Monday, December 30, 2013

What Needs to Change About Education

(I was wrong. I actually do have one more post for this year.)

What the organized Church and public education have in common is that there are several shifts that need to take place in both institutions to most radically and substantially bring about a "much greater" environment for the young people within them. 

Throughout this blog, I have written about some of the shifts needed in organized Christianity in our part of the world. Things like...

  • From Emphasis on big events one day a week to Emphasis on making disciples 24/7
  • From Measuring seating capacity to draw crowds to Measuring sending capacity to serve others
  • From Professional pastors (staff-driven leadership) to Reproducible practices (where every member functions)
  • From Publicizing what we are Against to Promoting what we are FOR
  • From Ministry (works) done for Jesus to Ministry (miracles) done BY Jesus
  • From "GO TO church" (as in a place and time) to BE the church (as an identity)

But what about our schools? Are there fundamental shifts that could make dramatic change for the better in education? I believe there are. Here are a few, in my opinion.

  • From Giving grades (that generally offer no information on how to improve) to Providing feedback (that feeds forward to further learning)
  • From Time as the constant (prescribed scope and sequence for all students) to Learning as the constant (asynchronous, self-paced)
  • From Focus on teaching to Focus on learning
  • From Career orientation to Calling orientation (more to come on this in a future post, but you can get a glimpse of this shift here thanks to the work of Adam Saenz

This is clearly not meant to be an exhaustive list, but these are examples of the biggest "bang for your buck" transitions that we can make in public schools. The only disclaimer is that they are not easy.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I Will Have Less Slaves Working for Me Next Year

For my 100th Tweet and my last blog of 2013, I have some bad news and some good news.

While I try to keep my radical reform focus in my Monday blogs on Education topics, and in Wednesday blogs on Church topics, I also try to reflect in other posts about how there is something else that needs to be reformed: me. To say the least, I am a work in progress.

Part of my reformation takes place as I learn new things, some of which are disturbing and challenging. Right now (and for some time), I am a little overwhelmed by what I am learning about the modern day slave trade. To be honest, up until a few years ago, I didn't even know slavery still existed on any kind of large scale. In reality, most estimates say there are about 27 million slaves worldwide. Go here to see a world map that breaks down slavery stats across the globe.

The bad news is that many women and children are trafficked across borders, including our own, for the commercial sex trade. More bad news is that forced labor exists in many places to produce items consumed here. Even more bad news is that the amount of exploitation and abuse of these slaves is enormous. It is almost too much to take in. It is easy to feel that there is nothing I could do to make a difference.

BUT...there is good news! There are organizations and ministries working hard on behalf of those enslaved. These groups are getting smarter and more efficient. Churches are beginning to collaborate to counter this problem like never before. Individuals are networking with businesses, law enforcement, and each other to educate people, leverage resources, and promote peace and freedom. I was privileged to attend my first Allies Against Slavery meeting here in Austin earlier this month. I can promise you there are great people making sacrifices to help others.

I personally cannot think of anything else that could be more to the heart of Jesus than setting people free. So, as terrible as the current state of affairs is, I am hopeful that we can make a difference. I believe we can lift people out of devastation and introduce them to a joyful future. I am confident that I will have less slaves working for me in 2014.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Christmas Story Poem

The Christmas Story – Forever on God’s Mind


I am sure through all your years of life, a story about Christmas you have heard,

But today I tell you the true Christmas story starts even before these words:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Earlier than He made any of this, God thought up a plan for Jesus’ birth.


He hadn’t yet formed the water, built up mountains or planted the first tree,

But He already knew how good and holy He wanted each one of us to be.

With His perfect plan in His mind, He had the wonderful idea of you and me,

So He began molding His design, knitting us together, wanting to set us free.


God showed off His creativity – He painted flowers and butterflies to color the world so bright,

He made lions and tigers and bears (Oh my!), and stuck a moon in the sky to reflect sunlight.

He was an Artist, whose imagination filled the air with birds and the seas with fish.

He was Eden’s Gardener, the Master and Friend who could fulfill our every wish.


As far as people go, Adam was the first one into whom He breathed life,

Then, it wasn’t long until God made another in His image to be Adam’s wife.

