Posts

Showing posts from 2020

Jesus and Systemic Evil: The Faith of the Centurion

Image
One of the most amazing stories in the Gospels occurs soon after the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 8:5-13; or the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 7:1-10. Read those accounts of this story if you haven't.

When Jesus talks to the Jews about their "enemies" he is undoubtedly referring to Rome. The Roman Empire is THE enemy in the New Testament. And everywhere they looked there were reminders of Rome, reminders of who was in charge, who called the shots, who ran the show. Israel did experience a certain level of freedom and autonomy - but only if they kept themselves in line.

But even so, Rome wanted to make sure that nobody forgot who was the boss. Their coins were imprinted with the profile of Caesar. They used these coins to pay taxes which were collected by fellow Jews who had defected to serve the cause of Rome. These taxes went to support the Roman military machine, including the occupying Roman soldiers in every town of significance.

Roman soldiers were basically the cl…

Jesus and Systemic Evil: Kingdom v. Empire

Image
As a Christian and a minister I try my best to base my worldview on the life and teachings of Jesus. He is the lens through which I view the world, society, religion, politics, the news, etc. So obviously I've been giving a lot of thought to how Jesus addressed some of the very issues we are facing today.

Particularly I've been thinking about the way of Jesus in response to the protests concerning police violence and systemic racism.

Yikes.

These are difficult waters to navigate, but we must brave the rough waters ahead.

IT'S NOT JUST FOR YOU
I want to begin by drawing your attention to two of Jesus' earliest sermons. His first real "sermon" was delivered in his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30). One Sabbath he got up to read from the scroll of Isaiah. He reads what we would label Isaiah 61:1-2a –
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   …

Justice and the New Covenant

Image
Needless to say, a lot is happening in our country right now. This past week, I shared some thoughts on current events as they relate to the New Covenant in the blood of Christ and the justice that comes with it. Communion invites us into a new reality, a new covenant, a new way of life fashioned after the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Nine Tips to Discover Your Enneagram Type

Image
So you want to discover your Enneagram number? Awesome. Welcome to the movement.

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as taking a test. Discovering your Enneagram type isn't like taking a Buzzfeed quiz to find out what Disney Princess you are. In fact, you will notice that taking an online questionnaire is the last thing I mention. Online quizzes should NOT be your first go-to for discovering your type.

The Enneagram, in my understanding and opinion, is different than other personality typing systems. Yes, the Myers-Briggs, or the DISC, or the Strength-Finders tests can all give you a good overview of who you are. But those tests and systems tend to be more descriptive than proscriptive. Here's what I mean. The Enneagram is not just a personality typing system. Think of it more as the art of self-discovery and transformation. It doesn't just tell you who you are, it tells you who you don't want others to know you are. It reveals the masks and defense mechanisms you&#…

Four Things Our Churches Need to Bring Into the Future

Image
As churches across the country and around the world wrestle with the question of opening up their in-person worship gatherings, I think we all need to take some time and ask ourselves three questions.
What are some things that we need to leave in the past?What are some things from the past that are worth bringing into the future?What are some new things we need to focus on or implement? There is value in remembering and honoring the past. There is a legacy of faithful men and women on whose shoulders we are now standing. We each can look back and think - if it weren't for this person / these people, then I wouldn't be where I am today in my journey of faith. Last time we looked at beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that we need to leave behind in the past. Today I want to think for a bit about what from the past is worth bringing into the future.

TL;DR - 1) family, 2) serious Bible study, 3) confession/forgiveness, and 4) big-T Tradition

WHEN YOU'RE HERE, YOU'RE FAMILY
Ol…

Five Things Our Churches Need to Leave Behind

Image
As I begin this post, I want to make one thing clear. Our churches are not re-opening. I've been guilty of using that phrase, too, but I don't think we should talk like that anymore. It belies a sense of location-based organization, like a business or school or restaurant. But as the classic AVB song reminds us, U Can't Go 2 Church - 'cause the church is you. I pray that our churches haven't closed. We've just been scattered for a bit.

