Category Archives: Church

The Rule of “Isms” and the Call to Revolution

Oppression can be subtle and deceiving, but we are held captive today in America, not by militaries or governments, but by something I call “isms” or ideas or belief systems that have been packaged in such a way that they are now exerting great gravitational pull on a culture that has lost a sense of identity. There is a values vacuum, nested in a time of post-modernism (where truth cannot be known) and a new atheism (where religion and faith are mental illnesses) that seeks to destroy a basic belief in God and ultimate truth. Secularism (where all things can be explained naturalistically) has become the defining worldview of our age. This is fueled by a blind materialism (where money and wealth are the unquestioned biggies in life). The current generation lives out the philosophy of a radical individualism (where life is defined by what makes me happy) and life and relationships and families are falling apart at the seams because of hedonism (where the gratification of the senses has become our god). The oppression is subtle, but the isms rule in academia, government, law, politics, entertainment, music, and even in spirituality.

There must be a revolt. Not a “throw-rocks-at-the-bus” kind of a revolt, but a revolt of ideas and worldview. Revolution is about a spiritual struggle for a generation; about a pursuit of truth in an age of tolerance. It’s about a new perspective on life and living that breathes hope into those who are weary with the isms of man. It’s about core values that still work in a world that seeks to redefine everything. It’s also about serving a world with passionate love and radical acts of kindness. Revolution as Jesus defined it is about being Christ-like and spending time with and becoming friends with those who may be disoriented by the isms of society, or interacting in love and truth with those who embrace dead-end ideologies.

I believe there is a group of people that comprise a New Community who are dedicated to living life like Jesus asked us to live it. I believe there is a group of people who care so much about the coming kingdom that Jesus promised, that they simply cannot help but enacting it now, and that they are beginning to shape this world and ready this place for a new age. They are tired of being a spiritual by-stander in the spiritual struggle for a generation. They are ready for revolt, with pure passions that stand in stark contrast to the passions and pleasures of planet earth. The Revolution is not defined by age or demographics. It includes the spiritually hungry of every age and culture and gender who share a common longing to reach beyond a small life in our times.

Revolution ultimately is about a Jesus who will turn your world upside down. You are not just being asked to join a club or learn a secret handshake or to sign on to a set of beliefs. You are asked to bring all that you are and have under the authority of a new Kingdom, to be an ordinary radical in a world of war, sex scandals, corporate greed, desperate poverty, drug addiction, selfishness, and every ism known to man.

The Revolution began many years ago, but this Revolution is still going on despite what you read or hear about in the news. It is gobbling up more territory all the time. Just like Jesus did in the first century. He will wreck your life and turn it upside down. He will ask you to do some hard things like deny yourself, suffer for the Kingdom, serve your fellow man, love an atheist, befriend a prostitute, engage in dialog with skeptical neighbors, encourage another revolutionary, give money away, use your success in life to further the revolution, instill kingdom values in your family of “little revolutionaries”, and pray for spiritual breakthrough in your community. Jesus will ask you to live a morally pure life while serving and caring for those who live immoral lives. He will ask you to live an expectant life, where you watch the sky, but you work the earth into a Kingdom-Ready state. It will not be easy or convenient, but are revolutions ever easy or convenient? Welcome to the Revolution!

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Church, Cultural Commission, Cultural Mandate, Post-modernism, Revolution, Truth

30 Days to Live – Born February 22, 1968 – Died January 31, 2009 | How will you live your dash?

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” –Randy Pausch

Those words were spoken by a guy whose book I recently read entitled, The Last Lecture. Doctors estimated that Randy Pausch had three to six months of good health remaining. He didn’t waste those remaining months. He spent time with family, with friends and with colleagues. And he wrote a book.

The Last Lecture is a collection of life’s lessons and reflections, by a man with just a short time to live. Ironically enough, his book is more about living than dying. He talked about the importance of overcoming obstacles, enabling the dreams of others, and seizing every moment, because in his case, life had to be squeezed into just a few short months and ten cancerous tumors in his liver were not going to cheat him of even 10 minutes that he had left.

Many college professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to ruminate on what matters most to them as a professor and as a human-being. They are invited to talk about their lives and the life lessons. Carnegie Mellon invited Pausch to do the same, and Pausch’s lecture became a book.

In preparation for a lecture series that I’m doing called “30 Days to Live”, I’ve been living as if it’s my last 30 days.

