Hard Truth in the Wake of the Recent Ruling…

In light of recent legal proceedings and rulings, it is about time we stopped and thought about the acceptance of different kinds of people. I encourage you to read to the very end before leaving this blog or making a judgment call.

As Christians we are called to love others, especially those who are outcast in our own society. In the very earliest days of Christianity, the church came under a lot of fire for accepting those that society had demonized and ostracized. The church suffered persecution for threatening the established order of things, and yet the church continued to work toward acceptance and reaching for equality among its members, whoever that might be.

In the earliest days of the church, it was an inclusive group of people who loved one another and enthusiastically welcomed new members in the name of the Lord Jesus. Despite pain and threat of death, more and more people flocked to the church for its simplicity of life and doctrine. “Lay down your burdens and find rest,” the church said to those weary of the way things were, tired of having no voice.

In the modern church, we have become closed off, exclusionary. We want people to have everything put together before they walk through the doors, instead of anticipating their pain, struggles, doubts, and insecurities and being ready to meet them with comfort, peace, and love at the door. Through the years of looking toward our own personal salvation, we may have missed the message of Jesus when he said, “For God so loved the world…” Jesus sought to establish a kingdom, here on earth, and we are his ambassadors carrying on that mission to establish God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”

So, in the light of all that I have said, I would ask you to look toward and accept into your churches and hearts those who have been truly persecuted and oppressed for so long…

The poor. The orphans. The widows.

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Why I Still Go to Camp

I’m sure there are some people that when the idea of leading a camp for elementary age children is brought up in conversation have an unconscious urge to bolt out of the room for fear that their name might be brought up as a consideration. Others might simply make a face of confusion or pain of the idea of spending a full week in charge of 50 kids. I brace myself and get ready for the wild ride that is helping to lead a week of Summer Camp.

There are times in my ministry that I question why I do what I do. The ins and outs of the daily grind (planning, shuffling papers, writing lessons) often gets in the way of the vision I have for ministry. See, kids are my life. Their faces, their hopes, their dreams, their wild conversations make all of the planning and sweat worth it. And let me tell you, this last week had a lot of sweat.

Kids will open up to a camp counselor often more than they will with their own children’s ministers or small group leaders. Suddenly, here’s an adult who seems to really care and who couldn’t possibly judge me. I heard stories of parents in jail, heartbreaking stories of kids who just wanted to see their moms, but couldn’t because of drug problems. Between poverty, foster care situations, and tragedy, these kids relished their week away from their fears, insecurities and problems. They leaped out of their pain and tried new things, played new games, and heard about a man named Jesus who loved them, seeing it in the way their counselors loved and treated them.

No amount of conferences or mountain top experiences have so completely refocused my vision as did one week of camp. Was it tiring? Yes. Rewarding? Oh, yes. Will I do it again? I’m already planning for next year.

Pain, sadness, fear, and insecurity live in the hearts of our kids the rest of the year, too. One week of camp can’t change that. So if you ever wonder how important children’s ministry is, think about the child who, above and other treasure, just wants a parent to come home. These kids need love, and we can provide that love in a safe environment that connects them to an even greater love that God provides.

Why do I still go to camp? Because Jesus loves these kids, and I do, too.

Giving What You Have

What do you do when you’re faced with over 5,000 hungry people miles away from any town? If Jesus’ response is any indication, the answer is to ask politely for a small child’s lunchbox and then proceed to hand it out enough to where multiple Bi-Lo sacks are left over.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking: this is where we call in the Dinner: Impossible guy and have him yell at us for several hours until we can cater this thing correctly. But then, again, that kind of misses the point, really.

In the story, the disciples are faced with the monumental, seemingly impossible task of, “You feed them,” from Jesus. Completely flummoxed, the disciples stare at him in disbelief until he asks the question, “What do you have?” There’s the key. Jesus doesn’t point out the disciples’ inability to handle the situation, he asks what resources they do have. Once they hand the meager offering, Jesus breaks it, blesses it, and gives it back for them to share.

