Get Your Head in the Game!

Isaiah has had some doozies for me the past few days.

Today, I read this passage, which should sound familiar, as it’s one Jesus quotes in at least two of the gospel accounts:

“And [my people] honored me with its lips, but has kept its heart far from Me, and its worship of me has been a commandment of men, learned by rote […]” Isaiah 29:13

The commentary I’m reading pointed out that “heart” in biblical language is often talking about the mind and thought, while guts or soul refers to the seat of emotions. So, in that case, we could read this as “kept its mind far from me,” which makes this a little different.

Have you ever been in a worship service or a family devotional and you just couldn’t focus? Me too, but I don’t know that this is exactly what the passage is trying to show us. In context, the people referred to here are actively refusing to show justice to the poor and needy, and some are even actively pursuing ways to take advantage of others. Their lives outside of the worship service are antithetical to the praises they sing in the congregation. In other words, their minds, instead of seeking God daily, are seeking out plans that are opposite to God’s.

There’s something to be said for a 24/7 worship lifestyle. The idea that whatever you do can be considered worshiping God as long as it is done in a way that honors him. Have a desk job? The patience and self-control you practice daily dealing with difficult co-workers can be a beautiful offering to God. Work in customer service dealing with some of the most difficult specimens humanity can offer? Your kindness and gentleness in those situations can show God how much you care.

In other words, don’t let Sunday (or whichever day you worship with fellow believers) be the only day your life is different. Be worshipful every day. By modeling this, your kids will start to see that following Jesus isn’t just a one day a week thing, but rather an every day thing. And that may be one of the most important things you show your children.

What’s it look like to you?

So I was reading in Isaiah today, and if you’ve never read the prophets, you sure are missing out on a ton of context for what Jesus says. In many ways, Jesus is reminding his people what God has been saying for thousands of years. Really, at the heart, the message hasn’t really changed.

In chapter 28, I ran across this passage:

“[…] he will speak to this people, to whom he said: ‘This is the resting place, give rest to the weary; And this is the place of repose’ – but they refused to hear. So for them the word of the LORD shall be: ‘Command on command, command on command, rule on rule, here a little, there a little!'”

There’s a ton of context before and after this passage having to do with Judah’s refusal to rely completely on God and instead use alliances with other nations as a safeguard. It’s also a condemning chapter on those who are too focused on making themselves happy rather than focusing on the priorities of God and fellow humans. So why did it catch my eye?

Well, it certainly sounds like what the church has done to itself, to be honest. Think about it, Jesus words were, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” And, yet, how does the outside world view the church? “Shoo buddy, those Christians have a lot of rules!”

There have been times in my life where this is what it has felt like to follow Jesus. “Don’t do this. Make sure you do that. A little here, a little there. Command on command, rule on rule.” And really, is that any way to live?

Now, am I advocating a libertine lifestyle where everything goes? Not at all. See, it’s not so much about what we’re not allowed to do as much as it is what we choose to give up or add in because we love Jesus. “All things are permissable, but not all things are beneficial.”

When we frame the disciple’s life for others, maybe we should phrase it in context of Jesus’ desire for us to have the best life – not the happiest, or most desirable – but the best life. The church should be a place of rest, not of excessive criticism and anger.

Building the Wrong Pyramid

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to ministry, service, and how we approach things in the church. In particular, the way in which we tend to see some people as being higher than others, and if that’s really beneficial.

In some ways I see the church putting ministers at the top of a pyramid, with the people of the world at the bottom of that same pyramid. Church people place themselves on the pyramid somewhere, depending on how they feel that day. I’ve been wondering, though, have we been building the wrong pyramid? What would happen if we flipped the thing upside down?

Jesus did. Jesus took issue with the right side up pyramid and sought to flip it whenever possible. Instead of supporting this hierarchy, he pulled his students from the outcasts, the unwanted. He taught his disciples that, “the first will be last, and the last first.” He pointed out that they should be like him when he washed their feet, taking the form of the lowest servant.

I will be honest, it’s hard to convince people to be leaders. People don’t like the top. Many people don’t like heights, especially social ones. So what if we considered that ministers, elders, deacons, and leaders weren’t at the top of the pyramid, but at the bottom?