This first mom and dad have more to do with Christmas than many might believe,

Because the very first promise of our Savior as a child had to do with mother Eve.


Unfortunately, though, our story has a dark and scary part,

As any tale does when evil puts doubt in a good person’s heart.

Adam and Eve were fooled into thinking they could outsmart God, and they lied,

Suddenly, they were doing wrong and spreading blame, and eventually they died.


It was a tragedy to know God was mad at man, and we might lose His love,

There was nothing we could do on our own. Help would have to come from above.

Adam brought sin to us, which taught us to be bad. How could we ever cope?

Thank God! He planned ahead of time a way to provide freedom and a hope!


God allowed folks to have prophets and laws to guide them until the timing was just right,

But everyone needed a better Gift that would be revealed on Christmas night.

Sin is so bad; it can’t be fixed with just another rule.

It would take a miracle to heal the human race.

The law alone would be a useless tool.

The answer was to send, once for all, an overflow of God’s grace!

Against his enemy, Satan, God would deal a fatal blow when He struck this nerve,

He did the unthinkable and sent His own Son, an offering that none of us deserve.

There would be no need for Santa to double check a list of who is naughty or nice,

No, all sins would be forgiven and salvation would come only through Jesus Christ!


The perfect plan from before time that God had had along was now made known,

2000 years ago, a young woman learned that she would have a child of her own.

It took some time to set the stage for His dramatic arrival here,

But God wanted to provide all the clues so when it happened, it would be clear!


Clue number one was given so long ago in a promise to help us avoid a scam,

It was kept when Jesus was born to bless all people through the line of Abraham.

More impressive is how we were told of many more branches on His family tree,

And it all came to pass about Isaac, Jacob, and others in His genealogy.


But God would not leave it at that or some could call it coincidence,

So He gave us predictions of the time and place of these incidents.

Think, for instance, of what we heard when we read Hosea 11, verse one.

Just as it stated, centuries later, God called out of Egypt His very own Son.


And if the exact small town could be foretold, well, that would be nice,

So, Jesus being born in Bethlehem mentioned by Micah makes one think twice.

What about Malachi’s mention of the Temple, which in A.D. 70 they will destroy?

So it is truly amazing when the Lord Jesus enters it as a boy!


Yes, all of these proofs help strengthen our faith in the Christmas story,

Yet I’ve saved the best for last, the most famous of all, a feat of God’s glory!

Never before and never since has there been such a mystery in all the world,

The magic of Christmas is the birth of the Christ child to Mary, a virgin girl.


Now, with all the prophecies fulfilled and the main event finally here,

Let’s put things in order and celebrate His coming this year.

With all that’s been said, we know God’s idea was always on His mind.

On to the details of this turning point in history that is oh so divine.


This Christmas season, see it afresh as the scene has been set with all the clues,

Follow the action as the characters are ready for their cues.

God’s angel, Gabriel, gets us started by telling Zechariah what is going on,

His wife, Elizabeth, will be having a son that they are to give the name John.


Zechariah was speechless for a while because his wife was well along in years,

But Gabriel went on to pronounce a blessing to Mary and alleviate her fears.

Finding favor with God, she received the report, “You will give birth to a son!”

Since nothing is impossible with God, his name will be Jesus, Savior to everyone.


Mary was soon to be married to Joseph who was upset by this course.

He was a good man in confusion, and thought it best to quietly divorce.

Till God directly intervened to help Joe out and show him there is no need to fuss,

“For Mary’s Son is of the Spirit. He is Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us.’!”


Joseph was glad he could wed and help Mary with this situation she was in,

And more rejoicing came their way when she went to visit her cousin.

Still, though, this story being real life, includes taxes and a decree,

So, in due time, the young couple would have to travel from the region of Galilee.


Farewell to Nazareth, they made their way to crowded Bethlehem,

Where they found no rooms available to welcome the world’s greatest Gem!

It is good to know God’s eternal plan did not depend on enough space at the inn,

The Almighty, full of grace and truth, walked among us to save us from our sin!


Meanwhile, back in the field, some sheepish folks tended their flock at night,

Only to be taken aback by a heavenly guest with a dramatic flair surrounded by glorious light.

