Merry Xmas from The Colbert Report

This clip from The Colbert Report owned me… “reporting” on Christmas & charity.

Colbert’s over-the-top satire speaks louder and more directly than most sermons.

Sometimes it takes a comedian to say the things the rest of us are scared to admit.

Watch it to the end and tell me his conclusion doesn’t leave your mouth wide open.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> March to Keep Fear Alive

“If this is going to be a “Christian Nation” that doesn’t help the poor
EITHER we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are
OR we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor
and serve the needy without condition…
and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

Jesus. Twitter. and The Way.

As I’m wrapping up our new small group & retreat curriculum for Student Life/NavPress, I’ve been reflecting on my own spiritual journey. The Way of Christ doesn’t leave any room for straddling the fence. There is no middle ground.

If I’m honest, I sometimes treat following Christ a lot like I would treat following someone on Twitter (if I had a Twitter account). It is enough for me to simply have regular updates of what He said. That is often the extent of our relationship. I “know Him” and “follow Him” because I have read something He said that day…

But if His words aren’t changing my life. If I’m not being transformed, I’m treating Scripture like a profound tweet or status update. Am I habitually looking to His Word? But more than that, am I responding to it. Is it changing me? Transforming me? Moving me into action.

It’s not enough to merely know what He said. It’s not enough to say I believe it. I have to live for it.

Take 3 minutes and to watch this clip of Francis Chan talking about the “new middle road” many of us try to walk…  somewhere between the narrow and broad path Christ describes in Matthew 7:13-14.

(Video clip from the RightNow Conference – a great ministry to mobilize and equip church leaders)

I’m A Trader

Brain Mosley and the crew over at BluefishTV and the Right Now Campaign created this video to explain their vision and purpose as an organization and as individuals… They shared it at last weekend’s Right Now Conference.

This is my heart exactly. If you’re reading/watching this, then you know this is my passion. I simply wanted to share this reminder that we live for greater things than this world could ever offer. (I’ve been thinking a lot about my own future and this was a great reminder as to what truly matters in life!) I want to live each day for the sake of eternity. I want my family, friends, community, and world to be passionate about Christ and His kingdom. Call it Radical. Normal. Trader. Or whatever you have been calling it. It’s time to get real and get serious about what we say we believe. Let’s take God at His Word. God is doing great things with His Church – I believe it.

I’m a trader.

Are you?

Lesson From Bobby

I’m not Mr. Baseball. I love a good game as much as the next guy, but I don’t keep stats or fantasy teams. Most of my friends are those guys. So I’ll leave the sentimental sports talk to them.

Moving to Atlanta in 1990 meant that I arrived right as Bobby Cox was turning the Braves into an unprecedented powerhouse. A dynasty of excellence. 14 consecutive division titles. A friend of mine posted this link today, reminiscing the incredible career and legacy or Bobby Cox. You don’t have to be a big sports fan to be stirred up by the passion of athletes or coaches. Besides his sheer longevity, one thing really struck me.

What I have been realizing over the past couple of years about my hope for ministry and management – a great rule of thumb – is summed up in Bobby’s leadership philosophy:

“You try to let the players play the game themselves instead of you being responsible.”

(4:25 in the video)       Watch MLB’s Salute to Bobby Cox here

Surround yourself with great people. People you respect. People you believe in. Then trust them. Trust the people you live with, work with, manage, serve, or pastor. They are gifted with unique abilities. Let them do what they do best. Your role may simply be to know who to call on and when. Empower them to have fun and work hard and everyone wins.

Shim it?

So, recently I’ve realized that it’s OK to admit that I don’t know what people are talking about and ask “stupid” questions. It’s been a major break though for me. I know, it should be obvious, but for me, this has been a big deal.

My recent exchange with Home Depot’s salesman in the door isle opened my eyes to a couple of things. 1 – it helped me laugh at my own hesitation to ask questions. 2 – it sparked a spiritual reflection (big shocker, right?)

ME: “So to install this entry door, I just pop the old one out and slide this one in?”

HD: “Yeah, you just slide it in, shim it, put the molding around it…”

ME: “SHIM IT?”

HD: “Yeah, real simple, just shim it.”

ME: “I’m sorry – what does it mean to shim something?”

HD: “You center it with a shim.”

ME: (laughing) “So… I still don’t know what a shim is whether you use it as a noun or as a verb…”

HD: “It’s a wooden wedge. A piece used to fill the gaps.”

