Discipleship

Tags

,

What is discipleship?  That may be the easier question.  Discipleship is the following of someone else – living in a way similar to the master, learning, listening, questioning.  Discipleship means to follow.

The harder question is how one actually is a disciple.  It’s much more difficult because it goes from just a theory or a mental answer to an answer that is given based on how one lives their life, speaks, interacts, thinks, etc.  It’s quite easy to claim to be a disciple of Jesus.  It’s quite different to actually live it out and allow your life to answer the question.

There isn’t a manual for discipleship – a book to give you the step by step instructions.  The closest thing you get is the bible, but even then, it’s not supposed to be an instruction book.  The bible raises more questions than it answers.  But it does give us the essence of who Jesus was/is.  It does give us Jesus’ commands.  It does offer some insights.  But it also is confusing at times, contradicting at others, and really unclear at still others.  Part of the puzzle of what it means to be a disciple can be found here.

Part of it also comes in community with other disciples attempting to live their lives in a way that Jesus would have them live life.  Community brings accountability and consolation.

Part of discipleship comes from understanding something basic – you aren’t called to everything at every time.  You are called to be you fully – seeing how God is active in your life, how God has blessed you with a set of gifts and talents, and how God is calling you to go serve in the world to carry out the kingdom around you.

One doesn’t just start out as a disciple – at least I don’t think so anyway.  It is something that develops in a person as God works in that person and radically reorients them towards God.

One of the challenges the church faces is discipleship.  We’re really good at parts of this, and really poor at other parts.  So often we want to just from initial contact with someone to disciple.  That would be similar to seeing someone you are interested in and then asking them to marry you.  Probably isn’t going to happen.  Instead, it’s about growing in relation to one another.  And that takes time, communication, listening, and activity.  Discipleship is the result of God’s action in our life and our response to what God is doing – as God turns us toward Godself, we respond with a willingness to be turned and not to turn away.  Of course there are plenty of times when we do turn away, but God is right there to pick up where things left off.

Christianity, or something else?

Tags

, , , , ,

It’s now January 3.  But really, it’s just another in the continual drumbeat of politics.  2018 is a Congressional election year.  And so we will hear the non-stop onslaught of how this and that will affect the election.  It’s not about the policies ultimately, it’s about who has power.  I get it to some degree – whoever has power determines the policy to a great extent.  And yet…

Woven into this narrative is Christianity.  Or certain types of Christianity.  It’s Christianity that is wrapped up in allegiance to political parties.  Will the Evangelicals come out for the Republicans?  Will the Mainliners or Progressive Christians come out for the Democrats?  Since when did it become normal to make Christianity just a subset of partisan political loyalties?  Since when did the church allow itself to be just a tool for political power gains?

I’m not interested in a Christianity that requires a swearing of allegiance to one of the political parties of the empire – As if the political party were the foundation of life and belief.  It is not.  Nor should it ever be.

If that is all Christianity is about, then it’s no long a religious or faith system by which a person lives their life.  It’s just another membership.  It’s anything worth living into or guiding my life.

No where in the bible has it ever said that the kingdom of God is reliant on the Democrat or Republican parties, their policies, or their power.  No where.  When our faith becomes too closely aligned with the power structures of the earthly empires of the world, it is no longer faith in God, but rather faith in government, politics, and partisanship – these become idols.

Policies from politicians will not save us.  Politicians will not save us – no matter how great they try to make the country.  Politicians will not save us – no matter how much hope they think they give the country.

Christianity isn’t some subset of politics.  If it is, it is misguided.  If your god fits nice and neatly into your partisan political beliefs, then you have an idol.  God, on the other hand, should challenge our beliefs and desires.  We should be the ones to alter and change based on God’s will and God’s word.

