Categories
Christian Living

Keep it simple

DiscipleshipOne of the most straight-forward concepts in Christianity. Instead of keeping it simple we turn it into a complicated mess. How hard is it? A person comes to you and wants to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Cool, tell them to find a Bible, read the book of John, and lets meet in 3 days. In the process of trying to make it easy (with a process) we make it hard.

Bible studyAnother straight-forward concept. To lead a Bible study you need a couple of people, a Bible, and maybe a notebook. Pick a starting point, any starting point, read a section and ask the text… who, what, how, when, where, and why? In the process of trying to make it easy (with tools) we make it hard.

Community – We are hard-wired to form community in our DNA. It couldn’t get more simple than following your instincts. Share life with some friends, be open to making new friends, and take care of one anothers needs. The only thing hard about it should be the relational stuff. You don’t need a pastor to teach you how to do this, or a program at church, or anything else. You just need to do it.

Sometimes I wonder why we make things so dang complicated?

I know one reason: Making simple things complicated keeps people busy/employed/powerful/empowered.

When in doubt– keep it simple. 

Categories
Video Clip

50 People, One Question

A beautiful project. And a beautiful question.

Categories
Christian Living Good News

5 Simple Ways to be Good News This Week

 

 

 

Photo by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr (Creative Commons) 

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Practically speaking, that means that going to church on Sunday and rocking a Christian bumper sticker isn’t enough.

Here are 5 simple ways that your actions can be Good News this week:

  1. Personalize your convenience. Ask the store clerk where you go regularly for their name, begin to see them as a person with a story and not an object who collects your money or makes your double shot skim vanilla latte.
  2. Tip well and say thank you. No strings attached, just be a good tipper and look your server in the eye to express gratitude. (Learn more, Christians are Bad Tippers) [Conversely, if you see a Christian leave a tract as a tip, be Good News to servers worldwide and punch them in the face.]
  3. Sweat the small stuff. Did a coworker get a haircut or just come back from vacation? Make a few minutes to compliment them or look at their pictures. Or did your kids school get recognized for an achievement? Send the school’s principal a note expressing your appreciation. Noticing something small is huge.
  4. Mow a solid. Next time you mow your front lawn, go ahead and mow the front lawn you turn your nose up at. You know, the person who hasn’t figured out that Spring has sprung. Maybe, just maybe, that person has a really good reason they haven’t mowed their grass yet. Doing them a solid might open the door to hearing their story.
  5. Bless from excess. Next time you are out to eat and have leftovers, don’t just throw it away. Instead package it up as a meal for a homeless person. Add napkins, a fork, and a bottled water. Not all homeless people are hungry. But some definitely are. You don’t even have to wait until you eat out. Why not make an extra lunch and take it with you… just in case? (Read Under the Overpass for more on this.)

Being God’s handiwork made new in Christ to do good works doesn’t mean you have to save the world. You don’t have to build a house to do good works. You don’t have to go on a mission trip or teach Sunday school to children.

Small, simple things do make a big impact.

Be Good News this week.

Categories
Christian Living Church Leadership Politics

L’agenda

The longer I walk with Jesus the more complicated my life seems to get.

Kids, ministry, job, dreams, bills, skills, personality flaws, responsibilities… the list is endless. Life is complicated. Scary. Confusing. Worrysome.

At the same time, the longer I live the more simple the application of God’s Word gets.

When things seem really complex and over my head I am reminded of how Jesus spoke into the complexities of a “religious life.

One day Jesus was talking with a group of religious people. And, as religious people are known to do, they all carried a specific agendas. They wanted to know if Jesus was on their team. As they sat around testing Jesus on his belief on the issues of the day they were flustered by his ability to respond with Option C on an Option A or B test time and time again.

They were upset with him because he had taken the things that divided people… agendas with teams, financing, factions, and power… and given simple answers with a new agenda.

So they put their heads together and nominated the biggest religious expert in the room to trap Jesus. This question was the 1st Century equivalent of, “If God is a good God, why do bad things happen in the world to good people?”

Here’s the agenda-laden trap:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:34-40

Baffling simplicity.

