Monday, January 28, 2008

Jesus Junk and Holy Hardware....

My friend, Karl used that phrase to describe the stuff we market as the new religious icons. Back when the prayer of Jabez was a big deal they were marketing it like crazy. There were the usual books and cds. Even a "prayer of Jabez for Toddlers" as if 2 year olds aren’t already adept at enlarging their own territory by taking whatever toy some other child has. I suggested to a friend of mine who is in marketing and shares my passion for cars that "Prayer of Jabez - Raised White Letter Tires" might be just the thing for reaching the unreached hordes of street racers who want to be "(kept) from harm so that (they) will be free from pain".

Today I was in one of those purveyors of Jesus paraphernalia. While browsing through the various offerings, I discovered that Jesus junk had sunk to a new low. First it was a 25' carpenter’s tape measure with "Build On The Rock" printed on the side. Other than being way overpriced, it was merely amusing.

As I was getting ready to leave the store I encountered something that truly appalling. You know the "Easy" button made popular by Staples office supply. This was a cheap (in every sense of the word as my old friend Evan likes to say) rip off of that gimmick. It said, "Heaven, It’s That Easy" and when I pushed the button to see what happens I was treated to a reading of John 3:16 - King James Version naturally.

I was so embarrassed. Not just because I was standing there as that stupid little box played on and on - I was embarrassed for Christianity and for the way things like this cheapen what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Tell the believers in Somalia, who are starving and dying for their faith today that "it’s just that easy." Try to convince those in the Muslim and Hindu worlds who have left their traditional faiths to follow Jesus that it is "just that easy". For that matter, tell it to anyone who has been a servant of Christ for any length of time. It’s anything but "easy" and to say it is, is both an insult and unbiblical.

"Take up your cross and follow’s just that easy." Luke 9:23

"In this world you will have’s just that easy." John 16:33

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’s just that easy." 2 Timothy 3:12

Just three of many sayings that indicate the Jesus Road is a bumpy one.

I’m not a glum Christian - I laugh a lot more than most. And I really do believe that this is the best possible life - but it’s not easy. Maybe it’s better because it isn’t.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Spit In The Ocean

I’m reading a book that was given to be by my good friends Derek and Connie. The irresistible revolution is written by Shane Claiborne - a person I admire for his courage and willingness to do more that talk about living out his faith.
Here’s a brief sampling....

Most Christian artists and preachers have remained strangely distant from human suffering, offering the world eternal assurance over prophetic imagination. Meanwhile, many of us find ourselves estranged fron the narrow issues that define conservatives and the shallow spirituality that marks liberals. We are thirsty for social justice and peace but have a hard time finding a faith community that is consistently pro-life or that recognizes that there are "moral issues" other than homosexuality and abortion; moral issues like war and poverty. So some folks just end up trying to save individual souls from their sins and others end up trying to save the world from the "system". But rarely do we see that the sickness of our world has infected each of us, and that the healing of our world not only begins within us but does not end with us.
"I am alone, surrounded by unbelieving activists and inactive believers."

Some people do a great job of refining and expressing the muddy thoughts I’ve had floating around inside my skull. Shane is one of those guys. I’m frustrated by my own inability to connect the real gospel with the real world. As a born and bred evangelical I’m cloned to treat the world as if we can solve all the world’s problems by reading the Four Spiritual Laws.
I’m coming to believe that sharing, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" is a paraphrase of James 2:16 ("Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,"). We are missing a huge part of the Gospel when we fail to combine both the life giving Word and life giving bread (or shelter, clothing, clean water, etc).

I’m not exactly sure where this ends up, but I’m on an exploration of what it means. We are going to be partnering with an elementary school that experiences a 70% poverty rate. We are also working with a clearing house of material needs to the poor of Lansing. It’s not enough, but it is a start.

Last year when I went to New Orleans to work on Katrina relief, I got a taste of what it was like to try to do something, but to feel like it was woefully short of adequate. Using an expression I picked up from Marcia’s side of the family, I said to one of the two homeowners we assisted, "I feel like all we’ve been able to do to help down here is a spit in the ocean." To which they replied with an emotion filled voice, "Thanks for coming to spit in our ocean". I guess I just need to say, I don’t want to get paralyzed by the size of the need. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And I will - as God leads....

Any thoughts?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm Back!

When I started blogging last summer, I promised myself I wouldn't let this happen....long gaps between entries. However, having the family home and other things around the holidays took precedence and so, gaps happen.

It was an amazing time with the grandkids. They are every bit as fun as all those old people used to tell me they would be. But as a bicynicalist, I won't turn maudlin on you. I'm back and back to blogging.

(Can anyone get the obscure connection to the pic?)