RSS

Monthly Archives: November 2010

Waiting Expectantly

We live in a culture of instant gratification, of if we want it we can find a way to have it, RIGHT NOW! Movies instantly on your TV, email on your cell phone, mobile internet devices, even instant books on our e-readers.  We have not been taught the art of waiting, the patience and self-control it takes to wait on things.  We live in a society that is ever more invested in doing all things faster.

I am as susceptible to this as anyone else, I drive too fast and sometimes try to cram too many things into every day.  I don’t like to wait, I have been seduced by our right now, more more more culture.  This time of year in the Christian Calendar is called Advent. We are waiting for the ultimate good to arrive, we are waiting for the baby that is fully human and fully divine to be born.  The birth of Christ starts a chain of events that go from the beginning of time until the end of time, but we have lost the idea of waiting.

Our scale in the world has also drastically changed over the last one-hundred years.  Distances that once took days or weeks to cover are now covered in hours.  Distances that once were full day trips are now quick trips across town. It is amazing to me to think about how one of my ancestors would see what I am doing and be absolutely lost as to how I work and play in today’s culture.

It was brought back to me again on Sunday night as we were talking through the “Advent Conspiracy” discussion guide about the incredible Theological idea of waiting for Jesus’ arrival.  We should be on pins and needles as Christ’s followers for his arrival on the scene.  When Jesus is born and placed in the manager the arc of history suddenly changes.  The arrival of Christ is the greatest step towards humans being reconciled to God, only his death, resurrection and coming again could be more important.

In this season I am attempting to once again place the focus towards Christ, instead of all the advertisements that are bombarding me now.  I want to come back to a place of greater simplicity, and give myself relationally all year long, in addition to the things we do here at Christmas. Will you join me? Please join me in an adventure of trying to connect my life with those around me.

 

Thankful Lives

This week is an incredible time in our society.  While we celebrate being thankful, we also encourage acts of incredible excess.  Since I have been working with the Advent Conspiracy it has really pushed me towards seeing excess in the world around me.  We (and I include myself here on purpose) live with incredible amounts of excess. By all intents and purposes we are rich beyond compare to about two-thirds of the rest of the world.

This week is the time we designate to be thankful, not the rest of the year, but only this week.  I think this is a bit short-sighted on our part, we have so much to be thankful would it not be better to designate one week to ignoring our blessings.  This time of year is one where we begin to take a look at our lives and be thankful, and I am as guilty as anyone else of this.  The daily stress and busyness of life has a way of preventing us from truly being thankful.

We have so much more than just material affluence to be thankful for though, and we often do not live the life of gratitude that we should. The gift of grace is something that we should be ever increasingly thankful for, but often we live just for life in this world.  We have been given an incredible gift, one that does not end in this world, but extends in what is to come.

Now this may sound kind of strange for Thanksgiving week, but we need to live a life that is much more thankful than we often do.  Our thankfulness should extend into all areas of our lives, we should live so that other can see our joy.  Our thankful lives are to end in service to others and to the place that gives us the hope of what is to come. That place is the church, the place that supplies our hope for the life to come.

So in our yearly week set aside for being thankful let us set about living a life of gratitude for the many material and supernatural gifts that we have been given. But please do not keep this to yourself, talk to your friends, your family, or me about what you are thankful for. An ongoing conversation of thankfulness goes a long way to fostering a life of gratitude.

 

Holidays Gone Wrong

So recently I began preparing for Advent Conspiracy, I have posted a little bit about what I am preparing for this. But I wanted to write about something that has stuck out to me while preparing these lessons. I have written and talked about the gospel and consumer culture, but where we really see how broken our consumer culture is, is in Christmas.

Christmas is an economic boon, a time of year where businesses routinely do 40% of their annual business. If every month was even businesses would do about 8.3% of their business during Christmas time, but this is not the case.  More than 5 times that amount of business is done during the Christmas season, all to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In Advent Conspiracy the three pastors attempt, and do a great job, to point out that our celebration of Christmas has gone from worship of God to the worship of money.  The presents we give and receive, and their monetary value help us place a value on our value in relationships.  The pastors call for us to give in a much more relational way.  The focus is on giving better gifts, more meaningful gifts, not the gifts that are empty, broken, and forgotten by New Years.

