“The Jerk Store called” OR “The voice of a jerk calling in the wilderness” – #40days #Lent #1Word5voices

voice feb 11 1“The Jerk Store called. They’re running out of YOU!”

Have you ever wanted to say something like that to people? [Or worse?] When someone is being nothing but a bag of jerks, this is what I want to exclaim.

This would, in fact, be kinda jerky.

Why is the church so often filled with a bunch of jerks? From the Westboro church spewing hatred to wimpy Christians complaining about the décor of their coffee cups, it’s amazing to me that the message of love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace is still connected to Christianity.

Somehow Jesus drew people to Himself, even though He said some pretty tough things about sin. I am convinced that the tax collectors and prostitutes knew where Jesus stood about their sinful ways.

AND YET.

Yet they still loved to be around Him.

voice feb 11 3John the Baptist is one of the most enigmatic figures in Scripture. He wore clothes made from camel hair and ate bugs, preached about turning from sin, drew throngs of people into the desert to hear him, and even baptized Roman soldiers looking to get right with God. The nation loved him; the people in power feared him. Even Jesus had some pretty high praise for the guy. I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.

John the Baptist called people to provide for the poor, tax collectors to stop ripping people off, and Roman soldiers to keep from extorting money. He was “the voice of one calling out into the wilderness…” cheering the country to change before The Messiah arrived. Get this–He wasn’t a jerk about it.

Why do people assume they have to be a jerk about telling others to change?

I had a suite mate named Dave my sophomore year in college. Great guy. He didn’t follow Jesus, at least in my humble opinion at the time. [It wasn’t so humble.] I invited him to our church because it was a rocking place to find community. That didn’t interest him, so I tried coming up with other ways of reaching him.

My inspired way of trying to reach Dave–not my best moment by a looooooooong shot–was correcting his speech. [You can see that this isn’t going to end well, right?]

Here’s an example.

Dave (in reaction to something disappointing): Oh S#!T!

Me (in semi-mockery humor): Where?? I don’t want to step in it!

Dave: *blank, annoyed stare*

I did this a bunch. I had other tricks with phrases like “Oh my God!” to try to be amusing. My evangelism wasn’t Billy Graham, for sure.

Eventually, Dave told me that he felt belittled and stupid whenever I did that. I apologized and immediately stopped.

So stupid. So jerky.

Mike Slaughter, a pastor in Ohio, recently wrote a piece about how we should not give up chocolate, social media, or what-have-you for Lent.  Instead, he says, Christ followers should give up being a jerk for 40 days. Stop treating other people like slime and start acting in more loving ways. Treat people as human. It’s a great post; check it out.

voice feb 11 2I bring up John the Baptist and share my college story because I wholeheartedly believe that we can call people back to the LORD without being an overbearing bag of jerks. Try a different approach than shouting louder than someone else or pushing our way around on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you roam on the Interweb.

Be Jesus-y or John the Baptist-y in expressing what you think. The world has enough Jerky Boys to go around.

————————–

ACheck out what my friends are writing about during our crazy Lent experiment we talked each other into doing. Shawn, Lindz, Bones, or Steph.

Posted in #1Word5voices, character, Lent, Seinfeld & fatih | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gathering Cats – #1Word5voices #AshWednesday #Lent #40days

gather feb 10 - 2One of my favorite Super Bowl commercials is for computers or a technology company, I think. It’s the one where you see a bunch of cowboys riding horses in The Great West and they’re herding. While you’re busy waiting for John Wayne or Clint Eastwood to show up, you see what they’re herding come up over the cusp of a hill.

Cats.

They’re herding cats.

gather feb 10 - 3I can’t get through the commercial without laughing every time I see it. I can relate, since I work with middle schoolers as a youth pastor.

When a bunch of people are all together, it can be exciting, like at a rock concert for Super Bowl. But even gathering in a small number can be meaningful [much to the relief of introverts everywhere].

Gathering is one of the most important things that we do as Christ followers. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them.”  Despite Jesus calling us to be together, we seem to have a hard time doing it more than for an hour a week.

gather feb 10

John Wayne

Did you ever see that John Wayne movie, The Cowboys? My John Wayne-obsessed uncle showed it to me when I was a kid. It’s about John Wayne hiring 12 young schoolboys to help him drive his cattle across the country or fall into financial ruin. He teaches them how to wrangle, survive, and become men. It’s my favorite John Wayne movie that doesn’t also feature Owen Wilson. Over the course of the movie, the boys grow up–together, gathered under one cause.