L’agenda

Jesus’ agenda for your life is quite simple. As we see above, all of a God-pleasing life flows from those two bullet points:

  1. Love God with everything.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

A popular phrase in Evangelical circles, full of agenda, has repackaged Jesus’ words and simplified it too far by saying we are called to “Love God, Love People.” But I think Jesus is smarter than they are. And his agenda rings clear enough for me.

Jesus’ agenda for my life is to love him with everything I’ve got. (From my skills, to my personality, to my family, to my vocation… everything) And the action of that agenda is to love my neighbors as myself. (You know, the people I live near, see in my daily life. Neighbors implies really close to me, and is specific to a group of people I’m to have regular casual contact with. It’s the people on my block, not the people in the pews or in my youth group.)

All of God’s word is to be applied through that lens. Jesus sets the agenda.

When I study Scripture I’m left to ask myself, “How is God calling me to love him?” and “How can I love my neighbors as myself because of this teaching?

It’s personal and communal– but not religious

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep love for the church. In the same passage of Matthew 22 and other places in the Gospels, Jesus refers to his relationship with the church as his bride. To disrespect the church is de facto disrespecting Jesus. (If you said you loved me but disrespected my wife… I’d punch you in the face. What kind of husband wouldn’t?)

I’d prefer not to get punched by Jesus for disrespecting his bride.

At the same time, I wonder if many churches have made the agenda about them? There’s nothing more annoying than a selfish bride. Sure, there is love there… but there are a lot of strings attached to that love.

Other churches are defined by their size… hardly a respectful description for a bride. We’d politely say things like, “She must be a good cook.” Right?

Other Christians are defined by the political bedfellows they keep. Their agenda is confused with the issues of the day. Their leaders espouse vocal support of things like a right to own a gun while all the world desperately needs of them is to embrace their right to love their neighbor.

Still others are defined by their application of Revelation 2-3. They look at Jesus’ proclamations of judgement and they say… “Wait a minute. Jesus isn’t judging First Baptist of San Diego any different that he is judging San Diego Church of the Nazarene or even the Diocese of San Diego… Jesus loves and judges us by where we live in community, not where we individually gather to worship.” And those churches are defined by the agenda of neighbors loving neighbors, churches loving churches, and sharing in the great love of their Savior in the L’agenda.

My prayer today for the bride of Christ is that we would be a people defined by our world-changing L’agenda for our neighbors and not the trappings of a religious life.

Categories
Christian Living

Towards Simplicity

Photo by Steve Minor via Flickr (Creative Commons)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Simple Gifts – Elder Joseph Brackett, Shaker

This has hardly been our theme song for 2010. Yet, Kristen and I have made some serious moves towards simplicity this year. Ever since I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I’ve been fascinated by the concept that less is more in my life.

The Simple Things

  • Quantity time with the kids, individually. As the kids are getting older we are making sure to schedule time for mom and dad to spend big chunks of time with each of us 1-on-1.
  • Gardening. I can’t tell you how many deeply simple Biblical principles have been illuminated to us through our garden this year. For me, the biggest one has been– You have to prune daily, you have to weed regularly– Otherwise good things will take over your life and bad things will choke out your growth.
  • Staycation- I suppose not everyone lives in a vacation destination quite like we do. But there was something so beautiful about renting a house 45 minutes away and spending a week with family.
  • Financially sound – I was shocked when I looked at some graphs on Mint.com the other day. I told Kristen, “We did a really good job this year. We’re ahead in every category and on target or ahead in every goal.” It’s amazing what can happen if you’ll just live within your means. In 2010, we were able to give or save 25.4% of our income.
  • Meaningful roadies- In November, I lamented a lot about being away from home 14 weeks in 2010. (27% of 2010) At the same time, most of those trips were really meaningful. And not all of that was away from family. (Including the mission trip with Kristen, probably the most valuable trips of our marriage.)
  • Friendship – It’s incredible to have a life full of friendships. (Or as a co-worker calls them, “Adam’s bromances and brarriages.”) While having a bunch of great friendships is huge to me… nothing has made me more excited than to see Kristen develop some deep friendships with a few women in our community group.
  • Real food – We’ve far exceeded our desire to buy/grow 25% of our food from organic sources in 2010. While it might not sound immediately like a step towards simplicity: Going to the farmers market (and even visiting the farm where our food comes from) has not only connected us to where our food comes from– we feel a lot better. There’s nothing finer than enjoying a salad or eating fruit that you’ve grown yourself.
  • Acting on convictions – Putting what you believe to action really is a step towards simplicity. That might not sink in at first, but remember that regrets and the conflict caused by sitting idly on your convictions creates stressful complexity. All year long I’ve asked myself, “Am I making the most of this opportunity? Am I acting on my convictions? Will I regret it if I don’t say that?”
  • Towards a small world – No doubt, I have many friendships all around the country and around the world. But taking the step to try to focus some of that energy onto the block we live has been rewarding. We’re looking to allocate more of our time/resources towards that in 2011.
  • Journalling – I’m headed into my seventh year of journalling my life online. This little discipline has transformed my life. It’s really interesting when I interact with people who are thinking about starting a blog. “When will I have the time? What will I say? Will people read it?” I come at it daily with the exact opposite thoughts. The time I spend journalling brings me life. What I write just comes out of my life. And I don’t care if anyone reads it.