The angel declared, “I bring great news of a baby boy, which is Christ the Lord!”

The shepherds were astonished by the sight and the sound as more angels joined in one accord.


At once, the shepherds decided there is no need for this saving babe to still be a stranger,

So, they went to find the two new parents with Jesus wrapped, lying in a manger.

They could not hold it in as they shared with Joseph and Mary their joy.

And they praised God for all they had seen and heard concerning the baby boy!


It had been eight days since the shepherds took their short, adventurous trip,

Which meant it was time to be brought before the Lord for a holy “snip, snip.”

One thing was for certain, Jesus passed the test.

Sacrifices were made and by Simeon, Jesus was blessed.


Word had reached some wise men that the king of the Jews had been born.

They followed a star in the East, but King Herod, they inadvertently warned.

This Herod was mean and did not want the newborn child to live very long,

But Joseph and Mary received the wise men’s gifts, and Jesus proved too strong.


God’s plan was amazing and a huge success.

It would change everything forever and clean up our mess.

Jesus had brought God’s full love to the whole world, then and now!

It was always on God’s mind from before creation to save us somehow.

The “somehow” is the reason for this season. It is the baby Jesus who grew into the God-man.

But don’t be mistaken to think it started there because the Christmas story was written before time even began.


Scripture References
Genesis 1-3
Ephesians 1:4-14
Psalm 139:13-16
Romans 5:12-21
Romans 8:3
(Romans 2-8)
Galatians 3
Hebrews 8-10
John 3:16-21
John 14:5-7
Acts 2:22-36
Acts 4:12
Matthew 1-2
Luke 1-2
Genesis 12, 17:19, 49:10
Numbers 24:17
Jeremiah 23:5-6
Luke 3:33
Hosea 11:1
Micah 5:2
Malachi 3:1
Isaiah 7:14
John 1

For further reading: Genesis 1, John 1, Ephesians 1:3-14, Col. 1:15-23, Hebrews 1, 1 Peter 1:3-21

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Faith Like a Child (Part 7)

To wrap up these posts about faith and children, I will simply leave us with the following passage from Mark 10:13-16. I welcome your thoughts and observations of this text. The only comment I will make is the obvious one - Jesus doesn't want anything to get in the way of children coming to him, or him coming to them! That is really what all these passages have boiled down to in my opinion.

May God guide and bless you as you receive and reflect on his words below.
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Faith Like a Child (Part 6)

Continuing with Matthew 18:1-6, now we arrive at one of the most intense teachings concerning children and faith. Jesus deals directly with the great responsibility we have when it comes to guiding children. He doesn't play word games or speak in abstract terms. He is as clear and to the point as anytime in his whole ministry. He says, "It is better to be drowned than to lead a child astray!"

I have watched a video about this teaching that was filmed in the Holy Land. The presenter showed a "large millstone" like what Jesus is referring to in this verse with a sea in the background. He demonstrated how vivid this warning would have been for the people listening to Jesus. It left quite an impression on me.

In context, this passage leads into some more verses explaining the devastating dangers of sin and how it is to be avoided at all costs. There is nothing light about this passage no matter which Gospel you take it from. And clearly, Jesus seems to be just fine with letting the immensity of it lay heavy on our minds and hearts. In sum, Jesus argues that the children are the greatest in the kingdom and becoming like them is really good, and causing them to go away from God is really, really, really, really, really BAD!!!

So, that leaves us with the responsibility of evaluating our own beliefs. What are we passing on to the next generation? How are we shaping their belief systems? What are we communicating about God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Are we interfering with God's will or contradicting God's word? Are we passing on the gospel of peace or our own tradition? Are we handing children and youth a vibrant faith that accompanies true discipleship, or are we programming their lives with the religion of Pharisees? How honestly and willingly are we analyzing these issues?

If nothing else, we are at least left with a sense of burden from these verses.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Faith Like a Child (Part 5)

Before reading my thoughts today, you should check out Matthew 18:1-6.  Here we reach another popular, often quoted passage of Scripture. I only want to look at the first part now and save the last part of it for the next post.

