Authority: “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.”
We’ve never seen an episode. We couldn’t name all the cast members. We don’t even get A&E on our U-Verse TV package.
We have friends who believe Phil Robertson “said what needed to be said.” We have friends who believe Phil Robertson engaged in “hate speech.” We have friends who believe in what Phil Robertson said but not in the way he said it. We have friends who do not believe in either. We have friends who believe Phil Robertson hung the moon. We have friends who believe Phil Robertson to be an idiot.
However, in the midst of this cultural (and very personal) cyclone, what will be the response of Heidi Toole Chappotin and me? Just like the disastrous typhoon in the Philippines and the unfortunate accidental backyard flash fire that burned four Burleson teens, we’re asking ourselves: “How can we helpfully respond?”
To me (Chris Chappotin), much of the “Pro Phil” rhetoric focuses on and challenges Christians to “stand up for what we believe in.” Perhaps I am guilty of a gross generalization; however, I’ve read too many FB and Twitter posts encouraging Christians to boycott A&E, utilize social media to “speak out” on Phil’s behalf, or join him in critiquing homosexuality to conclude otherwise.
Therefore, we’d like to lovingly challenge this language by suggesting something ALL of us, Christian or otherwise, could do with the wages we receive for our first day of work in 2014.
If we really want to “stand up for what we believe in,” rather than writing a blog post, turning off our favorite TV show, or participating in social media banter, let’s commit to giving away the wages from our first work day in 2014 to someone we know personally who needs the money more than we do.
To be candid, I (Chris) make a little over $200/day, and without trying, I’ve already had 2 friends come to mind who would be enormously blessed to receive that amount. What’s holding me back from freely giving it to them?
We realize that for most of us, this will hurt. For most of us, after we count down the days to Christmas, we count down the days to that first January paycheck. We contend that, if for no other reason, we should give away 2014’s first-days wages because of this reality.
Will you join us? Please don’t “accept” this event invitation if you are not committing to participate. Once you give away your first-days wages of 2014, we invite you to post about your experience on the Facebook Event Timeline. We would love to spend February 1 reading countless stories about how the Holy Spirit worked through our mutual submission to each other and to the overlooked, ignored, and misunderstood people (and potential friends) around us.
The actions or lack thereof of Christians provide fodder for hot-button cultural conversations, and the 24-hour news cycle makes certain that the fervor and emotionally-charged dynamics of the conversations do not fade.
Therefore, once again, let me be clear: We are asking you to join us in giving away all of the wages you will earn for your first day of work in 2014. If possible, please give to someone you know personally. Then, upon completion, post about your experience on the Timeline for this Event.
With subversiveness and savvy, let’s use this reality to our advantage. We follow a Savior, Lord, and Messiah who “stood up for what he believed in” by freely giving his life for the sake of others…even (and especially) the very people who were clamoring for his execution. Let us be known for doing the same.
Will you join us?
For now, we’ve focused on the “why-not-ness?” of Spirit-initiated ideas. However, in conjunction with this, let me switch gears just a bit in order to provide possible answers for a similar question asked from a different perspective.
Why act on tremendous Spirit-initated, Kingdom-advancing, life-altering ideas? Why join God in his mission through risky endeavors that are going to cost you something for sure?
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” (Matthew 3:13-17, NIV)
Jesus. Water. Spirit. Voice. Remember one of the last times these four got together?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.'” (Genesis 1:1-3, NIV)
I wonder if part of what Matthew is attempting to say at the end of Chapter 3 takes his initial audience back to the frayed, well-worn pages of Genesis. Israel, formless, empty, and dark like Earth was at one time. And yet. Something is stirring. Something is building. Something is coming, or should I say someONE is here announcing that the old has gone and the new has come. Jesus, full of grace and truth, is back…back from the future (Maybe I’ll explain that comment in a future post).
Walk with me through three important scenes from this passage.
First, at Jesus’ insistence, John relents and agrees to baptize him. In Jewish rabbinical culture, rabbis received blessing and/or shmikah (authority) from two sources. By participating in his baptism, John serves as one source in this story. However, who else pronounces shmikah (authority) over Jesus? According to Ray Vanderlaan, this passage confirms Jesus as the only Jewish Rabbi in history to receive shmikah (authority) from God himself. Oftentimes, the religious leaders would ask Jesus where he received the authority to teach, heal, and midrash the Scriptures as he does. John and God himself.
Second, as Jesus emerges from the watery grave, Spirit lands on him. Echoes of Genesis 1? Definitely. Heaven is ripped open, and Spirit’s hovering over the waters; and in this case, choosing to land upon and fill Jesus. As NT Wright states in Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, “Jesus…is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” Jesus, filled with the Spirit, is the New Temple, the collision of heaven and earth for the sake of the world.
Third, the voice. No, not Adam, Blake, Usher, and Shakira. The (REAL) Voice. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Wow…lots going on here!:
“No way! You baptize me.”
Into the water. Out of the water.
Falling upon Him.
And then, the Voice.
Surely there was someone on the shoreline yelling, “Squirrel!”
