Friday, March 30, 2012

Missing Invitations

An hour and a half from the start of the party and it looks like very few people are planning on coming. Did we invite the wrong people to the party?

Luke 14:12-24

Who are the poor? Who are the crippled, the lame, the blind? These are the people Jesus tells us to invite. Have we invited the wrong people?

Surely, more thoughts to be continued...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Priority One

Camping Trip or 5K?
Two choices between good and great.  This is when priorities matter.  This is when integrity matters.

Some of you know that Kim and I have been reading through the Harry Potter series (I highly recommend you read them if you haven't yet!  They're great!).  I actually just finished the last one this past week.  By far, this last book was the best.  Not only was the story line unbelievable, but also there were bits of truth and wisdom spread throughout it unlike the others.  One such passage struck me and has had me chewing on it ever since:

"It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)."

Am I the person who never seeks power?  Or am I the one who seeks it and desires the recognition, the influence, the pride that accompanies it?  Probably the latter. 

Just recently I've felt the temptation towards small amounts of power lingering at the door, with the eagerness and anticipation that it may cross the threshold and begin building a tiny empire in my heart.  Through the conversations with people at work and at church, I feel this temptation to seek leadership and thus power and the downward spiral that it leads.  Yet, the enters community. 

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12.

I was debating between running in the 5K in which I had already committed to or bailing on that and doing the men's campout through our church.  And for me, the campout held the ability to continue to foster friendships, influence, leadership, and power.  But power was probably the greatest driver.  So, in my mind, i had chosen to bail on the 5K.  Kim's reaction to me bailing on her and the rest of our running group jostled me to reconsider this thought.  At this point is when I realized that the choice was really between integrity and self-preservation. 

This is another reason why skipping church can sometimes be the most godly thing you can do.  And so, we skipped church Sunday, allowing Kim and I to spend more time on us, and allowing me to cast aside even more fully the allure of whatever temptation power may bring.  It allowed me to recenter on my first priority next to God: Kim.  And when in competition between all other choices or opportunities, Kim wins.

Fat boy 5k, here we come!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chasing after Shadows

One of the interesting and strange things about the daily flow of mine is the amount of unrestrictedly idle time.  I may work very hard for an hour, a day, a week, but inevitably there come times where there is not a thing constructively to do.  Sure, I could cold call people to attempt an introduction, but this never works.  After colding calling 482 people to no avail, it's pretty much a given that it doesn't work. 

Or I could fill my time with idle amusement like one of the zillion apps available or hours upon hours on facebook, but I'm not that guy.  I have to be moving, helping, serving, doing.  Here in lies the problem...the tension of waiting.

I remember part of a story in one of the Narnia books.  It is about a horse that was the most outstanding, strong, switft, intelligent, and charming horses in one land, yet as he approached Narnia, realized his humbleness compared to the far greater horses there.  It is in this moment that Aslan (who plays the fictional character of Jesus) tells the horse to "be content".  You are not the best, You are not the worst.  Be content with the horse you are.

But I want to be the best!  I want to have a more successful business than anyone in my field! 

There is a quote by Tim Kizzier: "Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter." 

What are we chasing after?  What are we toiling to obtain?

May we work hard towards things that matter and be content with ourselves along the way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Banking on Half-Truths

I have heard several christians over the years use verses out of context throughout scripture in an effort to back up their own actions and beliefs.  In fact, I'd be surprised if I haven't done the exact same thing at some point.  If I do, please challenge me on it!  Otherwise, I'll never learn nor be the wiser.

However, for now, I want to look briefly at this passage (Deuteronomy 15:1-11) ending in verse 11 with: "(t)here will always be poor people in the land. (NIV)"  I have heard this quoted to me probably four times over the past few years.  And in each context the christian was using this verse as an example of why we shouldn't be concerned with the poor.  That they will always be around us, they will always be in need, so even if we give today, tomorrow they'll still have need.  So why bother?

I get that.  I get that because I and definitely the people who have said this, think that I have better uses for my money than to give it to a person who will use it less wisely than I will.  Right.  As if using it to buy food to simply survive is not as wise as any other possible thing you can do with money.

But as much as this poor perspective on reality drives me nuts, it is not the point I want to make.

Instead, let's continue with the next section of the verse in which I have never heard completed or recited by any of these same people who quoted the first half (this says a lot about how we do things.  We get half-truths memorized and locked down; just enough truth to be an outright lie and casting us down a path we shouldn't tread).  "There will always be poor people in the land.  Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land (NIV)."  Or put it another way, "there will always be some Israelites who are poor and in need, and so i command you to be generous to them.(GNT)"

So, instead of using the first half as a scapegoat to not give generously (even in the 7th year when you know you won't receive any of the loan back in return), we must read the entire verse and realize we are commanded to give simply because there is need. 

Moral of the day: Don't bank on half-truths.  Dig a little deeper.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On the Sidelines

I just finished reading the 6th Harry Potter book, the Half-Blood Prince. And it got me thinking about purpose and meaning and doing and being. I can't help but think of how wonderful if would be to be Harry Potter. His purpose was clear, he knew what he had to do, he had great determination to do it, and so he went and accomplished his mission. How I would give anything to be in that position, to have that clarity of purpose and mission and the ability to go out and make it happen!

Which brought me to the question we all constantly wrestle with...what is my purpose, what will I do...which is a problem. Because although there is a very real war going on in the minds and hearts of all of those around us, although there is a good and evil at work right now amongst us, the ending is already decided. Through Jesus, this war is over. The victory has been declared.

Or has it?

