I’ve had this blog since November of 2002, often it has fallen victim to the needs of life, expectations to be more than me, and simply being low priority. Today I hope to start anew… again… for the 1,000th time. Maybe it will stick this time… maybe.
I bought a new domain name (for $1) so I guess I have some motivation… I better post at least one new entry… is that worth $1?
So I figured I’d start by explaining the new name of this little place “Romans 12 us” – as you can imagine it comes from the book of Romans, chapter 12, in the Bible. I came across this idea because I was trying to think of something which would describe my values for this place, but not setup any expectations or box me in. I started with ideas like “restore.me”, “renew.me” and “thisis.me” – but they were all taken domain names.
I also have a strong idea that at the core, true, center of altruism is Christianity. Which is defined as:
Disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.
“some may choose to work with vulnerable elderly people out of altruism”
synonyms: unselfishness, selflessness, self-sacrifice, self-denial.
Sounds a bit like Christ, yes? However to become altruistic we need to understand the idea of “renewing the mind” and “becoming a new creature”. I decided to read all of Romans 12 again; the entire chapter speaks to every issue in life, the church, and the world. I was floored, re-inspired, and excited to rediscover the gold of knowledge that is in Romans 12, especially in light of today’s political, societal, and overall pessimism towards the world, both in and out of the Church. Go ahead and read it, this post isn’t going anywhere.
See what I mean? Every nugget in Romans 12 is a building block towards Christian altruism, from there we can focus on making disciples with these traits and characteristics as the aim.
Part two to come… how this is impossible except as an outflow of the faith we have in Jesus.
[Update: 9/27/16 A part two never came, and I changed the site domain and name back to “no small talk” – I look back at this name change as an ill-thought idea, back to our regularly scheduled programming]
When people say “church” there are so many things that many people say/think, and it seems these things are mostly negative. This can be an extremely volatile subject, with many people feeling judged, unwelcome, and rightfully pissed off by actions of people in the church. The humanity behind the “church” is a big huge mess, it’s at times so sickening I don’t know how the Church has even survived this long, but then I realize, that’s just it, it didn’t “survive” it’s been supported the whole time, supported by our God. The Church is His design and it remains and continues to serve its function even in an apparently disgusting state.
This isn’t a post about “why you should go to church”, it’s a post about looking at the church differently, not for the failures that humanity has done but for the love that God has for it. Yes, it is true that there are many distortions, many things that are not “right”, and these things make trusting the Church almost impossible. So, here’s my challenge, DON’T TRUST THE CHURCH, trust God, trust he is in control. Trust that God, who is working in you, is also working in the Church he created and supports more than 2,000 years later.
Will you feel judged? Probably.
Will terrible things (divorce, secrets, hurt) happen? Yes, the Church is made of humans.
Will you be annoyed, angry, and want to walk out? Probably, at times, and maybe for whole seasons at a time.
Will you seek out true and authentic relationships with others? – That’s your choice.
Will these authentic relationships hurt at times? Most likely.
Will these authentic relationships bring joy? Yes.
Will you see Jesus in these people? Yes and you’ll see humanity’s state, fallen.
This is iron sharpening iron.
This is unconditional love.
This is fellowship.
This is humanity.
This is community.
This is discipleship.
This is His Church, where we grow in character through God’s love, grace, and mercy through OTHERS.
This is the dirty Church.
Don’t let others walk over you, but remember to give grace, walk the high road (humility), and give people an honest, patient, chance to be loved and receive love. Remember… we’ll be together forever, live like it now! Most of all PEOPLE don’t have power, only God does, allow Him to speak, and if someone says something that offends you, just remember, we are above those offensive words and those words hold no power.
And one final thing… The Church is not your pastor, the administrators, the volunteers, the ministry teams, the prayer team, the sermons, the small groups, the walls, the chairs, the music, or anything else we tend to see/do/be in church, the Church is us, we make the Church and God is the head… and last I checked, he still loves the Church. So don’t give up on it, live it, breathe it, and be with God through it.
From rose colored glasses to the nasty pit of bitterness, despair, anger, and frustration. That pretty much sums up my marriage experience so far! Yet, I am so much more in love with Alexis, my bride, than I have ever been. There have been some very tough times, lots of frustration, and things that I can’t explain – yet through it all I have come to know someone who is committed to the beauty that is marriage. Our marriage is far from the ideal one, far from the romanticized story lines of Hollywood, and yet if it were a movie I think it would be a blockbuster.
What makes our marriage work in spite of the issues? A strong, steadfast, and never-changing foundation in the power of Christ – I know, oh gosh I went religious on you, sorry but in this instance there’s no other way of describing it (besides, religious to me would be rules, regulations, and performance – what I’m talking about is out of relationship, hearing, feeling Christ’s love – not just trying to “please” Him). Without Christ as the one truth to bind us together we would have gone our own ways years ago. Because of who Christ says I am, and who He says Alexis is, and because we believe that truth and not what we think in our weak moments, we can rise above the “moments”, the arguments, the outright crazy insane fights, and realize – you know what, she/he is NOT really that selfish, mean, hurtful, terrible, etc… those things are the aspects of our fallen humantiy; the truth is she/he is a child of God and therefore is forgiven, just as I am, in all things.