Speaking of squirrels, back to The Voice. The Voice pronounces blessing, peace, and shalom.
First, you are my Son. Second, I love you. Third, I am well pleased with you.
Why does The Voice say these things about Jesus? “Well, he’s Jesus!” would not be a full-enough answer. Journey into this question with me. Up to this point, he has not healed anyone. No amazing, crowd-stunning sermons. No passing the bread basket to 5,000 people. No mud in the blind man’s eyes. No clearing the Temple. No saving and freeing the woman caught in adultery. No making disciples. No missional living. No cross. No resurrection.
And yet. The Voice thunders, “You are mine. I love you. You please me…greatly.” Jesus has nothing to boast about, nothing to prove himself with, and nothing to point to in the hopes of appeasing The Voice. He can only receive. He can only receive the blessing that The Voice is so eager and excited to give.
Do you hear The Voice? I think he’s talking to (and about) you, too: “You are mine. I love you. You please me…greatly.”
Performance, productivity, and perception (our own or that of others) do not define our identity. In other words, how we behave does not define us. Ultimately, The Voice that spoke the universe into existence and announced blessing over the Son, speaks the same words of identity over and about us: “You are mine. I love you. You please me…greatly.”
“But, Chris…you do not know what I’ve done. You do not know what I’ve thought. You do not know how broken, incomplete, and burned out I am.”
Yup…me, too. However, is the love of God not enough for us?
What if God is actually on our side? What if God is actually…for us? What if God isn’t scarce with his love? What if, instead, God is abundant with his love? What if God’s loving identity and words of blessing are our starting points with him?
Could that really be true, because that sounds like good news to me?!
Why? Why should we embrace the risks of acting on Spirit-filled, Christ-like, Kingdom-of-God-advancing ideas of all shapes and sizes? Identity.
Our identity does not change, and it is not tied to the outcomes of our ministry ideas. In fact, because our identity begins (and ends) with God, we are free to risk it all in pursuit of the King and the proclamation of his Kingdom.
So, why are you sitting on your duff reading this post? Let’s go!
You and your community just start, act, launch, go, jump, begin, commence, create, inaugurate, originate, establish, break ground, initiate, embark on, get after it, plunge into, move, pursue, and go get em!
I’m 1,200 words into a more in-depth post on these matters. For now, let’s dialogue through the Cliff Notes.
Step #1: Pray for Ezekiel 2:2 over and over and over again. How else are you going to get off the ground? Literally.
Step #2: Ezekiel 37:1-14. The Holy Spirit’s filling leads you into ministry. Look for the Lord’s leading into ministry…and respond. In other words, the Lord led you into a valley of dry bones. Prophesy.
*Plan a dessert night to meet your neighbors.
*Serve in the Parent-Teacher Organization of the local elementary school.
*Pray with your friend over the phone.
*Donate your best to a benevolence ministry.
*Host a free cookout for an apartment complex.
*Invite friends to join you in picking up trash at a park.
*Purposely strike up conversations with people at garage sales.
*Ask someone if they are having trouble paying bills.
*Take your kids to offer cold water bottles to people living on the streets.
*Pool money with friends to adopt a ministry project in another country.
*Bake unexpected cookies for your neighbors.
*Listen for the opportunity to initiate or join a spiritual conversation with a coworker. *Advocate for a person living on the margins.
*Huddle with emerging leaders.
*Regularly spend on-purpose time at a restaurant, neighborhood park, or coffee shop.
*Invite parents on your kids’ little league team into your home.
*Begin a “theology night” at a local pub.
*Prayer-walk your neighborhood on a weekly basis.
The Lord filled you and led you into a valley of dry bones. Prophesy.
Step #3: Isaiah 6:7. As he fills you and as you go, leave your inadequacies, failures, and uncleanliness at the altar over and over and over again. Who will go for us? You will go for us, so remember “oh, how he loves us.”
Step #4: Isaiah 40:9. As he fills you and as you go and as you continually confess, bring good news. No, really, bring good news. We suffer from a lack of good news, and you have it…lots of it, so bring it. Don’t be afraid. Say (with your words and your life): “Here is your God!”
Step #5: Acts 2:42-27. As he fills you and as you go and as you continually confess and as you bring good news, embody, incarnate…put-on that good news. Devote yourselves to the Word and the word. Devote yourselves to hanging out with people, letting people leave crumbs under your table, and prayer. Devote yourselves to asking for, expecting, and celebrating wonders and signs. Sell your stuff, and give the money to anyone with a need. Meet daily. Share food with each other. Praise God.
Step #6: John 21:15-17. As he fills you and as you go and as you continually confess and as you bring good news and as you slip into the Gospel, let Him love and restore you and your community over and over and over again…for the sake of others.
Step #7: Repeat.
We want a king.
We want a king who will “rule us and lead us and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8.20, The Message) Contemporized, we want religious beliefs validated by governmental action. We want governmental stamps of approval on our perspectives. Prove, propagate, and enforce that we are right, oh king.
