Being Right. (an iota of difference?)

I haven’t blogged in quite a while… I’ll be turning this site into a portfolio and future blog posts will be on my new tumblr (you can comment on this post here, since I can’t get my wordpress comments working…

2 Tweets this morning finally pushed me over the edge in something I’ve been rolling around in my heart and mind lately…

1. Rob Bell is moving to LA to write a new show for ABC with LOST’s exec-producer (link from @jonacuff http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2011/09/sclq-new-show-from-rob-bell-exec-producer-of-lost/ )

2. T.D. Jakes was invited to the next Elephant Room (link from @challies http://www.challies.com/articles/macdonald-jakes-the-elephant-in-the-room )

Now I’m NOT saying I do not personally hold the orthodox view on Heaven, Hell, or the Trinity… I do. And I’m NOT saying the church shouldn’t guard orthodoxy and hold Christian leaders, especially Pastors, to a higher standard…

BUT my question is: WHAT MUST A PERSON BELIEVE TO BE A CHRISTIAN? TO BE SAVED? TO BE PART OF THE CHURCH AND FELLOWSHIP AS A BROTHER OR SISTER IN CHRIST?

Now, I can certainly see biblical arguments for the above hot topics, but is there a biblical justification for not being sure about eternal hell or how the mystery of the trinity works being worthy of declaring someone “not a Christian”? (Again, I am fully aware of Church history, creeds and councils, and these things making “an iota of difference”… a little seminary trivia… homo- vs homoi- )

I grew up a mega-church staff kid and realized that without being told so, per se, my understanding was that a person must be “right” about certain things in order to go to heaven and really love Jesus, otherwise being wrong meant you were going to hell and didn’t really love Jesus. (and being “right” naturally meant being in agreement with me/my denomination/church) The kicker was that those non-negotiables were NOT directly about faith in Jesus… they were things like baptism, maybe even communion, and the end times/eternity, for example…

This has been especially difficult, even in my own church, as my 5 yr-old daughter voluntarily prayed a beautiful prayer of repentance and lordship and desperately wants a personal relationship with Jesus, but I was plagued by doubts of whether she would be deemed “legit” and worthy of the baptism she also desires… This is heartbreaking and tragic. Like I felt pressure to not allow my daughter to follow Christ, falling in love with Him because I was worried that even though she could answer all the questions “right”, maybe she didn’t REALLY understand everything “right.”

Has “being right” been elevated over “being in love” and “having faith”?

Do We Appeal to the Flesh in Faith? (Francis Chan)

Francis Chan takes a break during his video shoot with BluefishTV to share his reflections on the intense faith and sacrificial life of Believers. Take a minute to consider God’s call on His Church around the world and in America. Is there any difference in what is expected of people in the West and in the Rest?
Is your faith real?
Is it intensely distinct?
Are you different from the world around you?

Check out another great video moment with Chan at the RightNow conference, speaking on the “New Middle Way” (And if you’re not familiar with BluefishTV and RightNow check out this video)

Never Been Alive (Words Do Matter)

The Saturday following the tornado outbreaks, The Avett Brothers lifted spirits in Birmingham, AL, doing what they do best: playing to a packed house. My family (and most of my county: Shelby) was fortunate enough to be spared from the swath of devastation that plowed through Alabama. It was a hard day of cleanup (I didn’t realize how sore I’d be from using a chainsaw all day or how how many massive bruises would mysteriously appear afterwards – guess it goes with the territory of being a 30+ yr-old who works from home) and the need was and remains to be overwhelming (another post on that thought coming soon). The show was full of standards, plus a few gifts, but the whole set list seemed to be intentional – the already deeply personal lyrics resonated in a new way that night.

