A new “Live Dead” challenge

In our denomination, one of the most exciting movements I have seen being raised right now is the “Live Dead” movement. It is a radical commitment to reaching the unreached in some of the hardest places in the world. 

Something we are not very good at as American Christians is “living dead.” We are a saturated culture when it comes to Christianity, it seems. So the challenge is this: Can we “live dead” in America? 

This is what I want to explore beginning this Sunday in our church services. It is a series the Spirit is building inside of me and every Sunday I am preaching, this will be our focus. It is my prayer we open our hearts and spirits to the possibilities right here in our churches and in our communities. 

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. (Rom. 12:1-2)

 

I guess I don’t pay too much attention to where I live

Actually, I pay a LOT of attention to where I live. I love where I live and I want to love the people right where I live.

This is what is kind of disappointing when it comes to church leaders/pastors. I was talking to a leader new to town and he had been warned off an area near my church because of “the crime.” Statistically, it’s just simply not true. Perceptually… it’s crime ridden.

I wish Christians in general just weren’t that way, but I REALLY wish Christian leaders weren’t that way. We want our “safe” neighborhoods. It really hasn’t occurred to us that our presence there could very well MAKE it safe. I don’t say that of ALL neighborhoods, but I will say I’m tired of watching people fighting not to turn their noses up at me when I mention where I live. They try hard, then probably have to readjust their noses in the mirror when they get home.

I don’t intentionally put myself in harm’s way, nor do I want my family in harm’s way. But neighborhoods can be WONDERFUL places… and let’s just say it: WONDERFULLY DIVERSE PLACES… and I’m going to call my shot right here: Wonderfully diverse doesn’t always sound so pleasing to Christians.

Skewer me.

Where I live in my city is the lowest crime rate in the entire city, AND quite lower than many suburbs. But is “feels” different. It’s not “pristine.” It has quirky streets and houses and businesses that aren’t chains. It’s just not everyone’s cup of tea. But to warn someone off by saying it’s “crime ridden” is just dishonest.

I’m no saint. But I do love where I live and I’m not disappointed. As pastors, we could really lead the way better for the saints!

 

Throwing cold water on the ice bucket challenge

President Obama refused the ice bucket challenge. 

Others refuse for all kinds of reasons. There are moral ones due to the types of stem cell research done particular ALS groups. 

Then there are just ones where they don’t like to be “shamed.” 

Personally, I think the president refused the challenge because it would mess up his golf swing… ;)

I took the ALS challenge because my oldest son challenged me. I don’t always get into those kinds of games. You know the Facebook gag where someone posts something and you “like” it or comment and then they message you and say you’ve been “tagged” to write something embarrassing on your wall? Yeah. Not gonna do that. 

Doing the challenge or not doing the challenge should be up to each person without any shame whatsoever. But we seem to like this shame thing… which is completely ironic since for decades we have worked to get “shame” out of our cultural process! 

Perhaps you heard about the Starbucks in Florida where they had a “pay it forward” kind of thing going on for over ten hours. Someone paid for the car behind them and it set off a chain where the barista would say, “The car in front of you paid for your drink, would you like to pay for the vehicle behind you?”

Of course, when this goes on for a huge amount of time, it only means that the person who finally breaks the chain will be hunted down and… shamed for being a Scrooge. Robert Reich, former cabinet member under Bill Clinton, even posted about the guy who broke the chain was probably a Republican. Let’s just pile on! 

I took the challenge for several reasons. First of all, ALS is known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” and Lou Gehrig is one of my baseball heroes. Second, when I was getting into ministry I served as a part time hospice chaplain and a couple of patients I visited suffered from ALS and I have those images burned into my consciousness. Third, when we have the opportunity to give a big push that just might finally make a difference in research, I think we just need to say, “Oh, WHY NOT?” 

PLUS, I didn’t give just to ALS. I gave to a church in Liberia who is in the middle of the Ebola crisis. 

And the ones I invited to take the challenge haven’t responded and I don’t care. The challenge was a hoot, I had a lot of fun, and if people take me up on it, great. If they don’t, great. No shame. Let’s just have some fun and see if we can charge harder into a tough project. It just happens to be ALS. There are so many other causes. Charge in and see what you can do! 

Dump ice. Don’t dump ice. Give to ALS. Give to MS research. GIve to lung cancer research. JUST GIVE. I won’t tell you to NOT give… you need to learn generosity and that is GOOD thing. No shame in it at all. 

I honestly don’t care if the president refuses or President Bush took the plunge. We create political statements out of any action and THAT is the shame. 

Let’s learn to be generous, invite others into the process, and see where it may lead. 

 

ALS ice bucket challenge

I took the ALS ice bucket challenge today. What I had planned as 5 pounds of ice in a good sized bucket morphed into about 15 pounds of ice water in a huge tub. I am looking for names on that one…

ALS has the nickname “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” after the great baseball player cut down by the disease in the prime of his life.

I am happy to donate to this great cause, as well as donate to a Liberian church we support who is in the middle of the Ebola outbreak.

It is great to see all the awareness of ALS and the huge amount of support. We have great opportunities to advance research and try and find causes and cures. May we see something great happen out of this push!

Gospel definitions

I am in the first pages of Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology. He opens early on with definitions of gospel because all theology must be rooted in gospel.

He uses N.T. Wright:

The gospel is the royal announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures, has been enthroned as the true Lord of the world. When the gospel is preached, God calls people to salvation, out of sheer grace, leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.

Then his own definition:

The gospel is the announcement that God’s kingdom has come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel’s Scriptures. The gospel evokes faith, repentance, and discipleship; its accompanying effects include salvation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Defining gospel is necessary, and difficult!

The IMMENSE power of the Scripture

The Revelation, extending St. John’s experience (“I fell at his feet”) puts a stop to all bookish approaches to the scriptures that merely study them out of pious duty or for intellectual curiosity. The scriptures are not a textbook on God; they are access to the living word of God that speaks a new world into being in us. — Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder 

We need to experience the Word. The intent of scripture, especially a word like Revelation, is to put us on our knees in worship. We’re so busy predicting the anti-Christ and talking about the alignment of moons, we miss the radical call to worship. 

We are always trying to make the Scripture be useful to us… to contort into our purposes. Here is the truth: the Scripture uses us. We are not meant to be “students” but worshipers. Awed worshipers.