Live Dead Challenge: Good News isn’t “Self Help”

We are just into a series on “LIVE DEAD” at our church. This week’s reflection is on Romans 12. Next Sunday we reflect on Romans 13:8-14. 

The process of “LIVE DEAD” begins with Paul’s urging in Romans 12:

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. (vv. 1-2, CEB)

We need transformed minds that will call us out. We need a fresh call to move away from being conformed to the spirit of this age and have our whole beings surrendered fully to the patterns of the Kingdom of God. 

The gospel means “GOOD NEWS.” It’s not a discussion on philosophy or a self-help tract. We have a message to proclaim and a new life to live out in front of this world. 

The question for this week in my life is this: Is my life fully surrendered to the power of the gospel? 

 

LIVE DEAD SCRIPTURE

Through the fall I will be preaching through a series called “LIVE DEAD.” 

Live Dead is a call to missions in our movement, but I also believe it is a call our church needs to hear as well. As we move through the fall, these are the texts we will reflect on and the dates I will be preaching:

Sept. 7 – Rom. 13:8-14
Oct. 5 – Phil. 3:4-14
Oct. 12 – Phil. 4:1-9
Oct. 19 – I Thess. 1
Nov. 9 – I Thess. 4:13-18
Nov. 16 – I Thess. 5:1-11
Nov. 23 – Eph. 1:15-23

I invite our congregation to use these passages for reflection and prayer through the week as we lead into those studies on those Sundays. We need our lives transformed. This is our prayer. 

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Idol worship in the American church

I was in college in the days of the PTL scandal and Jimmy Swaggart’s failings. 

In the years since I honestly thought we could have learned our lessons from those debacles. Clearly, we have not. We continue to seek out evangelical superstars and the huge crowds and then we are shocked all over again when big failures happen. 

Roger Olson offers some reminders in the wake of the Mark Driscoll affair as it unfolds. I would like to say some of the things he says should be heeded, but who am I kidding? We’ll all have our next heroes up on the pedestal by next week. 

We need to hear some very direct words, though:

Unfortunately, we American evangelicals have created a system of ministry superstars on pedestals that sets them up for failure.

Olson’s point is to accountability. I think another way we have set people up for failure is that somehow we just WANT someone to set up as superstar. It’s our culture. And this is where we need to realize just how much we need to run COUNTER culture. 

I have talked about the need for heroes in our lives. I will STILL talk about the need for heroes in our lives. But we don’t need hero worship. 

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.