How much more powerful would you experience God in your day-to-day life if you gathered more often with Christ followers, on mission together?

Today, on Ash Wednesday, gather with some of the people who follow Jesus alongside you. Share your struggles, doubts, and triumphs. We are meant to do this together.

————————–

P.S. Have you not figured out what to give up for Lent yet? My post tomorrow will give out a suggestion, but don’t take it personally. I didn’t write it about you.

————————–

ACheck out what my friends are writing about during our crazy Lent experiment we talked each other into doing. Shawn, Lindz, Bones, or Steph.

Posted in #1Word5voices, Church, community, Lent | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

MY %$@@*&* COFFEE CUP!!! — @Starbucks #Christmas #RedCups

Another shot has been fired in the never-ending stupidity that is the Christian vs. secular culture war.  Starbucks has taken Jesus out of their stores–as in they aren’t selling cups that say “Merry Christmas” on them.

GASP!

OUTRAGE!

MY COFFEE CUP - 11-9-15HULK SMASH!

Does this outrage anyone else??  I can’t believe this!!!

I am outraged…AT HOW RIDICULOUS AMERICAN CHRIST FOLLOWERS HAVE BECOME.  We are freaking out over coffee cups.

Coffee cups, folks.  Coffee cups*.

Jesus invites us to make disciples, not coffee cups.  We are called to make disciples.  I don’t think Jesus ever thought we would have time to worry about what’s on our coffee mugs.  (He taught us to worry about what comes out of our hearts, instead.)

Christ followers: get over yourselves.  Our freedom of religion is not as important as our freedom from slavery of sin.  We are called to set aside our rights for the sake of people who have yet to follow Jesus.  We need to get back to being comfortable in that practice, instead of being so comfortable (read: complacent) that we are complaining about our coffee cups.

Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food coffee.”

If you want to cup coffee cup with Jesus on it, go to Mardel and buy a stupid coffee cup with Jesus giving you his thumbs up.  Then go to Starbucks and get your precious coffee and pour it into your Jesus coffee cup.  It will then be holy coffee and you will remember how glorious the LORD is and you will have an uncontrollable urge to make disciples again.

I am so sick of people worrying about this stuff when there are people in Russia who are in need of getting adopted, there are people in Haiti you don’t have clean water, there are people in Syria getting killed over the fact that they follow The Christ.  Do you think the church in China, the persecuted, underground church, comprised of people who are constantly looking over their shoulder, cares about what kind of coffee cup to have???

Merry Christmas.

Happy Holidays.

Instead of being warmed by your coffee, may you be warmed by the thought that Jesus forgives you, loves you, cleans you up, and sets you free to make disciples.

————————–

*That’s not actually my coffee cup.  Does this invalidate my entire post?  Dang it.

my coffee cup 2

Posted in Advent, character, Christmas, discipleship | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“‘Love your enemy?’ But LORD, what if they watch The View?!?!!?”

One out of the thousands of things I love about Jesus of Nazareth is that He is crazy.  I don’t mean “loony tunes, put-Him-in-the-nuthouse” crazy.  I’m talking about how Jesus has these insane ideas about how to build the Kingdom of God.

Here’s just a few of those wacko ideas:

  • turn the other cheek when you’re insulted
  • give in ways so other people don’t notice
  • love your enemy
  • take up your cross tortuous death contraption of choice to follow Him

While taking up your cross is obviously the most difficult, loving your enemy is arguably Jesus’ hardest teaching for us to truly practice.  People nowadays think it’s impossible–even if they’re not being physically attacked like the early Christ followers were!

We can all relate to begrudgingly forgiving someone who [barely] slighted us or gossiped behind our back.  But what about loving someone who has different cultural views than you?  Dan White, Jr. tweeted something about this that got me laughing pretty hard.

Love your enemy - 3Love your enemy - 2“Envision a house church with both Colbert-fans and O’Reilly-fans and you’ll start to grasp the scandalous unity in the Early Church.”