So when we come back together as a body for that all-so-important one to one and a half hour worship gathering on Sunday mornings, what is that going to look like? It's going to be different for sure in the immediate future, what with social distancing, sanitation guidelines, etc. But I'm not talking about that. When the dust settles and the real threat is over, what will it look like?

I think there are things that we need to bring with us into the future. I think there are some new things that we need to implement or im…

The New Testament in Four Parts

Image
Have you ever read the Bible straight through? Congratulations! I hear your room in heaven will have a little more square footage.

For some people, that is your thing. I'm happy for you! I really am.

Full disclosure, I've read through the entire Bible once. And yes, I still consider myself a Christian. You see, I think there is a problem for modern readers. The Bible isn't laid out or organized in a way that makes sense to us. I understand that the Hebrew Bible is actually arranged differently from the Christian "Old Testament." It's still not in chronological order or anything.

I'm not writing today about the Hebrew Scriptures, though. I want to focus on the New Testament canon. Sometimes it can be difficult to even read through the Gospels, much less the sustained sequence of Paul's letters. Each Gospel was written for a different purpose, occasion, and audience. Each of the four was written by a different author with a slightly different agenda an…

Are You Sure You Want to Restore the Church to Its Factory Default Settings?

Image
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

As churches across the nation prepare to open back up (or have already opened as is the case for some), one thing I think church leaders need to be intentional about is leading the church into the future. There are going to be far too many members who just want to "get back to normal," as if "normal" was a good state to be in. We can't go back, and we must not foster an unhealthy nostalgia for the past. Not everything was bad, but I'm sure it was far from perfect.

There is no going back. There is only the present and the future. So the questions I'm wrestling with, (and am inviting you to tag-team with me) are:
What are some things that need to st…

Fatal Spelling Errors: Some Thoughts on Gun Violence

Image
Any time there is a shooting of an innocent person or people in this county, we always hear the same talking points. There are those who claim guns are the problem and want to use the emotional momentum to spur on the debate over gun control policies. Then there are those who want to shut down all the discussion and accuse the other side of "politicizing" the tragedy.

After all, "guns don't kill people." It's not a gun problem, it's a heart problem. (Says the only country in the industrialized world with this level of gun violence.)

One common "argument" I hear, read, and mostly see in memes goes something like this: If guns kill people, then this pencil misspelled the word and this spoon made me fat.

I get it. We want the human responsibility to take front and center. A gun, after all, is just a tool. Well, a weapon actually. Its only function is to harm, maim, or kill. If it's a tool, then it is a tool made for violence and destruction.

Is Ignorance Bliss?

Image
The more I learn about cognitive biases and see them in myself and others, the more frustrated I get when others just go on blindly following the faulty "logic" in their brains. How could they NOT KNOW? How could they not WANT to know? It's hard for me to put myself into the shoes of someone else who doesn't know what I know.
And that's called the "curse of knowledge" bias. It's like once you see something and you can't unsee it (like a "face" in your favorite chair), but then you show it to someone else and they just can't see it. They don't have your perspective, and you can't see how they can't see it!
Or like those Magic Eye 3D Images from back in the day? If you looked "through" them, or crossed your eyes, or took your gaze ever so slightly out of focus, a 3D image would suddenly pop out of an otherwise abstract, staticky looking page. But once you see it, you can't unsee it. And you can't really re…

REVIEW: Re/entry, by Josh Ross

Image
Reentry: How Pain, Roots, and Rhythm Guide Us from Darkness to Light by Josh  Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I started reading REENTRY, I was preparing for a Wednesday night youth group class series about mental health issues. I wanted to be hope-filled in my approach to teaching these students about the different disorders, symptoms, treatments, etc. Little did I know just how relevant this book would be for the year 2020.

Though it was published in 2017 and prominently features a trip to Barrow, Alaska, that Josh made in 2014, the lessons he learned and shared are more timely now. Everyone is in the same situation. We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic with now clear end in sight. But we know we will get through this. The question is, what do we do once we're on the other side of this thing?