A couple observations. First, this is one of the places the Bible records that people are to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. Interestingly, for as much as we talk about maturity in the church, there is no verse instructing children to become like adults, but Jesus explicitly says that entrance into the kingdom is dependent upon adults changing and becoming like little children. Now, I do believe we need to talk about spiritual maturity and growth in the church (more precisely, as the church) because I think there is plenty of biblical warrant for that, but let's not dismiss the profundity of Jesus' statement in this text.

I believe the issue here is what kingdom we are focused on. I submit that much of our rhetoric may be about getting children ready for the world. There is tremendous attention given to making them "better disciples" by being more responsible. Questions usually asked are: How can we help them do better at school? How do we get them to behave more appropriately in society? How do we teach them the importance of going to college, getting a good (aka. high paying) job, pick the best marital partner, raise a family, etc.? Obviously, there are necessary aspects to all these questions that I don't mean to diminish. However, my concern is that we could have become too preoccupied with the kingdom of the world...maybe we are too focused on "earthly things" at the expense of setting our "minds on things above." The truth is that we are "aliens", foreigners in this world, and that children are the best human representatives of the kingdom that we should be more concerned about.

What I need to be reminded of is that our identity as the church is in the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. It is this reality that flips our understandings and priorities completely. Suddenly, our emphasis is on how to become not the first, but the last; not how to gain status and income to be served, but to serve; and NOT how to raise children up, but how to bring adults down. In other words, the kingdom in which Jesus reigns as King has an interesting admission requirement. It is not about how we have raised children into better grown-ups, but it is how we have raised grown-ups into better children! After all, the kingdom belongs to the children. I mean, think about that truth for a moment. Do we really believe that? In all other arenas of life, if we totally believed that something we wanted belonged to someone else, then I bet we would go to that person or group to find out more. So, if we really care about the kingdom of heaven, then doesn't it make sense that we might want to spend some time with the very people it belongs to - the children themselves!

My second observation is simple and from the mouth of Jesus:  greatness is associated with the humility of children.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Faith Like a Child - Part 4

At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."   -Matthew 11:25-26

I have to be honest. I don't ever remember reading this verse before a couple weeks ago. So, in my past readings of Matthew, I must have dismissed this verse for some reason, but now it stands out to me. First of all, like Psalm 8, we have the combination of heaven and earth mentioned. The spiritual (heavenly) realm is at work in our physical world (earth). The Kingdom of God is very much here and now.

I don't know how I could have just skimmed over this verse before. Let's see...we have the Messiah, the Savior of the world, praising the Father (in other words, the Triune God) because it was his pleasure (i.e. his desire) to make it so that only children understand some things!!! Um, that's pretty stinkin' amazing! We don't only get a glimpse into the truth about children and adults here, but also another picture of the nature of God himself. Make sure not to miss the point that some really important things have been hidden from the "wise" and only revealed to little children because that's the way he likes it!

Now, for the kicker...the context of this passage. What was Jesus talking about just before he said these words? Believe it or not, it was the judgment of God - the same divine and devastating judgment that was released on the ancient cities of Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon. Jesus unleashes harsh warnings on Korazin and Bethsaida. To be blunt, Jesus is saying, "You think you've seen consequences before; you ain't seen nothin' yet!" Then, he follows it up with this teaching about children only comprehending things that even the trained, educated, wise people don't get, which makes God happy.

I'm not pretending that I can make sense of all this (I’m sure a child could!), but I do know that it makes me wonder just how seriously I am taking the spiritual insights of the children around me. Children must be active participants in "church life" in the midst of an adult community that respects and appreciates and accepts their spiritual contribution to God's familyAfter all, according to this verse, they may know something we don't!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Faith Like a Child - Part 3

What role do children play in overcoming evil? That question may seem strange, even a little uncomfortable. I think we too often view children as "cute and sweet" at the expense of some significant scriptural teachings about their power and potential. These are really just "out loud" thoughts; I don’t intend to be dogmatic about these points. Still, it is worth pondering.

Let's consider the
8th Psalm, a psalm of David. This psalm opens and closes with the declaration, "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" We can easily get that this is a psalm about the majesty of the Lord, but focusing in on verse 2, it reads:  "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise...". This is usually the only part of the sentence that you hear recited, and if left there, again we reach that "cute and sweet" reaction most of us have to God and children. However, the verse does not stop there in reality. It actually continues:  "...because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Whoa! Would it be an overstatement to say that God has ordained praise from babies not just to be cute and give us a warm fuzzy, but as an act of war? An aggressive battle move? A strategy to overcome those that would come against his holiness?

