March 22, 2017

I Drank My First Beer

This past Saturday, at 33 years, 6 months and 21 days old, I drank the first alcoholic beverage in my life.

Up until that point in my life, I had chosen not to drink for a variety of reasons. The fact that I'm a pastor by occupation actually had little to do with my decision (I have zero Biblical issues with drinking responsibly). The biggest factor hinged on some mental health background in my family. I had always said that given a potential biological disposition to mental health issues, coupled with the fact that I know I have an addictive personality, I have often expressed a worry that if I ever drank too much, that I would be an angry drunk. When you add in the fact that I have never smelled an alcoholic drink that was at all appealing, I've chosen to completely stay away.

Over the past 6 to 9 months though, I've been doing a lot of soul searching and a big topic that has come up again and again is fear. Specifically, I have an internal drive for success (see the Enneagram Type 3) and one of my biggest struggles is the fear of failure. And it's been amazing, enlightening, and embarrassing to realize how much of my life has been dominated by this fear of failing.

It's also been shocking to me as I have realized that so much of the fear that I face in life has centered around my Christian faith. Which is ironic given that "fear not" is one of the most used lines in the Bible and that, at it's core, it's supposed to be a faith where "perfect love casts out all fear." Growing up a pastor's kid, I've been in church my entire life and so much of my faith has been driven by this need to "succeed" at being a "good" Christian, and fearful of what would happen if I didn't. And that was then taken to a whole different level shifting from pastor's kid, to pastor.

Franky, Christians are some of the most fearful people I know. (I point straight at myself as I make that observation!) There is fear in asking certain questions. Fear in having an opinion that might run contrary to the popular view. Fear in reading certain authors. Fear of watching certain movies. Fear in spending time with certain people that could pull you away from your faith. And fear in certain behaviors or actions that could mean you're not a "good" Christian, or that could lead you to doing something where you wouldn't be a "good" Christian.

As I have been facing some of my fears and leaning more and more in to my authentic self, I've been challenged with the fact that there is a fine line between fear and wisdom. I find it interesting that the Psalmist writes that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (emphasis added) I've always placed those terms together, but with understanding the term "beginning" I'm learning that what starts as fear and a deep level of respect, should transform and become wisdom, releasing and freeing us from a life of fear.

I have always maintained my reasons for not drinking were based in wisdom. I was protecting myself and protecting others. My amazing wife and two awesome friends have been lovingly challenging me on this issue and in hindsight, I realize they were completely right. In reality, it was fear masquerading as wisdom. My decision was marked completely and totally by the question, "what if?" And honestly, with this issue personally, it was a "what if?" that is quite small.

Jesus said that he came to give us life, but not just life, life to the fullest! And that doesn't include fear. So Saturday, I drank my first beer. And what happened? Nothing! Did I feel depressed the next morning? No. Did I run out the next day to buy a bunch of alcohol and get drunk? No. Did I crash my car on the way home? No. Fact is, I felt nothing. Nada. Zero impact at all from one beer.

I will respect alcohol from this point forward. I'll be wise about how and when I have a drink. But I'm choosing (daily trying to anyways!) to no longer be afraid.

Where do you see fear in your life?

Are there decisions you've made in your life that seem wise, but at it's root is based in fear?

What would it look like for you to face your fears and allow them to be transformed to true wisdom?

March 21, 2017

Getting More Honest With the Bible

30 Hour Famine Blog
One of the things that I have loved about the 30 Hour Famine is the chance to engage students with the Bible. This is especially true when it comes to what the scriptures have to say about social justice, helping the poor, and feeding the hungry. It’s so important to help our students understand the importance of God’s Word and how it can help us to live the best life possible. However, I’m also learning that to do that, we need to get more honest about the Bible. Here’s what I mean by that: keep reading here

March 13, 2017

Is the Bible Always Clear?

There you are, diving in to a discussion about an issue or a passage of Scripture with someone else. Pretty quickly, it becomes obvious that you and the person you're speaking with have a different opinion about what you're discussing. As you share your take, you can tell it's not going over well as the other person is shaking their head in disagreement. And then, in their response, they drop their bomb of truth on you:

"Nope, you're wrong, the Bible is clear on this."

And that's it. You try to present more of your perspective but you are met with the same refrain. "The Bible is clear."

