Friday, October 29, 2010

Weak but Strong

We live in a culture that deplores weakness. “That was a weak effort.” “Don’t show people your weaknesses; only show your strengths!” “Your argument is weak; weren’t you paying attention? Do you really want to fail?” “This coffee is too weak!”

Weakness is something to be avoided. Imagine going on a job interview and giving more weaknesses than strengths to describe your role in the desired position. Think you will still get the job? We don’t delight in weakness. As Saul Bloom, one of my favorite characters in Oceans 11, says, “I don’t do weakness… it costs too much!” Our weakness reveals our need for someone or something more. Our weaknesses reveal that we CAN’T do it by ourselves, that we must have help.

While we don’t value weakness, the apostle Paul saw weakness as a strength: “But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” For Paul, weakness allowed God’s strength to shine through. He acknowledged that we can’t do it on our own, but with God we are stronger than we ever could be. So, dear brothers and sisters, let’s attempt to reveal our weaknesses this week, so that Christ can shine through!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Viral Christianity

I am amazed by viral videos. How many of us haven't seen such great YouTube classics as The Nooma-Nooma guy, Double Rainbow, the Bed Intruder Song, and so many others? What makes these videos popular? Why do they gain so much momentum? Are they really that funny or entertaining? (Not always). Are they always unique? (Not really). Are they a good use of our time? (Hardly ever).

So what makes them so popular?

I think it's momentum. The video starts small, a few people see it, nothing major. But then people begin to share it. They use their social media networks to spread the video's appeal. They post it on Facebook, refer to it in twitter, link to it on their blogs. And suddenly it is off. People have to watch things that are shared. They feel they must respond. They might think it is stupid in the end; they might find it a waste of time; they might totally buy in and begin posting it for all of THEIR friends to see... But they rarely ever simply ignore it.

Oh, that Christianity would be the same! In fact, at one time it was. People couldn't help but share the good news of Jesus. They wanted others to know what they knew. It started off small: 12 here, 500 there, 3,000 on Pentecost... But then the movement was off! They couldn't make it stop. It was like the mustard seed: starts off small, but eventually provides shelter for all the animals.

What can we do to make Christianity viral again? What can we do to make it appealing to those around us? How can we make them interested enough to take notice, not just writing us off as stupid or irrelevant?

That is the discussion we will be following for the next four days. Stay tuned, and learn how to become viral!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

May Our Love Be Contageous

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:7-8, 19-21)

John’s commandment to the churches echoes Jesus’ commandment to his disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus combines his commandment of loving your brothers and sisters in Christ with the idea of loving others as well.

Love is the mark of a true disciple. If God is love, and we are letting God reign in our lives, then how is this love overflowing from us into the lives of other people? How are we making a difference in our community? Are we taking care of the poor, the destitute, the disabled, and the broken?

When we are truly loving people, we begin to make a difference in our world. That could be people outside of the church, or people inside of it. Think about it: how many of us have treated someone in our church family poorly? Maybe you spoke behind their back, or argued in anger, or lusted over them, or cursed them... Maybe it is simply excluding others from our group. You aren't like us, so we wouldn't be hurt if you just went away... Oh, we'll never tell you to your face, but we sure won't do anything to make you feel welcome, either.

As Christians, we cannot act like the world. We are called to love and unity because of our faith in Christ Jesus. We must put behind the things of the world (jealousy, backbiting, arrogance, hatred) and focus instead on building one another up in love. I am not sure when we get to heaven if God is going to be concerned as much about our complete doctrinal understanding as much as he is with the answer to this question: "How well did you love your brothers and sisters, and how well did you love and serve the world in my name?"

When we are truly loving people, if we are truly making a difference in the lives of people, then others will begin to take notice. They won't be able to help it. It will be infectious, a viral movement spreading to people all around us.

Much like what we see in this video. It starts out small, but by the time others join in and we are working together in perfect unity and harmony, others begin to want to join in. May our love be infectious, and may we always be "viral" in our world!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Missing Sorority Girl -- Your Help is Needed to Find Her!

Thousands Of Girls Match Description Of Missing Sorority Sister

I am sorry for the inappropriate language, but as someone who works with college students every day I found this too funny to pass up!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

God Came Near

How do you see God?

According to a recent study released by researchers at Baylor University, Americans have four different views of God. Approximately 28% of Americans view God as “authoritative,” meaning that God will punish evildoers and hold us accountable for our actions, both in the hereafter and also in our present lives. 22% of Americans see God as benevolent, wanting to bless their lives and for them to bless others in return. 21% see God as critical, arguing that God will set all things right at the end of time; those who are poor will be made rich, the righteous will be rewarded, etc. God doesn’t intervene much in this world, but he keeps account and delivers justice in the next. Finally, 24% see God as distant and detached; he set the world in motion, yet he has very little to do with it since.

So, how do you understand God? How do you see and perceive God’s actions? Is God authoritative, benevolent, critical, or distant?

I think it is ok to argue that God is a combination of some of the above. Sometimes God is authoritative, and we are held accountable in our own lifetimes for our actions. We bear the burden of the consequences of our sins. God is also critical; sometimes good people suffer while evil people prosper, and justice won’t be fully realized until the end of time. God is benevolent, calling us to make a difference for his Kingdom here on earth. We are called to continue Christ’s good works here in the world, to make a difference in the lives of people.

However, I don’t think we can argue that God is detached. Sometimes he might FEEL distant, but the truth of the matter is that God came near. God didn’t just set the world in motion like a cosmic science project. He is intimately involved with our world. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us…” “For while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly…” The Bible is the story of God’s interaction with our world. God cares, and so God came near.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hungry? Why Wait?

“Hungry? Why wait?”

The Snickers ad campaign proclaims to the “hungry” masses of our world that there is no need to hunger and no need to delay our gratification. If you are even remotely hungry, grab a Snickers. You shouldn’t have to deprive yourself.

Sadly, we don’t know what real hunger is. Few, if any, of us ever have to go to bed hungry. We have enough food not only to sustain ourselves but to gorge ourselves. Really, our hunger pains are simply “You know, I haven’t had any food in three hours” pains. Few of us know what it means to truly need food.

The writer of Ecclesiastes puts it this way: “All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied” (Eccl. 6:7). In his time of temptation by the Devil, Jesus hasn’t eaten for forty days. The Devil tempts Jesus to make the stones turn into bread and fulfill his own needs. Jesus answers, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Mt. 4:4).

Too often we try to fill our own hunger, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, with food that doesn’t satisfy. We often try to fill gaps in our life with stopgaps, something to simply get us through. The hunger always returns, the pain always resurfaces, and the longing is never filled. We need something to fill us up, something more than a spiritual Snickers bar.

As Jesus is talking to his disciples he delivers this message: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn. 6:35).

Hungry? Why wait? Grab ahold of Jesus, who will fill all your needs.