I want a Christianity that challenges me – personally, in my beliefs, in my political preferences, in how I live and work, in my relationships with people and creation.  I want this because it exposes the reality that is – I am not in control and I don’t have all the answers.  If your version of Christianity makes you really comfortable, then I’m willing to say, you’re missing something.  Christianity should make you uncomfortable – uncomfortable with the reality of homelessness, hunger, addictions, violence, war, sex trafficking, brokenness, and more.  It should make you uncomfortable enough to get up and start doing something about it in response.  This is how God works.  We pray, then God makes us uncomfortable and invites us to respond in trust to what God is up to, and then we respond without knowing what will happen.  It’s scary.  Actually, it can be frightening.  But it reminds us that we aren’t in control.

2018

Tags

I completed some of my goals for 2017 and missed the mark (sometimes way off the mark) on some of my goals.  Time to move on to 2018.

Here’s some changes for 2018.

  1. Become healthier.  What this means for me is to reach a specific weight.  That means I’ll work on eating healthier, following an exercise routine, and get back to doing a distance race (1/2 marathon).  I haven’t identified which race, but first I need to get into good enough shape to start training for a race.
  2. Social media focus.  Since this is my blog, I have specific goals for the blog and social media in general.  I’m streamlining some things.  I have made the decision to stop doing travel blogging posts.  This blog will focus on theology/philosophy/life.  It will be more focused on these things.  I love to travel, but posting about our travels takes up a good amount of time.  I can use that time for many other things.  That will save me a considerable amount of time each week.  I know several of my readers come to this blog specifically for the travel posts, and to them I say, thanks for coming and reading my posts.  I appreciate you visiting.  I wish you well.  I’m making this change because it’s more in line with the direction of my life.
  3. Writing.  I’ve made goals about writing many times before.  I’ve tried setting a routine.  I’ve tried many things before.  I haven’t succeeded at this.  Clearly, my motivation for this is questionable.  Therefore my goal is to just write a book and get it over with.  I will complete this by Dec. 31, 2018.
  4. Career.  I’m now a pastor at a congregation that I love serving.  The biggest goal that I hope to accomplish is to develop some kind of discipleship model that incorporates visitors, members, and disciples within the church.  This really excites me and I can’t wait to see what this will look like and how it will evolve.

 

That’s enough public goals to share for today.  I hope you have goals for the year.  Go get em!

The polls are open…

It’s the end of the year and I’m interested in exploring ways to improve the blog.  Please give me your feedback.  Thank you.

What Christmas is really about

Tags

,

When you think of Christmas, what do you think of?  What is the essence of what Christmas is about?  Notice I didn’t ask what Christmas is about for you.  I asked what Christmas is about.

I’m willing to bet that many people will respond that Christmas is about presents and Santa and the tree – especially the joy of seeing children open presents on Christmas morning.

I’m willing to bet that many people will say that Christmas is about family.

I’m willing to bet that many people will say that Christmas is about singing Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Baby,” “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and more popular tunes that come across our radios, Pandora, and Spotify.

I’m willing to bet that many people will say that Christmas is about a quiet night – some may even say a silent night – in which the snow falls and glistens the ground, where we are surrounded by the ones we love, having a drink and some wonderful food.

I’m willing to bet that there are even some who say that Christmas is about going to serve the hungry a meal.

I’m even willing to bet that there are many who will say that Christmas is about a baby who came 2000 years ago – all nice and cute and snug and innocent, laying in hay, while his mother and father looked on and entertained visitors from out in the fields.  You know like the popular image we get from Hallmark cards of the manger scene.  We enjoy thinking about the cute and innocent image of the manger and want to stop and stay there because it’s such a nice, peaceful image.

Except that’s not what Christmas is about at all.  Maybe secular Christmas.  The stuff of tradition that we have formed over the years and what the culture has made Dec. 25 into, but it’s not what Christmas is.  That’s not to say those are bad things.  In fact, many of those things are very good and very nice.

