Monday, October 29, 2012

Political Agenda

This past week I have been preparing for beach season. I know for most the spring is the time to get in shape and get ready to hit the beach, but I'll be heading back to Jamaica in just under 2 months. Christmas day I'll head down and prepare to lead a small group for a week in Hopewell, just west of Montego Bay. So I've ordered new sandals (seems I blow through them pretty quickly) and I had to get a new pair of boardshorts since I've lost some weight working out over the past couple months. So I’m READY!

I really love going back to Jamaica during the winter for the obvious reasons and also because it gives me a chance to be refreshed and reminded of what it is I’m doing. Not that I ever forget, but just sitting on the phone TALKING about doing mission work is completely different than getting up and DOING it. I also start to miss the preaching in Jamaica. I love my church here and when I come home I get joy out of going to church and being challenged. I also love hearing Jamaican preachers as it is a completely different style and it’s very powerful!

As I was reading “Love Without Agenda” this week I was reminded of the preaching in Jamaica and big part of what I love about it. Jimmy is talking about the last week of Jesus’ life leading up to the cross. He’s talking about how Jesus’ lack of agenda got him killed. The Jews were looking for a Messiah. . . a savior. But they weren't looking for a spiritual savior. They were looking for someone who would overthrow the Roman government and rule over them as king like they once had. So the Jews thought Jesus was going to be a political savior, not a religious savior. How can Jesus HELP ME? What can He GIVE ME? What is He going to DO FOR ME? They had a political agenda for Jesus. Jesus didn't have an agenda. He wanted to show them love and how to love, they wanted him to rescue them from their political and social situation. Once the people found out that Jesus wasn't going to overthrow Rome and restore a king for them they were finished with Jesus.

We're done with Him. . .“Crucify Him!”

Fast forward to modern day:
Now the comparison between Jamaica and first century Israel is that both are oral cultures. That means that literacy is not high. In first century Israel the literacy rate was believed to be about 3%. Jamaica’s literacy rate is about 88%. Not really a comparison but I'm sure the rate for older generations is much lower and the culture is one that people talk to each other more and listen to the radio. much more than they read. One thing I like about Jamaican preaching is that it’s interactive. In particular, I've noticed that a preacher will start a verse with a few words and the people will speak out the rest of the verse with him. And it always amazed me that they knew so many verses and that they could do that. We don't do that (at least not in my church) here in America. They've learned by hearing these verses over and over again while growing up. The same was true for first century Jews. They knew the scriptures backwards and forwards from hearing them so many times.

Now back to the cross:
It looks to everyone like this whole Jesus thing was over. He hung on the cross and prepared to die. At the last moment, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ (Matthew 27:46) As I’ve read this so many times and know this story, it never occurred to me what was happening when Jesus said this. I thought it was just His last cry to God.
No! Jesus was quoting scripture to the people that were there! “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” is the first line of Psalm 22. Written some 1,000 years earlier, Psalm 22 it reads like it was written while Jesus hung on the cross. Read through it and you'll be amazed! When David wrote this Psalm he was pointing to the cross. All the Jews would have heard this first line, ““My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, and just like Jamaicans finishing the verses in church, immediately their minds would have gone to Psalm 22 and they would recite that verse in their head.

The last line of Psalm 22 reads:
     They will proclaim his righteousness,
     declaring to a people yet unborn:
     He has done it!

Jesus had proclaimed victory! Not over Rome as the people had expected, but over sin and death. Victory over all the agendas placed on him. And because of that WE too can proclaim victory! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Show and Tell

This weekend I had the chance to go home to Illinois and visit family. Going home is usually a little stressful just because my best friend lives on the opposite side of town from where my parents live and in the few hours I have I feel like I’m trying to balance my time between home and friend. But this weekend my friend was out of town and extra family was in town. So I just got to spend some quality time with the fam and kind of relax. Also we were celebrating October birthdays since it seems like everyone in my family was born in October and we had most everyone together at one time. It was good to visit with both of my nieces and joke with my brother and sister and reminisce about the old days. . . old being 20 years ago. I got to visit my old church and hear one of my old youth pastor (who is now the lead pastor) speak. I also had some time Saturday morning to go to a little coffee shop and read a little. . . still reading “Love Without Agenda”.  Overall just a nice, relaxing weekend.

At church Sunday Mike was talking about John the Baptist and the account in John 1. There seemed to be confusion about who John was exactly. People asked if he was Elijah; if he was a prophet; if he was the Christ. John simply replied to them, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Makestraight the way of the Lord’”. Obviously there was still confusion about what he was doing and why and he ended up being beheaded for his making a straight way for the Lord. He left a wake behind him that pointed to Jesus.