In my opinion, the argument of the Bible being clear tends to come from one of three places:

1) Arrogance - this refrain is usually accompanied with anger and defensiveness. The person just can't get beyond what they have always known to be true and for the sake of their own faith and feeling safe, they just can't, nor want to, consider another perspective. (If you want to dig deeper in to this aspect and the way people think differently, check out Spiral Dynamics...fascinating stuff!)

2) Ignorance - this refrain is usually accompanied with fear. This person has never realized that there are other takes on the issue or passage that you're discussing and they don't know how to respond. They've never done deeper research or study about it, they have always been around people who think just like them, and they are terrified to consider another perspective.

3) Well Intentioned - sometimes when someone issues this refrain, what they really are trying to say is: "After all the research and studying that I've done into this issue or passage, I have come to believe that the issue is clear." As stated, this is most often well intentioned, however I think it's better to over explain stating the later because that opens the door for further discussion, where just saying it's clear can be mistaken for one of the above responses.

Now, I have come to believe that the Bible is clear about a lot of things. (I just started to write a bulleted list of all the things I believe are clear but I feel like that would be missing the point of this blog.) I've come to that conclusion by reading it, studying it, purposefully exposing myself to different opinions and beliefs, and most of all, by discussing it with other people who have a heart to understand it as well.

But the other side of my beliefs that I feel are clear in the Bible, is that I am open to being convinced otherwise and I respect when someone else feels that what I believe is clear one way, they feel is clear another way. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that one of the biggest markers of that is humility (see Philippians 2:1-11). And part of that is recognizing that I, as a finite human being, who can be selfish and let emotions cloud my judgement, needs to be constantly open to the fact that my limited brain may not fully and absolutely understand the infinite, all-knowing, indescribable, God that we worship. Personally, I've come to believe that anything less than that is actually idolatry; worshipping a smaller god that you can fully and totally comprehend since it's made in your own image.

The Bible can be a very difficult book to read at times as it isn't always super clear about everything, especially as you dive in deeper to translation questions, cultural contexts and how a 3,000 year old text applies to use today. The best I can do is promise to always be as faithful as I can to the Scriptures and to prayerfully rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct me to Gods deeper truth in everything I believe.

I want to continue asking questions for the sake of growing in my faith and understanding the Divine.

I want to constantly have an attitude of listening and considering other perspectives for the sake of learning and being refined in my beliefs.

And I pray that I change my mind on lots of things throughout my life as God convicts me of more areas in my life that need to be changed to reflect more and more of Jesus.

March 7, 2017

Fake News and Standing for Truth

As a Christ follower, we claim to stand for, follow and to be able to know the Truth. We talk about how "the Truth will set us free" and that Jesus is "the Truth." We seek to understand Truth in our lives and we are taught that we need to defend and stand up for the Truth, especially when someone claims alternate facts.

As I was scrolling through Facebook today, I saw a post along these lines. The person shared an article saying that this particular "Christian" leader suggested that the Bible isn't relevant anymore and that we need to ditch it in order to embrace new cultural truths. This was a pastor, taking a stand for truth, defending Scripture and trying to point people towards Jesus.

Except, here's the thing...
  • the article shared was two years old and posted like it was new info
  • the headline was misleading, sensationalist and contained a claim that actually isn't true at all
  • the content of the article then took quotes out of context to make their claim about this leader's "dangerous teaching"
The thing that this pastor and article were suggesting this "Christian" leader was doing, is the exact same thing they did. 

I've always been challenged by the idea that when you point one finger accusingly at someone else, four are pointing back at yourself. The fact is, if you are going to say that you stand for Truth, you have to do that in every context. And by sharing an article that is full of misleading information and lies to claim that someone isn't speaking truth is absolutely hypocritical and wrong. AND it's exactly part of the problem today of why some people are sick of the Church.

At the time that I saw the post, there were 80+ comments and most of them were along the lines of, "Heritic", "He's not a pastor", and "Insane." Lots of people looked at the headline and read the misleading article and agreed with the pastor, choosing to stand up for truth along with him. All those comments made me think of Matthew 23:15:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves."

This wasn't a defense of Truth, it was promoting lies and deceit which is NOT honoring to the way of Jesus. And that's what happens anytime we share fake news, sensationalist stories or articles that aren't actually based in facts. Even if they are good natured attempts to defend your view of truth.

As you live in the Truth of God, be careful what you post and what you say. Make sure that your defense and arguments are actually based in Truth. If you want people to know the Truth in Jesus, make sure that everything you do represents that. Otherwise, you will simply be exchanging God's truth for lies, and in the process encouraging others to do the same.