Right?!?  I can hardly keep my eyes from rolling out of my head when certain people in my life* talk about politics or religion.  I’m sure you have people like this in your life.  (Or maybe you’re one of those people for someone else!)

(Maybe I’m one of those people for you.  [Oof, that hits too close to home.])

Jesus put people who were at different ends of the political spectrum together in the little community He started.  Simon the Zealot sat at Jesus’ feet, right alongside of Matthew/Levi the tax collector.  Zealots were Israelites who supported random, guerrilla violence aimed at Roman soldiers and supporters.  They wanted to usurp Rome’s power in Israel and endorsed violent means to do it.  Many lauded them as patriotic heroes.

Conversely, tax collectors were seen as traitors, even by non-Zealot Jews.  They made their living by over charging their fellow citizens more money than what was owed to the Roman Empire.  They were unpopular, not only because they were The Tax Man, but because they aided the Roman boot to crush Israel’s neck even more.

And you think you can’t stand someone who subscribes to a different political party than you?  Pssshhh, that’s amateur stuff!  At least we live in a country that isn’t being held down by another one.

Christ followers need to take a page out of the Gospels when it comes to being unified with others who follow Jesus.  If The Rabbi thought it was a good idea to put a Zealot and a tax collector together, we should probably figure out how to be unified with other people, too, regardless of what they think of Obama’s presidential prowess.

Forgive your enemy.  LOVE your enemy.  This practice is supposed to extend to Democrats, Republicans, Communists, Socialists, Libertarians, Beyoncéians, slacktivists, or anyone else you can’t stand.

—————————-

*I don’t mean you, obviously!  Please still love me.

———————————————————

The other #1word5voices crew reflecting during Lent are: Heather Kostelnick, Shawn Franssens, Stephanie Mutert, and Lindsay Evans.

Lent 2015 -- large graphic

Posted in forgiveness, Jesus, love, politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lights! Camera! Action! — #1word5voices #40days

lightWhen I take the students in our youth ministry to the gym for a game, sometimes the lights are off.  While I make my way to find the light switches, I get a big smile as I listen to them fumble around in the dark, play jokes on each other, and wait for the lights to come on.  These lights are fluorescent based and take a good five minutes to come fully alive.  During those five minutes, there is probably a lot of anguish for anyone who is self-conscious about their complexion.  Everyone’s pimples are tinged purple and their lips are bright, almost like they put on an awful shade of lipstick.  For me, during that short amount of time, it’s people watching at its best.  Some of us laugh at the situation and some try to avoid looking at others.  It puts us all into a bad light (no pun intended).  Everyone’s blemishes and faults are on display, even the ones we didn’t know were there.

Light is a theme that’s all over Scripture.  From the birth of creation to Jesus proclaiming to be the light of the world to The Church being called to be a light in the darkness, the theme saturates Scripture.  Out of the many ways light is explored throughout the Bible, Paul applies it to how the light of Christ exposes the darkness in our hearts.  When the light of Christ shines on us, we wake up to how the darkness is not good for us.  After becoming born again, we walk in the light and it produces goodness.

It is good news to be in the light!  The light of Jesus shines in such a way that all of our faults, regrets, sinful choices, and stubborn attitudes become exposed for what they are.  In Christ, we see that we have blemished character and a sinful nature.  But also, in Christ we can see who God has created us to be, beyond those blemishes.  Jesus redeems us and the light sets us free to see us for who we are intended to be.

Don’t let your self-worth keep you from basking in the light of Christ.  Our sin does not stop the light from enveloping us or keep Jesus from loving us.

Warts and all.

———————————————————

The other #1word5voices crew reflecting during Lent are: Heather Kostelnick, Shawn Franssens, Stephanie Mutert, and Lindsay Evans.

Lent 2015 -- large graphic

Posted in #1Word5voices, Lent | Tagged , | Leave a comment

I already looked there…. — #1word5voices #40days

Have you ever looked HIGH and LOW and HIGH again for something you know was in a the exact place you looked for it at the beginning of your search?  I do this all the time.  My wife claims that I’m blind when I am supposed to look for something specific for which she sends me to find.  [I would argue this point, but let’s be honest.  Just ask her about the bottle of ketchup.]

I remember back as a teenager, probably as a 14 or 15 year old, hearing an inner voice say to me, “Brian, you need to change.”  I knew that this was God speaking to me.

