February 20, 2017

Being a Good Listener

Megan K. Defranza in Two Views on Homosexuality
(tense has been edited from the original quote)

How many Christ followers do you know that you would describe as a "good listener?"

Taking it a step further, when the topic turns to politics or specific religious beliefs, how many people do you know where the description of "good listener" would apply?

We all know that there are those certain topics - politics, religion, sex and money at the very least - that you should avoid in conversation. We tell ourselves that they are controversial and too many opinions abound in order to have safe and comfortable discussions in many contexts. However, that is not the real issue when it comes to these topics. The issue is that most of are much more apt to argue, defend the "truth" and tow the party line, before we are willing to listen so someone else's perspective.

I've recently been reading my way through the Counterpoints Series published by Zondervan which is a 32-volume series (33 now with the most recent addition covering the topic of gay, lesbian and bi-sexuality) covering a number of topics from women in leadership, divorce, church governance, to hell and many other important topics. As I've read, it's been teaching me one major point: the Bible isn't always as clear or black and white as some people want it to be or say that it is. Every volume of the series is contributed to by numerous bible scholars and theologians who are all prayerfully and unapologetically looking to Scripture to find Truth, and they all reach different conclusions!

Sadly, the Church has been divided in to numerous denominations because of this fact. We look at the different conclusions as the need to draw lines in the sand and to "protect" the truth that we have claimed for our own. By doing this, we have actually stunted our growth and development within our faith because the fact of the matter is that the only way we grow is as a result of tension. Yet, by defending, arguing and separating we worship the god of comfort and ease, not the God of the Bible.

In The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns, he writes: "Ending the debate, getting to the right answer, is not the prime directive in the spiritual life. You can tussle with each other and with God (and win!), and it’s all good. The back-and-forth with the Bible is where God is found. Enter the dialogue and you find God waiting for you, laughing with delight, ready to be a part of that back-and-forth."

As a Jesus follower, I am more and more trying to challenge myself with this idea. I want to be a Christian who has a reputation of listening first, of considering other opinions and perspectives and to have a "I might be wrong" attitude first and foremost, rather than, "I'm right, period." There are lots of people who deeply love Jesus and I have a ton to learn from all of them.

Would you describe yourself as a good listener when it comes to hot topics of today? Why or why not?

What does being a good listener mean to you?

What does it mean to listen and to respectfully disagree?

P.S. There are lots of people who don't necessarily love or belief in Jesus that I have a lot to learn from as well, but that's a blog for another day! 

February 14, 2017

Signs and Wonders

N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope
When you read the book of Acts, the most consistent mark of the growing church, second (yes, second) to sharing the story of Jesus' resurrection, was signs and wonders. You see that phrase over and over as a description of how the church was living, and as a consequence of that living, the Church grew.

The Resurrection wasn't just a story but it was something the early believers personally lived. They healed the sick, they cared for the poor, they sold everything and gave stuff away for the betterment of the community, they fed the hungry, they opened their homes to one another. Signs and wonders. Signs and wonders.

Perhaps, these things were less miraculous and spiritual in nature, but instead were physical and emotional as men and women radically lived in a way that put others before themselves at any cost. Instead of just claiming a "hope" that it would come later when Jesus returned, they actively participated in the resurrection of all things here and now.

Where are the signs pointed to in your life?

Are there wonders in how you live that are putting the resurrection on display?

Put another way: if your church closed tomorrow, would your community care?

Would they notice? Or if you moved tomorrow, would you neighbors care? Would your community miss you?

If the answer to those questions is no, you're not living out the story of Christ's resurrection and you're not living in Jesus' Kingdom.

February 7, 2017

Good News

N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope
Why has the Church lost meaning and value to some people today?

When we place an emphasis on "good news" for the next life and de-emphasize the needs that people have in this life; when our actions say that "good news" is for this group of people, but not those people; we are not preaching Good News, but ideology. And as long as we do that, culture will continue to eat our ideology for lunch (thanks for that line Richard Rohr!) as people look for meaning, purpose and hope elsewhere.

Often in our faith culture, we put too much emphasis on sin, using that to define who should be "in" and who is "out," which then defines who can receive the Good News. But that is putting the cart before the horse.

Richard Rohr and Rob Bell discussed in a recent podcast, that when we begin sharing the good news with original sin, it actually starts the story on chapter 3. Chapter 1 begins with original blessing; being created in God's image as a masterpiece, deeply loved and cherished by our Creator. The fact is that the Gospel and the Good News is not that we are dirty, rotten, broken, disgusting sinners that Jesus came to save. It is instead that we are beautiful, dearly loved, created in the Divine's image, "very good" creations who have wandered from that true identity and Jesus came to bring us back.

THAT is good news that is for everyone and that should dictate how we live and love and serve and give and work to bring Christ's Kingdom here on earth. And if the Church can move fully in that mission, value and meaning will be restored to the gathering of God's people.

How do you define the Good News?

And how does that definition play itself out in your life?