Tonight, it’s abortion. Yesterday, it was prayer in schools. Tomorrow, it’ll be marriage equality.
We want a king who will “rule us and lead us and fight our battles” by “standing up” (In tonight’s case, literally…) for our point of view. Whether it’s the President, SCOTUS, a state senator, or the local mayor, we want to trust that “right beliefs” will be upheld and governmental action reinforcing “right beliefs” will be enacted.
For example, last night as I perused my local Twitter trends at 10:44pm CST, #sb5, #standwithwendy, and “Sen. Davis” were all trending. Earlier tonight, #wendydavis was in the mix, too. Some believe Texas Senator Wendy Davis to be “standing up” for women’s rights by filibustering Senate Bill 5, and others believe that more restrictive abortion laws are required.
I am not proposing a debate on the issue. Again, I am not proposing a debate on the issue.
We’ve done enough debating. Perhaps, that’s why, according to UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, 90+% of 18-29 year-olds in the United States perceive Christians as “hypocritical.”
Instead, tonight, I’m thinking about friends who have had abortions. They were (and for some…still are) devastated. What was presented as necessary, quick, and just another procedure became haunting, depressive, and regretful. How does a filibuster help them?
Instead, tonight, I’m thinking about babies forming inside mothers…”For You shaped me, inside and out. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.” (Psalm 139.13, The Voice) No development. No opportunities. No voice. How are bumper stickers, bullying, and Bible-waving helping them?
We want a king. A king to tell us that abortion is okay. It’s our body, our right, and our choice.
We want a king. A king to tell us abortion is not okay. God created us in the womb, and we are taking his place in deciding when life begins and ends.
We want a king.
System Default Settings
Christians seem most at home when defaulting to colonization. We’re in town. Everything’s going to be okay as long as you do what we tell you how we tell you. It does not flow off the tongue or sound like a sweet mind-symphony when reading, and it tasted like a stale potato chip to type; however, I feel the perspective has some traction. We like to be in charge and under control. We like to know what to expect.
What do I mean by colonization? Here’s a story I heard originally told in a podcast by David Fitch that I hope illustrates what I’m getting at.
30+ years ago, a United States-based Christian denomination sent missionaries to a foreign country. Upon arriving in the foreign country, the missionaries quickly discovered that polygamy was the accepted and primary marital practice in the culture. Consequently, as part of their gospel presentations, the missionaries began teaching against the marital practice of polygamy. Polygamy was not God’s plan. Therefore, to practice polygamy was wrong, an affront to God, and egregious sin. In order to become a Christian, they preached, one must renounce the practice, divorce all but one wife, and refrain from engaging in polygamy going forward.
Whether or not you agree with polygamy or the missionaries decision on how to engage a polygamous culture is not the point. The point is that this story was shared by Fitch as an example of colonization. Conform to us in thought and practice, and it will go well with you. Do what we say how we say, and do not sway from the blueprint.
So, what happened?
As told by David Fitch, divorced women were put out of the household. Oftentimes, they had no where to go, so they ended up begging and living on the streets. As a result, the female homeless population grew drastically. Also, Christianity became known as a pro-divorce religion. Obviously, neither were outcomes the missionaries expected, hoped for, or desired to perpetuate.
So, what happened?
With support from the United States-based Christian denomination, the missionaries changed their position. They engaged the polygamist culture as missionaries determined to walk alongside people to nurture their relational journeys toward Jesus. This meant the missionaries no longer required belief (and the subsequent divorces) before belonging. They worked within the culture to lead people to Christ. Instead of colonizers, they were missionaries.
A Missionary God. A Missionary People. A Missionary Culture.
Colonies must reflect the thoughts, actions, and loyalties of the mothership. Unchecked insubordination is not to be tolerated, because the system will breakdown. How do you keep colonies from revolting? Primarily, a strong government (i.e. king) that puts (and keeps) them in their place.
We want a king. Regardless of the issue, we want to win people to our position and keep them there. With a king (we tend to believe), this can be accomplished. The more people that gravitate toward our side due to our king’s influence, the better off we will be, because we’re right and they’re wrong. On a side note, perhaps this is the same reason sports stars are selected for television commercials, but that’s another blog for another time.
The problem is colonialism is dead. Well…I don’t know if colonialism is dead or not, but it sure seems like North American culture is post-colonial. In other words, the growing cultural sentiment seems unreceptive to the message of Christianity. In such a cultural context, colonizing proves futile, disconnected, and really hard work. It should not still be news to us, but we (Christians) are not at the center of North American culture; and as a result, we don’t get to make the rules (anymore). Colonizing has no traction when the colonizers are not the dominate societal, cultural, political, and/or religious voices.
So then, if we are colonialists no longer, what are we? Ready? We are…missionaries. We are foreigners pushed to the margins of our own culture. However, we are not tasked with resisting or fighting our way back to the center. Instead, from the periphery, we sow and water gospel seeds in cultural soils praying that God gives the increase. With creativity, we tell and live the compelling story of Jesus: healing in brokenness, peace in anxiety, and hope in despair. We embrace the same challenge Jesus gave his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20.21, NIV) Like Paul, we are sent into the culture as missionaries “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus].” (Acts 26.18, NIV) And ultimately, they’ll know we follow Jesus by our love.