What if you had only 30 days to live? How would you live? Who would you want to be with? What would you like to say to them? Where would you like to go? What would you like to do? Would you modify your weekly schedule to allow for more together time? Would you still watch the same amount of television? Would you still fret over the same tit-for-tat stuff, hold grudges or get bitter? Would life’s little irritations even matter to you? Would you talk to God more? Would you admit that He existed? Would you go to church more? Would you spend your money differently? Would you follow through with your good intentions? Would you need to connect with a family member that you had distanced yourself from? Is there an apology that you would need to make? If you had only 30 days to live what unfinished business would you need to take care of? Is there a son that you need to call? Is there a daughter that you need to hug? Is there a parent you need to sit down with? Is there an issue that you need to resolve? If you had 30 days to live, how would you live? Are there habits that you would give up? Are there lifestyle changes that you would make? Is there a letter that you would have to write? Is there a task that you would need to do? Between your date of birth and your date of death is a dash. This post is about that dash and about the lecture you leave behind while you live.

After reading Pausch’s brief book, I couldn’t help but think about the last talk, post, or lecture that I would be forced to give some day. And since I only have less than 30 days to live (at least, that’s how I am living these days though no diagnosis has been given to the contrary and I’m healthy so far as I know), I had better go ahead and write about a few things that I need to share, something to remember my life by and to get communicated what I need to say to the people I love. What would my last lecture sound like assuming that I only had 30 days to live?

1. Live in the present moment. Savor your days and simple things. If I have any regrets in life, it would be this one – that I always looked ahead to the next thing without fully enjoying the moment. I don’t know where my 20’s went. My 30’s are just a blur. My 40’s are just beginning and I want to savor every moment.

2. Read and learn as much as you can. Learn like you’ll be here forever but live like it’s your last day. Be a student of the Bible because in it we encounter God.

3. Develop and live by a biblical, Christian worldview, knowing what you believe and why and how Christianity is true. Don’t ever abandon the faith. The Gospel is true and is the hope of the world. Christianity answers the deeper questions of life like no other belief system in the world. Where we came from, why we’re here, what life’s purpose is, what went wrong in the world, what God is doing to fix it, why the bible is so special, what God eventually does to resolved suffering and evil, and how we know there is life after death – all of these questions are so ably addressed by a Christian worldview. No matter what happens, don’t abandon the faith. Christian Theism is defensible and the resurrection changes every thing.

4. Love your spouse with a mature love. Allow all of your learning and growth in life to translate into a love for your lover, where mistakes can be talked about and true intimacy can be achieved. I want to thank my wife for all that she has given to me over the years, so selfless in caring for children, allowing me to pursue degrees, and setting me up to enjoy daily life. Donnette, I have to say thank you and please live your life knowing that you were loved, even though my own selfishness seemed to indicate otherwise and hindered me from understanding how love was supposed to work. I offer my sincerest apologies for inflicting hurt. I also want you to know that my happiest memories in life have you somewhere in the picture or on the slide of life. College, career, moving, graduate school, children, and life transitions – you are in all of them. The dates, the baby’s first cry, the first job after college, the Christmas mornings, the trips home to see family, the great dinners, the songs sung, the little moments of humor and silliness – only you babe.

5. Be absolutely crazy over your children. Don’t placate or pamper them. Shoot straight and let them feel the consequences of their actions. But be the safest place in the world for them to go to talk about anything and everything in life. Have no “off-limits” topics. Talk about anatomy to theology to just plain old life and be fully there when you talk. Tell them what is important to you. Make it clear how they can live their own life, but that if they wanted to honor you as a parent, how best to go about that.

Megan, I love your ways, so considerate and kind. I love how you laugh when you’re really tickled. I love your curly hair, to see you lost in a great story, to hear the word “Dad” mid-sentence to just make sure I’m still there and plugged in to what you are telling me. You are wise in so many ways, a lover of music, and passionate for animals and left-out people. I absolutely adore your artwork and sketches. You be a work of art; make life beautiful with whatever you are given to work with. My sense is that you will graduate from IWU someday, get married, have a family, all the while, creating, sketching, painting some of the most beautiful things one could imagine.

Will, you have no idea how much you mean to me. You are quiet, yet so fun loving and ornery. You are a man I will always respect, for getting on the mat and wrestling for something you believe in. As you get older, you are looking more like I looked when I was your age. You don’t have to achieve anything for me to love you any more than I do. God has given you the ability to process your thoughts slowly, deeply, and thoroughly. When it’s all done, I love hearing what you have to say. Your love for the outdoors, for adventure, for the mountains and rivers, pulls me back to my roots and primal instincts. God has given you the gift of appreciating His nature gifts and living from them. When you kayak tour and hike and climb and travel and experience all of this, know that I will always be in those moments with you. My sense is that you would love to see the world and that college and/or the military or a career will be the vehicle that takes you along this path. In all your journeys, there will be one cheering for you as you explore and lead a God-honoring life.

