Monthly Archives: March 2013

Between the Days

Best Funeral EverI don’t know if you’ve seen the Reality T.V. show Best Funeral Ever, if you haven’t, then please don’t let me get you started. But the show is kind of a fascinating glimpse into the human condition.

It’s about a funeral home in Dallas that does Themed Funerals. Like, for the woman who loved Christmas they buried in a sleigh and had it come down a Holiday themed, snow-covered aisle.

For the guy who sang the Chili’s “Baby-back-Ribs” jingle, they threw together a “Party Barn” funeral. Complete with a BBQ sauce fountain, live pigs, and a preacher who wore a chef’s hat and preached from a smoker/podium.

And remember this is called Reality Television.

But the reason I think this is so fascinating is that it’s now assumed the emphasis behind most funerals should be something other than death.

Passion for Life

It’s interesting to me that Jesus wept and cried in Gethsemane. If we were there I think we would have said something like, “There, there, you’re going to get raised from the dead in three days. It’s kind of just a tough weekend if you think about it.”

Now for most of us, we are unmoved by Jesus weeping. We’ve heard this story way too many times to be surprised, but in the ancient world, there were other stories of men who died better than Jesus. Socrates drinks the hemlock poison and cooly drifts off into death, while his disciples weep. That’s how you die like a man!

Heck, there are even lots of stories of Christians who died better than Jesus.

But Jesus doesn’t just grit his teeth and detach emotionally. He’s not some Spock like machine here. He weeps and cries and begs for his life. Because he thinks that this life matters.

That’s what is behind Gethsemane. Jesus doesn’t want to die, but more than that, I think this is the product of loving people around you well. Jesus wants to live.

It’s interesting to me that in certain Christian circles, Passion has gotten a bad name. We don’t like emotion because we’ve seen people use it to manipulate. But to this day, in many dictionaries, the Number one definition of Passion is this:

The last 24 hours of the trial and death of Jesus.

I like that.

Jesus is the definition of passion. He’s the definition of what it means to be fully alive…and we get that definition from the time that he was preparing for death.

Heaven is Overrated Joel Stein Starbucks Cup

A couple of years ago, right around Easter,  the controversial L.A. Times Journalist, Joel Stein started campaigning for Starbucks to quote him on one of their cups. Eventually Starbucks agreed, and they put a quote by him that said this:

“Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than hell.”

I think he’s kind of right. Not about classic Christian Theology, but about what most people think of when they think of Heaven.  What most Western Christians think of for Heaven is over-rated, because it doesn’t deal much with this world.

But did you ever wonder why every one of the Gospels make sure and tell us that Jesus raised someone from the dead? It would seem, according to popular Christian theology that raising someone from the dead is the last thing that God would want to do.

If what God is really up to is about escaping this current reality to a place with pearly gates guarded by a picky St. Peter, than why would Jesus care at all about bringing people back to this place? If the point of the gospel to just escape this life than why does Jesus bother to raise the dead at all?

It’s like Jesus doesn’t know the point of his own story.

If Jesus would have talked like how many Christians today talk about death, he would have simply eulogized the dead, he might of stood in front of the tomb and talked about a “better place” or some distant day when we rejoined them in the sweet by and by.

But he didn’t. He called them back to this place.

Because this place matters.

So I’ve spent much of this past week in Arkansas. My dad’s brother died unexpectedly, and we had his funeral on Friday..on Good Friday. It’s hard watching your dad say goodbye to his best friend and brother, it’s even harder watching people you love slowly get older.

Because in our bones we know that there is something very good about this life.

That’s why Jesus weeps. He doesn’t just believe in the Resurrection, He is the Resurrection! But he still cries, because this world and time and space and life matter. And yes, God will give it back, yes Easter is when we celebrate death pays back what it owes, and every sad thing comes untrue.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t call it a sad thing now.

In fact, it might help us live better, and with greater joy, now if we can.

So today is Saturday, it’s the day between the death of Jesus and Easter. It’s the day between the days of great loss and great joy.

In that sense, all of our days are Saturdays.

So it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to dance. It’s okay to live fully and with Passion. And it’s okay to talk about death.

And It’s okay to die.

Easter is Coming.

Inspi(re)ality: Rich Little on Mentoring (Video Interview)

 

All this month on Inspi(re)laity we’ve been talking about the importance of mentoring and discipling within our churches. Last week, I sat down with Rich Little, the preaching minister at the University Church of Christ in Malibu, California. Rich is a fantastic preacher and communicator, and he was also my Freshman Bible Teacher at Harding University.