A Constructive Way Forward
With all this in mind, if we are to embrace this new-to-us role as missionaries, should we #standwithwendy or Rick Perry? Rephrased, should we tighten abortion laws or tighten women’s rights to choose for themselves? What’s a constructive way forward?
How can we plant multiplying mustard seeds in the prevailing cultural context? How can we be little Jesuses in the prevailing cultural context? How can we be known by our love in the prevailing cultural context? Again, what’s a way forward?
I’ll offer three suggestions:
1) With postures of humility, teachability, and shalom, connect with, learn from, and serve a local group seeking to walk alongside women. In my community, it’s the Burleson Pregnancy Aid Center.
2) Prayerfully consider rescuing a baby from abortion through adoption. I am unaware as to all the particulars of how this works, but God powerfully reveals himself when followers of Jesus are about his risky kingdom business. If we (Christians) really want to impact lives for the kingdom of God, laying down our own lives by offering to pick up babies who may be otherwise be aborted seems like something we should willfully explore.
3) Share a meal with a woman or man effected by abortion. Sit with her/him. Hear the story of her/him. Learn from her/him. Encourage her/him. Pray with her/him. And discern where the Spirit’s wind is blowing.
What would you add?
Jockeying for a “more-right” position on social/cultural issues is a great adventure in missing the point…especially for Christians. Putting on skin and moving into the neighborhood…living in the world in ways that are not of the world…now that’s compelling and could possibly grow into something.
They will not know we follow Jesus by our political rallies and affiliations. They will not know we follow Jesus by our hash tags and blog posts (this one included). They will not know we follow Jesus by our pledges of allegiance.
We already have a king, and they’ll know we follow him by our love.
Welcome. This is part 2 of a series entitled: “Why Not?” To read part 1, click here.
I have two sons. The older one thinks he’s Yu Darvish. The younger one thinks he’s Batman. No seriously. Batman.
Not two weeks ago, we hosted a party at our house. A friend of mine introduced himself to my 3-year old:
“Hi little man. I’m Steve.”
His response? “Hey, I’m Batman.”
He has two costumes: one imitating more of a 1960s TV show Batman, and the other imitating Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. Not a day goes by that I’m walking across the living room or down the hall in our home, and Batman comes darting through from behind a couch, door, or underneath a table. In fact, our homeschool room has two half-walls each with two columns extending from the top of the half-wall to the ceiling. Anyway, it is not uncommon for “Batman” to be found scaling and jumping from the top of a half-wall in order to rescue Gotham from imminent destruction.
Did I mention that I have a 16-month old girl, too, and the first three words she spoke were: “Daddy,” “Momma,” and “Batman?” Not. Even. Making that one up.
My 3-year old boy does most things with a scowl, too. Maybe it’s the Batman in him; but oftentimes, he has this edgy, tough-guy look to him. To me, it’s a look of determination. He strives for independence, and does not wait around expecting stuff to be done for him. In fact, just this morning, I caught him at the kitchen table eating peanut butter out of the jar with his fingers for breakfast. He’d climbed up on the counter, opened the appropriate cabinet, and proceeded to sit at the kitchen table and chow down. At least he was at the table and not on the living room floor!
I tell you all of this as background to this afternoon’s BIG event. Yesterday, with a scowl of course, the kid fiercely purported quite an ostensible declaration: “Mom…Dad…I want to ride my bike without training wheels.”
“Are you sure, Buddy?” we gently responded.
“Yes. I’m ready.” he retorted matter-of-factly.
And this afternoon, he did it. He took off across my wife’s grandparents backyard without training wheels. He peddled, leaned into a fence, fell, steered, braced himself before colliding with a storage shed, fell again, avoided a sideswipe attempt from his big brother, and fell again. But he did it. With that scowl of determination, he kept getting off the ground, kept putting himself back on the bike, and kept charting a course into a new adventure.
Why not? What’s he gonna do: fall? Scrape a knee? Kiss a fence? Twist an ankle? Eat dirt? Yup…count on it. But he’s also going to learn how to apply the brakes, how to maneuver a corner, when to speed up, how to maintain balance, and when to keep peddling even though he feels like he’s about to fall.
So again, I ask: why not?
Why not act on tremendous Spirit-initated, Kingdom-advancing, life-altering ideas? Why not join God in his mission through risky endeavors that are going to cost you something for sure?
Take this important lesson shared by a 3-year old and…
You and your community just start, act, launch, go, jump, begin, commence, create, inaugurate, originate, establish, break ground, initiate, embark on, get after it, plunge into, move, pursue, and go get em!
What’s stopping you? What’s stopping your community? Are the situational possibilities too risky for action, or are the possible situations from your inaction too risky? In other words, as a result of you and your community doing nothing, will housing, academics, and parent/child relationships actually improve at the elementary school down the road? What about the elderly singles in your neighborhood? What about the unacknowledged, ever-growing, and complicated dilemma of underaged drinking? I could go on, but you get the point.
