Posted in Different Scriptures

Intent vs. Content

My 5 year old daughter Ruby is picking up on a lot of things.  Recently we were driving home from a friends’ house, when from the back seat we heard her proclaim, “Dad!  I know when God’s going to make New Creation!”  I smiled, simply for the fact that my 5 year old knows there’s something to look forward to besides Heaven.  But then I was curious, after all – God seems to favor using children to proclaim important/new things.  So I asked her, “When?”

“At the end of this age!”

Wow.  In a few moments, my daughter was speaking of things I hadn’t really grasped until reading NT Wright talk about the concept of ” αἰώνιος Eyes wide, I turned to my wife who was almost as surprised as I was.  Her face quickly changed, however, and she simply said, “What did you expect?  She hears you talking about it all the time.” with a loving smile on her face.

Whaddya’ know?  Parenting works.

There followed a short conversation, where I excitedly tried to explain to our daughters how Ruby was right, although New Creation had already started too!  To which Ruby responded with something between anxiety and confusion, “But daddy, I thought the dead people would come alive?”  Calmly I tried to explain as best as I could that scripture tells us that anyone who has accepted Jesus as their source of life, is already a part of the New Creation yet to come.  It’s hard for me to grasp, so I can only imagine how many more conversations we’ll have as she grows.

Nevertheless, it was a great reminder that we easily learn all the right words to say.  Whether it’s a 5 year old talking about New Creation, or a 40 year old praying at the altar on Sunday morning, we learn the vocabulary and use it.  Influenced and flavored by prayers we’ve grown up with, worship songs we’ve sung, and the theology we prefer, we bring our prayers to God – often already knowing what the exchange will look like.  Already aware of the CONTENT we will present to God, and the CONTENT He will give in return.

BDataNeverSleeps_2.0_v2ecause whether we’ve developed self-control over how we interact with it or not, we all exist in a world where CONTENT floods our lives.  In the form of Tweets, Instagrams, Headlines, Blogposts, Facebook Posts, and more, we have become a never-ending culture of creating/consuming CONTENT.  It hits us head-on when we wake up, and the waves continue lapping the shores of our devices well into the hours we should be sleeping.  That influences our children and their development, but also impacts our lives, how we relate to each other, our family friends, and even God.

But we’re reminded by the story in Matthew 22:15-22 that Jesus sees beyond our words and actions.  We may fool other people.  We may even fool ourselves.  But Jesus knows our hearts.  The Pharisees came trying to trap Him with their fancy words, and question aimed at accomplishing what they wanted.  Jesus calmly responds with a question, and directs them to yield themselves to God fully.  Just as the coin stamped with the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar, so a man/woman who has been created in the image of God belongs to God.

We are both challenged by this, and encouraged.  We are challenged as we realize God is not impressed or distracted by the “#self” we present to the world.  We cannot show Him our polished areas, and hold back the things we’d rather not yield.  God calls us to give ourselves completely, proclaiming by such submission – Jesus is Lord even now!!  (and we are His New Creation!)  And therein lies the encouragement.  Submission to God opens up an existence as His New Creation, and serving a Lord who knows us intimately.  Todays’ “Insta-Tweet-Booked” existence can be lonely and consuming.  Smashing through such an existence is a God who knows us well beyond the images and 140 characters we share with others – and proclaims His overwhelming Love for us…

..and sends us out to do the same for a world that so deeply needs to be known…and Loved. 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized

another confession.

There’s something I need to confess.  Both personally, and professionally.  It’s happened more than once.  I’m not proud of it.  In fact, one of the reasons I’m putting it into words is to remind myself and others that it’s happened.  It may be happening even now.  I’ll give you a quick story to illustrate:

Once a week, the pastors & staff of our church gather to pray for the needs of our church.  These are “requests” submitted on the “Friendship Folders” found in every pew of our sanctuary.  On Sunday morning, our members do much more than simply let us know they’re sitting in the pew that morning.  Many of them take a moment to ask for specific prayers, and we respond by reading those, and praying.  It’s a really neat thing to be a part of, and I’m usually in awe of the faithfulness of some prayers, and the candid “specificness” of others.  This is usually the longest portion of our Wednesday staff meetings.

After this, we go through an “absentee” report.  This report looks at the attendence records of all our regular attenders, and compiles a list of anyone who has missed 3 times in a row.  That’s usually a sign that something might be happening, and we want to make sure we’re making contact with those we’ve not seen in a while.  Not because “you gotta get in church!!!”  But because we’re a family…and if someone in your family doesn’t show up for a meal-time on a regular basis, love compels you start to ask questions.

thumbsupThat’s when it usually happens.  We’re all reading through the list of names together, and someone asks about a name aloud.  “Does anyone know how ______ is doing?”  More than once, I’ve responded in that moment.  Not out of relationship.  Not out of conversation that you and I had, during which you told me about something going on in your life.  From where, then?  Usually, something I saw posted on social media.  It’s made me realize a truth I need to confess, not only to the attenders of our church, but my own friends and family:

I make claims to “How you are doing” based on information I picked up second-hand.

This is probably not all that big of a deal.  Many of us actually post things online, so that people we’re connected to will know what’s happening in our lives.  It’s kinda the point.  The danger comes, when experiencing “relationship” by way of “information” becomes the default way we begin to relate to those we care about.  Far too many people in our lives want to be truly “known”, and not simply “known about”.  From the most important relationship I have with any human being, my wife…all the way out to someone on the edges of my relationships: we want to be known.  (see Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” to realize this is not a new need)

It’s something many of us realized about God at some point.  To know about Him is not the same thing as knowing Him.  Yet here we are, many of us settling for that same level of relationship with those we care about.  It’s understandable that it happens, really.  With the amount of data that streams into our lives on a daily basis, we are sometimes doing well to even notice the relevant information on those we care about.

Now, I’m not about to “give up” the ability I have to “know about” what’s happening in the lives of so many people….by dumping social media altogether.  But I do think it’s important to remember: information is not relation.

So that’s my challenge for myself:  To have more one-on-one conversations.  To call someone on the phone, and ask how they’re doing.  To look at my spouse across the table, letting go of the “information” I have about what’s happening in her life and genuinely ask as if I don’t know how to answer, “How are you today?”  To let go of the pictures I may have seen of my children posted/sent during the day, and curiously ask them with a smile on my face, “How was your day today??”

What does the challenge look like for you??