Ever since I’ve known him he’s been passionate about mentoring the generations that are coming behind him, so I sat down to ask him for practical advice on what he’s learned.

In the Interview I asked Rich 5 questions:

1. When I was at Harding, one of the pivotal moments of my life was you sitting me down and calling me out to preach. What do you look for when you are going to mentor someone?

2. Why are you so passionate about mentoring younger ministers?

3. Most of the pushback I hear about mentoring is that our schedules are already full, how do you balance time with ministry/family/writing with mentoring?

4. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with mentoring in the past?

5. What advice would you give to someone who is just thinking about doing this for the first time?

What I love about Rich is that he is really someone who is smoking what they’re selling. It’s easy for preachers to talk about the lack of discipleship in our churches, it’s another thing to actually seek out younger men and women to disciple.

You can hear follow Rich on Twitter here, and read his blog that he posts regularly at here.

God at Work: Faith Works

“The priesthood of all believers did not make everyone into church workers; rather it turned every kind of work into a sacred calling.” -Gene E. Veith

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill

Jesus at the office

There’s a fascinating story in the book of Genesis, about a guy named Joseph. It’s the longest story in all of Genesis, and rightfully so. Joseph grows up in a house of brothers, but he’s his dad’s favorite. The brothers get jealous, and sell him into slavery (like you do) he winds up in prison because of false accusations and ultimately gets out because he knows how to interpret dreams.

This story is brilliant, filled with left turns and betrayal and redemption (and there is even a rainbow colored coat thrown in there somewhere…you know, just in case someone ever turned this into a Broadway musical).

But one of the best scenes comes when Joseph is first let out of prison. He’s spent the last several years of his life hanging out with people who actually deserved to be in jail. They’ve got tattoo’s and they smell like crime.

But finally, after a long list of tragic turns, Joseph gets called into see Pharaoh. The most powerful man in the country. Pharaoh has been having dreams lately, and he can’t find anyone who is able to interpret his dream. And here’s where Joseph catches his break. Pharaoh hears about some guy who can interpret dreams and calls him in.

So now he’s gone from wasting his life away in a cell to standing in the halls of power in just a few hours.

Now, before you hear what he does. Think about what you would do here.

Most of us would do or say just about anything to get out of jail. But not Joseph, even after all he’s been through.

Even after all he’s been through Joseph stands in front of Pharaoh and refuses to abuse his situation. When Pharaoh asks Joseph if he can interpret dreams, Joseph tells him no. Which is not the right answer, because that’s the exact reason he’s been called up there.

But more than that, he tells Pharaoh that only God can interpret dreams. And he’s standing in a room where everyone around him thought Pharaoh was god. Just a few verses earlier Pharaoh had beheaded a baker because he didn’t like his bread. And now here’s Joseph, this dirty prisoner is telling Pharaoh that he worships another God.

Here’s why this story matters so much.

The Test of Prosperity

I did jail ministry for years, and everybody finds God in jail. I mean that in a good way. When we suffer, when we hit rock bottom it seems like we are much more attuned to God.

But I’ve also had plenty of opportunity to rub shoulders who are very successful in their life/job. Guess which group is less likely to see God working in their life?

Sometimes the most dangerous place for the people of God is success.

But not Joseph. When Joseph’s moment comes he doesn’t act differently in the Palace than he did in the dungeon. 

So I go to church with a couple named the Dalzell’s. They were some of the first people I met when we got to Highland, and they are some of my favorites. Joyce started and runs a non-profit in town called FaithWorks that serves the unemployed and underemployed of Abilene. It’s a ministry that teaches job skills, resume writing and helps connect people with internships that often leads to jobs.

And Dave, her husband, sells real-estate.

It’s obvious who does the “spiritual” work.

But it’s not obvious to Dave.

The other day I saw an area-wide realtor newsletter, Dave is the president of the West Texas Realtors this year, and so he was asked to write an op-ed piece to his fellow realtors. Dave could have written about anything, the fluctuating housing market, marketing tips, or the rise of social media. But he didn’t write about that.

Dave wrote about Tina.Dave Dalzell

The Extra Mile

Tina was a homeless woman who was struck and killed by a car last year. And Dave knew her, actually Dave knows a lot of people like her. Dave knows lots of people who have no homes, he is consistently introducing me to his homeless friends and trying to help them. Because after all, he is in the business of helping people find homes.