The opening line of the show was: “Disappear from your hometown, go and find the people that you know…” followed by a chorus that has helped me with several life-decisions lately: “So when you run make sure you run, to something and not away from…” (Weight of Lies). The chorus of a newer song echoed: “If I live the life I’m given, then I won’t be scared to die…” (The Once and Future Carpenter). And the encore left us with two simple truths: “Don’t worry with all of my belongings… Always remember there is nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name…” (Murder in the City) and “God only knows. God makes his plan. The information’s unavailable to the mortal man. We’re working our jobs. Collect our pay. Believe we’re gliding down the highway when in fact we’re slip slidin’ away…” (Slip Slidin’ Away – Paul Simon cover) Finally, one last song from the middle of the concert. I simply wanted to share the lyrics of a rare, yet-to-be-recorded song performed that night. It too seemed particularly meaningful in the wake of recent events…

“Never Been Alive”

Money won’t do the trick… but it will help
To open the doors we need it to… to help someone else

Still we won’t need it, to turn things around

I’ve never been alive, like I am now

You need only tell me… when you’re under the gun
If you need someone to lend a hand… consider it done

But still you won’t need me, to turn things around

I’ve never been alive, like I am now

And even though they didn’t close with “Salvation Song” as I had secretly hoped, the sentiment rang true:

“And I would give up everything, if you were to come up clean
And see you shine so bright in a world of woe
And they may pay us off in fame, but that is not why we came
And if it compromises truth then we will go

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way…”

Radical Together: THE GOAL IS CHRIST

This is worth spending our lives on. This goal. This God.

David’s second book is about to release:
Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God

For anyone who has misunderstood or worried that others might misunderstand where David / Radical is “coming from,” (you can read my own confession and watch the video for the first book here) watch this video from Taylor Robinson @ SixFootFive Productions. I think this should not only clear up any confusion, but hopefully stir up your passion to see disciples made of all nations. (And speaking of, be on the look out for some great stuff from DMI/disciple-making international… more on that soon.)

Church Planting

Over Christmas break, I had the honor of being a very small part of a bigger movement of church planting – something I’m deeply passionate about. If you know me, you know that for a couple of years we prayed earnestly about if and where God may be leading our family and some close friends (the Mitchell family) to plant a church… or more specifically, hopefully spark a network of multiplying house churches. After trips to a couple of cities and much prayer, fasting, and research, God made it clear that at the very least, it was not the right time. (For now, God has called me to write and to assist other churches and ministries in that capacity, so that is what I did here – help create the content for a website designed for churches, church planters, and ministry leaders.) But the desire to see churches reproduce is a deep part of me now.

That past experience opened my eyes to the harsh realities of church planting, even in a culture that is not hostile as many countries or even regions often are to the gospel. It is a tremendous sacrifice and step of faith, one for which a man and his family should be as thoroughly equipped as possible. The sad fact is that many, if not most, church plants flounder or fail within a few years. As a staff member of a young church plant myself for several years, I saw firsthand how practical leadership issues can be a struggle when wanting to focus on the urgent needs of ministry in the “real world” instead of on paper (the models and diagrams and vision statements we’ve created).

Not that solid theology, Spirit-lead faith, biblical teaching, and meeting people’s needs should not be the foundations for any church, certainly those are a given. But how do you continue to do that with integrity – how can you be faithful and seek longevity, enduring to the end, finishing the race, walking in a manner worthy of the gospel? God entrusts churches with the gospel of Christ and with the souls of His children. So why are so many ministers and church planters ill-prepared in the practical aspects of leadership if that is what they wholeheartedly believe God has called them to do? The wheels can fall off without integrity in leadership. It’s a shame and an offense to God, I believe.

Now you may or may not agree on the importance of leadership, but even so, there can be no denying this other harsh reality to which my eyes were opened: The vast majority of churches are not reproducing new churches. Biblicaly speaking, the church is a body (1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4) and bodies naturally reproduce (Gen 1:28). Everything in nature reproduces. In overly-simplified terms, if not maturing toward reproduction, an organism has gone over the curve and is now on the descent toward death. You just don’t see any biblical precedent for churches or Christ-followers not being about the business of making-disciples and spreading the gospel. You don’t see a “come be one of us” mentality in the New Testament. You see in Acts 6 the first church delegate leadership responsibility in practical matters so that the Word of God would not be neglected and as a result the gospel advanced, spreading throughout Jerusalem. Those leaders then took the gospel, beginning in Acts 8, and were preaching and reproducing churches beyond Jerusalem after being scattered from persecution. This was the initial stages of fulfilling Christ’s command to reproduce, making disciples throughout the world (Matt. 28:19-20). But this command has not yet been fulfilled. It is still our task.

