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This looks like a good Ekklesia!

A Tale of Two Clippies

Today I watched two very different videos. One was a clip from an interview with Charlie Sheen that’s going to run tonight on ABC. Sheen has been all over the news the past couple of weeks because of his craziness, and in his interview he says even crazier things. Sometimes you get a peek inside someone’s mind and it’s enlightening. This, however, is frightening. Here are a few quotes from the interview:

“Yeah, I am on a drug; it’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available because if you try it once, you’ll die… Your children will weep over your exploded body.”

When asked if he regretted the last time he did drugs, he answers, “I’m proud of what I created. It was radical.”

“I expose people to magic. I expose them to something they’re never otherwise gonna see in their boring, normal lives.”

Regarding his daughters who live with his ex-wife: “They’ll wake up one day and realize how cool dad is. And, you know, signs all the checks on the front, not the back.”

I’m extremely old-fashioned. I’m a nobleman. I’m chivalrous.”

Yikes. Here’s a guy who comes across just a wee bit narcissistic, hedonistic, with a side of delusional. And I love(d) Charlie Sheen as an actor. It hurts to watch.

The other video was also painful to watch, but for entirely different reasons. I watched part of “Invisible Children: Rough Cut.” It tells the story of the war that was going on in Uganda and still continues in the Congo, specifically the story of children who have been abducted into the Lord’s Resistance Army and forced to become child soldiers, as well as the thousands of children who sleep in fear each night that they will be abducted next.

It is impossible to take in the truth about what is going on there and not have your heart break.

Early in the film, one of the narrators mentions how uncomfortable we feel when we are confronted with extreme poverty or atrocities like this, and to simply ask ourselves why we feel uncomfortable. To just soak in that question before trying to answer it.

Could part of our uncomfortableness come from guilt because now we are no longer ignorant? Because deep down we recognize that even though we are on the other side of the world we still have a responsibility to help?

Charlie Sheen has captured the American dream. No one can tell him how to live. He can (and does) do anything he wants. He lives like a king and takes what pleases him. He lives “the good life.”

Contrast his choices and lifestyle with the efforts of “Invisible Children,” an organization that exists to save others through awareness and action.

I may be oversimplifying things, but I feel that there are two paths before me. I can choose to pursue the American dream that Charlie Sheen has captured. To go all out in enjoying the good life and providing the best I can for my family. Or I can choose a different kind of dream. A dream that looks more like the kingdom of God here on earth. Where God’s will is done. Where I live for the “least of these.”

I am moved to the latter path. I am moved to join the fight against injustice.

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So, Parents: How do you know when your kids are ready for more independence? When is it time to let them sink or swim? And what is the best way to do that?

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

*Photo credit Audrey Augur

I come to God on my terms and on my merits. I perceive my standing before God to be based primarily on what I have or haven’t done. I decide whether or not I am worthy to approach God. I alone judge myself, and I do not take God or His Word into account in deciding my verdict.

I am one of two men. I am either full of pride or full of shame. I am prideful if in this moment I have a good track record of being good, disciplined or loving. On the other hand, I am ashamed if in this moment I am acutely aware of my inability to steer clear of sin and selfishness.

I come to God on my terms and on my merits… How foolish I am!

Contrast my modus operandi with the experience of the Prodigal Son and his older brother found in Luke 15. Both brothers learn a valuable lesson. The younger son discovers his poverty and inability to save himself. He comes to recognize his absolute need for his father, and he comes crawling back praying for mercy.

The older son is stunned by his father’s grace and mercy to the prodigal and cannot comprehend it. Why does his father not lavish love and attention like this on him? Of all people, he deserves it! He is full of pride and grows angry at the lack of “fairness.”

The Father’s love: One brother felt sure that he would never be able to earn it again; the other brother felt sure that he deserved it more than anyone else. Neither realized it was unconditional and not contingent upon either one of them.

