Archive for the ‘Christ’s example’ Category

“We do not have time to waste our lives coasting out casual, comfortable Christianity.”

— David Platt, author of “Radical,” addresses the Urbana 2012 conference.

“What plan or dream will you give your life to that is more significant than this?”

Friends of ours were talking about their daughter. During lunch periods at her public high school, she’s befriended a girl who’s pregnant. Eventually, she invited the girl to youth group at church.

“Will I be judged?” the girl asked.

“Yes, by some,” our friends’ daughter responded. “But there will be a lot of others who won’t. They’ll be glad you’re there.”

That’s the most real, honest answer I’ve ever heard to that kind of a question. No one finds universal acceptance in any social situation – even at church, where we should. Kids who are told to expect total grace from a church youth group will be disappointed, and maybe disillusioned.  I’ve seen it happen too many times.

At the same time, the answer promises this girl that she will indeed find a measure of love, acceptance and yes, grace.

The girl is thinking about it. A lot of us who don’t even know her are praying for her. We’re praying that she’ll see Jesus.

I think maybe she already has.

Living a Real Life

Posted: October 5, 2012 by Lincoln Brunner in Christ's example, fear, missional living, missions

photo by Chensiyuan

I just got off the phone with one of the most courageous men I’ve ever met.

This guy — I tell you what. Talk about guts. He’s a pastor, and he walks into favelas (slums) in Rio de Janeiro that are ruled by drug lords and patrolled by traffickers toting machine guns, and he talks to them about Jesus. And he often goes at midnight, to their block parties, when they are most likely to be out on the street.

And here’s the kicker — he’s not alone. Dozens of people from his church go with him, singing and praying and breaking up into small groups that go out and evangelize the dealers and their customers.

And they do this regularly. This is inner-city ministry at its best, and its riskiest. Just the other day, one of these midnight care envoys got caught in the crossfire between a drug gang and one of the special forces police squads that hunts traffickers down and kills them. They were right in the middle of the whole thing. Not one of them got hurt, praise God, though many of them easily could have gotten shot.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this guy’s church has grown from four people, including him and his wife, to more than 700 in four years. Why? Well, there’s probably lots of reasons why, beginning with the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives, followed by the church’s insistence that Christian faith means discipleship — which means going out and reproducing believers. But how do they bring themselves to carry that out? Courage.

I think it’s plain and simple courage that drives this church forward and upward. They walk with courage born of a deep belief that Jesus has their backs and will empower them to go reach lost people, even in crime-ridden slums. Especially in crime-ridden slums.

This is a faith worth having. These are lives worth living. Scared? Sure they are. But being scared isn’t an excuse for a Christian not to do something. For Christians, courage means obeying the God who says “yes” despite the fears that say “no.”  We can trust God’s “yes” over Fear’s “no” any day.

I love hearing stories and watching movies about people who overcome fear to do something that they know they must do. Donald Miller talks a lot about this in his fantastic book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (easily his best, I believe). Think of a movie worth watching — I can almost guarantee that the story is basically about someone fighting through or overcoming some fear or obstacle on their way to getting something worth having. In fact, a story really isn’t a story without that.

That’s what made my hourlong interview with this guy seem like 10 minutes. It was the constant feeling I had that this guy’s life is going to make a great story — that this guy is living a real life. (Look for the article soon on reachglobalnews.org).

I feel bigger after I talk to someone like this pastor. It’s a feeling of “If he can do that, surely I can (fill in the blank with a much safer task).”

Living a real life means doing what you know you have to do despite your fears. In other words, living with courage. I’m really looking forward to meeting this guy someday. And I sincerely hope it’s in Rio before heaven.

Judge Jesus

Posted: July 23, 2012 by Jim Killam in Christ's example, church culture, pop culture

Ever ponder a famous painting of Jesus eating with the sinners and tax collectors?

Me either. I’ve been having trouble finding a copy.

I can show you a thousand paintings – available at finer Christian bookstores – of Jesus on a white horse, sword in hand, leading the Last Day charge against the forces of evil. Superhero Jesus. Gandalf Jesus. Revelation Jesus. We like that Jesus, because he opens up a big can o’ wrath. The devil, his minions and a whole lot of people we don’t like are one day gonna get theirs.

I like this idea, too. And I believe it. It’s certainly biblical. It gives me hope that someday, everything will be set right. Justice is indeed coming on a white horse.

Lately, justice has come to Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. It arrived first for the monster who raped those little boys. It’s now come to the university people and the program that protected him in the name of … what? If there’s any disagreement – at least outside the La-La Land where this was allowed to happen – it’s that the punishments should have been harsher. Death penalty for the offender, NCAA death penalty for the program. Smite them all.

I’m unapologetically part of that torches-and-pitchforks crowd today, as the NCAA has announced harsh sanctions. Our system, imperfect as it may be, certainly can get this one right. Case closed. That guy should never take a free breath again, and Penn State should stop playing football for a long, long time. I don’t think God would say that our desire for justice is wrong. It’s how we’re wired, and it’s how the world works in order to prevent chaos.