NT Wright pointed out something cool here. When we are faced with some nearly impossible task, Jesus invites us to go through this process ourselves. Instead of pointing out our weakness and lack, Jesus asks, “What do you have?” Then, when we hand over our meager talents, abilities, and resources, he breaks them, blesses them, and gives them back for us to use.

It takes humility to hand over what little we have as far as our abilities go, but it takes much more to receive back something broken and seemingly less. Think about it, each disciple probably didn’t receive 5 loaves and 2 fish worth to start off with. Each one would have received 1/12 or less of the starting quantity. Let that sink in for a second. Jesus says, “All right, Thomas, you’ve got that section there near that tree, and Philip, you’ve got the section near that rock pile,” and you’re sitting there staring at your small handful of food thinking, “It’s official, he’s lost his mind.”

But think of the renewed spirit when that meager bit of food begins to seem like more and more as you give away more and more. You could say our abilities and talents are similar – they may seem small, but the more we give away in Jesus’ name, the more we seem to have to give.

In my weakness, he is strong. His grace is sufficient for me. No matter what you face, hand it over to God. It may not come back in the same shape,but it will come back blessed, and ready to do more than you could ever have thought possible.

Be Ready with an Answer

“[…] Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” I Peter 3:15b

The news has been quite busy lately… coincidentally, so have I. With VBS in full swing at the moment and camp not too far away, my plate has been a smorgasbord on its own. I’ve also been studying some Mandarin Chinese for kicks and giggles and studying up on Chinese history in my (albeit small) free time.

All that to say: the news has snuck up on me. FIrst of all, we have had a whole bunch of racism in the news lately. As a white middle-class man, I am probably the least qualified to speak on the subject, but let’s be frank. We are all different. We are all made in the image of God. We live in a broken world, with a broken society, and a broken system of privilege. We, as a people, a nation, and a world humanity have written ourselves into a corner. It will take a great deal of effort to break out of this prison of pain, frustration, and brokenness. Thankfully, we have a big God that reminds us about how we should tackle this.

First, we should recognize privilege where it does happen. It does. Once we’ve recognized it, those of us who have it should work to wean ourselves off of it. This sounds like a huge step, and it is. Consider Jesus who, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but took on the very nature of a servant and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Our model should be Jesus who had every privilege, but gave them all up in order to share in the lives of others. As many people in the past have said, Jesus has already modeled the best life. Follow him and we will begin to build heaven on earth.

Have you talked to your kids about race? Have they asked questions? How do you as a parent deal with it? Where do you see hints of racism in your own life?

Secondly, and this is another huge topic I’m going to try and fit in as few words as possible. The Jenner debate. regardless of what you call the Jenner clan member currently in the news, it will probably come up in conversation, especially if you have an older child.

Post after post have argued one way and the other on many different sides of the divide. Here’s what it boils down to. Are you ready? If you are a Christian looking at this issue you have to wrestle with Scripture. God still speaks through the Bible, and you must be ready with an answer that you can find contained therein. As a parent and a Christian, you need to make sure that you are soaking in the life of Jesus and in the story of our big God daily.

We often try to argue people into a relationship with Jesus. Not once do I see Jesus do anything of the sort. If he wants a relationship, he begins a conversation. He looks for a need and meets it. He peers into the deepest, darkest recesses of the human being in front of him and finds what that person most truly needs – which is usually companionship, purpose, truth – and he gives it to them in the context of relationship. Jesus’ actions speak loudly. He turns expectations on their head and when he’s asked why he’s doing, whatever it is he’s doing, he’s ready with an answer. “There was a shepherd who had 99 sheep and lost one…” “There was a woman who had 10 silver coins and lost one…” “There was a man who had two sons…” “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…” Cryptic, strange, thought-provoking.

Whoever does the asking, brothers and sisters, whether it be your kids, neighbors, coworkers, or passersby, be ready with your answer. Make sure it’s built on the solid foundation of Jesus life, words, and relationship with you. Make sure it’s in the context of relationship with that person. Give your answer, plant a seed, and then allow God to do the heavy lifting.