Levi, I could not imagine life without you. God has given you some great abilities and I want you to use everyone of them for Him. Honor God with your life. Really enjoy knowing and loving Him through your gifts. Is there anything more honoring to God than that? My sense is that you’ll go to a Big Ten school, study engineering, play a sport, and build that home for unwed mothers that we’ve talked about someday. Whatever you do, use your words, sharp intellect and athletic ability to honor God and win great victories for His kingdom. You honor your mother. And when people want to know what you attribute to your life success, you tell them that there was this little 5 foot tall woman who fixed the greatest meals in the world, invested so much time in your upbringing, and who showed you how to be tender and kind.

6. Always partner with a local church, serving others in the community, helping to reclaim a fallen creation, fulfilling the cultural mandate to steward the creation as well as to make disciples of Jesus. My mother wrote in her journal that her one great wish for all her family would be that all of her children would be a part of a local church all their lives. “Mom, here I am, leading one. I have championed that which you so deeply have believed in.” The church is the hope of the world when it’s working right. I would also add that I appreciate my immediate family, my brothers and sister. You always carry your family with you. There probably isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t recall some memory or experience that you had as a child with your family. Randy, Becky, Jeff, and Rob (and your families), remember our mothers request and legacy. May the family circle be unbroken when we are all together once again.

7. Cultivate a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t become a “religionist.” Follow Christ with passion, go against the cultural tide if you have to, and make Him your greatest pleasure. Do life as he asked us to do it.

8. Have a passion in life that you care deeply about. Don’t worry about what other people think. Live from your passion, always showing gratitude for those who help you along the way.

Sitting around the table a few days ago and thinking about these things, I asked the kids, “If you only had 30 days to live, what would you do and who would you do it with?” The consensus was that they would want to do things with their immediate and extended family. But the specifics of what they wanted to do varied. (I give these is grocery list fashion)

Levi, would want to take in a Colts game. Visit the 5 places he would like to go to the most (California, NYC, Hawaii, Alaska, and Dallas.) Experience 0 gravity. Go to Cedar Point one more time. Help all abused dogs. Go to a BCS football game. Go to Michigan Wolverines football game with uncles and cousins. Try the worlds hottest pepper and get on the wall of flame at Wings Etc. See Dad run a NFL play or catch a pass in a game. Visit all Big Ten Stadiums. Solve a Rubik’s Cube.

Will would visit the Grand Tetons and the Boundary Waters and go to WV to kayak with the dogs.

Megan would adopt some death-row dogs and donate her money to the Humane Society. Hug everyone she cared about. Stay in a cabin in the mountains. Eat as much as she wanted. Would not exercise.

Donnette would go to KC and spend time with family there. Spend time with parents in Quincy, IL. Go to Israel and Ireland with family. Teach her kids how to make a few of their favorite recipe’s. Make a CD at Gaither Studios with encouraging songs, songs about being faithful, loving God and then donate CD’s to prisoners, crisis pregnancy centers, nursing homes and others needing encouragement. Somehow be able to share her heart on a big scale with her nation for the burden she carries for them. Tell them to look to God’s Word on the key issues like family, sex, faith, abortion. Go buy a beautiful dress and not worry about the cost. Then go have dinner and attend an outdoor concert with me in KC or Colorado. She would hope that she wouldn’t have to do any grocery shopping or laundry.

I would take half a month and see the world with my family: tour Jerusalem and sail the Sea of Galilee; sat down for lunch in Greece and stand in the amphitheater of Rome; fly over the Swiss Alps and stay in a mountain lodge; visit a few key stops on Paul’s missionary journeys; spend time with a C.S Lewis guide in England and see his home, Oxford office, and pub he lunched in; do Alaska and Australia and European villages and towns. I would show my kids how to use my library and write books with it. Take some time for extended family and church family friends and any atheist friends who would care to talk about the deeper spiritual questions. Spend a day or so with children who are not expected to live very long. I have no desire to ride a bull, jump out of a plane, or visit a celebrity. I would spend the next 15 days or so at home with the people I love, sharing my thoughts, appreciating the moment. Last meal: Donnette’s homemade pizza.

Randy Pausch, Born: October 23, 1960 – Died: July 25, 2008. He was 47. Joey Nelson, Born: February 22, 1968 – Died: January 31, 2009. He was 40 years old. How will you live your dash?

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Why do we have a Bible?

The Bible is an anthology – it is a collection of 66 books into one book. The Bible is given to us for three primary reasons: to record the facts of history, to help us re-experience story, and to teach us theology.