Regarding you and I, God our Father has not moved. All this time, He has been standing at the edge of the driveway, looking up and down the street, waiting. And when I finally turn to Him and begin walking and He sees me, He comes running to me. I did not earn His love. I did not suddenly prove my worth. He made up His mind about me long ago; He’s just been waiting for me to realize it and come home.

As the writer of Hebrews tells us,

Dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Hebrews 10:19-23

Singing and Shopping

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Did this give you chills? I have to be honest, the first time I watched it I started to tear up. Something about a huge mass of people singing “and He shall reign forever and ever” in a shopping mall just kinda stirs up the old emotions.

Did you notice how some people sang differently than others? There were 650 choristers singing and while they were all singing “properly,” there seemed to be various levels of enthusiasm and engagement. If you need to watch it again, do so. Look for three types of singers:

1) those just singing the way they would to any choral piece of music,

2) those for whom the words of the song seem to have some significance and meaning,

3) and those who actually seem to be worshipping God in the middle of the shopping mall!

Which gets me thinking: when you sing in church, which of the three types of singers am I most like? Why is it sometimes so hard to be engaged in praising God when we’re singing praise songs to God?

Why is it difficult for so many of us to show any emotion as we sing? Is it because we care too much about what people around us will think of us? Do we realize what that says about where God fits on our “People We Want to Impress List?”

In the video, I wish they hadn’t held up signs at the end that read this was a “random act of culture.” Is that all it was? Just a really pretty song for us to enjoy?

To me it was more like a bold and highly choreographed act of worship of the one, true God who deserves all our attention, devotion, and adoration.

Colossians 3:17 reads, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” We can worship God as we shop, as we study, as we play, and as we talk with our friends. And we can worship God (and show it!) as we sing.

Who’s the Boss?

Thousands of years ago, many people’s ideas of God were very primitive. They worshiped sticks and stones, earth and water, the sun and the moon. Now thanks to science we know how silly they were, and we are much more “advanced.”

But many people today still have an odd concept of God. They worship vending machines and butlers. What I mean is that the way that they interact with God is the same as you would a vending machine or a butler. They don’t usually want much to do with God, and they definitely don’t want God interfering with their lives. But if they have a real need or problem, then they cry out to God to fix everything or clean up their mess.

If you think about it, treating God like a vending machine is as silly as believing some stick is God.

What do your typical interactions with God look like? Are you always asking Him for things? Do you constantly expect Him to meet your needs and take care of you, and yet if you’re honest you treat Him as if He was just a lowly servant?

Do you respect God? Do you fear God? Do you see yourself as His servant and your purpose on this earth is to make things better for Him? Do you live for Him, or do you just act like He lives for you?

I think we’re still pretty primitive… we’re full of backwards thinking. We live as if we’re God, and God is our creation that we get to boss around. How messed up is that?

Let me leave you with an even deeper thought… if our concept of God doesn’t line up with who the Bible reveals God to truly be, then do we know (or have a real relationship with) the one true God? Is God your God? Or have you made yourself God?

False Security?

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We live in a “Guarantee” society. When we purchase big ticket items, they often come with guarantees. If we become unsatisfied or if the product breaks, the company will take care of it. They’ve got us covered, and this gives us a sense of security.

For most of the “big ticket items” related to our American life we can purchase insurance, which is also a type of guarantee. We can get car insurance, boat insurance, renters or homeowners insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, and of course life insurance. We can even get our money federally insured, so if someone would steal it out of a bank, the government will replace it.

Having insurance gives us security that even in a worse case scenario, things will be taken care of. We’ve got ourselves protected; all the bases are covered; we think we’re safe, but in a sense we’ve only surrounded ourselves with bubble wrap.

We develop this false sense of security and safety. We insulate ourselves and try to remove ourselves from anything that might cause us to worry, because we want to be able to relax and enjoy life. But in the process we forget how truly short life is, and we become distracted and don’t prioritize the really important things in life.