Look at what he says:

“Treat your neighbor as you want to be treated. It is my religion. It is also my business. I am a Realtor, I am in the business of helping others [make] an investment in a home of their own. That’s my business…But everyone of us lives to a higher calling than just the earning of our daily bread. We earn our living while struggling to… ‘do for others as we would want others to do for us.’ We go the extra mile,. We try a little harder for the rights of others.”

The whole article’s incredible. It was appropriate and professional, but also honest about how his faith makes his job more than just a way to make a living.

Dave sees this job as a way of serving the world.

Now here’s what I love about this, Dave is by all standards very successful. He’s made money and owns his own company, by all standards he is living the American Dream, but that’s not enough for Joyce and Dave.

They are some of the most driven passionate people that I know. Because they know that God didn’t give them success and prosperity for their own sake, but for the sake of the world. For them success isn’t a goal to reach, but a platform to serve from. So they go the extra mile.

Because they believe faith works, they take their faith to work.

Everyday Idolatry: Certain Proof

“Like anyone can even know that..” – Kip in Napoleon Dynamite

“For now we know in part…” -St. Paul

Temple in Chennai, India

Since I’ve been in ministry, a few times a year, I hear from a concerned parent or aunt or grandmother about how their young son or niece or whoever has stopped believing in God. They want to know what to say or how to get them to believe again.

I used to give them resources for apologetics, to give them evidence for faith.

I’m starting to think a better approach might be to show them what we don’t know.

Mystery as Apology

So Rob Bell wrote a new book this week. Until now, he’s written books for the church. This book he wrote for the world. But I think most Christians need to read it, not because you will agree with the answers he gives, but because he gives entirely new questions to ask.

And chances are they are the questions that your kid/friend/nephew are asking.

Bell starts off his book by tackling the certainty that both religious and non-religious people have. His first 30 pages are worth the price of the book. Bell does a brilliant job at helping us realize how big and intricate and complex our universe is.

And then he points out that this is just the part that we know about. There is a staggering 96% of the known universe that is dark matter. Which means we have no idea how to even study it. It’s impossible to comprehend the vastness of the 4% of the universe that we know even basic things about.

This week I had lunch with a professor who teaches Physics, and I was talking about how much of the universe is Dark Matter. And my professor friend told me that if scientist were to write down everything they knew on Dark matter, it would all fit neatly on one side of a 3×5 card.

And remember, that is 96% of the universe.

In Rob’s words:

“We simply aren’t the masters of the world that we’ve been told we are.”

Ever since the Enlightenment, Christians have been talking about God with the same language and tools that biologist and accountants have, but these tools have their own limits.

Dis-Enchantment

The brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking was interviewed recently and said,

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Notice what Hawking’s says and how he says it. His assumption is that we don’t live in a fairy tale. His assumption is that the world isn’t enchanted.

Which is so different from the way people used to look at the universe, we used to know what we didn’t know. Hawking’s sounds so certain.

But 96% of the Universe we don’t have the faintest idea about. demotivational-poster-doubt

One of the interesting things about the Middle Ages was that people were aware that their theories of how the universe works, were in fact, theories. A theory was valuable because it was helpful not because it was certainly true. And so their language was much more humble. Someone who was trying to describe the universe would say something like “Things appear to be this way.”

In fact, one of the main reasons that the scientists/priests were so against Galileo was not because of his whole “the earth revolves around the sun”, but because of the certainty in which he was saying so.

Now, I’m just as bothered by the next guy by the Midieval ages bad conceptions of God and Church and authority, but one of the things that I appreciate is their humility.

Because at least they knew what they didn’t know.

And what’s more is that this kind of empirical certainty is sucking away our soul.

In other words, does everything we know have to be proven the way that a scientist needs proof?

That she loves you?

That life matters?

That we should care about justice?

Evidence that Denies a Verdict

But this isn’t just a problem athiest’s and scientist’s have. Because we get frustrated with how certain the scientific method has made people, but Christians talk eerily the same way.

Think about the best-selling Christian books right now. “Heaven is for Real” or “Proof of Heaven” are consistently topping the bestseller list, and while I don’t mean to be critical, I think this is telling about the Christian sub-culture we live in.