I don't want to exaggerate the claims here, but I do want to pause and reflect on what could be something very powerful in the spiritual realm. Maybe, we human adults, don't understand the praises that an infant can make and express, but perhaps the enemies of God understand it full well. I can't be sure, but I wonder.

After looking up the Hebrew behind some of these words that have been translated into English in this verse, my paraphrase would read something like this:  The God that is full of majesty and glory in all the earth and the heavens finds it fitting to have children and infants praise him to shut up his enemies, to put out of commission those that would try to take him on.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Faith Like a Child - Part 2

As a teacher, parent, former youth pastor, and teen/family counselor, I have often been asked the when question regarding teaching something to children. Examples: When should we talk about sex? When should I tell them about Santa Claus? When will they understand this or that about God? When should I teach them about faith, serving others, the Holy Spirit, etc.? (We have many of the same discussions in the education realm - When are they ready to write in cursive? Or, should we at all? When should we introduce fractions?)

There is a lot about the brain and human development that factors in here, and while that is very important, we can't all be neurologists or developmental psychologists. Besides, even within those fields among the experts, there is so much debate and disagreement. So, I have only one suggestion here - a "rule of thumb" if you will - to help us. The idea actually comes from the teachings of Scripture thousands of years ago.

In the Old Testament, we come across a phrase more than once that reads like this:  "And when your children ask you...then tell them...". Someone asked me recently when teaching takes place with children in the organic church life. My answer - "When you breathe." The spiritual formation and overall education of our children is a constant, daily activity. Don't be fooled into thinking that learning takes place "at school" or that worship takes place "at church." That mindset will rob you of the rich experience of discipling your children, and frankly, has probably done more damage than good in the name of religion.

Instead, we can be looking and listening for the teachable moments, what Dr. James Dobson referred to as "incidental learning," the type of learning that takes place in the midst of everyday life. Of course, this means we have to be present with our children, not just physically but also emotionally and mentally. (This is an area I have to constantly work on.) 

In sum, a good guiding point as to when children are ready to learn about something is whenever they ask about it. And the assumption in the Old Testament seems to be that if you're really living faithfully for God, then that alone will prompt them to ask questions. There is no need to wait for them to be put in artificial settings (classrooms, Sunday School, youth groups, etc. - although these can sometimes help) for them to receive instruction. And the icing on the cake is that while we are looking for these ongoing opportunities to pass on truth, faith and love to the next generation, we just might learn something from them, as well.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Faith Like a Child - Part 1

Our local school district hosts an annual conference for educators. A few years ago the guest keynote speaker was Ian Jukes.  One of his main points was the FACT that kids today are very different.  Now that, in and of itself, might not shock anyone.  We all observe how they are different culturally, socially, etc., BUT he points out (along with many others) that it goes much, much farther and deeper than that.  His conclusion may be a difficult pill for some adults to swallow.

His contention is that kids today are also neurologically, biologically different!  That's right!  They have different brains from even their parents' generation.  It is a long, in-depth discussion about brain chemistry and media stimulation and technology. I can't explain it all, but it raises questions about the importance of striving to understand children. It is not about only what we can teach them, but also genuinely caring about what we might learn from them.

One of my convictions is to see a vibrant faith passed on to the next generation.  The foundational belief within this conviction is that children should be an active part of expressing ekklesia.  In other words, children not only belong to the church as members of the body, but children are also ministers in a very real way.  They are an important realization of our "called out" identity as the ekklesia of God.

We are not only the family of God for the benefit of children, but also because of the children.  We are something less without them.  We become something different, something not quite of holy design.  I believe we need to take the Bible more seriously here.  We quote lots of Bible verses about children as though they are cute and sweet, but I'm starting to think we dismiss much of the penetrating spiritual truth behind them.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Speaking of Jesus (Book Review)

"Jesus is the point of the Bible. It all points to him. I don't have to be the Bible's defense attorney. All I have to do is speak of Jesus and He will draw people to himself."