No one knows how long they have on this earth. While we think that we will be here for a long time, there is no guarantee that we will be here a week from now, or even ten minutes from now. Research has shown that 10 out of 10 people die… it’s only a matter of time.

So why do we live as if we have forever? Why do we waste our days away in trivial pursuits? To quote Annie Dillard: “How we live our days … is how we live our lives.” Why do we keep putting off the most important things when this life is but a breath?

Do you realize that you could die today… that it’s honestly a real possibility? Are you ready if your time is now? Are you ready to stop playing games with God? Are you ready to start living?

Luke 12:15-21

He Never Said It’d Be Easy

Matthew 8:18-20

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

This is a pretty interesting reply by Jesus. Here you have a well-respected individual telling Jesus that he will follow him anywhere. If it was me I’d be all excited and like, “Sweet! We need influential people like you. I’m so glad you’re willing to join our team!”

But Jesus says in effect, “Are you really sure you want to follow me? You need to know that this is gonna be a lot harder than you realize. For one thing, I don’t even think we have a place to sleep tonight. Following me will be demanding and strenuous, and might even be bad for your health…”

And then another guy comes up to Jesus and makes a similar statement:

Matthew 8:21-22

Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

This guy, too, is ready and willing to be Jesus’ disciple, but… he just needs to take care of one small thing. And it seems to me like it’s a pretty important thing. It is good to take time to grieve our loved ones who have died.

But again, Jesus’ reply is odd and even comes across as harsh. I think however that what Jesus is saying is understandable in light of the importance of his mission: “If you want to follow me, that’s fine. But the work that I am about is so important and urgent that there is not even time for you to glance over your shoulder. If you’re my disciple, then be my disciple. I say jump, and you say how high. Now are you still willing to sign up for this?”

Jesus is saying that following him is a big deal. It’s not all sunshine and cotton candy. And it’s an all or nothing kind of thing. And he wants us to know this up front… straight out of the gate. He doesn’t hold any punches.

He actually makes it harder on these two guys to choose to follow him. He’s telling them to count the cost.

How about you? Do you think it’s worth it to follow Jesus? No matter the price? Why?

The Boy on the Fence



*Photo credit Keith Maguire

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who sat on a fence. This fence was actually the little boy’s home. He had lived there with his family his whole life. And there were lots of other people who lived on the fence, too.

It really wasn’t a great place to live. It resembled a wide wall more than it did a traditional fence, but it was still confining and uncomfortable. However, all the boy had ever known was life on the fence, so he didn’t realize how silly it was to live there.

It was a safe place to live. A long time ago, a group of people had chosen to stay on the fence and live there in order to protect themselves and their families from the lands on either side of the fence.

You see, the fence stretched in either direction as far as the eye could see and separated two very different lands. One of the lands looked like it came right out of a postcard. The sun was always shining on the green, green grass, the blooming flowers, the birds in the trees filling the air with their music, and the bunny rabbits happily hopping through the fields.

Almost everyone who lived on the fence visited the sunny land from time to time. Most people were only gone for four or five hours, and occasionally some would be gone for a day or two. But they always came back to the fence.

The elders, who were the leaders and also the oldest people who lived on the fence, said that it was not wise or safe for anyone to ever visit the sunny land. While the others respected the elders, and even loved them, they didn’t really listen to them.

Once in a very great while, someone would leave the fence and not come back. When the people on the fence realized that the person was gone for good, they would not speak of that person again. And no one ever really talked about what they did over in the sunny land or what it was like.

This whole situation made the little boy very curious. He did not understand what made the sunny land unsafe; it looked harmless to him. And if it was unsafe, then why did everyone go there and come back unharmed? And why was it okay to visit the sunny land, but not okay to live there? And why didn’t anyone obey the elders’ command to stay on the fence?

The little boy was too young to climb down from the fence by himself, but he wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Someday, he told himself, he would explore the sunny land. Continue reading “The Boy on the Fence”