This wasn’t like a padded cell kind of experience, I promise.

I distinctly remember hearing God speak to me, inaudibly.  This isn’t something that I use as a point of pride.  I didn’t remember this periodic, recurring feeling until after I legitimately had an experience of finding God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

So when I finally, truly aknowledged that God is real and that God loves me as demonstrated in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, I remembered that I had heard the Spirit’s call to me.  It was a call to change and to search for meaning somewhere other than whatever I thought was giving me meaning in 1993.

I wasn’t actively searching for God.  I was a 16 year old, desparately trying to fit in and gain acceptance.  The irony is that, while trying to gain acceptance, I was really searching for meaning that only Jesus could give me.  I only wanted to be loved.  I knew that my parents and sisters loved me, but that “didnt’ count.”  Remember, 16 year olds don’t always have the greatest perspective, but I believe they do have hearts that are searching for meaning.

Look at what you’re actively, or unconciously, searching for.  My guess is that God is ready to satisfy whatever you seeking.

I love this quote from the book The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith by Bruce Marshall (1945, p. 108):

“. . .the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”

What are you searching for?


LOL at the last entry on Google….

———————————————————

The other #1word5voices crew reflecting during Lent are: Heather Kostelnick, Shawn Franssens, Stephanie Mutert, and Lindsay Evans.

Lent 2015 -- large graphic

Posted in #1Word5voices, Lent | Tagged , | Leave a comment

All right, STOP! — #1word5voices #40days

Collaborate and listen.

Did you just start singing an amazing song?  Don’t be ashamed. 

What are songs that, when you hear them on the radio, you halt any conversation and turn up the volume?  For me, “Ice Ice Baby” is a no-brainer.  I would also count “Peaches” by The Presidents of The United States of America.  Anything by The Black Keys.  And, this goes without saying, the *ultimate* road trip song (post-lunch, obvies) is Bohemian Rhapsody.  I’d also add stuff by Waterdeep or Gungor, if the radio actually played those bands. 

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬ NIV)

Just like our favorite songs, there are certain things that we will stop and drop everything to be fully present.  Whenever my 6 year old or my wife start unfairly criticizing themselves, I make sure that I stop them.  I remind her that they are loved, cherished, and give me joy.  They need me to be their biggest cheerleader.  So when they’re down, I drop everything to pick them up.  It will be the same for Rosie, our 22 month old, once she’s old enough to need my cheerleading.

What do you stop everything for? What SHOULD you be stopping for?



———————————————————

The other #1word5voices crew reflecting during Lent are: Heather Kostelnick, Shawn Franssens, Stephanie Mutert, and Lindsay Evans.

Lent 2015 -- large graphic

Posted in #1Word5voices, Lent | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Eye roll, please! — #1word5voices #40days

Plenty of people out there think they know everything.  Do you know someone like this?  My eyes are always in danger of rolling out of their sockets whenever I’m around someone who thinks the sun rises and sets on their wisdom.

Scripture has a test for you, if you want to become a wise person.

Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. [James 3:13]

Wisdom is not in what you know.  It’s how you live what you know.

Check out the rest of James 3 to see how wisdom is fleshed out.  If it doesn’t lead to peace, it ain’t wisdom.

———————————————————

The other #1word5voices crew reflecting during Lent are: Heather Kostelnick, Shawn Franssens, Stephanie Mutert, and Lindsay Evans.

Lent 2015 -- large graphic

Posted in #1Word5voices, Lent | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Ignorance is bliss: a lament — #1word5voices #40days @useyouratlas

“Ignorance is bliss.”

day 18 - knowledgeI wish I didn’t know many of the things that I know now.  Lately, I have been overwhelmed with the burden of so many different things happening in this world.  It’s not unique to me and it’s not a new feeling.  But I am feeling it more acutely the past couple of months.

The knowledge our 24 hour news cycle feeds us is overwhelming.  Things in this world that I try to make a difference in don’t seem to change as fast as I want.  I recently learned some things about different friends that make my heart hurt for them.  Making disciples with teenagers continues to have highs and lows.  Wanting to see human trafficking, senseless violence, global poverty, etc. gain less steam seems like an exercise in futility.  Being a voice of hope and love is difficult.

