men in power is finally being exposed.  What the Catholic Church experienced over a decade ago is now being extended to every part of our culture.  Politicians and powerful media elites are facing the consequences of an entire culture filled with sexual assault and harassment.  Of all the revelations and responses, I think Louis C. K. marks out a path that might be most helpful for church people as we are being confronted on our patriarchal systems of power and the explicit and implicit way we have handled sex, sexuality, and expanding to race.

Although C.K. didn't explicit apologize to the woman specifically, he did recognize some facts that we in the church should be quick to acknowledge.   As people become more and more free to share stories about their wounding church experiences and how people in power have intentionally, or even unintentionally wounded them, the church is going to have some reckoning to do as well.  

Here are four things specifically I think we should be quick to recognize:

How is your tribe holding you back from caring for the marginalized among you?

How is your tribe holding you back from caring for the marginalized among you?

As our political discourse gets more and more dysfunctional, the chances for the poorest, weakest, and most marginalized have less and less a chance of protection.  Think of how many issues have become politicized, and done so in the most toxic way.  What is so sad is that most good-hearted people are in agreement that there needs to be change and that people need help.  But the fact that the solutions so deeply divide us is not helpful.

This is where the church might be able to step in.  

Unfortunately, in the past, the religious right has gotten too close to the Republican party giving away all of their moral authority to fight for the justice issues that mattered to them.  In the same way, the religious left is currently giving all of their moral authority away by linking arms so closely with the Democratic Party as they fight for the justice issues that matter to them.  And in the end, the weak and poor are not protected, and the church's moral authority gets destroyed.

What a hard lesson to learn, but an important one to learn.  We are the church!  We stand up for the poorest and weakest among us and fight for human dignity for all humans.  We can advocate, yell, scream, and work towards legislation that will do this, and we should.  The trick is doing this in a way that doesn't get us in bed with actual politicians.  (I have no idea how to do this).  But as the Christian world comes to its senses, maybe someone smarter than I will figure it out. 

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.