Thursday, December 31, 2009

5 Social Media Resolutions for the New Year

I resolve to use Twitter and facebook to make fun of people and ridicule more, especially famous people who cannot even know I exist. It makes me feel special when people laugh at my 140-chracter wit and isn’t this how they will know we have been with Jesus?

I resolve to practice my righteousness before men as much as possible on Twitter and facebook.

I resolve to retweet famous rock-star type pastors only and look for good quotes that will be retweeted by people. It makes me feel oh so good inside.

I resolve to use Twitter and facebook to make people feel guilty about their failures and sins and help them question their love for Jesus. After all, I don’t really believe in sanctification by faith in the gospel anyhow. And who wants to hear the gospel tweeted every. single. day?

I resolve to look down on those who do not use these social mediums and question the relevance of pastors who don’t especially.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Is For Haters

About a year ago, I heard from someone about how difficult Christmas would be because of some heartbreak in their family. What got me was the utter hopelessness and devastation. Christmas would be impossible to enjoy because of the freshness of this pain. I have been thinking about this conversation for a year.

I get it. I mean…it makes sense on the level of Christmas being a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce or empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.

But allow me to push back a little. Gently. I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They have not gotten lost on the way because of the GPS they got last year and they are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas. Thanks, Hallmark.But this is so damnably backwards. Christmas – the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer – is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshippers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds; beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness…for daughters whose fathers never told them they were not. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son, whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when the son wanted art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for whores, adulterers and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who have traded in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune – they want ‘home’ but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a Universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Have Lost My Appetite for Football

Every year my wife and I long for football season to arrive. The convergence of cooler weather, SEC football and my wife's chili make for many smiles in our home. I went to Auburn University and grew up in a home where every Saturday the TV was on and tuned to a ballgame. We didn't care if it was even some bush-league Big 12 game (Update: then the Big 8), we were watching.

And when we had decided to move to St. Louis so I could go to Seminary, we started pulling for the Rams and got very into the NFL. We love Sundays curled up on the couch (yes, this is no exaggeration, my wife loved to do this) watching pretty much any game. Sunday nights and Monday nights revolved around those games.

Not so much anymore.

I read everything by Malcolm Gladwell. Everything. If he wrote a book of Haikus on the habits of prehistoric arachnids I would try to get a first edition. Signed, even. This Past October I read his article for the New Yorker entitled, "Offensive Play" about Football, Dogfighting and Brain Trauma. The gist is there is a link between brain damage and the everyday collisions and concussions that all football players are subjected to in each game. Gladwell provocatively asks us to consider our outrage over the entertainment of dogfighting which is so brutal and if we are prepared to be outraged over the findings of scientists in regards to football players.

My stomach churned as I read this article because it took my love of a game and threw it against conviction, which I must admit sometimes is not a very hard surface.

And then there is this article over at about the physical toll, football took on Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champ, David Louis Pear. (HT: Zach Nielsen)

"Don't let your kids play football," he says. "Never."

Every time there was a player lying on the turf still and straight as a board, I would look over at my wife and she would look in my eyes - we both knew we were watching something that should not be happening.

Let every man and woman be convinced in his or her own mind. But it has gone from feeling like good clean fun to being a part of the mob in the Roman Coliseum. I have said very little about it because I have not been all that sure how I should react. Now I have hit a wall of conviction, firm and steadfast.

Let me make it clear I have no expectation of people adopting my conviction and would not argue for my position with anyone. Since I read the article by Gladwell, it has been very hard to kick the habit of not caring about who wins and loses. Usually I am elated by a Colts win and a Pats loss. But since October they both just felt like losers in what has become an industry machine at the expense of health and well-being for husbands and fathers. Husbands and Fathers, for the love.

How am I able to give up what was such a passion? The gospel, clear and simple. How could I, even if this is not conclusive information, not be satisfied with the grace of God - even if it costs me a cherished hobby/interest/affection/possible idol? Is Jesus not enough? The sufficiency of my place in Christ before God is enough when other men question my toughness and convictions.