ME: “Got it. Thanks.”

How many times do we as Christ-followers, ministers, leaders, or as organizations, churches, and ministries have “shimmy” communication? Are we using language that is meaningless to our audience – even in one-on-one conversation? We think we’re explaining simple truths (and we may be) but we’re using a vocabulary that has no context in their daily life.

I’m not suggesting that we dumb anything down, but we should be aware of what we’re assuming is common knowledge. This is the key – NOTHING IS COMMON KNOWLEDGE. At least not in terms of discipleship.

Don’t let people feel dumb and walk away intimidated, never intending to pursue this “Jesus thing” any further simply because you spoke to them in a way that made them feel inferior or at least like an outsider. Obviously the Holy spirit is ultimately the One opening people’s hearts and minds to the truth of the gospel, but as Christ-followers, we should be making disciples everywhere we go. (Matt 28:19-20) This means explaining and modeling truth in a way that helps people each step along the way.

Playing. The Race Card.

Pretty Fly For A White Guy. I drew a couple stares as I cruised down Project Road on my borrowed ride – a tricked out, stretch, low-rider bicycle.

“You wanna race?” had been the initial challenge from a young boy who had been watching from the playground as my friends and I built a shelter to provide him and his friends some shade from the brutal Alabama sun. I wondered if I was being set up but agreed to play along.

“That one doesn’t have brakes” was the warning tossed over my  opponent’s shoulder as the fat rear tires of our choppers gripped the asphalt.

This can’t end well. I’ll be a spectacle. Soon, I was barreling down a narrow concrete path encircling the public basketball court. My bike rattled violently down the steep hill towards a creek and bridge. The jagged teeth of the low metal pedals sparked with even the slightest lean to one side or the other. No brakes. But I was winning “the race.”

Miraculously, I looped back to the safety of Kids First Awareness, the community center and after school outreach program we were serving that day. The other guys were wrapping up a few other odd jobs, showing a few of the local teenagers how to use power tools. Our hope was to use the construction to establish a shared experience with the kids in the area instead of just swooping in and giving something to them.

That Saturday morning our small group was taking the first steps to intentionally build relationships with the neighbors in this particular housing project. When praying about where to move several months ago, Amanda and I felt our hearts pulled to Alabaster, knowing that it was a city of extremely diverse socio-economic status, having several government housing projects and trailer communities surrounded by traditional subdivisions and residential areas.

This particular area in the community off of hwy 11 has a reputation as one of the roughest spots in the county. Last year, while I was on the grand jury for a week, I saw this reality quite clearly. The DA fondly referred to it as the crack capitol of Shelby County, clarifying that most drugs in the area come through this section of housing. The level of crime is unmistakably higher in the stretch between I-65 and Hwy 31. A classic example of “wrong side of the tracks” (Ballantrae Golf Course and other beautiful subdivisions are literally on the other side of the bridge down 11).

I really wanted to see God work in the lives of these kids and was honestly a little self-conscious, prayerfully considering how to navigate racial and economic barriers. I’d been seeking discernment on how to initiate conversations. Turned out that race played a big part of the experience. Just not like I expected. The color of our skin was not a barrier – a simple race through the streets and fast-paced competition on the basketball courts had brought us all together. We played several rounds of “Shoot-Out” (admittedly the only ways this 30 year old white guy had any prayer of being able to hang on a basketball court with teenagers in the projects – I won’t lie, I was sacred of being schooled in an actual pick-up game.).

Playing. Races. Games.

Playing had brought us together. The spirit of friendly competition had leveled the playing field, so-to-speak, bringing us together in a way that friendships could begin more naturally than could random conversations. It was a neutral realm – an intermediary in this new friendship, one that erased any other distinctions. We were teammates and competitors.

This is going to be more fun than I realized. I’m excited to see how these new relationships will develop through regular time with my new friends (and what they will teach me about life and God).

Book Review: Jungle Warfare

I picked this book up, being at a point in my life (like many people) where the future is uncertain as to what direction my career path will take. I also have a burden for the lack of Christian ethics in today’s business world… Cunningham does focus pretty narrowly on sales (as the title promises) as opposed to business in general, but most principles are applicable to any competitive field.

Here’s the gist: “Christopher A. Cunningham has taken a prized family gift: his grandfather’s WWII Basic Field Manual on Jungle Warfare, and adapted its rules of engagement to fit the basic needs of the Christian sales person who is on the front lines of business every day.” The book is a 22 day devotional, each day opening with an excerpt from the WWII manual, Scripture, and then a short devotion followed by a suggested prayer and a few journal questions for reflection and application. Great format – short, simple, thoughtful.

Strength: Cunningham uses tons of scripture, more than a typical devotional. I also appreciated that this book did NOT have a “prosperity” slant to it. Cunningham did not encourage people to seek favor with God in order to be “blessed” with success in sales. The emphasis was on developing Christ-like character, learning to see your business life as a major opportunity to live out your faith while being tested on many levels.

Weakness: The jungle warfare metaphor often seemed forced, the manual excerpts were simply a novel hook but often irrelevant, barely alluded to/explained. Also, the layers of metaphor often were a bit much – jungle warfare compared to sales and/or life in general, seen through a biblical lens, using scriptures that may also use metaphor or imagery. It wasn’t until day 8 that I felt there was a great synergy between those layers.

*Also, day 11 accidentally (I hope) says that “God CREATED Jesus and had a no-fail plan to share Him” (80) before time began and the that “He carefully selected Jesus, whose loyalty and integrity are unquestioned!” (81). Cunningham is a salesman, not a theologian, and this is an example of forcing the language of the metaphor in a way that Thomas Nelson should have caught as the publisher. Nowhere else does Cunningham show bad Christology. Some other statements were oversimplified or too matter-of-fact, like his 4 criteria for your prayers being in God’s will (51) or the correlation between belief and health (68) but not bad theology, so to speak; so this was an unfortunate scar on an otherwise OK book.

Overall, I appreciated it, but wasn’t blown away. It was an average book that was right on target with its intent but could have had better execution.

I review for BookSneeze

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Church “Branding”?

The term church branding may seem like a jarring blend of two worlds which don’t ever need to meet. “That’s what’s wrong with church culture today – commercialization,” you may think. True, selling out and bowing to the business idols of numerical and financial success is a major problem with the American church model, BUT branding can actually be part of the remedy. Too many churches and ministries suffer from a lack of clear identity, purpose, and voice… (aka branding). Without a clear brand, leaders and members alike are left wavering between what seems meaningful or appropriate in the moment. Measures of impact are unclear and therefore default to tangibles like statistics rather than intangibles like life-change. I’ve seen over and over that good intentions are simply not enough.

Your brand is everything associated with your image – everything communicated, intentionally or not. It is perception – understanding or misunderstanding of who you are and what you stand for. It’s not only what you say you believe, but more significantly, it is what people say and believe about you. If your brand is one of little or no value, pertinence, or credibility, then what you believe is irrelevant to the very people you’re trying to reach.  So, what is being communicated? How aware are you of your own image? Are you shaping your own brand?

I wanted to share a blog post from my friends at DC (Details Communication). This is one of the projects I’ve been working on lately for a church in Houston, TX – Copperfield Church’s new website. Brian’s entry is a great explanation and illustration of how a church’s “brand” is more than mere marketing to attract newbies or relay info to members.

This has been an exciting new venture for me in helping a church cast vision and rally their community with purpose – namely missional living.

Click the link below for the DC blog post on the philosophy and strategy behind church branding (Copperfield Church’s in particular) and one of the best church websites I’ve ever seen (DC’s creative director, Graham Yelton is a rock star). Check it out here: THE BEFORE AND AFTER OF A REJUVENATED BRAND

Here’s a sneak peak of Copperfield’s new look – Check out their new site next month (launching September 2010) at coppefieldchurch.org

Do.Dah.Dippity. (Does the Church have Soul?)

Am I the only one? Every time I pull up next to a Kia Soul at a red light or driving down the road, part of me expects to see Hamsters listening to hip-hop. There, I said it. Everything inside me tries not to look. My eyes are laser-focused straight ahead and my hands grip 10 and 2 on the steering wheel… but eventually I peek. And much to my disappointment and relief, it’s never a hoodied hamster. (yet another example of a wildly successful yet miserable failure of communication and branding)

Now, here’s what I wonder. As the (American) Church, have we invested so much of our time trying to project an image to the world (attractive, cool, relevant, friendly, even fun) that people are confused, surprised, or even disappointed when we try to be real?

Is there an identity crisis for people “inside” and “outside” of the Church as to what exactly we are supposed to be and do?

When the rubber hits the road (excuse the cheesy cliche’) has the American Church become a fad or series of fads with no true identity? Is it merely a string of failed or moderately successful marketing campaigns? Does anyone know what a life in community as God’s people even looks like? Is anyone interested in the real deal once they get past the initial hype?

Is the mantra of post-modern church culture: “You can go with this. Or you can go with that.” Do. Dah. Dippity.

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

As I’m getting into this blog now for multiple reasons, primarily to provide an outlet and exercise that keeps writing fun and to keep my mind focused on the various messages swirling around us, I realize that there are certain principles to keep in mind, particularly for business/ministry (and if writing is my business/ministry, then I need to pay attention to these ideas).

Also, I’ve begun working with churches and ministries who are trying to figure out this social media thing, so here are some great tips below. Enjoy.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Media for Business
Via: The Steel Method

Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise Video

This week’s free video on iTunes is The Avett Brothers’ Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise. (Download it here) But just like the title, the song’s video is a bit conflicted – an artistic juxtaposition…

First, let me say that The Avett Brothers put on one of the absolute BEST live shows around. My wife and I caught them this past New Year’s at The Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta with my good friend in life and ministry, Andy Blanks and his wife Brendt. All four of us were blown away. (I won’t detour into our people-watching adventures, but concertgoers can be ridiculous with their go-to dance moves, incoherent outbursts, and enthusiastic gestures…. head-bobbers, leg-slappers, fist-pumpers, whoopers and whistlers… and the token “i love you” guy.)

Second, I loved this video (obviously) and wanted to share it. I’m not sure if the art was done by Scott Avett or not; the painting seems to be very similar to his style (view Scott’s gallery). I can’t imagine how much time went into the production of this video. It’s over four minutes of stop-motion style animation with a painting, probably done digitally (like that iPad artist using the brushes app), and it looks awesome.

BUT, with the countless thoughts running through my head as my imagination was lead along this painted journey, I was left impressed by two things:

1. I love the Book of Ecclesiastes, and this video reminded me of the futility of man’s great achievements and the natural cycle of this world. There is nothing new under the sun. There are seasons, highs and lows. Ultimately, everything man does will be stripped away, returning to dust, only for the next guy to come along with the same  great “new” idea. So there has to be a greater purpose than living for the so-called success and progress depicted in this video. We can’t depend on the things of this world, especially material things, to find meaning and satisfaction. (Which is their point, I believe.)

2. I was distracted by the video to the point of missing many of the lyrics (which as a writer, is one of my favorite things about The Avett Brothers). Ironically, the other theme seemed to be intentionally inserted in the middle of the video. At one point the sign is surrounded by the noise of competing signs. I say this is ironic because it seemed to unintentionally speak to the video as a whole, the noise of the medium drowning out the message. This made me wonder about life, leadership, ministry, writing, teaching, and communication in general… how often does the message get lost in the delivery? Does the creative presentation draw too much attention onto itself? Do the two work together or do they compete? Even if the creativity, production quality, and message are all incredible, is it cohesive? Is there synergy?

If there is a greater purpose and meaning in life (which I believe there is) then I want to be able to clearly communicate that in everything I do. Sometimes that means knowing when to reel a great idea in to better suit the content.

8 years ago… our faith journey

Honeymoon in St. John (the journey begins)

“The tune that is yours and mine

to play upon this earth,

we’ll play it out the best we know,

whatever it is worth.”

Bob Dylan – The Wedding Song

Happy anniversary to my beautiful bride.

I thank God for the faith journey He has us on together.

8 years ago TODAY… God joined us together, man and wife and the journey “officially” began.

7 years ago TODAY… We moved to a new state, homeless, trusting God to provide a home as we followed His call… He did within weeks.

6 years ago… We stepped out in faith again, trusting God to provide a new job for Amanda… He did within a week.

5 years ago… We trusted God to provide as I stepped into a church staff position even though the math never added up… He has always provided.

4 years ago… God blessed us with our first daughter. Adalyn was born and we stepped out in faith again as Amanda stayed home to raise and disciple our child… God continued to provide.

3 years ago… God was growing our family and our faith as Amanda was pregnant with Ella, our second daughter… Our awe of God’s grace in our lives grew exponentially.

2 years ago… God called me to step into a new world – full-time writing – promising to open the doors of opportunity… He swung that first door wide open a month later.

1 year ago… We were surprised by yet another little girl – Katy Jane – and God grew our hearts and faith as we weren’t sure how we would manage now that we were outnumbered and the math had still never worked…

TODAY… God continues to provide, bless, and stretch our faith. We don’t know what the future holds, but He has proven faithful to us every step of the way and I am confident that He has great things for the years ahead as we seek to be faithful to Him. Thank you God for the gift of my bride and mother of our children. Thank you for calling us to this life together. Thank you for your guidance at every turn (thank you that those turns in our journey are never surprising to you and that you’ve always gone ahead to prepare the way).

I Don’t Want My Life To Matter Anymore…

No, seriously. For so long, I have wanted my life to matter. In particular, I wanted it to matter for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. It sounds noble. Recently, I have had countless conversations with friends for whom this burning desire has become less of a motivation and more of a burden. We feel trapped in ordinary lives, longing for the great adventure of surrender and sacrifice for the glory of God in all nations. But the trouble is, it isn’t because we’re lazy and not doing anything, there is simply this invisible weight that our lives are not significant enough. We’re not living the epic tales that great novels and movies are made out of…

But a few weeks ago, the same time I had my Radical Confession (see earlier post if you are curious), I believe God gave me a simple, yet profound (for me at least) shift in my perspective. It has transformed the way I see life.

Before: “I want my life to matter for the sake of God’s glory and people around me.”

After: “I want God’s glory to matter in the lives of people around me.”

It’s more than mere semantics. The shift removes “my life” from the desire. My attention is no longer on myself. The very way that my life will matter is by focusing exclusively on helping others see God’s glory. I want Him to matter in the lives of people around the world, across the street, and in my own home.

That’s it.

My life isn’t about me. It’s about Him. I want Him to matter. period.

I don’t want my life to matter anymore.

What’s My “Cupcake”?

I was sitting in Starbucks this morning, reading Isaiah, and couldn’t help but overhear the conversation across from me. A suburban mom was meeting with her young personal trainer or some sort (super-cool young kid, with his Vibram 5-finger shoes… you know the ones with the toes in them… and tight t-shirt to properly display “the gun show” as Ron Burgandy would say).

With great enthusiasm he worked formulas, explaining grams and kilograms of what to eat and when as well as what amount of activity should be implemented at what intervals… blah blah blah… He never held her full attention during the conversation – she was texting and repeatedly getting up for napkins, etc. BUT then the barista gave away some free cupcakes which had tipped over, smashing the icing on top. The trainer instinctively snatched up the freebie without a second thought, much to my amusement. (No young guy passes up free food, even if he is a health nut.) He then proceeded to walk through calorie counts and whatnot while dangling his goodie bag as he spoke, literally. He held it in the air, with his elbow propped up on his knee between his notebook and the woman’s line of sight. Her eyes were hopelessly transfixed on the imperfect treat she had reluctantly declined from the trendy Starbucks employee… poor lady could have swam laps in the pool accumulating around her ankles as her mouth watered. She never blinked. If staring contests were an Olympic sport she’d have broken the world record this morning.

The scene obviously made me laugh, pondering the discrepancy between what this young man was “preaching” and what he was “practicing”… Who’s going to listen to the fitness guru telling you to count your calories as he munches on a cupcake?

On further reflection, I wondered how I was just like this hypocritical trainer – knowing all the information, speaking passionately about it, even looking the part, but unwittingly flaunting a temptation. Or how am I even like the half-hearted woman – committing to do the right things, going through the routines because it’s the right thing to do, but I sure don’t really care about it? I’d prefer to have my cake and eat it too, but i’ll practice self-control much to my own dismay.

In light of Isaiah 1:11-18, I wondered: What is MY cupcake?

What sin am I completely blind to? Am I flaunting it? Am I obsessed with it? Is it a distraction in my own life or do I even know that I’m holding onto this temptation, distracting others instead and ruining my own credibility?

Am I the hypocritical trainer? Am I the half-hearted trainee?

What in my life doesn’t lineup with the faith I claim? Has my worship and righteousness become a matter of empty-religious routine which God (and the world) wants nothing to do with, because it rings hollow of true conviction?

it would be super-cliche’ to conclude with : “food for thought”  but…

Jonah and the 4th of July

Taylor Robinson, a great friend of mine, helped out with a song during worship on the 4th of July. (Check out the 10 minute mark.) Sure, it may look like what some of you may expect from a church in Alabama, but it was a great time. Imagine A Boy Named Sue version of the story of Jonah in an Oh Brother Where Art Thou? fashion… if that makes sense. The message was a challenging look at the all too familiar story of Jonah. (NOT your typical 4th of July message.)

Fish Food <— Nobody saw this coming…

I always get a little anxious around the 4th of July when it comes to how churches will acknowledge the day, especially with it falling on Sunday this year. Over the past 5-10 years, I have honestly had growing discomfort with the blurred lines (if any line at all) between American and Christian values and the place patriotism has in the church. Sunday morning (this video) was a great balance of fun and celebration, while both respecting our nation and calling God’s people to remember that our allegiance lies with and our freedom comes from a King and Kingdom that is not of this world… and His mission is to reach the nations… all of them…. with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

July 4, 2010  ::  Fish Food and the Fourth of July ::  The Church At Brook Hills  ::  David Platt

Life In The Office

Our office here has a culture that is a little different from most, I imagine. For starters, we have writing, editing, audio, video, photography, animation, design, drama, carpentry, sales, tech, programming, finance, events, and missions under one roof. And for the most part, we’re pretty young. So when you get all kinds of creative people into one place, someone is going to need a mental break, outlet, or moment of new inspiration.

The objective of this game is simple: walk from Drew’s office to Taylor’s office as quickly as possible while holding a fish eye lens to one eye and covering the other. (I went second in this round of attempts.)

Classic moments from days gone by – I miss some of these guys around here.

In the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, today I simply wanted to be reminded to make the most of the day, enjoying the work God has given to me, content in any and every circumstance, and doing it all in obedience to and awe of God. I’m thankful for awesome friends surrounding me as we pursue the glory of God with the gifts he has entrusted to us (and having fun along the way).

Student Life Office
Student Life Office

My Radical Confession

WARNING: Radical living can easily get off track and run away from you if you’re not careful! Like a freight train… both figuratively and literally… everything in our lives was rattled. (I’ll explain in a minute.)

Radical by David Platt from Taylor Robinson on Vimeo.

This draft has been hanging out for a month now. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how to confess the inner struggle I wrestled during a time of transition in our lives. I knew the point I wanted to share but wasn’t sure exactly how to share it. If by chance anyone happened upon this post, my hope was that it would be a reminder and encouragement of a very obvious and simple truth…

My wife and I, along with several close friends, had been on a personal journey over the past several years. It began with a look at how we “did church” and soon everything in our lives was being reexamined in light of Scripture. We were learning to take greater and greater steps of faith and sacrifice in order to follow Christ in obedience. We called it “Normal” because it was the life God originally designed for His people. David Platt’s book and our new church family calls this being “Radical” because it appears to be extreme even by the standards of contemporary American Christianity. (same point basically, opposite play on words.) For us, “normal” began as a retreat for our student ministry, then another and another and it began to take on a new life redefining our ministry and our lives according to God’s Word, living in a way that took God at His Word. I’ll save those details for another time; my point is not to feel justified, in fact that is the very struggle!

I’m truly grateful to have been a part of the creation of the small group bible study for David Platt’s first book: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream. But here’s the crazy thing: I was going insane with wondering if my family and I “looked” Radical enough! As we sold our home the same month the book released, we had been praying about where God wanted us to move in order to love our neighbors and make room for the family we believe he had called us to have. (We had outgrown our garden home as our third daughter arrived and believed that adoption was a part of the picture someday as well.) Our plans changed from the area with great schools closer to my office to an area where we felt God wanted us for some reason.

But I was almost frustrated with God. If I was willing to move anywhere, foregoing the “smart” move up the suburban ladder, why did we feel drawn to another suburb? Why not somewhere of more obvious need? (Like the inner city area where many families from the church were moving.) Then I began to feel guilty about moving to a bigger house – not huge, just a full size home instead of a garden home. I began to run through the list of things like the housing market crash, and things for this particular area like less-preferable schools, higher crime rate, diverse income levels, and proximity to trains making the house so affordable. I felt like I needed to explain to the world, namely my friends, coworkers, family members, and church members that I wasn’t a hypocrite! I still loved Jesus and was still Radical even though I just bought a bigger house… Our move was in obedience and faith. It was in steps to use our home as a ministry point among our neighbors and growing family. I had been completely at peace with a decision made with much prayer, but was suddenly second-guessing it all, completely riddled with guilt, because of a concern for not setting a good enough example of being Radical. I didn’t want the American Dream! Was I getting sucked in unknowingly? Or was the irony that it was easy to become prideful in appearing to be Radical instead? Was my pride not in my possessions but in my sacrifices? Was anything bigger or more comfortable selfish, no matter what? (Do you see the mental struggle and faith-crisis?) I don’t think I was alone in this…

My eyes were bloodshot from worry and sleepless nights adjusting to freight trains howling like ghostly stampedes of midnight cattle knocking down the gates of hell. I rocked thoughtfully in a chair on the front porch of my house that literally has a picket fence when it hit me….

I hadn’t been spending real time in God’s Word lately. I was drained spiritually. I had recently been so caught up in steps of faith and obedience and sacrifice that I had lost the motivation behind them. This is exactly the opposite of what a life of faith (and David’s book, Radical) is all about. I had been doing my daily readings through the Bible (part of the Radical Experiment) but it was more to check it off the list. I was burnt out from work and the pace of life lately. We wholeheartedly believe in living sacrificially and intentionally to make the most of the gospel, but if we’re not spending quality time in Scripture, we begin to strive for those same goals now with human strength and ambition.

When not rooted in time in God’s Word, the motivation becomes less about passion and more about guilt or obligation. Obviously. But this is my confession. As a Christ-follower (and ironically as a writer for the Radical Bible Study), my life had hit a dry spot and I had run out of steam… I unknowingly had jumped tracks and was driven by guilt and the appearance (maybe even pride) of being Radical.

Some have even challenged or attacked Radical for setting people up for legalism or an unsustainable lifestyle. This is an easy excuse to dismiss the challenging truth within the book, but it is simply not true. It is, however, an easy trap to fall into when we slip in our own weakness, relying on our own strength. The book isn’t wrong. The lifestyle isn’t wrong. The motivation simply has to be passion for God’s glory. Passion has to be nurtured. (Radical even says all of this explicitly, that’s why this is my own embarrassing confession!)

If I’m going to follow Christ for the glory of God among all people, I have to be spending time with Him. Obviously.

If I want to live in the middle of His will, I can’t question whether or not it is extreme enough or not, I simply have to be obedient and intentional in surrendering each day to be used for His glory. Obviously.

God help me stay in your Word and in walk in your will. No matter what the cost or how it looks to anyone else. Help me hold everything with open hands and give without second guessing. Help me walk without wavering or stumbling. Help me trust you completely and joyfully. Stir up passion and drown out guilt and pride. I want to make much of you with my life.

Book Review: The Flowering Cross

Right before Easter I read The Flowering Cross by Beth Ryan to my daughters (4 and 2 years old). They loved the book, easily identifying with the little girl in the story. When Katie (the main character) was encouraged to love her neighbor (Papa Jack), an old man experienced the wonder of child-like faith and encountered the beauty of a risen Savior. It’s hard to beat that message, right?

As a parent, I loved the teachable moments/suggested spiritual truths to discuss with your child (Faith Imprint) although I would recommend highlighting different points over several reads since there are so many. Second, I loved the overall theme of the book. My daughters were provided a clear example of how to love people who may not seem lovable. So, as a way to spend quality time instilling biblical truth in your children, this book is wonderful. However, as a story, it reads very choppy and is more about loving your neighbor than about Easter. Honestly, there were moments when I thought I had skipped some pages. Beth Ryan’s The Flowering Cross is written so that each page presents a spiritual truth. Again, this enables great teachable moments (which are most valuable) but not a smooth read from page to page as a story (which young children won’t mind).

OVERALL: GREAT TEACHABLE MOMENTS, CHOPPY READ

I review for BookSneeze Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as  part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Gospel Grains with Alton Brown

My parents told me about this intro to a message at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. Alton Brown, who is a member of their church, set up Bryant’s sermon with a look at how a common loaf of bread would be made during the time of Christ. Two things impressed me about this video.

1. I found it really interesting (It’s just like a mini-episode of Good Eats) – a great example of both providing relevant cultural context in a sermon AND an example of doing things with excellence.

2. I thought it was great that Alton Brown used his platform and gifts to contribute to the ministry of his church. What a great example of everyone using their talents and passions for the sake of the gospel. Enjoy the video.

Gospel Grains – Sermon Intro from Johnson Ferry on Vimeo.