Problems. Everywhere. Brokenness. Everywhere. Evil. Everywhere. Hidden, lurking, and aggressive. But remember: tomb. empty! I am going to write that one more time: TOMB. EMPTY!
Remember when Jesus vanished, and the disciples were “looking intently up into the sky” with deer-in-the-headlights eyes and drool rushing out the left side of their mouths? “…suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky?'”
Consider this blog another form of the same question. This time…for and to us…the 21st century church. Why are many of us standing here looking into the sky? These disciples walked with the King, and so are we. Why are we, oftentimes, paralyzed, down right slow, or just sitting around waiting for Jesus to come back?
Bursting through Hell’s Gates
Let me go at this another way. I know many talented, creative, encouraging, compassionate, dependable, gentle, resourceful, patient, sincere, responsible, alert, benevolent, enduring, cooperative, and generous followers of Jesus. These friends love God, love the church, and generally want to be like Jesus. They have tremendous ideas, and could really initiate an advancement for the Kingdom of God; however, when face-to-face with challenge and invitation to act on their ideas, they seem content to stare into the sky hoping that everyone else will forget about them and simply walk back into the status quo.
To me, that’s a problem. Maybe I’m the only one; however, I cannot help but consider all the compelling and enticing life that could abundantly sprout from the ideas, risks, and vitality of these gifted and empowered Jesus-following friends of mine. So, that’s what this is about.
My friend, Lisa Schwarz, is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of 6. Her life was stable, healthy, and admirable until she acted upon an idea given her by the Lord. What about the unrecognized, lost, and forgotten women in her quaint and family-friendly suburban community? Girlfriends kicked to the streets by angry boyfriends? Mothers prostituting themselves to feed their children? Women jumping from man to man in search of identity, belonging, and purpose?
Who is advocating for them? Who is pursuing them? Who is rescuing them?
Lisa responded to the Lord’s calling; and consequently, he sent her back into her own city. In March 2013, Crazy 8 Ministries celebrated 2 years of counseling, discipling, conferencing, teaching, and providing. Crazy 8 offers seasons of respite and restoration, biblical counseling, life skills, and benevolence help, and two warm, inviting, and safe homes where they come alongside (formerly) homeless women and children. They are connecting the disconnected to Christ, family, and healing.
Speaking of Crazy 8, one day last summer, Lisa called me, because she needed temporary living space for a new family. Back then, there was only one warm, inviting, and safe home; however, remodeling was in-progress on the structure that would become the second Crazy 8 home. At the time, we did not have room, so I called my friend, Gilberto (aka Gibby).
“Hey dude. Here’s the situtation. Could you take in a mother and her two teen-aged children for ‘a couple weeks?'” I asked.
“Well, we do have an extra bedroom. Let me consult with my wife and call you back.” he responded.
Less than 5 minutes later, Gibby called me agreeing to take in three people he had never met for “a couple weeks.” If I remember correctly, I think “a couple weeks” actually turned out to be four weeks. Regardless, Gibby and his wife were presented with an idea, and instead of retorting with a multitude of reasons as to why the situation would not work for them, they embraced and acted on the idea with a simple “yes.”
Speaking of purposely forging new relationships with unknown people, I have a friend who lives in a nice neighborhood, the kind where hedges are trimmed flawlessly and home-owners associations foam at the mouth for a chance to write corrective letters to residents. One problem though: my friend and his wife abruptly realized they’d lived in this neighborhood for a while, but did not know any of their neighbors. So, they purposely set out to meet and begin relationships with their neighbors by having more of a family front yard presence.
Eventually, they would see a neighbor out picking up the mail, mowing grass, or walking the dog, and conversations would begin. Eventually, they not only learned their neighbors names, but began understanding their likes and dislikes and hearing stories about their lives. Eventually, they invited the neighbors from across the street over for dinner.
Hospitality. Invitation. Sharing. You are welcome in my home. You are welcome to sit with me at my table. You are valuable enough to me that I am willing to clean my house, craft you a meal, and lock up the dog so he doesn’t bite you on the ankle.
When Jesus lived on earth, table fellowship was a big deal. To recline at the table and share a meal with someone meant something. This description by Mark Moore contains the depth necessary to understand what was happening when Jesus ate with people:
In a social atmosphere that stressed the importance of exclusivism and purity, and in a cultural climate that stressed these invaluables were to be attained through eating, Jesus chose to dine with the most unlikely folk–those outside the community of salvation. He disregarded the laws that governed Israel’s community, which were to bring about Israel’s ultimate hope, and made his own rules. Through his table fellowship, Jesus revealed that forgiveness of sins and readmission into God’s people was attainable through him, not through the traditional, national channels. He also revealed that, on the basis of his own authority, those who ate with him would indeed be accepted by God and invited into his kingdom. In short, Jesus’ table fellowship was an acted parable of renewed Israel.