For one, and upside down pyramid isn’t very stable. It would need some help standing up – meaning more dependence on God. Also, when we ask people to take on more responsibility at church, we aren’t asking them to “step up” we’re now asking them to “step down” toward the bottom where Jesus is leading. Ministers aren’t rulers by any stretch of the imagination, they are the lowest rung servants seeking to build God’s kingdom here on earth by serving others before themselves. And, really, that should be every Christian’s mission, not just paid ministers.

Inside Out…

… is one of the best children’s movies released, maybe ever. Can I stop writing now? No? All right, I guess I can elaborate.

For one, I have never been so close to tears in a movie in a long time. Though, seeing as though the entire movie is about emotions, it makes sense. In some ways, I felt nearly every possible emotion during this movie. I felt anger, disgust, sadness, fear, anxiety, loss, and the list goes on. The folks at Pixar certainly did their research and wrote with a depth of character and heart that I haven’t seen in a while.

For anyone who has a child close to the preteen age (especially young girls in that age bracket), you need to see this movie. Form the word “go” it’s obvious that research into contemporary neuroscience, psychology, and other related subjects factored heavily into the planning and writing of the script. The subtle changes and nuances in the young protagonist’s life are modeled so well by the interactions of the tiny emotions in her head.

I heard recently in a TED Talk that a sign of maturity is the ability to feel wildly different emotions at the same time, and be able to differentiate and appreciate the subtle combinations. The idea of bittersweetness comes to mind. I have ended several exciting weeks with camp and a mission trip within a month of each other. When the weeks ended, though, I felt a sense of sadness, but also joy in the fun and energy of the week. I could appreciate the feeling of sadness while feeling happy for what had happened at the same time. Or take recent events in the news where many of use felt heartbroken and angry all at the same time.

I marvel at the way God has designed us, to have such a varied pallet of emotions to experience. This is why I often like reading Mark more than the other accounts of Jesus’ life. Mark shows a Jesus who is emotional and interacts with those emotions in profound and often amazing ways. Somehow seeing Jesus show emotion makes it easier for me to experience and accept my own emotions.

Again, long story short – Inside Out is an amazing movie, you should see it, and emotions are wonderfully human parts of our lives!

We Should Think More… or Why the Internet is mostly wrong.

In the wake of new rulings and more recent legal conundrums, I feel the need to put a disclaimer out for the internet as a whole: not everything on the Internet is gospel truth. As I have perused my Facebook feed this morning, I read several articles that had me chuckling… for the wrong reasons.

Critical thought seems to be lacking in America today, especially in the wide world of the Internet. I am not saying that no one applies critical thinking to their article choices, but I the articles I run across from all sides of varying debates tend to be on the shallow, reactionary, sourceless side of the academic scale.

Just a few thoughts to help you and your family find good sources.

Who is the author/speaker? If we want to hear about a particular subject, we tend to ask an expert who has spent years studying the topic, or one who has years of practical experience. Answers may vary, but we tend to trust someone speaking to their expertise or experience. Some bloggers or article writers choose to write outside their experience and may not have all of the information relevant to the discussion.

Where are the sources? In high school and college we were drilled on making sure we used reputable sources when speaking or writing on a topic. We had our list of ten good sources to back up our arguments or we were counted off tremendously. Why do we let this go for internet articles? Where did the article get its information? Are there references, witnesses, or other indications that this person has fact-checked their argument?

How does the person react to the other side of the argument? Insults tend to be the last resort of a desperate mind. If an author/speaker is relying on emotional attacks, the article in question may not have enough information. Now, bloggers tend to write emotional responses, because that’s what blogs are for the most part, public journals/diaries.

What website hosts the article?

The only reason I write this is because I see articles and comments on occasion that tend toward the reactionary emotional response because of a lack of information to back up an argument. Debate is, in my opinion, a wonderful tool for developing and strengthening our beliefs. Shouting into the void tends to be less productive on the whole, however.

A great example for this would be Jesus. In every debate he was drawn into, he listened first, and responded second. He often responded lovingly, kindly and often with a question that disarmed the opponent – who probably wasn’t expecting him to listen quite so closely. He also practiced his words of, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Anonymity online is no excuse to set aside Jesus’ example.

Children need to see their parents conducting themselves with grace online so that they learn to show that same grace to others when they begin to traverse, with your guidance, the wonderful world of the Internet.