We want proof. But if you can prove Heaven or God, it suddenly isn’t God you are talking about. Because it no longer requires faith.

Richard Beck has a fascinating post on why religious certainty draws crowds. We want to anchor ourselves in a mysterious world. And I understand why we do this, but at some point if we don’t acknowledge we could be wrong, we are dealing with something other than Faith.

On some level, no matter what language we use, we are all agnostics. Because nobody really has access to certain proof.

I’m not talking about conviction, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and I think on my better days I’d give my life for that. I’m talking about the lack of humility that recognizes how much we don’t know, and that we could in fact be wrong.

And don’t think we got this idea from the Bible or Christian tradition, we got it from the Enlightenment. In other words way we talk about God was shaped by the way we talked about science.

But this defies what it means to be human. It is to make ourselves into something more than human. Something like mini-gods. It is in word idolatry.

The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it is certainty.

But I could be wrong.

God at Work: Church Work

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust

“The first duty of a Christian pilot, is to land the plane.” -Tim Keller

Jesus at the office

For a while I’ve been passionate about helping people see their everyday jobs as vocations, as calling for ministry.

But this inevitably raises questions like why does “church ministry” matter? If all work is ministry than what is church work?

But to answer that I have to tell you about Strip Clubs in Las Vegas and middle-aged judges named Herbert.

A few years ago, Andres Martinez wrote a book called 24/7: Living it up and Doubling Down.  The premise of the book is that he went to his publisher and told them that he needed a $50,000 advance to write the book…for research.

His plan was to take 50 large to Vegas and to live on the money as long as possible.

The publisher loved it.

As you can imagine the story is a bit tawdry, but at one point Martinez goes to a strip club where he says, “I never expected the highlight of my time to come in the bathroom of a strip club.”

He walked in and met Joe, the bathroom attendant, was serving the patrons by handing them towels and soaps, but Joe was also reading his Bible.

All the merry conversationalists in the men’s room suddenly fell quiet. “As if Joe was packing heat.”

“You’re reading the Bible in a topless club?” one patron asked.

“I’m a minister,” Joe replied, “this is where the Lord wants me, there’s a lot of hurt here.”

Joe had been a drug dealer for the majority of his life, and now, after a stint in prison, he had been found by Jesus.  For most of his life, he wouldn’t have thought once about taking a menial, minimum wage job, but Joe had found a church, and the church had turned his job into a calling. (obviously not a calling for everyone)

G.K. Chesterton once said that, “every man who walks into a brothel is looking for God.” But that wasn’t true of Joe.

Joe was God’s way of looking for them.

The Sacred Secular

Rob Bell in his most recent book, points out that the significance of the Temple curtain ripping was huge. Because before it meant that there were places that were sacred and places that weren’t. He says:

A Temple was meaningful and useful because it gives humans a way of conceiving of the idea of the holy and sacred….Church services and worship gathering continue to have their place and power in our lives to the degree [that all work and workers do] because they remind us that all of life matters, all work is holy, all moments sacred, and all encounters with others are encounters with the divine.”

Temple Prayer

A few years ago, I spend the day with Larry James, a preacher who now runs an incredible non-profit.  Larry still believes deeply in the church. because, he says,  “The people who are sitting in the board rooms on Monday, and the court benches and classrooms and creative meetings on Monday are sitting in the pews on Sunday. The problem is preachers aren’t helping them connect what they do with the Gospel.”

He’s right.

I talk with accountants who don’t know that their job is a ministry. But if Jesus is right, then they see a person heart better than any counselor. I talk to mechanics who don’t see what they do as a ministry, but they give oil changes to single moms for free, I talk to carpenters who don’t see what they do as a ministry…even though it’s the job Jesus had!

A church at her best gives us new eyes to see the rest of the world, and how God is working within it.

Eyes Wide Open  

In 2008, Paul Herbert, a municipal judge from Ohio began to realize that he held a position that was a rare opportunity. He was in a place to make a real difference in society, but he wasn’t. Herbert was a Christian, he’d gone to church his entire life, but hadn’t connected his job with his calling.

But Herbert had a minister who prayed for God to open his eyes to use his work as ministry.

And Herbert started seeing things differently.

He noticed that there was a revolving door on the girls who were regularly paraded through court on prostitutions charges. He began to research the demographics of these women, and found that most of them had been sexually abused at a young age, had run away from home, and started masking the emotional trauma with drug abuse.