They will ask for my "man-card". They will call me extreme and ridiculous. Whatever. They will expect it to be short-lived till Auburn becomes a better team. And they will call me a legalist. That is need to appear manly may need to be nailed to the cross also. Maybe.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Everything Is Interesting

When a 14 year old girl in suburbia can type “I’m bored, plz txt” on her facebook status, I think it safe to say we have lost something. She certainly has. I mean - she is on the INTERNET. At her fingertips is the ability to communicate, learn and be entertained. She could spend an entire week on the Internet and never even come close to perusing all the sites she might have even a cursory interest in. Interest. That is what is lost – the sense that things are interesting. If she cannot be interested – in fact she is bored – on the Internet, why would we be surprised if she is bored in school or church?

But we cannot be too hard on her. I have trouble sitting in a waiting room for more than 5 minutes without needing to play/text/call someone/listen to music with my phone. I am not all that sure how it happened. I have some guesses on contributing factors but for the life of me, I cannot get my head around why we have so little interest in – well – everything. Maybe we are far too utilitarian. Maybe we are too used to instant access to everything. Maybe we are what is boring. Perhaps it is all of the above.

Recently someone pointed out how many interests I have. My first, gut-level response was, “Well, I am kinda interested in everything.” I know, sounds pretty pretentious. I felt pretty dumb saying it – like some sophomore in college who cannot make up his mind on a major and you just know he is going to end up studying Russian Lit and working at Starbucks.

But then I got to thinking, “is everything interesting?” Is it true? Can we actually say without equivocation everything is interesting? Is it going out on a limb to say without reservation, “everything is interesting”? Let me tell you a story…

About 10 to 12 years ago, I picked up a copy of a magazine called “Skeptic”. It was put out by…ummm, well…skeptics. And I read it from cover to cover. Fascinating stuff to be honest and I was surprised at how varied their skepticism was. But I noticed something running through the whole thing – it seemed they were only interested in being dismissive. My first thought was how “small” it is. There is nothing profound about being skeptical about everything and anything.

So I wrote them an email and told them. Email was still fairly new so I got a pretty quick response from the editor. His basic response was “we do a lot of things that are not profound…like go to the bathroom.” Crap. That sounded like such a good response. Immediate humiliation. After a day or two, I got to thinking through what sounded like a really, really good argument. “Really, going to the bathroom is not profound? What about for those who cannot because of sickness or disease? What if we could not ever rid ourselves of our own waste? Would I ever tell a person with a colostomy bag that going to bathroom is not a profound thing? Would I tell God this?” I wrote and asked him these questions – minus the one about God because he is, well, a skeptic. I got no response. Score.

That episode taught me two things. First, the standard for what is profound is usually subjective. Sometimes the very opposite of the conventional wisdom is true.

Those two lessons go well with the discussion about what is interesting. Now is probably a good time to bring in some objective “evidence” so as to nail some conventional wisdom on the cross.

The very first statement in the Scriptures is that God created the heavens and the earth. This is fairly significant on a variety of levels. But certainly if God creates something it is interesting. It is worthy of our interest to some degree. We should at least not be bored with it. Imagine this conversation -

Created Being: That drive through Kansas on I-70 is soooo boring. I prefer tress. There should be more trees.

Creator of Everything: I did that.

Created Being: Oh. Sorry.

That is not on my list of conversations to have with the Sovereign God of the entire Universe.

Romans 11:36 has a little to say on this subject, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” This verse not only tells us all things find their ultimate origin in God but if anything is done it is done by him and for him. I do not think it is pushing it to say that if a mite moves in Minnesota God did it. And he did it for his glory. And we should care if we are aware it has happened. Again, are you willing to label anything boring if God is the origin, means and purpose of “all things’?

Last verse. Colossians 1:15, 16, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” The “him” is Jesus. The one who was born of a virgin in a barn in Bethlehem. The “him” is the one who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He is the one who exhibited love like no other. He is the one who, though the King of the Universe, got on his knees and washed the crap off the disciple’s feet. He is the one who was whipped, shamed, tortured and crucified on a Roman Cross only to be mocked. He, the one who created the very nails piercing his hands is the one died this death so that we might enjoy his love forever. Through him, this One who created “all things”, we have forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal joy. In other words, Jesus – our Lord and Savior, Redeemer and friend, the one who is not ashamed to call us ‘brother’ – created everything. Is anything he created not interesting?

If anything has to do with Jesus, it is worthy of interest. And since everything is about Jesus, everything should be worthy of our interest. How could we ever be bored? We should be the kind of people that are interested in everything. We should be thinking deeply about how everything can tell us more about this amazing Jesus. We should be fixed on the pursuit of thinking about all things in relation to the One Who created them.

Everything is interesting.