It’s funny how simplicity is different for everyone. When I think of my life, filled with a calendar full of meetings, digital gadgets, hours online per day, on and on… I still consider it grounded in simplicity. Perhaps that makes me a digital simpleton?

I don’t have grandiose plans to drive this further in 2011. With baby #3 coming soon I think we’ll just be happy to hold on to the progress we’ve made in 2010. You know, keep it simple.

What steps towards simplicity are you taking? What are things you’d challenge me towards in 2011?

Categories
hmm... thoughts

Living la vida simple

I think Ricky Martin had it wrong. While living la vida loca (the crazy life) looks attractive to the bored, I prefer to set my sights on living la vida simple. (the simple life)

As crazy as things seem, feel, or appear– I do live a pretty simple life. A life that is satisfying in its simple pleasures.

Weekends give glimpses into these pleasures.

  • Near agenda-less. There are things to do, but it’s far from the frantic pace of Monday – Friday.
  • Sleeping in. (That means until 6:30, pretty lame, but that’s as late as I can sleep.)
  • Going to the farmers market and discovering new smells and flavors. (Our kids suddenly love pomegranates)
  • Sharing the intimacy of talking about nothing with Kristen over a cup of tea.
  • Watering, weeding, and pruning in the garden.
  • Spending way too much time observing your cat hunting or the hummingbirds feeding.
  • Lounging in our pajamas well past 9 am.
  • Staying up late to watch a movie.
  • Walking around Costco to pick up a couple things, but mostly to score samples.
  • Taking the dog for a walk.
  • Cutting the grass. (Which feels weird to do in November, but our grass just started growing.)
  • Debating when the citrus will ripen so we can start gorging on mandarins.
  • Wrestling, chasing, and teasing the kids.

It’s funny, isn’t it?

Ironic to be exact.

I struggle to find satisfaction even in these things which are completely satisfying in and of themselves.

And I remind myself:

Life isn’t perfect. Compare the simplicity of these things against the weight of the life I deserve.

Now things start to feel perfectly satisfactory to me.

Categories
Church Leadership

How come?

I was reading a couple ministry blogs this morning who were talking about worship services they either produce or visited. I don’t need to link to them as they are easy enough to find.

Now that we go to a church with zero theatrics… and new people still come, and people still worship, and people still experience faith for the first time, and people still get connected, and people still give, and people are ever happy with our service!

It made me wonder… how come people always want to do more with their worship services and not less?

Why don’t bloggers brag about using one less camera man? One less drummer? One less actor? One less video screen? One less smoke machine? One less lighting board?

Why is more noteworthy and less not?

Why does over-the-top = excellence in worship?

I have my theories as to why this happens in America, England, and Australia but few other places in the world. But I’ll just ask my friends… why is this so? Am I the only one who is annoyed by the logic that more = blessing, less = curse in the church? Am I the only one that finds massive theatrical production odd for “church?” Am I the only one who wonders how odd it must be for visitors to walk into a theater fit for a broadway production of Rent?