Suddenly, they became more than just criminals, Herbert started seeing girls.

And Herbert was tired of just putting these girls in jail.

So he started a program for counseling and rehabilitation with an option for Higher education for these women. And it’s working like gangbusters. Women are walking away from the world’s oldest professions, and toward universities and vocations.

Judge Herbert went on to say:

The Holy Spirit continues to reveal how much I’ve been forgiven, and how similar I am to the individuals that come before me. That’s really hard to say! [My] job is to judge. But the farther I go along [in my faith], the more I realize that I’m just like most of them—and that makes me more understanding, more kind, more merciful.

What I love about these stories, is that the church didn’t merely call people out of the world, but in Gospel ways, it called them deeper into it.

Sometimes God calls people to work as a missionary to reach the men who go to the strip club, and sometimes he calls them to change the legislation to reach the girls who work there, and sometimes he calls preachers to help the judge and bathroom attendant see how to re-see their work.

It’s not just a job, it’s a ministry.

It’s the church at work.

Everyday Idolatry: Amused Apathy

“Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” -Archbishop William Temple

“Are you not entertained?” -Russell Crowe in The Gladiator

Temple in Chennai, India

One of the more famous stories in the Bible is the story of the Ten Plagues. It’s where God sends plagues to the people of Egypt to convince Pharaoh to let his people go. But one of the little known parts of that story, is that each plague that God sent had a corresponding god.

There was a God of the Nile River, so God turns the Nile into blood, there was an Egyptian god for the Sun (Ra) and so God makes all of Egypt dark.

In the Bible, one of the interesting things about how God deals with idolatry is that he takes away the thing that people thought they were getting from it. So Ba’al is the rain god, and when people worship Ba’al, God sends a drought. The story of the Ten Plagues is a story of God revealing the idols as not being able to deliver on their promises.

Bored to Death

A few years ago, Leslie and I were in Sri Lanka doing Tsunami relief. One night we left our station, and got to spend an evening with one of the relief workers who lived there. We went to his home, met his family and ate with them. But the thing that surprised us was the arrangement of his small living room.

The chairs and couch, as well as the design of the room, was all facing the center where one of the Hindu statues stood prominently.

And I remember thinking how ridiculous and primitive it was.

Then we flew home, sat down on our couch and turned on the television n the center of our living room, and stared at it for hours.

One of the more interesting phenomenon’s of our current time is the word boredom. It’s interesting because it’s a relatively new word. Previously we didn’t have a word for boredom. In fact, much of the world still doesn’t. If you were to go to many cultures in the world and use that word, translators won’t be able to replace it.

The closest word for boredom in many cultures is something like tired.

Isn’t it interesting that this is where we, of all cultures, are? The average American home has the television playing for more than eight hours a day. We have entertained ourselves into a stupor, and yet we’re still bored.

Did you know that the word amusement actually comes from the world of worship? A muse was a goddess that was said to inspire or give a new thought. But amusement, that’s a word that means without God.

It means to escape the divine.

Bread and Circus

Back in the first century, the Roman Empire had expanded beyond the size of any previous empire. They had taken over the entire known world, and in order to keep their army funded, they had to tax their territories heavily. Many of the people Rome ruled had to live in sub-standard conditions. And Rome knew that if they revolted they wouldn’t have the resources to maintain control.

So they started the gladiator games, where they would entertain large crowds and throw free bread to some lucky fans.

It was called “Bread and circus” it was designed to pacify the world.Gladiator image

And it worked…It still does.

In her book, Between Two Worlds, Raxani Saberi talks about being a prisoner in Iran for 6 months. One of the things that she learned was that there the main function of entertainment was to keep people from pursuing information elsewhere. It was used to keep the people ignorant of their current situation

The social critic Noam Chomsky would agree.

“There are forms of media whose basic social role is quite different: it’s diversion… This is an oversimplification, but for the eighty percent or whatever they are, the main thing is to divert them.”

If you want to know who or what you really worship (anybody can claim a faith system, or a lack of one) but if you really want to know what you worship look at where you spend money…and look at where you spend your “free” time.

I think we would name many of our problems as apathy but the Bible would call it misplaced worship.

Leonard Sweet says it this way: “When all is said and done, when the ancient gods reign, nothing is said and done.”