Does this truth mean accept anything that comes at you from your spouse and just “let it go” – absolutely not, it means both making sacrifices, apologizing for your own actions without demanding the other person does the same – it means giving grace, and it most of all means being humble, learning from you mistakes and lovingly letting those moments change you. As long as both parties are willing to humble themselves – there is hope. It may take time, and a lot of prayer, but don’t put God in a box (aka, don’t put your spouse in a box). Seek the loving advice of others who have gone before you, seek the Lord’s truth, and remember we’re living in a fallen world – crap happens, and we get to live in it.
That’s my two cents, don’t give up, chin up, walk the high road, and look at your marriage as a child, it needs nourishment, love, attention, and hope.
So a while back I started seeing some interesting ads around, the “I’m a Mormon” ads, you know the ones featuring “normal everyday” people, NFL stars, doctors, lawyers, etc. This made me think… what on earth would a “I’m a Christian” ad even begin to look like? I wont’ even try. But then I read an article on one of my favorite online magazines, Out of Ur, called Mormons, Mormons Everywhere and I started to think, does it matter what the world thinks?
It’s a hard subject to approach, but one that I think we (the Church) fail at quite miserably. There’s are part of me that simply thought “just let them think what they want” – but I don’t think that truly reflects the attitude or value we want. We should care what “they” think, but we don’t want to just come up with marketing schemes to make it happen. In the end it’s true transformation of our lives, our friends, and the community around us that will be our “ad” to the world.
But I still think, maybe the Mormon ads do at least (for those of us who at least try to be open minded) get people to rethink their preconceived ideas of Mormons. As I said, I have no idea how the Church in its current state would ever come together to agree on an image to encourage America (and the world) to rethink their ideas… But maybe the Mormons have something going on?
A while back I ran across an article on OregonLive.com regarding some protesters who were demonstrating against Mars Hill Church’s latest Church plant in southeast Portland. These kinds of demonstrations (from both sides of the fence, read: Westboro Baptist Church and similar groups) seem to only further the divide, certainly these demonstrations don’t encourage a sensible discussion for each side to understand and see the other’s viewpoint (not necessarily agree, but at least get the full picture) and allow for real relationship. It seems most of the time we see “Christians” doing this kind of activity, but it goes to show that every group out there has their extremists.
The world has a hard time understanding how we can call something “sin”, such as homosexuality, because of the long list of connotations “sin” has as a word; and it has become nearly impossible to use the word and not provoke some kind of negative reaction. My definition of sin is simply this: The act of not obeying the Lord either in character as He has asked us through Biblical means, or by direct personal request. It’s also important to note that the Lord sees all sin exactly the same, each one is only one step away, and all He wants is for us to be right near Him – not one step away.
This is why it’s possible for me to see something as “sin” and not have it affect the love, basic human respect, and desire to enter into meaningful friendship with anyone who is willing. We (members of the Church) have to understand and accept the fact that people “outside” can’t possibly understand, and this is why the Good News/Gospel needs to be delivered (evangelism: to deliver the Good News), only the Lord can convict someone of their sin and cause true repentance (change). Our “job” is to live, breathe, speak the Good News as best we can; including recognizing and admitting when we turn away (sin) from God, so we can adjust and move closer to God again, not only as a witness for others, but out of a true relationship with God – as we would for our significant others and friends.
Probably the most important piece to understand is that the process of conviction, forgiveness, and restoration is not dependent on the people in Church telling those outside they are “sinners” – it’s dependent on each individual to accept what they hear from the Lord and be convicted of their position with God (being purposely away by their own choices), ask for forgiveness, and then seeking restoration with Him.
Where we people in the Church tend to mess things up, and it’s a horrible mistake, is taking what’s OK in the Church (holding our brothers and sisters accountable – in a graceful/concerning way, which is another blog post) and applying it to everyone outside of the Church as well. Nearly every scripture about confronting another person is about brother/sister to brother/sister (meaning another member of the Church) not much is said about confronting people outside the Church, except spreading and proclaiming the Good News (the news of Jesus as our Lord, and free grace to all, change your ways and live a full, never-ending life).
There’s a whole lot more I could attempt to write, but this entry would end up being 20+ pages in size 10 text… let’s just say insert a lot of stuff about Love, changing our ways (repentance), and the reality of human nature (sin), and the big picture that gets painted is that God is far more than the box we put Him in.
Last night I had dinner with a friend of mine and the topic of “what makes you happy” came up… Well there’s a lot of “things” that make me happy… but many times I discount them as “superficial”, unimportant to the goals I have set out in life. They are little things, like having a nice drink anytime I want, getting “frou frou” coffees whenever, going out with my wife whenever, buying new clothes… all things that take money, which we seem to never have enough of.
Of course, with enough money, I can be as happy as I want, right? Well, not really, because there really are only a few things that make me truly happy, the kind that brings the tears. Guess, what? Each of these things are highly relational, spending time with just Alexis, Emma, and/or both of them. Being with friends and family for meaningful conversations. Connecting with God during amazing worship services.