Somewhere…in the midst of children picking up toys, spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, and brewing a cup of coffee during dessert, through simple, freely offered table fellowship, my friend and his wife were, as Alan Hirsch describes, “little Jesuses” to their neighbors.
Go Get ‘Em!
Okay, I went on a story-tangent, but for good reason. I’m trying to nail a point, so listen here, my talented, creative, and idea-generating friends. Don’t lose the forest for the trees. I have no idea what that means, but I have always wanted to use it.
If you act on your idea, some of you will start non-profits. Some of you will allow strangers to live in your home. Some of you will invite another over dinner. Some of you will do something else that’s equally amazing like anonymously paying for someone’s meal, helping a 3rd grader memorize multiplication facts, starting a prison ministry, organizing weekly prayer walks of your neighborhood, or starting a church in your living room.
Whatever…lay the reasons not to and the results before the Lord.
You and your community just start, act, launch, go, jump, begin, commence, create, inaugurate, originate, establish, break ground, initiate, embark on, get after it, plunge into, move, pursue, and go get em!
My Wife = #BeastMode
Yesterday, I posted the following on Facebook: “She runs 2 miles, does squats, lunges, and bleachers, goes to the grocery store, does all the laundry, sweeps and mops the floors, and home schools the children. I run 2 miles and crawl into bed from exhaustion.”
My lovely wife is the “she” in the statement above. She’s a beast, no doubt. Me, on the other hand: when it comes to working out, I make excuses. She does not. That’s probably why she’s down 80 pounds. And I’m not.
On a bad day, I find good excuses not to run. On a good day, I find bad excuses not to do anything else after running.
This week, while reflecting on Exodus 3 through Exodus 4:17, I’ve discovered Moses making excuses: five of them, in fact. Okay, one is more of a plea, but I’m counting it as an excuse.
1) Who am I? (speaking about himself)
2) Who are You? (speaking about God)
Talk about the ultimate guide for making excuses to God! What a list! It’s no wonder the “Lord’s anger burned against Moses” in the very next verse. Take a hint, Bud!
Turning Excuses into Action
However, throughout the entire story, God remains faithful to his original words of encouragement: “I will be with you.” Moses plays a major role, but truly, God, is the main character and hero of the story.
Are you making excuses in your relationship with God? Whatever they are, I’m willing to bet He’s heard them all (in this story alone!). All the while, He must be longing for your acceptance of the truth He’s known all along: You. Can. Do. It.
Whatever “it” is, God is listening. God is working. God is sending. And my hunch is, he’s sending you. Whether you asked for “it” or not, embrace His sending. The power, energy, and opportunity come from Him.
Please send someone else? Nope. God’s got faith in you. In fact, he stretched his arms wide open just to reveal how much.
Do you ever wonder? Really wonder? Not just an average daydream or flitter of the imagination, but wonder. A deep and deepening wonder. A mind, spirit, and soul churning wonder. The kind of wonder that keeps you up at night, or unexpectedly awakens you at 3am. The kind of wonder that catches you off-guard and holds your brain hostage. A wonder not so easily pacified, placated, or pushed aside. A wonder for which there are seemingly no easy answers; but instead, only increasingly difficult questions. A wonder void of solutions and saturated with dilemmas. A nagging. Wonder.
Do you ever wonder? Really wonder? About the deeper aspects of life. About beauty, meaning, and relationships? About food, art, and what your grandchildren will call you? About changing the batteries in your smoke alarms, how to end violence, and the giver of your eulogy? About paper, plastic, or your own reusable grocery bags? About Jesus, life, and faith? About the Bible, sin, and hope? About where you’re going (or not going) to church, or about where your church is going? About the end of the world, the economy, or whether or not the sermon will go over the allotted time limit? About your job, your kids or the job you don’t yet have or the kids you haven’t met yet? About where you’re eating after church, or whether or not you should sit through Sunday School, too?
Do you ever wonder? Really wonder? More specifically, have you ever asked yourself or people you care about the following question: “Is this all there is?”
Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’ve asked silently in your mind. Maybe your head hurts and you are tired of reading already. Regardless, “Is this all there is? Could there be more to this life out there somewhere?”
Let me explain: with a story.
CHRISTMAS BASKETS, A STOP SIGN, AND DISCIPLESHIP
As the sermon continued, I walked into the foyer looking for a water fountain. Unexpectedly, I made eye contact with a friend I had not seen in a while. Sheepishly, he “quick-smiled” me while “mall-walking” after his 3-year old daughter who was skipping through the wide-open meadows of the foyer. After watching him catch her from behind and simultaneously catch his breath, I wandered over and we exchanged pleasantries. He remarked about how he was glad to run into me. Through various life experiences over the past few months, he had come face-to-face with several difficult questions; and for whatever reason, felt like he should ask me about them. Until now, he had put it off, but seeing me flooded his mind with them again.
So, we noticed an open classroom and took the conversation inside. He continued by telling me a story.