Living the Life in Front of Us

We don’t know all the details, but one of my heroes is the man who stood up to this idol. His name was St. Telemachus (we assume he is the patron saint for telemarketers)

Sometime in the 4th century A.D. Rome was holding another one of it’s gladiator games. Once again the gladiators came out to the thundering applause of the masses. They fought each other, or the frail prisoners, or whoever. It didn’t matter because all the crowd wanted was blood.

And when Telemachus saw them murdering one another, he stood up and yelled “No!”

He ran down to the ground that the Gladiators were fighting on, and cried out, “no more killing, please, no more killing.”

But a gladiator has to do what a gladiator has to do, and so there in front of thousands of rabid, amused fans, they slaughtered St. Telemockus.

And then it happened.

Somebody stood up and walked out of an arena, and then another, and then another, and another, until the entire arena was empty. And they never held a Gladiator game again.

Someone had broken through the world of staring at others living life, and forced people to deal with the God very present in this one.

And it cost Telemachus his life, but at least he was fully living his and not someone else’s.

May we all be so lucky.

Inspi(re)ality: A Ministry that Keeps on Building

inspireality-navy

During the month of March, we’ve dedicated Thursdays to talking about mentoring, why it’s important and practical tips about how to go about doing it. Today’s post is by a man who’s worked hard to mentor younger ministers, as well as get mentoring. Jim is the preacher at the Crestview Church of Christ, and is one of the best ministers and encouragers I know. Jim consistently writes great content for leadership/ministry at his blog over at www.godhungry.org.  You can follow him on Twitter here. And I highly recommend checking out his blog here.

Meet Jim:

For much of my adult life I have desired to be mentored. As a young minister, it was very clear to me that I had much to learn. Consequently, I was very intentional about seeking out people from whom I could learn. Over the years I have gained from the following:

  • Several trusted ministers who were very patient as I came to them again and again with my questions and difficult situations. Some of these people have been a very important part of my life for many years.
  • Relationships that I had for a particular season of ministry. That is, for a season I learned from these people and stayed in contact.
  • Occasional coffees and lunches with particular people. These were more than conversations. I often came to these moments with numerous questions I needed to ask.
  • Individuals through their biographies and autobiographies. At other times, I saturated myself with the writings of Henri Nouwen, N.T. Wright, Gordon MacDonald, John R.W. Stott, C. S. Lewis, etc.For many years I wouldn’t have used the word “mentor” to describe what I needed from these people. I just knew that I had much to learn from others.As you read this note, I want to ask you:

Are you being mentored by anyone?

As you think about this question, know that I continue to be mentored by others. I am still intentional about learning from others. I look for people from whom I can learn.

Are you willing to be mentored?

The following are a few questions that might be helpful in reflecting on this:

  • Who am I learning from right now?
  • Am I serious about growing and changing?
  • Do I really listen to trusted people?
  • Is there anyone in my life with whom I talk and then actually follow through on something that person suggested?
  • Am I serious about moving from “What shall I do?” to “What kind of person wilI I be?”Look for someone from whom you can learn. Ask to spend some time with that person. Go prepared. Ask good questions. Listen. Write down what you wish to remember. Listen to this person’s words and watch this person’s manner. Be fully present when you are with this person.

Are you investing in anyone else’s life?

First, I am not talking about someone who might be presumptuous and think someone would be blessed just to spend time with him. Blessing someone through a mentoring relationship works best when that person is living out of the soul, not the ego.

Mentoring is more than dispensing information or trying to get someone to recognize one’s wisdom. It is the willingness to make oneself vulnerable
and available to another. It is the willingness to be fully present with another. It is a willingness to step into another’s life (if invited) to add value. It can occur one-to-one or in a small mentoring group.

This kind of investment can be helpful in the following ways:

• Mentoring can help shape another’s life.
• Mentoring can help a person as he travels through life.
• Mentoring can put various problems and struggles in perspective. • Mentoring can encourage and help another see the future.

Most of all, you can bless another by simply paying attention to him. Before you conclude that you have very little to offer, let me remind you that there is only one you and you may be used uniquely by God to make a difference in another’s life.

Finally, three suggestions:

(These are simply places to begin.)

  1. Begin by praying that God would lead you to a person from whom you can learn.
  2. Attempt to schedule a time (perhaps coffee or lunch) to be with someone from whom you would like to learn. Simply tell that person you would like to ask questions about ministry and life. Come prepared with questions.
  3. Consider inviting a person to coffee or lunch who might have less experience in life and ministry than you. Be fully present and listen to that person’s words and heart. Affirm whatever you see that is good, right, and godly. In other words, don’t try to do anything or fix anything. Simply be present and see what might develop from that relationship.