First, the Bible records the facts of history. What we read in the Bible really happened. It’s not a book of fiction. It is not an attempt to fabricate the truth. Its purpose is not to deceive. When the Bible talks about places and peoples, these are confirmed from extra-biblical sources through archeology and other discoveries. There are ancient manuscripts that have survived the centuries and they are consistent with what we have in our Bibles today. There really was a guy named Jesus who lived, died, and rose again. It is an accurate representation of what happened and of what happens over and over again in human history. We don’t just read the Bible; it reads us. It tells us who we are and what we do.

Second, the Bible helps us to re-experience story. It is full of settings, and characters, and actions. Some characters, we want to be like. Others we want to avoid. But all of them speak to our stories and the Bible never airbrushes out the flaws of its characters (you read about King David’s adultery and the flaws of the apostles; this lends to its credibility). By the way, you are writing a story with your life; Someone out there is bringing the pieces of that story together. And you can bet, if there is a larger story in our lives, there is a Story-Teller. God is writing a story and it hangs together. All of these 66 books move the story along a bit, pushing the plot toward its final completion. For all its peculiarities and unevenness, the Bible has a simple story, among what appears to be several disconnected stories. It was written over a 1500 year period by forty people in three different languages and yet there is a consistency to the overarching story. God made man. Man rejected God at Satan’s prompting. God won’t give up until He wins man back through Jesus. God returns man to his original plan. That is the larger story. “The dogma is the drama,” said Dorothy Sayers. The Gospel has all the elements of a great story. The Bible begins with the creation of all things, it takes a plunge into evil (Genesis 3), it meanders through fallen human history, and tells of one who disguised himself (Jesus) in order to win the love of a girl (the Church). By the time we get to the end, we have a king on a white horse who rides in to rescue the girl just in the nick of time. He conquers all evil, gets the bride (the Bride of Christ) and lives happily ever after in a new city with a new garden in a palace decorated with jewels. What is there that is boring about this story! If we lose the dogma of solid biblical teaching, we lose the drama. Instead of being confronted and changed by the truth, we wallow in therapy with no larger story to live for. Salvation is essentially a story of restoration. You’re invited up into it. It answers our deepest God-Questions: where we came from, what went wrong in the world, what God is doing to fix it, and how we factor into that plan. The Bible reveals a sacred story. In the beginning, God created us good. Something went drastically wrong and we sinned. But God has sent a Rescuer to deliver us from ourselves. The Bible is a love story, a sacred romance, where Jesus gets the girl.

Third, the Bible teaches us theology; it teaches us about God and truth. When we say that God is personal, we mean that He communicates with us. He has spoken to us, revealing Himself and how He wants us to live. There are two things that stand out about God. He is a self-concealer as well as a self-revealer. God is a self-concealer. He hides – and seems at times – shy to intervene in our world. God must hide in order for a free-will world to be possible. The direct presence of God would inevitably overwhelm our freedom. God gives everyone the room to either choose or reject. He’s a hidden God and He will not force love. Those who want to find Him or be found by Him can, and those who want to reject Him can do that as well. But God wants you to see Him and know him. That’s why we can say that God is not only a self-concealer… God is also a self-revealer God communicates who He is and how He wants us to live. There are two primary books that God uses to communicate and self-disclose or reveal Himself. One is the book of nature. God reveals Himself through His world and what He has made. The other is the book of His Word – the Bible. Looking at God’s world is like looking at a painting that the Artist has painted. Looking into the Bible is like an actual conversation with the Artist Himself. God loves to communicate. He talks through burning bushes and braying donkeys. He sends messages through storms and rainbows and earthquakes and dreams. He whispers in a still small voice. And he also speaks to human authors who then under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote God’s message to us. The Bible is a book of ancient, proven, trustworthy words. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament and endorsed the writers of the New Testament. Prophets predicted things years before they happened and they came to pass. Archeological discoveries have confirmed its accuracy. There are ancient manuscripts to verify their reliability. More than anything else, the Bible is about a Person. In the Old Testament – someone is coming. In the Gospels – He is here. In the Epistles – He is coming again! The Bible is held together by a Person. God creates the world, the world gets lost, and God seeks to restore it in Jesus. That means the Bible is about you and me, whom God also made and lost and seeks. We are not alone on this planet. Someone is out there and He reveals what kind of story we’ve fallen into. And he graciously seeks us out. I guess you could also say that this story holds us together – this Person holds us together. You must have two things in life: a person and a story, and even the story must be about a Person, said one author. God packages theology in story, rather than just raw facts. Don’t make theology into a religion of facts and miss the romance. Stop reducing the text to formulas for personal growth and how I can get rich.

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