This is a quote from Speaking of Jesus (David Cook, 2011), written by Carl Medearis. This book is excellent! The particular idea above is just an example of the terrific messages found in this book.

Perhaps the greatest part of the book is the chapter about speaking "Christianese." Medearis brilliantly examines our use of certain words. First, he mentions Christian, which only appears three times in the New Testament. The term, he argues, has become so loaded that it means all kinds of things to all kinds of people. In some parts of the world, it has political meaning. In some places, the label identifies a person as someone that "kills Muslims" while in other places it is equated only with Roman Catholicism. There are countless interpretations and assumptions connected to the word Christian, so many so that Medearis simply suggests replacing it with the phrase "follower of Jesus." This is solid advice as it cuts through the clutter to focus on the main thing.

Next, the author takes on the word church, a personal favoite of mine. The Greek word ekklesia often gets translated as "church" in English, but it actually comes from a German word kirke. This is important because church has come to be associated with a building (i.e. "go to church", "be at the church at 9:00", "the church is the house of worship"), which it virtually never meant in the Bible. Originally, the church (ekklesia) simply meant the "called out ones." Essentially, the church is an organism, not an organization. Rather than a place to go, it is more accurately an identity to be expressed. The mis-use of this word is the cause of great confusion today!

Another word is Bible, which interestingly enough, the Bible never calls itself! Then, Medearis addresses the problems with the word evangelism. Here is some of what he says:
"I think part of the reason [that so many Christians are weak in their faith] is
that we tend to promote the evangelism method of spreading Christianity
rather than the discipleship model of Jesus. We get people 'in' and then try
to go out and get others. After a while, everybody's 'in' and nobody has any
idea how to mature in their faith...Making disciples, as opposed to evangelism,
is a journey of relationship that encompasses support, trial and error, and difficulty."

Finally, there is missionary, another word never found in the Bible . This word is like the others in that it carries with it baggage filled with all sorts of preconceived ideas. The point with this whole discussion is that we need to be careful with our vocabulary. As a colleague of mine often says, "Words matter!" Our language is important because we are constantly expressing something, and it may not be what we intend.

It might be wise to ask people to define the terms they use and ask, "What do you mean by that word?" Then, maybe some genuine, fruitful discussion can occur.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Friendly Dialogue (Book Review)

What do atheists and Christians have in common?

I recently finished reading a book (Zondervan, 2006) that recorded a multiple-day conversation over numerous topics between Luis Palau, a Christian evangelist, and Zhao Qizheng, a Chinese atheist. I was struck by three points.

First, Zhao states, "I read the Bible, but I am not a believer. Why? Because I cannot understand God" (p. 17). This sentiment echoes a common atheistic argument I have heard before. Basically, if God cannot be understood on their terms, then He must not exist. This seems like strange logic to me. I would think it would be just the opposite - that if God could be completely understood by the human mind, then that would be the evidence that He is not real. Am I alone in that thought?

Second, another objection to theism, in general, and Christianity, in particular, is that there are many religious people who do bad things. A few summers ago, I read works by well known atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Some form of this claim showed up often in their writings, too. It goes like this: if followers of a deity do bad things (i.e. Crusades, wars, etc.), then that means the deity can't be real. Again, I just don't get the logic. The truth is that these tragic historical events carried out in the name of religion are undeniable, and they are further evidence that professing disciples of Christ can fall very short of God's perfect standard. Sometimes, people get so mixed up in their belief systems that their actions don't resemble Jesus at all. A bad job of following does not equal proof that no one is leading. Palau's response seems appropriate: "Religion causes troubles sometimes, but Jesus? No" (p. 120).

Third, what Palau and Qizheng demonstrate is that it is very possible, and even not that difficult, to have a courteous dialogue despite having opposing views. Both men were highly respectful and complimentary toward each other. They were genuinely appreciative of one another's background, insight, and contributions to society. Hopefully, we can follow their example.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Measuring Success - Not Just For Jesus, But BY Jesus

Metric #6: Ministry Done FOR Jesus vs. Ministry Done BY Jesus
The fact of the matter is that humans are pretty amazing creations of God. We have tremendous intellect, strength, passion, and talent. Frankly, people can get a lot done in their own power and wisdom. Unfortunately, this is often precisely what we do.
While we often consider it a good thing to do work for God, it still leaves us able to take the credit. Even better would be to "participate in the divine nature" as the Bible says, and be involved with things that are impossible for us to take credit for.