Everyday Idolatry: The gods Behaving Badly

“I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything that they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.’  -Jim Carrey

“As we bow to the golden statue called Oscar… joining in rituals of exaltation, and reading our sacred gossip columns…[we see from the stories] The desire for some kind of redemption pulses through human life.” -S. Brent Plate

Temple in Chennai, India

I’m in California this weekend speaking at a conference, and they asked me to do my series “Extras.” And since I’ve been writing lately on the kind of insidious idolatry we are all guilty of this got me thinking….

One of the most disturbing things I learned  when I was in Hollywood was how cutthroat the entertainment industry is. I was working on a show, in a rather scandalous scene, when one of my female extra friends whispered to me, “This is the part that I hate.”

Apparently,what often happens is that the director needs some more eye candy for a scene, and he needs to pick a girl or two out of a lineup. So this girl told me that it was common for them to tell a room of several girls to undress so the director could pick one based on their bodies.

And if you wanted the job, a more prominent scene, maybe even a recurring part, you would do it.

We bleed for our gods.

Now I hesitated to tell that story, because of the anti-Hollywood bias that Christians gravitate toward. We need more Jesus-followers living and serving in that industry. In fact, that same girl who told me she hates being in a line up to see if her body is good enough is a Christian. She was a Jesus follower who had been in rooms like that before.

And before we get all high and mighty, just realize there’s a good chance you put her there.

Celebrity Worship

Pete Ward teaches at a seminary in London, and he wrote a book about our culture of celebrity worship. He starts off by asking “Have you ever wondered why we mourn so much when a celebrity dies?” Think about it, when Michael Jackson died the entire news world ground to a halt.

We were in the middle of two wars, an economic melt down, and now we are listening to what meal MJ had the last time he was at Burger King. And Ward points out the reason this is such a big deal isn’t because of the their talent, but the collective “us” we’ve allowed each celebrity to represent.

It is, in other words, a religion.

But did you know that celebrity worship is consistently associated with poor mental health, like worry, anxiety, and depression?

Among women specifically, most body image related mental health issues are, on some level, tied to the way we view celebrities and ourselves. And that should disturb all of us, because almost all of us participate in celebrity worship. And most of the time it’s so subtle, we don’t even know we are doing it.

So we think that it’s stupid all the fuss that people make over Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton, but for some reason we know a lot of details of her life.

Christina Kelly, an editor for Sassy magazine, says the reason that we worship celebrities is because, “We know that to be human is to feel inconsequential.”

Think about how profound that statement is. Here’s someone who works in the industry, and she says we “worship” not because of who they are, but because of our awareness of who we aren’t. There is this deep awareness that we have that something is off-kilter with our heart. Part of the reason that we are drawn to and participate in this crazed celebrity culture, is because something deep within us tells us that we are broken.

So why do we put our hope in fame to fix it?

Arrested Development

To Know and be Known

This past week, Donald Miller interviewed Tony Hale (Buster Bluth from the incredibly funny show Arrested Development) and he asked him, “Why do you think people are obsessed with fame? What do you think this says about us as a culture?”

And here’s what Tony/Buster said:

I think that it’s grounded in the fact that everybody desperately wants to be known, and they think that fame is kind of the ultimate of being known—“If that many people know me…then it’s going to satisfy that. The thing is, when you get to that place, you’re only going to find true satisfaction if you’re known in an eternal, spiritual sense by Somebody greater than yourself. I think a lot of people have gotten to that place where they have been known by a lot of people, and it still doesn’t satisfy….If you don’t find something greater than yourself who knows you—knows truly who you are—and you feel known by them, then you’re going to spend the rest of your life trying to be known by a ton of other people.  You’re only going to find true satisfaction if you’re known in an eternal, spiritual sense by Somebody greater than yourself.”

I think this is incredibly profound. We want to be known by Someone greater than ourselves. That’s what our hearts our hungry for, and our pursuit of fame is only a reflection of a dim reality.

This is what Buster is getting at, it’s what Jim Carrey is trying to explain…the thing we think we want is really not able to fulfill us.

It’s an idol that can never deliver on it’s promise.

Do you know what the final stage of Christian Theology is? Gloria.

