How Are We Known?

Brennan Manning's book, The Furious Longing of God, found it's way into my Kindle reader when I snatched it up as a free ebook download awhile back.  I enjoyed his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, so I jumped at the chance to read another.

I just returned from a weekend retreat with our Junior High crew where I was reminded of the simplicity of faith.  Oh how we love to make faith more complicated, more rigorous, and more based on following human rules than on the love of Jesus Christ!  The speaker did a fabulous job speaking on the story of the Prodigal Son, or as I have learned to call it, the Forgiving Father.  Some have said this is The Story in a nutshell.  That is, in telling the parable of the Forgiving Father Jesus summarizes the Good News: there is a God who longs, even waits, for each of His children to come home, to receive the gift of forgiveness, and come to a party for them!

In conversations I have with students, it's always fascinated me to me to hear what they have to say to the question, "What does it mean to be a Christian?"  They often talk of things they need to do and things they need to refrain from doing.  The list usually consists of:  read the Bible, pray, go to church, don't have sex, don't drink or do drugs, don't lie, cuss, cheat, or steal.  It's telling really.  It shows what they have learned growing up in church, or for those who haven't been raised in Christian homes, what they perceive Christianity to be all about.  It's all about following rules and keeping track of spiritual progress by showing up at Christian events, checking off boxes on our Bible reading plans, and filling the required time quota in our quiet times.  What does it mean to be a Christian?


Who Is Jesus?

Have you ever thought about how easy it is in churches, and especially in youth ministry, to forget to talk about Jesus?  Don't get me wrong, we love to point people to Jesus as we talk about obeying his commands, committing our lives to him, and securing eternal life.  But I fear that we forget to talk about Jesus.  We forget to tell the story, the story that reveals the mystery of God, the Creator of all things, putting on flesh, walking among us, teaching us, dying for us, and rising from the dead that we might have eternal life.  I'm struck by the number of times I hear messages, or craft my own messages, around obeying Jesus and encouraging listeners to make him Lord in their lives without explaining who he is or what he's done to deserve obedience and Lordship.  We forget to tell the story in our eagerness, my eagerness, to get people to behave better and believe quicker.

Scot McKnight's book, The King Jesus Gospel, addresses this issue.  We are more concerned, he says, with getting people to be part of the "decided," and have ignored making "disciples."  He writes, “When we separate the Plan of Salvation from the story, we cut ourselves off from the story that identifies us and tells our past and tells our future.  We separate ourselves from Jesus and turn the Christian faith into a System of Salvation.”    


Pursuing Creativity

I ran across a video on creativity shortly after my last post, "What if Money Was No Object?," and I believe there is a connection.  I wonder, how many of us give ourselves the time to actually think about our passions, gifts, and desires in life?  How many of us will really allow ourselves to consider the question, "What if money was no object?"


What If Money Was No Object?

A lecture from the late Alan Watts that I stumbled on at David Lose's blog the other day.  Take a look and ask yourself, "Seriously, if $ didn't matter, what would I do with my life?"

This is about searching the depths of your soul for your passion, your gifting, your calling, your talent [whatever you want to call it].  I believe that God has given us gifts - God has given each person something that makes him uniquely him, and her uniquely her.  I had a great conversation with a group of guys the other night on the topic of "giftedness."  What is it?  Is it something from God, or is it quantifiable, something the school system and others can calculate, formulate, and define?  If our true "giftedness" comes from God, don't we have a responsibility to do something with those gifts?  I believe we do.


Hope Divided

Watch this video clip of Francis Chan speaking at a youth conference I attended this past summer:

We looked at this video a few weeks ago at youth group.  We did the Lemonade and Mocha illustration for the students.  It was powerful.  Students were moved.  But as students processed the illustration and text Francis Chan quotes, many felt as though they no longer measured up, they weren't good enough, and they certainly had too much Mocha in their life.  Self-examination, it turns out, isn't always fun.

Psalm 139:23-24 reads:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Is this prayer of David supposed to be negative?  Is David praying these words because he feels as though he isn't good enough or doesn't deserve to be heard?  I have to wonder whether David isn't instead praying a very real, introspective prayer trusting that the God who hears him can change him, forgive him, and make him new.  I have to believe - to HOPE - that the God to whom David prays is the same God who, when he considered the sins of the world, my sin, your sin, sent his Son to make us new and make a path for everlasting life.