Repenting in the good

In the wake of Jeremiah’s ministry and the sad downfall of the southern kingdom of Judah; Ezekiel calls out to the exiled Israelite community that they should, “repent and live”!  His prophetic appeal is that they can still turn from their evil ways and choose the right path of God’s promises.

This is of course and good thing, and part of what it means to repent.  The emphasis place on repentance in western Christian communities is usually around this theme: Turn from your worldly ways.  However, there is another part to repentance that is at least overlooked and at most, under-appreciated.  Israel is challenged to repent in tumultuous times, ultimately because of poor behavior and sinful attitudes of the heart.  However, repentance also has a role to play in the good parts of our lives; the joyous and victorious parts as well as the bad.

The greek word for repent literally means to change one’s mind.  Change your mind.  See things differently; but not just differently, see things the way God sees them.  Allow your thinking to be transformed in a manner that is so profound that your are literally changed on the inside so that the outside follows.  As Paul so eloquently states it in Romans, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  In this light it isn’t so hard to see why this leads us to the confirmation of God’s will.

A new job.  A new church plant.  That well deserved vacation.  The wedding of a loved one.  Christmas.  Even a simple weekend BBQ.  These are just some examples of the good moments that life may offer us.  It does seem unusual to suggest that we might repent in these times.  Or does it?

When life throws us a curve ball or when we’ve done something stupid, the drama itself is enough to send us reeling and seeking God’s face.  Yet when things are going well; when we’ve experienced any one example of life’s favorable moments, we tend to go on autopilot.  This could prove to be the missing link in our personal journey of sanctification.  What if, when we went through good times, we continued to ask God how it was that he wanted to change our minds and lives?

It may be yet another peril of our consumer culture that we assume our joys have no grander purpose than our consumption.  While we can safely conclude that God does in fact want us to enjoy these moments, it is even safer to conclude that he is always at work.  If he speaks in our pain, why wouldn’t he also speak in our victories?  The life that constantly seeks God is one which constantly takes the position of learner (aka disciple).  To humble ourselves in all seasons of life is to delve that much deeper into the fullness that God has promised us.

We’ll always emphasize the need to repent of/from the bad; but it may be time to also explore what it means to repent in/during the good!

 

The Prophetic Vision of the New Testament

Many of us can become quickly discouraged and even frustrated when we take an honest assessment of the church, the behavior of some Christians, and even our own lives.  Whether its people like Westboro Baptist playing out their unspeakable misunderstanding of the Christian Faith or just taking assessment of our own lives, perplexed by the yet un-sanctified brokenness with which we still wrestle; we see clearly that Christians, churches and Christianity can disappoint.

My discouragement is the same as yours and at times I’m almost overwhelmed byNew_Testament what I see.  But Good news is as much for the church as it is for the world.  There is yet hope to be had in the midst of what is often legitimate concern for western Christianity.  For me, this hope remains as the prophetic vision that the New Testament offers for how life can be radically and significantly different.

We believe that communities can be real and life giving, that individuals can experience real freedom and that grace can be known in a way that literally transforms everything.  There is a wildness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that stands against the disappointment we experience in this life.

Spearheaded by Jesus himself, the New Testament offers us this vision without hesitation and we must hold fast to this in every facet of our lives.  If our observations of Christianity promote discouragement, then we have even more reason to proclaim what we believe to be the true potential of God’s people.  We must lean into the grace and truth of Jesus with our whole life and seek to experience whatever he has proclaimed for us.  We need to remember, proclaim and seek God’s vision for who and what we can become.

It is probable that our lives, communities, ministries, churches and families will never reach perfection in this regard. Most likely, some of this is left for eternity.  Yet a lack of perfection must not lead us to a lack of progress.  Part of faith is believing that God wants for us what he has already proclaimed and that our submission to his grace will lead us deeper into it.

Preaching to Multiple Generations

As we explore what it means to be an intergenerational family of God, there are legitimate questions about how to communicate the Gospel.  Unfortunately our recent structures have allowed us the inconvenience of separation; which has ultimately rendered us unable to adequately communicate to various generations.  This problem is only exacerbated when you get multiple generations in the same room.  Here’s an offering of my thoughts on how to best preach in a context where multiple generations are present.

Target1.  Choose a target age group and aim for that.  In other words, think through which of the generations has something in common with both those above and below them.  Preach in a way that will connect with them so that you might potentially connect with everybody.  Don’t stress perfection; but only do what is possible.  In my experience, this target is still a fairly young age group.  I’ve often aimed for high school seniors/college freshman.

2.   Tell lots of stories.  If the story can be followed by everyone and helps to illustrate the scriptures in some way: use it.  Stories will always engage an audience and done properly can interest both the intellect and emotions of our listeners.  In addition, personal stories carry even greater weight.  The vulnerability of sharing your life with the audience is powerful tool which can effectively cross the generational gaps.

3.  Avoid obscure cultural references that will alienate any generation.  This can be hard when we find that perfect illustration/story/reference to illustrate our points. However, our illustrations are meant to illuminate the scriptures to our audience rather than alienate them.  Keeping this in mind will help us avoid the temptation to use something which ultimately will not bear the fruit which it is iWindowLight_1ntended to bear.  In Lectures to My Students, C.H. Spurgeon observes that illustrations are meant to shed light into the Gospel, much like a window is meant to shed light into a room.  To carry Spurgeon’s illustration further, we should avoid using windows that will not let light in.