Instead of being known as a church where people are working (which is good), what if we could be known as the church where God is working (which is best!)?
What this looks like is something each community of faith has to flesh out (literally) on their own. This one may seem a little more abstract than the other metrics, but it is still worth reflecting on. I have to question myself often as to whether I truly have my mind set on "things above" or if I am just existing on a human plane and forgetting the supernatural.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What I Am Against

In addition to the two previous posts, I do want to concede that it is perfectly all right to follow Jesus and still be against some things. So, here is our list of what we want to prevent or eliminate. We don't want to be associated with any of these characteristics, although many religious organizations often are.

(In no particular order)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What I Stand For

As a follow up to my previous post, here is the answer to the question, "What do we stand for?" (Recently, our simple church group did this exercise of brainstorming the things that we want to promote and be known for, things that we would associate with Jesus. The list below is what we came up with.)


What would your list look like?

Wordle: All About Jesus
Click on image to see the list in another format.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Measuring Success - Stand Up FOR Something Good

Metric #5: Publicizing What We Are Against vs. Promoting What We Are FOR
Recent surveys indicate that the number one description that non-Christians use to describe the church is "anti-gay." "Judgmental" and "hypocritical" were high on the list, as well. Is this alarming, concerning, even disgusting, to anyone else? Why in the world would followers of Jesus want to be primarily known as anti-anything?!? That is the best we can do? To come across to people like we are against them when our Guide is for all people?!

Not long ago, I asked some high school students from a Christian organization to come speak to a group of middle school students. Each high school teenager was asked to simply give a short “testimony” of what their life is like with Christ in it. One by one, they stood at the front of the room and commented on the challenges of high school life as a Christian because they don’t party, drink, do drugs, have sex, etc. Not meaning to embarrass them, I followed up with this question: I respect all the things you don’t do as a Christian, but can any of you tell these younger students what you feel like Jesus has told you to do? In other words, what is something you stand for or try to promote as a result of following Jesus? An awkward silence  followed as they quickly glanced at one another. Please don’t take my observation as a slam on these students. On the contrary, I believe they were just “following orders” and doing what “any good Christian” would.
Too many times, churches will get labeled (often rightly so) because of what they are against rather than what they are for. Many people perceive Christianity only as a religion with a bunch of rules and "don'ts." Unfortunately, the Christian church in America gets a reputation for being restrictive and oppressive. Often, churchgoers seem oblivious to how this attitude comes across to the rest of the world, or worse, they take pride in it.
I believe the Bible emphasizes the things that followers of Christ DO and ARE and HAVE, as well. The Christian faith is more accurately identified with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is more correctly associated with experiencing freedom because of the truth and the Spirit, and finding wholeness and peace in all avenues of life, and the renewal of the mind. These are all positive, life-giving aspects that Jesus makes possible to all people. These should be the main points of our message to the world. Furthermore, the Christian faith is best evidenced by action - serving, helping, caring - that promotes social justice and righteousness.
Isn’t our foundational belief that the Kingdom of God brings an entirely new reality to the life of a Christ-follower? As the Bible teaches, the veil has been removed by Christ so that we can now reflect God's glory. Through Jesus, we enter into existence that sees life differently. The last can now be first. The weak can now be strong. The poor can now be rich. The least can now be the greatest. Everything that devalues a person is turned on its head. The new life that Jesus makes possible is radical and unmistakable!
Simple churches, and individual Christians, may need to take time to reflect on the legacy they want to leave. Rather than wasting time causing divisiveness by only concentrating on what we stand against, there must be devotion to what we stand FOR. After all, let's remember that the gospel is the good news, not bad news!
I challenge anyone to make a list of the things that you are for. I may even accept my own challenge and share my list in my next post.

What would changing the scorecard in regard to this measure look like in your life?
Can you imagine the implications of training up young people to be DO-ers of the Word rather than focusing on a long list of DON’Ts?