“At Christmastime, last year, my wife and I volunteered to help with our church’s turkey basket giveaways. Each year, we pitch in canned hams, green beans, corn, rolls, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pies filling up 5-10 Christmas baskets, and we give them away to struggling families in our town. Excited for the opportunity to participate in something meaningful, we agreed to deliver 3 of the baskets to pre-determined families.
During our first two stops, we shared wonderful exchanges with each family. Smiles, hugs, and ‘thank yous’ were plenty, and we received way more in terms of being uplifted and encouraged then we were able to offer. While still swapping and retelling stories of our first two encounters, we drove off in search of the third house. As we approached the curb out front of what we thought was the third house, we realized a discrepancy with the address. As a result, we drove up and down the street checking each house number to ensure we had not made a mistake like copying down the address incorrectly or incompletely. At a loss, we called the coordinator of the Christmas baskets to explain our dilemma. She verified the address, and we responded by telling her that the house did not exist. A mistake was made somewhere along the way, and we were not sure what to do next. Eventually, she suggested that we give the basket to someone we knew that was in need and would be blessed by such a gift. Great idea! Relieved, I thanked her for the wonderful suggestion, hung up, and quickly explained the action plan to my wife. In an accomplished tone, she responded, ‘Fantastic! Why didn’t we think of that?’ With renewed inspiration, we sped away.
As we approached the first stop sign, I asked, ‘Honey, to whom should we take the basket?’
‘What?’ she retorted, ‘I hoped you already had somebody picked out. I’m not really sure.’
So, we sat there at a 4-way stop. In the dark. In the cold. The engine hum and heat blasting from the floor vents were the only sounds we could here. We thought and thought and thought and thought.
In reality, we probably sat there for 2-3 minutes, but it felt like 2-3 hours. Finally, in desperation, with tears welling up in my eyes, face-to-face with the obvious, I admitted it. Out loud.
‘We don’t know any local person or family in need of this Christmas basket. In fact, we don’t know any needy person or family at all. Period.’
In a swift attempt to completely squeeze the pain out of the car, my wife responded, ‘Why don’t we go home, leave the basket out on the counter, and think some more about whom we could give the basket? Surely, we’ll come up with someone.’
‘Surely,’ I responded with dejection. Feeling close to the size of an ant, I shifted the car into drive and turned for home. By the way, the Christmas basket still sits where we left it that night…on the counter by the door to the laundry room. We even put the rolls and pumpkin pies in the freezer for safe keeping. There’s just one problem: it’s June.
How is this possible, Chris? My wife and I have gone to church most of our lives. We show up on time, give our money, and have even taught Sunday school classes a time or two. I’m just left wondering, ‘Is this all there is? Could there be more to this life out there somewhere? And is our lack of knowing anyone in need of a Christmas basket evidence that we are missing out?’
Not only that, but I’m left looking at myself in the mirror here. Who am I? Wasn’t Jesus a poor, homeless person? I am claiming to be one of his followers and I don’t know any poor, homeless people!
I’m really beginning to wonder over this one, Chris. I’m asking myself hard questions, and not having any fun in the process. I mean, I go to church. I know a little about the Bible. I love Jesus. But…do I know him or just know some about him? Do I just know what he is like, or am I becoming more and more like him? Am I truly…could I be described like…you know…a disciple? Am I really a disciple of Jesus?”
On September 12, 2011, Mike Breen, Director of 3DM (www.weare3dm.com), published an article on his blog entitled, “Why the Missional Movement Will Fail.” In the article, Breen proposed discipleship as the engine of the church that powers the car of mission. Paragraphs 3 and 4 read, “So, what is the engine of the church? Discipleship. I’ve said it many times: If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples. If you’re good at making disciples, you’ll get more leaders than you’ll know what to do with. If you make disciples like Jesus made them, you’ll see people come to faith who didn’t know Him. If you disciple people well, you will always get the mission thing. Always.” (author’s emphasis)
This is not specifically about missional church. It is very much so about discipleship, and in agreement with Breen (and others), I am suggesting that the church finds herself in the midst of a painful discipleship crisis. As Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch state in their book, ReJesus, “…what is the church if not a community of disciples, of people devoted to following Jesus?” Is that not the crux of our crisis? Can we truthfully describe ourselves this way? If we are to live out our identity as the church, we must be a community of disciples growing daily in devotion, likeness, and followership of Jesus. Of course we stumble, fall, and find ourselves off track. However, I am attempting to struggle with discipleship at a much deeper level. Is this the overall, all-of-self, all-of-us posture of our hearts? We sing in the Chris Tomlin song, “Jesus, You are all to us,” but do we really breath, eat, drink, and sleep the possibilities and probabilities of growing in devotion to Jesus?
WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?
We cannot avoid this discipleship call for as Bonhoeffer reminds us, “Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” Christianity must include the living Christ. We know discipleship to be difficult, necessary, and impossible without God. And there is hope.
Just like my friend from the story shared above, many people have been hit with the unpleasant reality of their own relationship with the Lord, and they are searching for answers. That’s encouraging, because it seems that the Spirit might be stirring a hunger within them…within us. In regards to discipleship, most of my friends are asking the following two questions: 1) “What does discipleship look like, and 2) Where should we begin?”