As I was reading “Love Without Agenda” Saturday morning I was reading about how God played “show and tell” with the world when he sent Jesus to us. In grade school we probably all had this part of class where we would bring something into class from home and tell the class about it. According to Wikipedia it's a technique to teach public speaking skills. I never had anything good but for others it was always fun to finally show the class that puppy you had been talking about for a month or your new toy that you got last week. God had been telling the world how they should live; how they should treat each other; how they should act; how they should worship their God. He told them a million times (I didn't actually count. . . it’s an expression!) but they just never quite got it! Finally he sent them Himself in Jesus and said, “Here! Do you see what I’m talking about!? Look! This is how you should live!”

Funny thing as my brother and sister and I were kind of mocking my parents this weekend. A few months ago a downburst (basically a tornado) came through their subdivision. It took down tons of trees and the hail damaged almost everyone’s roofs. So as we drive through my parents are pointing out where there used to be trees and now there aren’t. Keep in mind it’s nearly EVERY HOUSE! So my siblings and I were kind of making fun of how they pointed out every tree that was missing on the way into the subdivision. . . guess you had to be there. But it was a big deal!

So how does a tornado, John the Baptist and “show and tell” come together? I guess I’m thinking I want to be like that tornado, like John the Baptist. I want to leave a trail, a wake, behind me where people say, “something happened here!” I want to be the “show and tell” for the world. I want words and my actions towards people to show Jesus. I want people to look at me and around me and see something different. I want people to see Jesus because of the “destruction” I leave behind me. I want people’s old lives to be wrecked because they have no choice but to run to Jesus. I want to “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words”.

I know I don't always do this, but this is my prayer for my life. What path of destruction are you leaving behind you? I'd love to have some comments on ways you're leaving a path behind you that others may be able to use!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Contrary to popular belief it is not in fact talk like a pirate day. . . that's Sept. 19. Actually, I don't even think "barnacled" is a word, but it should be so I'm using it here. Although it doesn't underline it as misspelled so...

I've continued reading "Love Without Agenda" this week and I am really enjoying the writing style and thought process of Jimmy Spencer Jr. The book reminds me of Donald Miller and the first time I read "Blue Like Jazz". I feel challenged and broken and nostalgic and excited and called-out all at the same time. (I'm sure there are more but those are the ones that came to mind.) I met Jimmy in Seattle a couple weekends ago at the Open Seattle and it turns out he lives in Chicago and I went to school with his brother. We had a couple quick conversations and I heard him speak and I just KNEW that this guy was the "real deal" and I HAD to get his book.

So as I'm reading last night about agendas in life, this particular short paragraph jumped out at me and gave me all of the above feelings at once.

Jimmy writes:
"When we talk to people, serve people, or eat with people, simply because we have an agenda for them to become Christians, we hoist our image of humanity upon them. We objectify them and dehumanize them, even if we have the very best of intentions."

To be fair I've taken this paragraph completely out of context. The whole point of the book is to, you guessed it, love people without an agenda. To see people as God's created beings. . . just like you and me. So when talking about our agendas in life Jimmy is saying that if our only purpose for talking to someone or befriending someone is to bring them to church or to convert them then we've missed out on really loving them. Those aren't bad things, but are we really just trying to turn that person into us. . . selling them our "brand".

As Jimmy says, "Maybe we've barnacled our agenda onto Christianity? Maybe we've replaced the pattern of Jesus with this Christian pattern?"

He sums it up by saying:
"We're too busy advancing Christianity to practice being Christian."

Makes you think, huh? Makes ME think! Especially for those of us in ministry. . . what agendas have we "barnacled" to the message of Christ? What is getting in the way of us seeing people as the image and likeness of God and loving them for that alone?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Image and Likeness

It's been an interesting week and I fell a little behind on my Monday post. But better late than never, right?

Part of my tardiness is due to my weekend in Seattle for the Open Seattle event. It was a great event and I feel I learned a ton just in a couple short days. More on that later. But I took Monday off to catch up on rest after a busy weekend. Then late Monday I was surprised with the news that my best friend was coming in town Tuesday and he had tickets for the Cincinnati Reds playoff game against the San Francisco Giants (game 3 with the Reds being up 2-0 in the series. . . we lost, but a great game!). So I was relaxing Monday and then spent the day Tuesday with my friend.

I've been blessed over the past couple months to be able to draw some inspiration from my church home on the weekends. I knew being away this past weekend that I wouldn't be able to rely on church for my blog this week. One thing I do know, however, is that I've been priming myself to see God in the day-to-day and not just in the "big" moments. So I was actually looking forward to this weekend conference and to finding God in the everyday.