But we never can think about hard justice without considering the backdrop of grace, a free offer that’s been extended to us all.

We say we believe all that, that we “get” grace. I’m not sure we do. Grace isn’t very satisfying when justice is deserved. If the Penn State rapist comes to faith in Christ while in prison, how would I feel about standing alongside him in heaven? Or how about the guy who shot up that theater in Colorado last week? How satisfying would it feel to see grace extended to him?

The Jesus we’ve seen on planet earth so far is not Judge Jesus. In fact, the Jesus we’ve seen so far doesn’t make much sense. I was talking the other day with a person close to me who rejects Christianity as a series of fairy tales. He says the gospels don’t have enough historical reliability and that they were likely made up by the church as a means to control weak-minded people.

To which I ask: If people were going to make up a messiah story, couldn’t they have done a lot better than this? A man who says blessed are the meek, the poor in spirit? A man who willingly dies a criminal’s death rather than use his power to smite evil? A man who could have spectacularly proven his identity to the whole world, but chose to let a few sketchy eyewitnesses tell the stories? A man who brings forgiveness and redemption, and who pays the entire price himself?

Who writes a script like that? Where’s the epic battle where good defeats evil? Give me Judge Jesus on the white horse, ridding the world of injustice.

On second thought, please don’t. I’m not so perfect myself. To be honest, Judge Jesus scares the crap out of me, because I know how far I fall short of God’s standard.  I accept his free gift of grace and know I am his regardless of how much I’ve screwed up … but I also know that a whole lot of people have not.

We can gaze on those paintings of Revelation Jesus and our thoughts can (and should) conflict. We long for that day when all is made right. And we also plead, “Not yet!” Not when we still have people lost out there.

At that point, grace still sounds pretty sweet.

Ran across some great words today from Max Lucado’s book, “Fearless”:

“When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life. Can the safety lover do anything great? Can the risk-averse accomplish noble deeds? For God? For others? No. The fear filled cannot love deeply. Love is risky. They cannot give to the poor.  Benevolence has no guarantee of return. The fear-filled cannot dream wildly. What if their dreams sputter and fall from the sky? The worship of safety emasculates greatness. No wonder Jesus wages such a war against fear.”

You can read the entire chapter here.

So the original goal for this blog was to do four or five posts a week. And for several months, we did it. Then, in January, and for no particular reason, we just stopped. Sort of like Forest Gump.

We restart this week with a more realistic goal: one, maybe two regular posts a week. Plus the return of Idiot Friday. We’ll try to be topical and journalistic with most posts. It’s easy, and sometimes fun, to sit at a keyboard and ruminate. But, as a journalist friend of mine said last week, the real stories require real reporting. We’ll try to do that whenever possible.

Speaking of which: The people of tornado-ravaged Alabama and Georgia need your prayers and, if you are available, your help. Lincoln is accompanying a TouchGlobal team to Madison, Ala., where he’ll be reporting this week on relief efforts.

The church is often maligned – sometimes deservedly so – for being out of touch. But it’s interesting how after a major disaster it’s the churches who are among those rushing to the scene. And then they keep going there, long after the public’s attention has turned elsewhere. I’ve had the unbelievable privilege of helping with relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Ask people in those places what they think of Christians, and you’ll get a very different response than if you asked the question in too-comfortable suburbia.

More to come this week.

So a rabbi walks into a synagogue, and he says to the guy in charge …

If only the scene in Luke 4 could have been all Disney-like mirth and happiness. It started out in Hallmark Hall of Fame territory and almost ended in Quentin Tarantino Land.

A dear missionary woman I met in Manila — a firebrand of a woman, a brass-tacks woman — once called Jesus’ revelation of himself in Luke 4:14-30 the Nazareth Manifesto, and it’s stuck with me. It was the grand statement of Jesus’ grand purpose, taken directly from the book of Isaiah. The folks listening to Jesus that day should have put 2 and 2 together; but instead, they heard Jesus tell them exactly the opposite of what they wanted to hear. Jesus told them that he was the hoped-for Messiah, and that he came to release prisoners, give sight to the blind, preach good news to the poor and send the oppressed away into a new life of freedom.

In other words, the meat of the gospel.

That wasn’t what people were hoping the Messiah would deliver. They wanted a hero, a conqueror. They thought they were God’s chosen people because they were better, and therefore deserved a superior place in the world. Jesus essentially said that they weren’t any better than their Gentile neighbors and enemies, and that in fact, God had never thought of them that way, even when Israel still had the prophets and a kingdom. He simply loves whom he chooses to love, and expects us to follow suit. Period.

Ouch.

I often fear that I want the wrong things from God. I fear that what I’m aiming for has nothing to do with God’s priorities and everything to do with pressing forward with my goals, my priorities. If the Nazareth Manifesto, and the ensuing riot, teach me anything, it’s that I would do very well to search hard for what God wants and not let my disappointment at not getting what I want cloud my view of him.