***How would you answer one or both of those questions?***
Whew…what a challenging week, and it’s only Tuesday! With the colliding starts of public school and Chappotin Academy, currently, life around our house sounds like a cacophonous symphony. Eventually, we’ll discover a rhythm, but for now, we’re doing well just to pick up the instruments.
Proverbs 31:10 reads, “A woman of valor who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” While reflecting on this passage, author, speaker, and blogger, Rachel Held Evans, comments, “Eshet chayil—woman of valor— has long been a blessing of praise in the Jewish community. Husbands often sing the line from Proverbs 31 to their wives at Sabbath meals. Women cheer one another on through accomplishments in homemaking, career, education, parenting, and justice by shouting a hearty “eshet chayil!” after each milestone. Great women of the faith, like Sarah and Ruth and Deborah, are identified as women of valor.
In response to Proverbs 31:10, Held Evans challenged her readers to participate in a writing contest. The task would be to author an 800-word essay describing a “woman of valor.” I accepted the opportunity, and crafted this piece during an early August rainstorm. I present to you: “My Woman of Valor.”
MY WOMAN OF VALOR
Challenge accepted, RHE. Let me introduce my woman of valor.
My woman of valor disciples women. Her heart yearns to help women experience and become more like Jesus. Weekly, over meals, play-times with children, and phone calls, she invites women into conversations focused on learning the Scriptures, confessing hopes and fears, and discerning what God is doing within and around them. In addition to invitation, she challenges women to seek the Lord, offer the gift of vulnerability, and participate in God’s love for the world. Through this rhythm of invitation and challenge, my woman of valor models listening and looking for the Lord, authenticity, and caring for others. For example, currently (even though they live 80 miles apart), through phone calls, text messages, and reading “The Shack” together, she’s walking with a friend traversing a “dark night of the soul.” In addition, last week, over El Fenix (authentic Tex-Mex!) enchiladas, she inspired friends longing for more from their Christianity than church attendance and virtuous living. Next week, she will share hope, friendship, and prayer with formerly homeless women now rescued from the streets and living in homes just for them. My woman of valor offers her life and honors the Lord in discipling relationships with women.
My woman of valor confesses sin and refuses to allow it to define her. Specifically, over the last 5 years, she has continually confessed struggles with weight. However, by submission to the Holy Spirit, her confessions quickly became springboards into action. Through prayer, hard work, and a community of partnering women, to date, she’s shed 85 pounds. Many mornings while I snoozed, she left the house for a 5AM run. Many evenings after long days of chasing kids and battling grocery stores, she gathered with friends for P90X workouts. Even with 2 of our 4 children born in the last 5 years, perseverance and (re)commitment marked her unwavering quest to lose weight. Even today, with her goal-weight a mere 30 pounds away, she views weight loss as worship. Confession of idolatry sparked repentance in the forms of God-glorifying exercise and food-intake management. I believe this God-worshipping perspective sustains her when the challenge feels insurmountable and, draws her nearer to the One she longs to be like. My woman of valor shrinks in worship to the Lord.
My Woman of Valor works for social justice in our suburban community. While sprouting shopping centers, successful schools, and impeccably manicured shrubs litter our sparkling suburban landscape, drugs, financial instability, relational fragility, and other factors keep the unhidden parts and people of our town on the brink of destruction. The enemy desires the suburbs, too; however, sensitivity to his unscrupulous ways requires reoriented eyesight. My woman of valor wears Kingdom glasses that allow her to see and shine light in the hidden darkness of our town. In our neighborhood, she expresses hospitality by inviting neighbors (who oftentimes do not know each other) into our home for barbecues or dessert nights. In our neighborhood elementary school, she offers clothing, school supplies, and food for children in need. In our community, she apprentices with a ministry serving homeless women and children by counseling, providing rides to and from work, and offering a welcoming presence at the front desk of the ministry office. In addition, she models this Kingdom life to our children, because she encourages their involvement in each opportunity. My woman of valor remains discontent to watch the enemy trample our community. Therefore, she embraces a risky Kingdom life for the sake of others.
My woman of valor listens for the Holy Spirit. We both grew up in solid Jesus communities of faith. However, oftentimes, our upbringing did not know what to do with the Holy Spirit. I trust we were not alone in this predicament; however, for us, the Holy Spirit was like an estranged parent that we knew was out there attempting to connect with us, but we had no idea how to begin the relationship. Recently, through the Scriptures, transforming experiences, and support from friends, my woman of valor has met the Holy Spirit in powerful and action-inducing ways that have inspired and sustained all I mentioned above. As you now know, rather than responding in paralyzing fear or with rationalizing dismissal, she’s tasted the Lord, found Him good, and pulled her chair up to his table for another helping. In many ways, she leads me by pressing into mostly uncharted territory, and I will follow her every step of the way. My woman of valor tunes her ears to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and we are both learning to listen and respond.
My wife, Heidi Mashele Chappotin, is my Woman of Valor, and she is worth far more than rubies, indeed.