Giving relationally is not really a norm here in the US, because our society has placed incredible value on money and its use.  Status is derived from money, it is what defines us.  Big house, big car, lots of toys that is the rat race that we are indoctrinated into.  Advent Conspiracy is not a radical idea it is a scriptural one, it pushes us to move back towards the TRUE reason for the season.  Worshiping a baby born in a manger in Jerusalem well more than two-thousand years ago.

How can we return to true worship? Starting on November 28th at 5 pm in the Youth Room at Mulberry Street UMC in Macon, GA you can find out.  We will be breaking down the ideas with the help of the videos from Advent Conspiracy. Please join us and see how we can truly move back towards loving and following the baby born in a manager.

 
 

Entering Into a Story

I began preparing several lessons for my youth today on Advent Conspiracy, and it got me thinking. (For those of you who are not familiar with Advent Conspiracy watch their 2009 promo video.

During one of the sessions on the DVD one of the pastors talked about the idea of “entering into a story,” I had to stop and wonder “what does he mean by that?” I had heard the phrase before, but hadn’t really gotten past the face value of it before.  And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me.

I had heard that we as Christian’s are taking part in the greatest story ever told, one of incredible and immense love of an amazing God. I recently read Donal Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years,” which talks a great deal about the idea of living into a greater story.  It is a book about stepping outside of our normal, manageable lives and taking risks.  According to Miller, if we look at our lives like a movie many of us would not want to watch it.

What I think is meant by entering into a story is not to repeat the earlier parts, but to connect our part with the parts of those who came before us. As Christians we have a long history, sometimes good, sometimes misguided, and sometimes shameful, but we have that corporate history.  If we want to truly join in the story of the church we cannot just sit on the sidelines, we cannot only go on Sunday mornings.  We have to realize that our lives involve much more than just ourselves, it is about God’s love for the entirety of the world.

When we commit to enter into the story of Christ and his love for the world, it might look a little strange. We may need to go to the bad part of town, we may need to go to a different part of the world, we may even need to step way outside our comfort zone. There is one thing that we have to do before we can do anything and that is resolve to step into the story.

One of my favorite songs is called “You Might Die Trying” by Dave Matthews Band, and the lyrics say “To change the world starts with one step, However small, first step is hardest of all.” I think this is so true, so let us determine together to take the first step.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Dispatches from the Front Lines

Using this phrase as a title might evoke certain images for some of you who read, and I purposely used the phrase to create a feeling.  I hear a lot of people, especially Christian leaders, talking about how people in ministry must deal with our culture.  How many times do we hear about spiritual and cultural warfare from the point of view of Christianity. I am not discounting the idea or reality of spiritual warfare, or the idea that we have to offer an alternative to the mass culture we live in. BUT what I am saying is that maybe our slightly violent view of this may not be helping to further our cause.

As I see the church I see there are distinct factions we have the liberal/conservative divide in the church as well as in our politics.  This is why I began to think about this today, election day.  We have churches that believe are very far to one side or the other in the debate on any particular issue, and the voices from the fringes help to drown out the majority of the other voices.  I wrote a while back about my time in Washington DC, and also about the “blame paradigm” that we live in.  And while I meant for my conclusion to be a bit more wide reaching, I left that post with the view of only pertaining to politics.

I have things and people that I don’t agree with, and I freely admit having removed or hidden people on my facebook because their idea of political speech was mentally fatiguing to me.  We all come to live with a particular point of view, all of the experiences in our lives contribute to our own particular view.  But what I truly have to take issue with is when political speech goes from disagreements to how things are done or run, to personal attacks on candidates.  This happens from both sides and from third parties so I do not believe that anyone is completely innocent here.

I have grown very tired of hearing a political ad that goes something like this, “Candidate A took my sister on a date in 1973, and never called her again. Why would you trust someone like that to represent you in congress.” How relevant is the political speech we hear on a daily basis? If you ask me, none of it.  But where does this begin? I think it begins in our own houses. I think we need to stand up and let the candidates that we support know that we don’t want any more negative ads.  We don’t want mud slinging, we want actual political discourse, and to not have it hidden in 45 seconds of dirt with 15 seconds of actual information.

This also has to apply to our own homes, we can’t let our personal issues with things color actually seeing something for what it is.  How can we expect anything to change (which is the major claim of all political groups these days) if we cannot even sit in the same room and discuss.  John Wesley would call this Holy Council or Holy Conversation, but I think it is more widely useful than just the church.  We could also use this idea in our political discussions.  Let us attempt to begin a new front line, not with attacks or mud slinging, but with conversation and checking ourselves at the door…

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 2, 2010 in Uncategorized