Josh learned that for the citizens of Barrow, the months of darkness are not the hardest part of the year. The greater challenge is when the sun comes back over the horizon, th…

I'm Safe Because Reasons

Image
It's nearly certain that by now (May 13, 2020) you know someone who has contracted COVID-19. You've seen the numbers and the statistics. Millions have tested positive, tens of thousands have died - but that all happens to someone else.
The Optimism Bias causes us to believe that even though bad things happen to other people, we are somehow safe or protected from the risk for some reason. Our house would never get hit with a tornado. I'm a safe driver, I would never get into a fatal car accident. My child would never get cancer.
We underestimate the risk we face for certain negative outcomes and therefore fail to prepare or take necessary precautions - like forgetting to buckle up, or neglecting to change the batteries in our smoke detectors, or....not wearing a CDC-recommended face covering while in public during the pandemic.
I am the first to admit that we shouldn't live our lives in fear of what could or might happen. It can be absolutely crippling to let our worry and…

Great Minds Think....Differently

Image
Echo! echo... echo... echo...
That's exactly what our social media feeds have become. We are living in online, self-made echo chambers. We have the freedom to choose who we see and what voices we listen to. But that's not always a good thing.
Don't get me wrong. I'm rarely more satisfied than when I hit that "unfollow" button on Facebook or Twitter. But I intentionally try to remain open to voices that challenge me and think differently than me. Many of the problems I see online stem from the fact that we are just used to everyone thinking and believing the same things we do. So when someone states an opinion or shares an article that we disagree with, we take it upon ourselves to shut down the opposing voices.
If everyone would just think like me, then the world would be much better off!
We read books by authors who think like us. We watch 24hr cable news that we agree with politically. We rid social media feeds of any so-called "friends" who would dar…

Dunning-Kruger: A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing

Image
Have you heard of cognitive biases?

Everyone has them. If you think you don't, then that's called the Blind-Spot Bias.

In some ways we couldn't function without them. Cognitive biases are kind of like shortcuts in the brain. We take in so much information throughout the day that we have to find a quick, somewhat efficient way to make sense of it all. Add to that the fact that we are highly social beings and we desire almost above everything else to be a part of an "in group." So we will overlook and ignore some things in order to keep our own personal beliefs and actions in line with the group to which we want to belong.

I would argue that most cognitive biases are not inherently bad, so long as we recognize them and can become more aware of when we are relying on them too heavily. But if we are aren't self-aware, if we just kind of live on autopilot and let our cognitive biases take too much control, then what starts out as a shortcut can quickly turn into …

UNCLEAN! (Or the biblical case for social distancing)

Image
One preacher that has blessed my life from afar is Patrick Mead. Many of you may know him or have heard of him. He is the preaching minister at Fourth Avenue Church of Christ in Franklin, TN. I've been listening to his sermon and class recordings for the past several years.

His teaching about the Buick in the Pyramid really stuck with me. He poses a hypothetical situation in which archeologists are uncovering a long lost tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh. They dig and break through into the treasure room, and there among the chests of gold and the intricate statuettes sits a luxury automobile. There's no way that should be there. There's no way it couldhave gotten there, but it's there. You cannot dispute it. It's a car in an ancient tomb.

That's kind of like the book of Leviticus.

Patrick Mead knows far more than I do about science and the human anatomy. He has degrees in that stuff. According to him (and others I've heard) reading through Leviticus is like fin…

The Enneagram Strikes Back

Image
One of the first rules about the Enneagram is that you should never tell someone their type. Never try to type other people. Admittedly, that's a rule that I'm sure all of us have broken at some point, especially early on. However, if we want to try our hand at understanding the different types in context, using fictional characters can be good practice.

So today we're trying to discover the Enneagram Types of our favorite Star Wars characters.

You may also like HARRY POTTER and the ANCIENT ENNEAGRAM
The Force and the Enneagram have a lot in common. There is a light side, and a dark side. It brings out the best and the worst in people. It takes years to master, requires great patience, and can lead to profound wisdom and insights.

And sometimes it seems like it's messing with your mind.

So let's dive right in, shall we?

(And let's be clear. I could be dead wrong about some of these. If you disagree with me, then I would love to hear what types you think these ch…