My assumption has always been that Jesus has conquered all and that since this is the case, the scales between good and evil, although may not be full tipped in current time, will eventually tip entirely and good will win out. The problem with this assumption is that there is absolutely no purpose in those living between now and then since the end has been decided.

Let's take it from a different point of view... Let's think of evil/Satan/other demons as an evil giant terrorizing and killing constantly the other people on this planet. Clearly, we want to stop that and save as many people as we can. Well, when we go out there and constantly shoot tiny arrows at it that end up doing exceedingly little damage (although you could assume that each arrow does weaken it slightly, even if only a tiny amount). However, in the end, I know that the King will be coming at some point to slay the giant. In this circumstance, what is the point of me standing there through a lifetime and shooting arrows at the giant, knowing tht it will be an exceedingly difficult calling, likely to led to great pain, strife, andispel. If the end is decided, the in-between has no meaning.

Or is it truly without meaning? Is it truly insignificant to stand up against evil? Is it truly a waste to fight a lost battle? Should we simply resign ourselves to live the most comfortable lives possible since all else is of no great value? Should we give up on the poor with the assumption they will always be among us? Should we not stand up for the widow, the orphan, the sick, the abused?

Of course not! Because when we attack the giant, it must turn to us and stop terrorizing others, if even for a moment. And if by distracting the evil one we suddenly simultaneously allow another person to escape, what a great victory we have shared! And thus, what looks, like a life of meaningless effort and strife turns into the greatest life lived.

In fact, let me take this thought further...

When we as Christians are bogged down with concerns of this world (money, consumerism, getting ahead, having enough to eat or to wear or to look better), we are not even in the fight. When we are concerned about financial matters, we are not being attacked, we are recovering on the sidelines, completely separate from the struggle. Therefore, we must rid ourselves of the things that keep us from the fight. And we must storm the gates of hell to wreak as much havoic as possible on evil, hopefully attracting attention to our advances and away from those others who are being attacked. And if after a lifetime of fighting, if we have helped even one life be saved if even indirectly, it would be worth the battle. Wouldn't it truly be a waste-a shame-to have lived life on the sidelines?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Community Financial Restoration

So, recently I have become involved with a community of belivers who from their accounts are all having a difficult time financially.  The reasons are various including job loss, change in job and thus lower income, birth of child and switch to one working spouse from two, can't work due to disability, basic budgetting problems of spending more than earning, and debt burdens.  Clearly, there are many different pieces at play here, but all centered around financial issues.

The benefit of all of this is that we as believers most often turn to God in difficulty and forget Him during good times.  So, our community is focusing in on God.  However, it is also a detriment.  Because each morning the first thought is a financial concern and in the evening, the last thought is likely the same.  This, I assume (which may be a poor assumption), keeps us from effectively living out our faith in Jesus and helping reach the world.  We're too caught up in our own survival to consider the physical, emotional, or spiritual needs of those around us.  Abraham Maslow says that these needs must be met before we can be effective as shown below:

According to Maslow's hierachy of needs, we must satisfy these needs in order:
Physicial (food, water, shelter)
Safety (free from harm)
Belonging (love and acceptance)
Esteem (self-esteem, confidence fueled by others)
Self-actualization (individual effectiviness)

However, we also find people who reach self-actualization in the midst of adversity.  Another psychologist, Viktor Frankl reached this effectiveness while living in the middle of a concentration camp in WWII.  Clearly, he lacked adequate nourishment for his physical, safety, belonging, and esteem needs.  BUT it was likely that his perspective of these needs bipassed the need.  Said another way, he no longer placed importance or value on these other needs and therefore met self-actualization.

Bringing that back to the community...the financial problems are actually a defiicit of all needs physical through esteem.  So, do we as a community seek to fix the financial problem?  Or do we seek to help everyone change the perspective like Viktor Frankl?  Or do we try to do both and see what happens?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Applebee's: the new coffee shop

So, a friend and I were going to meet up at Starbucks but they were packed with no parking available. We decided to go down the road about half a mile to another coffee shop. It turns out that it closed at 3pm. So, we went to a place where no one would be at 3pm...Applebee's. It is a real tragedy that's Applebee's is the third string coffee shop here. Whatever happened to the Coffee shop on every corner, on every street, ever few blocks?

Oh. That was Nashville.

Well, bring on snowball season! I pref to have a snowball stand on every street anyway. Snowballs always taste better than the best coffee. That's been imperically proven through a double blind study.

So, beyond the ramblings of the first part of this entry I do have something to say. It will have to wait though. My friend just arrived.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pressing Pause

Sitting in my car waiting for a meeting...I am here early today because I have nothing else to do right now. The past few days have been a flurry of meetings and wonderful opportunities to serve others. Today's calendar: the lone lunch meeting. Not that I haven't attempted to work hard, it just has ended up that today is really light. Thank God!

It's not that I don't like being busy. Being busy means I meet more people, add more value to them, fulfill my purpose in life, provide for Kim and me as well as those whom we support, but it's good to take a pause whether intentionally or not. It's hard to see the beauty of God's blessings when we're right amidst them. It often isn't until we step back that we see the big picture and are astounded.

Don't let me fool you right now- I'm sitting in a car wondering why it is so hot so early in the year. I'm not in some nervanna state of mind, reaching enlightenment. I just think it is wonderful how God provides us with a life that is full of diversity. And today's change up is the fact that I have one meeting.

I hope and pray that I don't try to make my one meeting more than what it is. It is one meeting, not three. Let's not try and force a usual day's work out of one meeting. Instead, I pray that I love well, listen well, and add vaue in whatever way I can. That'll be a meeting- a day- worth living.