What is Christmas – it’s about something much more disturbing and earth shattering.  It’s about God taking on flesh and doing something treasonous to the empires and powers of this world.  It is proclaiming boldly that the empires and powers of this world are not the savior, are not the ones who bring peace, are not the ones who transform lives.  In them there is no ultimate hope or peace.   There is only power and power struggles, violence, and death.

In the act of Incarnation, Jesus did something radical – Jesus claimed the title that Caesar used – Savior of the world.  It was a usurpation of power.  And it started with a little baby – who wasn’t wrapped in royal garb, but rather wrapped in bands of cloth, born of a teenage unwed mother, amongst dirty animals, with crappy smells and manure all around, whose family fled for their lives.  This is the king we celebrate on Christmas. The act of Incarnation was a rebellious act that threatened the powers that be to their very core.  It threatened their power, their image, and threatened to expose them for what they were – empty and hopeless – something that would pass with time – a fraud.

Christmas is about pointing us to the death and resurrection of Jesus – the other end of Jesus’ earthly life.  It points us to the other rebellious act of Jesus – the crucifixion.  It is the event where ultimate shame was thrust on Jesus – death.  It was the shame of the empire, of power, of all the things that the world stood for, sin.  All of that crap was around him, just as it was when he was in the manger.  Only this time he didn’t flee from death, but faced it, experienced it, and ultimately conquered it.  The birth and the death of Jesus are parallel stories – one leading us and pointing us to the other.

This is what Christmas is about.  I hope it rocks us and unsettles us.  If it doesn’t, then I think we’ve missed what Christmas is about.  We allowed ourselves to be distracted by stuff – by the crap that was all over the ground in the manger, by the crap that the culture leveled at Jesus on his way to the crucifix.

Celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus – God taking on flesh and confronting false powers, sin, and death.  That is the true gift we are given.

Youth and Social Media

Tags

, ,

On Sunday I had the opportunity to talk with a group of Confirmation students (6-9th grade) about social media and faith.  It was quite a conversation.  I wanted to make sure that this would be a conversation and not me lecturing them.  The quickest way to lose a group of pre-teens and teens is to lecture them.

In preparation, I decided that I wouldn’t do a power point with examples or talk about do’s and don’ts.  Instead, I talked about discernment, reaction, and response.  We talked about identity.  We talked about fame and why it is or isn’t important.  We talked about the purpose of social media and how it gets used.  The kids were engaged in the conversation.

So were the adults who sat in with the kids.  They contributed as well – again in conversation, more than in lecture.  This truly became an intergenerational event.  That’s rare in this day and age – something where the adults participated with the kids in a group setting.

During the later discussion with just the adults, we talked about teaching style.  One thing I mentioned was that I decided to use the conversation and questioning method because I wanted to get to the why of social media.  If the kids can come up with an answer for why, then the how will come through.  Plus, there is the added benefit of ownership of ideas.  If I give them the answers, guess who owns the answers – I do.  If they come up with the answers, then they do.  And they are more likely to follow through on their own answers.  They own them and have responsibilities for them.  If they fail, it’s their deal – they can’t blame me.  If it works, guess what?  The same applies – it’s on them, not me.

Kids are smart.  Anytime we deal with kids, we have to keep that in mind.  They know about social media.  They wanted to talk about specific examples.  Especially examples of public figures who abuse social media.  The challenge becomes why they should listen to me versus some public figure that has a ton more followers and publicity.  The answer might be simplistic, but I think it holds truth – I’m right there with them, have established a relationship with them, know them, care about them, and listen to them.  No celebrity can claim the same thing.  That’s my hope anyway.

Have you talked with kids about faith and social media?  What worked, what didn’t?

A-Frame house

Tags

,

Our first stop in Costa Rica was in a little town outside of La Fortuna.  This was our backyard.

DSCN2845

We decided to stay in some unique lodging – an A-frame “house.” What was unique about it was that the ground floor had no walls, except around the bathroom.

DSCN2846

Considering that it rained every day at some point, the ground floor never got wet.  It gave us some open air to enjoy being in nature.

DSCN2847