How can you tell the difference between right and wrong in an amoral culture?

How can you tell the difference between right and wrong in an amoral culture?

This last year marijuana became legal for recreational purposes in our state.  And because our churches have done such a poor job in our discipleship we have no good answer as to the place that weed should have in the life of a follower of Christ.  

For too long we have lazily relied on a shallow understanding of spirital formation and extolled behavior management.  Because we used to live in a culture that had deep roots in a Judeo-Christian worldview, we could simply say, "A good Christian obeys the law of the land." But now that the laws are changing we are forced to take another look at our morality in light of our spiritual formation, not in light of the laws of the land or what is culturally acceptable.  

With that being said, I had an interesting study in Romans 14 the other day with some friends and wanted to share a helpful paradigm in discerning right from wrong in an amoral culture.

Grab your bibles and turn to ROMANS 14:13-18 

Here are a couple of thoughts on what we love in this passage:

How bringing our Children's Ministry team to Orange not only changed our Children's ministry, but also our church! #OC18 #thinkorange

How bringing our Children's Ministry team to Orange not only changed our Children's ministry, but also our church!  #OC18 #thinkorange

One of the best decisions I have ever made in student ministry is to become good friends and colleagues with the children's ministry director.   Here at Marin Covenant Church, I am honored to lead a great team and that team is spearheaded by Stacie Mancini.  As we wrap up Orange Week, I asked Stacie if she would reflect on how going Orange has changed our children's ministry, our church, and our team.  

Here are her thoughts: Our Children’s Ministry went Orange last summer. And I am so glad we did. We had been writing our own curriculum and had found a rhythm that was working for us. And everything was going fine…I just felt like we were missing something. Orange’s appeal is evident when you first see their dynamic presentation. I wanted the clever, fun and engaging multi-media curriculum for our kids. But even more than that I wanted what Orange offered to our families. After implementing Orange I see how much we have truly gained.

Run towards suffering

Run towards suffering

This last week's message was a challenging one.  If you are in the middle of the dark night of the soul and walking through the valley of the shadow of darkness, there are no trite words or even wise and insightful words that will comfort in this season.  Suffering and heartbreak are devastating and groaning is really all we can do. 

But for those who are not currently in that season, we have been invited into a high calling, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and run towards the suffering.  We are called to selflessly give more and more of our heart, time, resources to those who are struggling and suffering and even to those who may be the cause of some of our suffering.  (Remeber Jesus even washed Judas' feet.)

As our world seems to be experiencing more and more suffering, the church has an incredible opportunity.  Not to stand on the sidelines and point our finger at those who do wrong, but to roll up our sleeves and walk towards those who suffer and bear with them.  

Free to dive deeply into the abyss

Free to dive deeply into the abyss

This passage of scripture might be one of the least memorized passages of scripture for all time.  I mean, who really wants to come to terms with the depth of their sin, dysfunction, and brokenness.  Who wants to own that their own choices and rebellion have crushed and ruined things, people, and our intimacy with God.  Who is willing to grieve, mourn and wail their own depravity?

Do you want to know who?  You do!

Because the larger story of the gospel is that because of the work that Jesus has done on the cross, the punishment for our sin has been paid for and according to Romans 8:1 there is now no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  THIS IS GOOD NEWS!

Remember when you were fun?

Remember when you were fun?

Remember when you were fun?  That was the question I opened my sermon up with.  And the more I have been thinking about it, I think fun, and more specifically joy is a good barometer of what is going on in our souls.

Joy comes when we have found internal peace with who we are, what we are and how we are.  And when we are at peace and content, joy naturally follows.  Think of the times when you experienced the most joy, chances are it was a time when everything seemed to be coming together.  

What is challenging is whether or not something is "coming together" or not is really an internal state of being.  And the biggest hindrance of not being content so you can experience joy usually has to do with some hidden and not so hidden brokenness between you and someone else, and even between you and God. Once sin and brokenness enters the equation, all bets are off.

The best way to ruin your big plan is to break trust

The best way to ruin your big plan is to break trust

I have been having a lot of conversations with young people who deeply love God and who long to follow Jesus, and are deeply wounded by the church.  As someone who hasn't been that wounded by the church, my instinct is to give a compelling argument and challenge them to push through.  But, as you could guess, that strategy is not working.

There is a giant cultural shift afoot and every institution is under assault and being taken down.  Some of this is healthy housecleaning for sure.  While we continually need to be reflective, own our garbage, repent and change, we must still move forward.  What is happening is different than that.  What seems to be happening is everyone is waking up and realizing the institutions they have put their trust in have betrayed them or those they love and in doing so have become totally unsafe.  

I do not use "being unsafe" in any sort of light way.  Unsafe in this context is not simply a skinned knee unsafety, but a true danger that could lead to death.  

You are all just two bad decisions away from ruining your entire life

You are all just two bad decisions away from ruining your entire life

I spent this last week on vacation and while away I consumed a lot of media, listened to many lectures, read through some blogs and skimmed a book.  One of the movies I watched has been haunting me personally and has triggered some follow up thoughts regarding the church and the direction she might be heading in.  

The movie, Shot Caller is about a successful businessman who has it all.  He makes good money, has a beautiful wife, kind son, and good friends.  After a night of fun and drinking with his wife and friends, he runs a red light and accidentally kills his best friend.  It is an accent, but the letter of law is a DUI manslaughter and he pleads to reduce his sentence from 10 years down to 2.  

His wife says that "You don't go to prison for an accident."  Oh, how we long for that to be true!

I wonder when the Church is going to wrestle with the 1st of the 10 commandments?

I wonder when the Church is going to wrestle with the 1st of the 10 commandments?

You shall not have any gods above me.  

This seems pretty straightforward.  But I am afraid that we in the church have been co-opted by our culture and embraced strange and foreign religions that are no longer orthodox Christianity but have been changed into something totally different by syncretism.  

Syncretism: exhibits blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions.

What is challenging is that in our context, syncretism is not as blatant as simply combining other religious belief systems.  That would be easy to see.  We don't believe in some strange Christian / Buddhist blend religion or a Christian / Islam religion.  Rather we have strange philosophical and political systems that we treat like religions and have formed a deformed version of Christianity.  

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: