Friday, September 20, 2013

Clarity of Muffled Cries

I find it unusual that we can forget how being around the lost feels like.  We can get huddled up in our believer circles and forget the depths of death surrounding us.  We pack into churches and preach sermons about going out and being the hands and feet of Jesus, but for some reason we still sit all day in churches.  We continue to do more activities with just believers.  We're comfortable with the spiritual Facebook posts, Instagram pictures of skies proclaiming the beauty of God's creation, but we'll softly walk on egg shells around lost people all day and never utter a word.

I remember I asked myself a question that has changed my ministry approach.  I was reading in Mark 2 when Jesus eats with the sinners.  And I wasn't just curious as to why Jesus was eating with them.  I was curious about why the sinners were okay with Him at the table.  They sat there all night and endured the God in the flesh who could judge them and damn them to Hell right?  Hmmm...that's not how the story plays out does it?  Here's where I'm going.

Jesus had an awareness around sinners that I think and WISH and PLEAD that all Christians would try to adopt.  Let me set it up like this. Imagine this.  

You're trying to watch television.  And someone comes up to you and starts talking to you.  Now you're trying to watch your favorite TV show so this person talking to you is annoying.  They're behavior is not approving to you.  And rightfully so, you're trying to watch your favorite TV show.  So you're trying to listen to the your show but this person keeps nagging.  Nothing they have to say matters because the best part of the show is about to happen!! They finally catch the bad guy or they bust the cheater or the Bachelor cuts somebody you wasn't expecting or one of the housewives find out the other one is talking about her behind her back, whatever you're into----but this person is still trying to talk to you!  So you press the pause button on your very American DVR, and you turn to the person.  "Gah! Do you not know how to act!?  Geez?  I'm watching my TV show.  What do you want?"

"I just wanted to tell you that I'm dying."  

You feel the shift?  Did you feel the adjustment that happened in your heart? The minute you heard that person's cry, your concern shifted.  It was no longer about their unacceptable behavior, but more about what was happening to that person internally.

That was an extreme example, but keep flowing with me.  So why did that happen?  Because all it takes is listening.  The more I listen to the lost the more I hear their bluff.  They talk a big game about their lives but the more I listen to them and watch them act I see it's a cry from their very grave screaming, "I want rescuing!  I need rescuing!  Help! Help!" 

But the church is too busy condemning. Calling people to a standard of Jesus without.....well...... first getting them to Jesus.  

I think about how Jesus walked the Earth and how His bride is choosing to walk.  I imagine us walking hand in hand with Jesus and we're pointing out, "Hey, look at them Jesus.  They're sinning.  They're gay.  We should call that out.  We should protest.  Jesus, look at them.  They're very vulgar when they speak.  Jesus look at them, they don't know how to act.  Do they know you're in their presence?"  And Jesus is whispering to us, "Go meet them.  Go eat with them.  I'm here for them...and you should be to."

Clarity of the muffled cries happens when we listen and realize that their external is a cry for their internal redemption.  We need to stop thinking that people should be like Jesus without knowing Jesus.  Christianity is not a type of living, but a transformative process that happens when someone begins to seek to know the love of a living and holy king.  GET PEOPLE TO JESUS FIRST.

Hear the muffled cries?  They're cries for help.  People act like the God they know or don't know.  They need to know the Savior you profess to know.  Go eat with them....Jesus came for them.  You go for them too.         

Monday, September 16, 2013

Act Your Race, Not Your Shoe Size

So that you're not holding your breath the entire time, this blog is about a Christian worldview VS (insert your race) worldview.  Take a deep breath, let's work.

Since I've been home, I have been called "white boy" about three times.  Now, I know these are jokes, so they say.  But are they really?  Are they really jokes?  Or perhaps could you be expressing your worldview?   

The racist comments coming from the Miss America pageant towards the winner has stirred up a reason for the blog.  Now, even though my following is not the entire nation of the United States, I am for certain my thoughts will not make a massive impact at all.  But perhaps it will encourage my lovely and daring readers to think before they make a "joke" again. 

Again I repeat, this is a blog about Christian worldview VS (insert your race) worldview.  For as long as I could remember, I have always been after consistency.  I remember the first time I wrestled with the idea of "is true manhood being a tough guy that can beat up people, watch football, hunt, and shoot guns?" Many men in our culture would say absolutely.  But what about the men that don't like that stuff?  Are they not men? If not?  Then what are they? 

I remember being called "white" in high school.  It never bothered me then but now I can hear what they were saying.  Because the white guys that listened to rap music and were dumb in class was called "black".  And it's happened time and time again since high school.  I've had a girl tell me that I didn't talk black because I talked proper.  I've been called white because of how I dress.  And what's interesting about all of this.....there is no consistency.  For one reason, when I look in the mirror I see brown skin.  When I look at my mother I see a black woman, and when I look at my dad he is black as well.  So what are they talking about when they say I'm white?  And to prove my point even further, some of you reading that list probably nodded in agreement, while some people didn't agree.

So as fleeting and inconstent as (insert your race) worldview can be, why bother with it?  Now please hear me.  I'm not saying I'm ashamed of being black at all.  I love who I am, I love what I represent.  I love where I've come from. I love reading about the civil rights movement.  I love all that wonderful and glorious stuff that has paved the way for me.  But this is what I want you to consider...........

When we die...what happens?  Does a black person's soul go to a different heaven or hell than a white persons?  To avoid being morbid, I'll stop there.  But my point is that when it comes to considering worldviews, I'm choosing the Jesus worldview.  Why?  Because my Savior did not care about people groups.  He died for Jew and Gentiles.  And the fact that I have white brothers and sisters in Christ and Asian brothers and sisters in Christ and the list goes on, it's so beautiful to me.  A Jesus worldview is realizing that He has the final say in everything and we should conform to Him.  So if He loved the white brother, then so should I.  If He loved the girl from the Indian descent, then so should I.  The same grace we gobble up in troughs we choke out from people.  The same grace God has given you to even take the breath you just took, you have the nerve to be make anything about you?  Do we not know the price Jesus has paid for our sins?  Do we not know the offense we have made against a holy God and He showed mercy on us?  And you?  You have the nerve to judge a person by their skin color when God knew your skin color AND your heart and He still loved you and became man Himself and bore our sins and satisfied His own wrath?

That's the worldview I'm choosing to allow to dictate my life.  I honestly wish I could be in this black pride, fist in air, down with the brothers, black cultured, rap lyric spitting, cool talking, swag walking black man that everyone expects for me to be, but here's what I've noticed...being black didn't do anything for me eternally.  But Jesus did.  He assured me of salvation.  He assured me that I could be in relationship with the wonderful and magnificent God of the universe, dwell in the heavenly places and sip upon the glorious riches of His love and mercy.  Again, don't mishear me now.  I'm proud to be black, but I'm more proud that God calls me His own.  That'll get me much further---eternal bliss with the King.  That worldview is all I need.

And you'll never hear me say, "I don't see color."  That's not the way to fix racism.  We shouldn't have to diminish colors to appreciate the person.  Get over yourself and your race.  Every color is beautiful and every culture is wonderful.  Just because it's not yours does not mean it's wrong.  I've never told this to my white friends, but they try to bring me into their culture all the time---but they never respond when I try to bring them into mine.  They force me to listen to country music and rock music in their cars.  But when they're in my car and I try to get them to listen to rap and R&B music, they ignore it.  Get over yourself and your race.  There's something way bigger than all of us---and He created all of us.  And He created all the many different species of animals and insects and plants and the list goes on.  Get over yourself.  Boast in the only thing worth boasting in-----and that's Jesus.  And I'm thankful that the Gospel evens the playing field.  ALL are guilty before God.  (Romans 3)  Not just the thugs, gang bangers, but also the Ponzi scheming and rednecks, whatever stereotype you want to include that you despise the most.  You're just as guilty as them before God----which is why He gets the final say.  

The Away Team

True signs of mature athletes is there ability to play well while they are away from their home turf.  Especially when they are going into "hostile" environments, such as LSU's Tiger Stadium or the Oakland Raiders' stadium or Duke's student section in college basketball.  And if you missed the sports reference, you'll understand it by the end---I promise.

And it's always beautiful to watch those mature athletes like Cam Newton who makes a big play that quiets the entire stadium, and they taunt with a hand over their mouth or a finger to their lips to rub it in.  Too bad I haven't been that guy.

Coaches dream of their teams reaching a maturity where they can win road games.  It's a known fact that a team has to be good on the road to win championships.  But what area are they expected to be maturing in?  It's actually quite simple, "Still playing well even when facing adversity."

Let me explain why playing at home is so easy.  Everyone in the stadium believes in you.  If they didn't they wouldn't even be there.  When you're at home, the fan base is for you.  They're on your side.  Their presence alone is encouraging.  And especially when they start to cheer for you when you take the field, that's encouraging.  Momentum is easier to manage because you have so many people excited when you do even the smallest thing well.  You get a first down, people scream.  You make a decent play, people cheer.  You score a touchdown, the entire crowd erupts and there's a celebration.  It's easy to keep your emotions on a high level when playing at home when you have all this excitement and encouragement backing you up and pushing you forward.

But when the team becomes the Away Team.  When they go into the hostile environments, the expectations alone are beginning to weigh on the players.  The anticipation before the game is intense, but the butterflies doesn't get stirred up until you leave home heading to the opposing city.  It doesn't feel much different until you're doing the same thing you've done in your home stadium, but this time there's boos....or even silence.  You run out on the field, normally cheers from the crowd when they see the team you're representing stitched on your jersey.  But now, sneers and bad blood is present for that same stitching.  The same play you ran that got great yardage on your home field, gets you boos this game.  And when you score, no one cheers.  Rather, you hear a deflation of everyone around you, disappointed in you for doing something you thought you did well.  And when there's no momentum, how do you recover from the adversity?  How do you continue to play well even when everything is working against you?  The opposing team, the fans, all are out to be sure you do not succeed in what you've come to do.  The coach calls a time out because he sees your body language.  He can tell his team is getting worn out by the hostile environment.  Nothing is going their way.  And its frustrating when people are nagging it on.  The team huddles around the coach, tirelessly hoping that he has something uplifting to say.  The coach looks at his team and he says one sentence.

"Play your game."

In that one sentence, your heartbeat starts to thump again.  In that one sentence, air is breathed back into your lungs.  In that one sentence, you run back out onto that field or court and you focus on that one thing, "playing your game."  But what does it mean to play your game?

Paul in the New Testament was remarkable at playing his game.  When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, he was met with some hostile opponents who eventually had him arrested and thrown in jail. Paul was passionate about sharing the Good News of Jesus and establishing churches, so of course being arrested could be considered a wrinkle in his plans.  But as we can see in our New Testament being mostly written by Paul, Paul didn't let that stop him.  He played his game.  He continue to share the Good News with the prisoners and the guards and he wrote letters to churches that we're reading today.  Paul was a mature "athlete" of the Gospel because he continued to play well even when facing adversity.  He was so confident in who God made him and what He had called him to that nothing could slow him down.  Not fourth and long.  Not down by 15 with 5 minutes left to go in the half.  Not an injured star player.  Paul continued to play well---he continued to play his game.

Now, I'm not saying Oxford is similar to prison.  Lol. It's seriously not that bad at all.  However, it was not in my plans to be here this long.  Just as Paul didn't plan to be sitting in a jail, I didn't plan on sitting in my old room looking for jobs.  But for some reason God moved in His sovereignty to get us to consider His plan (imagine that).  And since I've been back in Oxford I've had my share of difficulties, but have been internal.  If you're a reader of my blog, you've heard of them.  But there's this deep cry within my soul that is begging for more.  There's a God breathed vision and gift that is itching to be released, talent beyond what I can see.  Movements beyond my control.  It was easy to tap into those things when I was the Home Team.  Hundreds of people encouraging you.  Hundreds of people believing in you.  Hundreds of people responding to every good play you make and now.....I'm the Away Team.  The locker room is unfamiliar and the fan base is different and rooting for a different team.  All I have is the coach yelling from the sidelines, "Claude, play your game!"

So as we break from this huddle, remember one thing.  It does not matter where you are.  Be confident in who you are.  And play your game.

Ready.  BREAK!