Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pet Sins

Okay, truth or dare:  What's your favorite sin?

I don't mean the one you struggle with, the monkey on your back you're ashamed to even admit is there because you want rid of it so badly. That's not a pet. That's a curse.

No I mean the one you don't want rid of at all! The one you aren't one foot into, but both feet jumping in. The one that while you may acknowledge it's a sin in theory the command to stop can't really apply to you, you enjoy it too much!

I think we assume gossip is it for most women. The scene from Steel Magnolias comes to mind (excuse me while my Southern is showing again), where Olympia Dukakis says, "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me!" Exactly! Give me the dirt!

For men, maybe the love of money and all the evil that springs from that root. Chasing the dollar-god, making a name. Making a living. Getting a head. That sort of thing. Go big or go home!

Maybe it's pride. You're just the smartest person you know and you're surrounded by idiots.

Maybe it's selfishness. It's just all about you.

Maybe it's____________. You fill in the blank.

Whatever it is, it feels good when you do it. It feels right. And that niggle of Holy Spirit that tells you "Hey, it's YOU He's talking about" on Sunday mornings when the preacher preaches on that, is easily shut up by a loud round of justification.

You all need to REPENT! ;)

Well, in the spirit of being honest, I'll tell you mine: reviling. Or to be specific: reviling in return

What the heck is reviling? Well, Mr. Webster says it's:
to criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner.
Yikes. That's pretty bad right?

 I mean, I could gloss it over by saying "I have a temper" and there's no denying that. My Irish background and red-hair would let you in on that tidbit if you've known me for 2 seconds. But it goes beyond a simple "losing my cool". And it's not gossiping either. I like to be nosy like everyone else, but that's not my Achilles heel. No. What really gets my Irish up and makes me let loose in the most satisfactory ways, is when people start talking badly about me or mine.  I just want to give it back to them in spades! And not only that, but it feels good when I do. I don't want to give that up.

And let's tell the truth and shame the devil, Facebook is either my best friend or my worst enemy. The reviling that goes on in the name of "personal status" sharing would make your head spin.

Or maybe not.

Maybe Facebook is your favorite soapbox. Maybe you like to get on there and wave your opinion around like a mace bashing people in the face with it. It's not like you're actually telling it to their faces! I mean come on! And there-in lies the problem. People say stuff on Facebook they would NEVER say to your face. But while I'm not very prone to share my opinion (we have a Facebook policy in my house: Facebook is for sharing your life not your opinion----because after all, no one has ever been converted to your way of thinking by your witty Facebook status), I'm VERY prone to wanting to respond to other people's Facebook statuses. Boy do I! Especially when it's something inflammatory, insulting and (most importantly) wrong!

The problem is 1 Peter 2:23

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
That one gets me EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Jesus wouldn't respond. Not with anger. To all the business that gets said about Him on Facebook. He wouldn't "revile in return" those who have said nasty things about Him and His followers.

And that means I can't either.

I'm simply not under the same standard of judgment as the average person on social media. I do not simply post for Jennifer Hartnagle. Everything I post comes back on Jesus Christ, whom I claim to follow.
And while that's never going to be easy, the last part of the verse offers some comfort. I trust God who judges justly. It will all come out in the wash (oops, there's my Southern again).

Does that mean I can't get mad at people's blatant abuse of me in particular, Christians in general or Jesus personally? Of course not. Anger is a very natural emotion when you've been insulted. But how we handle that emotion will tell you exactly how much you trust Jesus to take care of it.

And I admit, I don't have it all worked out what the right response is to "friends" who say derogatory things about you in a passive aggressive way on Facebook OR think they aren't directing them at you when it's obvious you're in that category. One shouldn't be allowed to be a bully on Facebook and not have consequences.

But I do have some advice to those claiming the name of Christ:
1. Please watch what you say. People are reading that business. You actually want them too or you wouldn't post them. Blanket statements about this group or that group are never going to go over well, unless you live in a vacuum with only people who agree with you.

2. Don't engage the war. As a Christian, don't return insult for insult. Or passive aggressive Facebook message for passive aggressive Facebook message (in this example). Jesus actually does not need me or you to defend Him. As crazy as that may sound, He's the King of the Universe, and doesn't need puny me fighting his battles for him on Facebook. This just in: in the big scheme of eternity Facebook is not that powerful, and He promises we will give an account for every word we type (well, technically, in the Greek, I believe it's "Speak" but that's relative right?).

3. There's a BIG difference between sharing what you're for and bashing what you're against. You can share posts, blogs, and articles all day regarding things that you are passionate about without getting much backlash. But when you start sharing things that degrade or insult or offer loud opinions why the opposite view is wrong/bad/failing/ridiculous, you will get a response REALLY quickly. For example, "I love dogs more than cats" may get a few likes. But "All cat lovers are ridiculous needy people who need therapy" will get you 357 responses from all your cat-loving friends and even those who don't like cats but have a mom/sister/grandma/best-friend/uncle who owns 5 and is their favorite person in the world. So be "pro" what ever you want, but be careful with your "antis". Savvy?

So I urge you, and mostly me, to put the gloves down. If we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, it cannot be hypothetically. It has to be for real-sies. In real time. Right now. Even on Facebook?

Cause people, what would Jesus do? (probably not have a Facebook account...ouch)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Radio Silence Lifted

I started this blog years ago in order to chronicle our journey through the vast expanse of church planting. And have manged to successfully post, on average, one blog post a year. Just a shout out to let you know we're still alive. Whether that's terrible testimony or accurate portrayal, I will leave up to your judgment. I will say, there have been long stretches of such great chaos, that even if I'd found the time to write, I wouldn't have know what to say. And other stretches of such monotonous trudging that I also would not have known what to say. So, here I am striking out again in an attempt to show a real picture of the process of birthing a church. 

Our fifth (and please dear Jesus) last child was born 16 weeks ago. By golly, if we can't grow this church one way, we will grow it another! Another boy. Of course. Cause that's all we know how to make. And he's precious and beautiful.

 I was struck again by the beauty of the picture of pregnancy and labor being the illustration of creation waiting for the children of God to be revealed. And I still believe it's a better term for starting a church then "planting". What we are doing is not so simple as putting a seed in the ground and praying for rain. Though I don't fault Paul for his analogy of farming. He's a dude. What does he know about growing a baby? 

But that's the exact way church planting feels. We conceived this idea, through no real skill on our part. The Holy Spirit quickened it and it began to grow. There were months of nausea and restlessness as we realized there was no going back, but also nothing to show yet. There was a fun season of beginning to really plan and excitement building. Then a seemingly endless season of sleepless nights, discomfort  and increasing pressure to produce. Finally, through less than lady-like effort, we began life as a church and started meeting. And there was beauty and joy in that initial plunge. The first awkward weeks of gathering on Sunday, not quite sure what to do but just really happy to be doing it! 

However, as with real children, the newness, baby-moon feeling wears off and you enter an interesting time of constant vigilance, dedication, and urgent care. Nighttime feedings and diapers changes have their place in the analogy as we had plenty of late nights nursing this infant church along and plenty of what can only politely be described as cow dung issues to clean up. And just so much of it required direct and intense care from us as it's "parents". So much more work than you really think it should take. And right in the middle of life happening all around us. 

Now our baby church is 15 months old and that's about accurate for our analogy as well. Taking its first few wobbly steps without our carrying it. It's forming a new identity, not entirely dependent upon us, not wholly derivative of us. It's been fascinating and painful, rough but threaded with joy. I am immensely grateful for this honor of seeing Redemption church of Temple being revealed. And I know it really has nothing to do with me.  This, after all, is not my church. This is Jesus' church. As head shepherd and Sovereign King, he is raising his church up. And it is beautiful!