In other words Fame: It is the applause of God.

Save your worship for that.

Inspireality: Carving a Mountain

inspireality-navy

For the month of March, I’d like to dedicate Thursdays to talk  about mentoring, how to find mentors, and how to disciple and mentor others.

Look forward to practical content from Jim Martin and Rich Little. But today I’d like to try and tell you why this matters so much.

Moving Mountains

Dashrath Manjhi was born into a poor labourer family in a village in India. He was living a happy and content life until his wife, Falguni, died because of a basic lack of medicine. She died because the closest doctor was over 40 miles away and Manjhi wasn’t able to get her to a clinic on time.

And so Dashrath Manji started working to help that never happen again.

For 22 years he worked night and day carving a hole in a mountain (like you do). He was working to create a shortcut between cities. And it worked. When he was finished he had reduced the distance between a hospital and his village from 75 Kilometers down to 1 Kilometer.

He carved a hole in a mountain for the people who were coming behind him.

Dashrath Manjhi and the route he carved in a mountain.
Dashrath Manjhi and the route he carved in a mountain.

I once heard Tom Long point out that the Gospel of Luke starts with the seniors. You’ve got Elizabeth and Zechariah and Simeon and Anna, people who are well into the AARP benefits. But then Long points out that these older people pass off the gospel to the younger people and then trust God enough to trust them with it.

So the rest of Luke and Acts, is young people taking the gospel all over the world. It looked different than the senior saints could have ever imagined, but it was exactly what they had always hoped for.

And these senior saints could do that, because they trusted that God was bigger than any one generation.

The Problems with Mentoring

I know I have hit the jackpot with having great mentors.  I’ve been extremely blessed to have some of the most talented people to be willing to invest time and wisdom in me. But I hear constantly from other young ministers and leaders who don’t have that. They are hungry for people who are willing to invest in them.

But I understand why we don’t want to mentor…

I get it, you don’t know what you would share with them. You know you’re not perfect and you know your weaknesses. For many, the idea of mentoring feels arrogant and condescending.

It’s not.

I’ve never met someone who thought they had a perfect mentor. In fact, your failures are probably one of the best gifts you can share. What does it look like to do balance ministry and family? Or preach a hard sermon? How do you make time for taking care of yourself? These are all questions that you probably don’t have fully figured out, but you probably have had several more years of experience in asking them.

I once heard Andy Stanley say that the biggest mistake we can make in mentoring is thinking we need to have all our junk in order before we have anything to share. We don’t have to give every answer to every question they might have. It’s not our job to fill up their cup, it’s just our job to pour ourselves out.

We don’t have to be faithful to sharing our lives and wisdom about stuff we don’t know. But chances are there’s somethings you do know, that someone younger than you could really benefit from.

I know that there are plenty of reasons/excuses that we have for not doing this. The urgent is always more pressing than the important, but if you want to outlive your life…if you want to be a part of something bigger than you, then you can’t get around this.

Mentoring is Discipling

So there is a time in the Gospels where Jesus has just finished back to back chapters of healing/serving and teaching people. He’s been innundated with people coming from all over to get help. He’s exhausted from the overwhelming demand of human need. And Jesus responds not by criticizing the people who are coming, but by saying “The Harvest is there, we need more workers.” He’s basically saying “I wish there were more people who were able to do what I do.”

Which is exactly what he was doing with his life.

He wasn’t just ministering and serving the world, he was intentionally doing it with other people. He didn’t write a single book, he never left the area of Palestine, he just mentored the disciples. And the only reason you know the Gospel, the only way it got out of the small Middle Eastern area of the world is because Jesus trusted these people to change the world.

And the most unlikely people did it, and still do.

The Church I grew up in was 10 people. Bro. Foy was just a math teacher who preached. But I’ll talk about him until the day I die.

Rick Atchley has been my mentor for 10 years, and when he retires from ministry in another 10 years, his ministry through the several people he’s mentored, will just keep going.

The people who meant the most to me in my life were the people who were carving holes in mountains for those who would come behind them.

I want to be one of those people, I think it’s at the heart of the Gospel.

The apostle Paul travelled all over the known world with Timothy and Silas or Barnabas. He shared with them, not just what he knew, but who he was. I’m sure that made ministry more difficult at times, but it also meant that when he died, in a very real sense, his ministry had just begun.

He had passed on the Gospel

He outlived his life.

May we all.