Admittedly, this wasn't just a regular weekend. . . but I really didn't know what to expect going into it. This conference is a new idea of getting youth workers (those who work with youth in a church/organization setting, whether that be paid or volunteers) in more "progressive" areas together to talk about what they're doing differently and what they're doing that is working or not working. To talk about challenges, ideas, victories, and issues they face. So it was great to hear some ideas and opinions about how to reach our youth for Christ.

Different speakers were given about 30 minutes to present with a few minutes for question/answer and there were also some large group discussion time with a panel. One speaker I seemed to be drawn to was Jimmy Spencer Jr. Turns out I went to school with his brother and they look nearly exactly alike, so that may be why. . .but when I heard him speak I knew I was supposed to be hearing him.

He read from John 17:1-4:
1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to [a]all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.

And he talked about the idea of Jesus having accomplished the work. Genesis 1:26 says, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness". Image - we are created physically and spiritually to look like God. We were created to be the "reflection" of God like the moon reflects the sun. But also we were created to be LIKE God. Like children will mimic what their parents do, we were created to mimic God. In John 17 Jesus was about to be handed over to the authorities and be put to death. His time with his disciples, his time to teach was finished.

What really spoke to me is that Jesus is saying in this verse that He has shown us how we're supposed to live. We should be striving to mimic Jesus! I don't know, I guess it's not that groundbreaking, but it's so SIMPLE yet so difficult to grasp! I personally feel like we as a Christian community have put so many restrictions on "being a Christ follower". What if it's really simple? What if we just got back to the core of mimicking Christ in our daily lives? What does that even look like? Jesus invited his disciples to FOLLOW Him first and THEN decide for themselves who He was. Is that invitation still extended?

I bought Jimmy's book, "Love Without Agenda", and I look forward to reading it and learning more about what this means in my life. How can I mimic Jesus more in my life? How can I live a life that reflects and acts like Christ?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Parenting advice for a single guy!?

As I continue on this journey I'm on I'm learning more about myself and where this self is going. The coolest thing is learning to see God in your everyday life. When I'm in Jamaica it's easy because I'm there for a purpose and that is to seek God and help others seek Him. Of course that's my purpose when I'm home too, but I'm saying it's a lot easier when you can see the ocean and it's 85 degrees and sunny. :)

What I love about Crossroads (my church) is that they don't just give you some helpful advice for your life like some might expect from a mega-church. No! They give you great advice but it ALWAYS ties into Scripture and God. So when we're talking about our interpersonal relationships it always points back to our relationship with God. This weekend we continued on this series on Knock-offs. . . knowing when you have the real thing or a cheap imitation in relationships. The first week was marriage, last week was singleness, and this week was parenting.

What can a single guy with no kids take away from parenting!?

Well, turns out before you can be a parent you have to be a kid first. So while learning about parenting I also got to see the stages from a child's perspective. And not just in an earthly child/parent relationship but also in our child/parent relationship with our Creator!

There were 4 stages: nursing, king/queen, coach, and friend.
Nursing: the parent gives, gives, gives; the child can not give back, they can only take
King/Queen: just think terrible 2s! The parent becomes King over the child because the parent knows best and has the child's best interest in mind.
Coach: you've done the nursing and the King stage. You've taught and done your best, now you stand on the sideline and encourage and advise.
Friend: you see your child not only as your baby but as your friend. You've stopped pulling the King card on them and you may occasionally coach, but your primarily friends.

And this is how we grow and relate with our Creator God! The thing that stuck out to me the most is that sometimes as parents we get stuck in a stage or start being a friend when we should be Kinging! And I realized that in our relationship with our Creator we can get stuck in a phase as a child. We're still in the nursing stage, wanting God to give, give, give but we're not willing to give back. When something goes wrong we want it fixed and we want more. We need to grow up!

One line stuck in my head that relates to me today. Brian (Tome) is imitating a child throwing a tantrum but using adult situations. "I waaaaant that joooooobbb! I waaaant that caaaaaaaar! I want to be married!"

Now I think I'm the only guy in the world who actually wants to be married (snicker) but I feel like that has been my attitude recently. "God! Whyyyyyy can't I just find someone niiiiiiice!? Whyyyyyy?" Ha! Obviously not to that degree, but somewhat. And I've realized that in a way I'm reverting back to the nursing stage as a child instead of realizing and trusting that God has a plan and He ALWAYS has my best interest in mind.

So here's to growing up! Here's to trusting in God's timing like I've done (or claim to do at least) so many times before.

Oh, and Brian encouraged us to have a relationship with our parents/children. To rebuild bridges that have been burnt or are broken. And I realized I haven't talked to my dad in years. Time to make a phone call. . .