4.  Be intentional about the application for all generations.  If we are accustomed to preaching to young people our tendency will be to forget the later life stages.  The opposite is also true; potentially causing others to forget the life stage of our youth.  Generally speaking, we must consider where and how each generation lives as we prepare to speak from the Word into their lives.  For example; avoid only drawing applications for marriage and family or student life.

449780dbc6412b05b6a9326a3587c4cc0a9d9c71_large5.  Speak well of all generations and life stages.  It seems that if we’re to be whole communities, we all need to maintain accurate and positive perspectives of other life stages.  We must avoid the temptation to dismiss and/or stereotype an entire generation of people.  They will eventually become discouraged by our lack of concern for them which can also deter from the fruit we intend to bear.

No one said that this is or would be easy.  It’s not something that can be taken lightly and cannot be done perfectly; certainly not all the time.  However, the desired fruit is worth both the risk and the learning curve!

 

Samuel L. Jackson Delivers Boy Meets World Slam Poem

Not only is this brilliant for eighty-eight million reasons, but Samuel L. Jackson’s description of Feeny is reminiscent of all those who spend their lives investing in young people.

A word to Introverts

I grew up in what I jokingly refer to as the “perfect storm” of introversion.  As an introvert, I was an only child and a latch-key kid (meaning I was alone both when I left for school in the morning and when I got home).  I can spend seemingly unreasonable amounts of time by myself and not only be perfectly content, but be happier for it.

I’m not a psychologist or an expert in Myers-introvertBriggs, but I do find personality types interesting.   Having noticed some internet banter about introversion and extraversion lately, I think it might be good to remind both myself and the rest of my people (introverts) of some helpful tips.

1. Don’t use your introversion as an excuse for antisocial behavior.  I know you’re offended by the term antisocial, let alone the suggestion that you might be (I prefer the term “socially selective”).  But here’s the clincher: that’s how the extraverted world sees us sometimes.  Even if were not intending to be or if we think that we’re truly not; the reality is that we can come off that way.  I realize that some of us have genuinely struggled in this area, but it is really up to us to prove that being an introvert is not an antisocial dysfunction.

introvert-vs-extrovert2.  Structure your alone time very, very intentionally.  This way you can be available for social settings and other relationships when you need to be.  Constant emotional burnout causing us to spend our days either hiding or miserable is not a way to live your life.  The problem only adds to the negative misconceptions about “our kind”.  Find a rhythm that works for your life and personality type and schedule it in advance.  A daily rhythm is best, but even once or twice a week can be helpful. This way, we’re being fair to ourselves and our relationships by proactively filling our emotional tanks rather than merely being reactive to the circumstances around us.

3. Develop socially by watching, interacting with and imitating extraverts.  I realize that the thought of imitating them makes you feel like a piece of yourself is dying inside.  We’ve all sat in a social setting, wondering why a rational human would do or say some of the things they do and say.  But the reality is that they are better at this than we are.  Because of their unfathomable drive to interact with all things breathing; they picked up basic social skills at early ages.  We on the other hand…. we read a lot and share deep thoughts (which is also valuable!).  Again it sounds crazy, but try doing what they do.  Take it in baby steps and don’t be afraid to fail; I promise you’ll be alright  You don’t have to copy the things that truly horrify you and over time you will learn some valuable social skills.  This can also best be done in the context of a trusted relationship with an extravert.  Let them know you’re working on some things and let them coach you through it!

4. Learn to identify and respond to your introverted warning system.  Basically I’m talking about whatever emotional reaction is triggered in you when you feel the 225391156320539289YFAV2yuhcdepletion caused by long periods of social interaction.  You might become easily angered.  Maybe you get rude.  Maybe you go find a corner and hide like a scared animal.   I use to get really, really, really emotionally drained causing me to become cranky and rude without knowing or intending it.  Whatever it is, the first step to managing it is identifying it.

5. Build up your extraverted stamina.  I’m not talking about your ability to put up with them, but your ability to be like them when you need to.  If we always run or hide from social environments we are on track to never increase our social/emotional stamina, guaranteeing that we’ll continue to keep things awkward.  Believe it or not, we actually can thrive in social settings and even come to enjoy longer engagements.  Just show up, stick around and keep breathing. Similar to daily exercise, this practice will grow you over time!

6.  Accept that relational histories can be difficult to change.  As we’re all aware, we’re often viewed in community as the quiet ones and over time, we build a relational history of how we interact with certain individuals or groups.  Yet a growing, healthy introvert will inevitably recognize their need for broader relationships and relational growth; causing them eventually seek out different social behaviors.  This can however create a crisis at times for both the introverted individual and the broader community.  The extraverts who usually want us to talk and relate more (they’re addicts for this kind of stuff) can sometimes be unprepared when we suddenly become socially proactive.  They might be genuinely surprised or even unresponsive when you start relating to them in a less introverted fashion.  What we need to do is be patient; neither giving up our efforts or condemning their response.

Remember, both extraverts and introverts have things to be learned from one another.  Extraverts have lessons that they need to learn from us as well; so making ourselves available socially is just as important for them.  Much like every facet of community life, we ultimately need to accept each others’ strengths and weaknesses to live in genuine relationships.