I am all together discouraged about life right now.

“Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says:

“‘When people fall down, do they not get up?
    When someone turns away, do they not return?
Why then have these people turned away?
    Why does Jerusalem always turn away?
They cling to deceit;
    they refuse to return.
I have listened attentively,
    but they do not say what is right.
None of them repent of their wickedness,
    saying, “What have I done?”
Each pursues their own course
    like a horse charging into battle. [Jeremiah 8:4-6]

I want to go back to ignorance, the innocence of being a child, but that’s not worth spending the mental energy.  My goal is to help Livvy and Rosie to see the beauty in the world, God’s redemptive story amidst the pain, strife, and malice.  Not to shelter them, but to instill an unswerving hope–even if my hope has its shaky moments.  There are so many pictures of God’s Kingdom making headway, but I wish there was so much more.

Today, this song came of 90.9 and totally hit home for me.  Take “Between” for a spin, by the local KC band Atlas.  I included the lyrics so you can process it as you listen.

On Sunday in my grandpa’s church
I watch from an old wooden pew
As they bury sinners in cold waters
And raise them again, they raise them again
They raise them again to start anew
We were looking for wrongs to be made right
We were waiting darkness to get scattered by the light
And you don’t know how hard I try
To forget, oh to forget, to forget what’s hidden
In the walls of my mind
And you tell me there is a hope I’m not seeing
You tell me there is an end in sight
But it’s hard when you’re stuck between Hallelujahs
Oh it’s hard when you’re stuck between Hallelujahs
And you don’t know why, and you don’t know why
Well it plays out like a movie
But with all the scenes rolling at the same time
I am an actor playing the villain in my own story
And I am hoping no one reads; oh I am hoping no one reads
I am hoping no one reads between my lines
This mirror is like a gavel; its reflection is a life sentence on me
So break that glass and scatter my silhouette
Whatever it takes, whatever it takes
Whatever it takes the means justify the end

———————————————————

The other #1word5voices crew reflecting during Lent are: Heather Kostelnick, Shawn Franssens, Stephanie Mutert, and Lindsay Evans.

Lent 2015 -- large graphic

Posted in #1Word5voices, faith, Lent | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

My cross to bear — #1word5voices #40days

One of the phrases that bugs me that people use is when they refer to “my cross to bear.”  I’m guilty of using this phrase, but one day it struck me how flippantly we say it.

day 14 - followJesus calls us to follow Him and that features the call to carry your cross.  The cross was an instrument of tortuous death that brought shame and stigma to anyone associated with it.  If you had a family member sentenced to death via crucifixion, it was socially unbearable.

Dying on a cross as a requirement to follow a rabbi from an obscure part of Israel?  Jesus would not have been a great marketer by our advertising standards.

A “cross to bear” is a sacrifice that leads to building the Kingdom of God, not something trivial like balding or an old sports injury.  It’s more radical, more revolutionary than that.  When Jesus calls us to carry our cross every day, we understand that He isn’t commanding us to die for our sins.  He’s got that more than covered.  Jesus calls us to follow Him with our cross in tow because it’s a daily reminder that we need to continually die to self.

Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart.  This is why the call to follow is so demanding.

The Good News is that Jesus is there to help us as we follow Him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  [Matthew 11:28-30]

One of my favorite Waterdeep lyrics, from my favorite all-time album of EVER, is from their song “Get Me Clear.”  It has a great Psalm-like prayer asking God to help us out of our own self-constructed prison and taking steps to follow Jesus.  I’ve prayed similar things in my life; maybe it will help you focus and ready yourself to follow.

Though it’s against your nature to be impolite
Would You please break into my heart tonight
and steal away my fear?

Cause it’s within my nature to just sit and guard
And though the prison door’s open, I’m afraid to depart

I’m stuck right here
You gotta get me clear

Jesus opens those doors of our prison and invites us to follow.

Come on, already!

———————————————————

The other #1word5voices crew reflecting during Lent are: Heather Kostelnick, Shawn Franssens, Stephanie Mutert, and Lindsay Evans.

Lent 2015 -- large graphic———————————————————

“The Road To The Cross” piece is by Fallon Connors and is one of my favorite paintings.

Posted in faith, identity, Kingdom of God | Tagged , , | 1 Comment