But the one that drives me, and yet evades me, is seeing people come to know Jesus, not the religion, but coming to a realization that He is their Lord, the person who can take all the burdens of this world. Jesus is the answer, and yet so hard for us truly accept. Seeing people encounter Jesus for the first time, actually just seeing people encounter Jesus at all (weather the first time or the millionth) brings the most joy to my heart.
Yet, this one amazing thing can also cause so much heartache, constantly seeking to see people for who they are, passing no judgement, but knowing there could be such a different life, a never-ending purpose driven life. Seeing people’s faces, hearing their stories, seeing and hearing the heartache every day. If only people knew their true identity.
So, I realize, as long as I focus on this joy, the things that come and go in life do not matter so much. Seek His kingdom first, and we shall inherit the earth, quite literally! Now that’s something to work for, to put effort into, and along the way I’ll continue to do my best, make course corrections, and connect with people as deeply as possible with intention.
One thing that I lose sight of so often is the awesomeness in the fact that I don’t have to perform, anything, at all, zero, for God. All I need to do is love Him and let Him love me. It’s in His love that I find discipline, repentance, forgiveness, humility, and servitude. To enjoy God in this way is great, but when I get pulled into the “faith by works” cycle it’s no wonder I lose who I am… there’s no freedom.
The worse place for me to feel the performance preasure is the “God talks” with co-workers, for some reason the performance button gets pushed, normally I play it cool, but I certainly don’t feel the anointing, or power, or eloquence that I do in other parts of my life. This performance button turns on fear too, it’s all tied together.
Time to relax, remember who I am, and know I can have the same confidence I have with my “job” as I do with my call. I didn’t gain that confidence over night, but I know that it’s here in me. Some prayer, some truth, and some worship for this area of my walk and I’ll be good to go… or at least falling forward!
As a continuation of my previous post… I wanted to touch on a key aspect of Christian community… “being of one heart and mind”. There’s a lot more to the context of the following passage, especially considering the persecution just prior and the serious act of sketchy-ness just after… which provides the backdrop for the kind of motivation the early Church had to be united.
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
The key to all this sharing, is that Jesus is King (not a dictator commanding the economy and everything and person in it, such as our human examples of socialism and communism), the issues just prior to this (healing a man in Jesus’ name and speaking in His authority) brought great power and unity to the early Church. Is it possible to regain that, today? I believe so, it may look the same, or it may look different – but I believe it’s possible. I believe it because I know our God desires it, and what he desires is possible. We don’t need a “redo”, we simply need a “need to” or just a “do”.
So what will it take for us to be of “one heart and mind” again? I don’t know, I just know that it starts with ONE, it starts with me, and it starts with you, just the ONE. We can’t get hung up on “everyone else” and attempting to think for them, and get them to “see the vision” – we just need to walk the vision ourselves. What’s the vision? It’s love first, and making him our first love. It’s John 17. It’s Ephesians 4. It’s Revelation 2:4.
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
So, how do we live this out? How do citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus live here on earth, like that mentioned above? How do we do this knowing perfectly well, as humans, we’re going to make mistakes, hurt each other, and most likely really piss our neighbors off at times? Is it a mandate for Christ followers to live like this? Have we fallen far from the “ideal”, and are so concerned with “myself” that something like this is “not possible” today?
I don’t think it’s a mandate, but I do believe a healthy group of Christ’s kids will be compelled to live out the values we see in this passage. Community with humility, essentially sharing to meet other’s needs… dare I say communism or socialism?
Communism is the idea of a free society with no division or alienation, where mankind is free from oppression and scarcity. A communist society would have no governments, countries, or class divisions.
Socialism is based on co-operative social relations and self-management; relatively equal power-relations and the reduction or elimination of hierarchy in the management of economic and political affairs.
So, there’s elements of communism and socialism out of this Acts 2 passage… but it’s not quite the same. There is a key difference, between the Kingdom and these types of systems… There is a government, and a strong hierarchy – with one person at the head – Jesus. This key difference is what makes the Church community function… So why do we (American/Western Jesus followers) have such a hard time living this out?
In my opinion, the ideas of sharing, selling our things, buying for others, and coming together on a nearly daily basis seems asinine to us because we do not trust. We don’t trust others, we don’t trust the “church”, we don’t trust God. First of all, we don’t need to trust others, nor the “church”, we only have to trust God. Trust and taste, and you will see that He is good.
If we can truly trust Jesus, and live by the Spirit, then we can serve others, and live without being offended. Our hearts should burn with fellowship and love for one another, but I don’t believe this burning comes without us first burning ourselves.
I have a lot more to say around this topic, and the sub topics… humility, servant-hood, living “offendlessly”, and other key ingredients to living in the Kingdom community. It’s not all about “giving up” our way of life, it’s about gaining a whole new way of life with huge benefits that our individualized way of life in American/Western culture has completely lost. Update 9/25/11: see part two of this stream of thought.