So, why are most churches (85%) not reproducing? Why are we hoarding our resources in finances, in church leadership experience, in biblical wisdom, and most importantly in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Why not multiply and reproduce, scattering rather than gathering unto ourselves? This is what Mac Lake, Brian Bloye, and Tony Morgan from West Ridge Church (Atlanta, Georgia) have been asking…. and doing. Their relatively young church has planted 50 churches in the last 6 years and has now stepped up their commitment to church planting by partnering with others through LAUNCH – a new network designed to build relationships among church-planting churches and new planters. The strategy is to mentor young men and provide ongoing training and accountability in a holistic approach to church leadership, recognizing both the spiritual and practical dynamics of ministry demands).

I just wanted to get the word out in a very small way (not that anybody reads this blog) and also ask the question to anyone who may actually find this post: Are you reproducing the gospel in the lives of people around you? Is your church reproducing? What will you do to advance the gospel personally and with your own church body?

A Call for more Creative Extremists

Living in Birmingham, I felt a particular interest in reading Dr. King’s 1963 Letter From a Birmingham Jail this morning. Our pastor, Dr. David Platt, read a portion yesterday at church, so I looked it up and thought I’d share some excerpts here. (I know it’s much longer than a usual post, but I felt it was worth it.) We know it is still true that “eleven o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.” Let’s not pretend that racism is a problem dealt with in the (not-so-distant) past. And on a broader scale, injustice and indifference still chisel the hardened features of our surrounding landscape. But I thank God that the church is finally waking up, breaking free from the chains of the status quo and from the fear of being nonconformists as King put it… I hope his letter below stirs a fresh resolve in your own spirit to do something about whatever you know needs to be done.

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .”

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour.

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Published in:
King, Martin Luther Jr. “Letter from the Birmingham jail.” In Why We Can’t Wait, ed. Martin Luther King, Jr., 77-
100, 1963.

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).

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

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.

Grateful for Duane’s Dark Star 40 Years Later

As sort of a test post to get this blog started, I think I’ll pay tribute to February 11, 1970.

40 years ago today was one of the greatest gatherings in American musical history… At the legendary Fillmore East, Duane Allman made a surprise appearance late in the Grateful Dead’s second set during Dark Star. Jerry hadn’t even told the band that Duane would be joining them. The result was a once-in-a-lifetime experience of spontaneous interplay between two of the most unique minds to ever play a guitar… (I still remember exactly where I was the first time I heard a tape of this night… yeah, remember cassettes…)

I won’t hype it up because if you don’t care, you won’t care no matter what I say (ask my wife) and if you do care, it also doesn’t matter what I say… you just want to hear it for yourself. So I’ve embedded a free streaming mp3 of the historical moment where Duane Allman joins the Grateful Dead, brilliantly complementing Jerry Garcia’s style on Dark Star. They wander into Spanish Jam during which Gregg Allman jumps into the mix. From behind the organ, he and Pigpen swap vocals back and forth during Lovelight and Phil Lesh finally passes the bass duties to Berry Oakley so he can just step back and soak it all in… so if you care to do the same, here it is… enjoy. (I am.)

mp3 :: Dark Star > Spanish Jam > Lovelight :: Duane Allman + the Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead + The Allman Brothers :: Live at Fillmore East 2-11-70

Now, from what I understand, a worthwhile blog has a focus or a point… I won’t pretend to be someone who can blog about writing, music, culture, leadership, ministry, or humor regularly. BUT I do see the world through a lens in which everything speaks on a spiritual level. There is a metaphor, spiritual truth, or lesson in everything… So instead of just talk about what I like or think, if something interests me, I’ll try to show how everything in life “teaches” us something. Everything speaks if we’ll listen.

So from the late greats Duane and Jerry here, I think we can learn three simple lessons:

1. Always be open to what the moment may bring. It may not be what you are used to, what you had planned on and anticipated. It may be different. It may not even be better, but if we are always open to the leading of what God may want to do in the moment, we will experience some incredible moments of once-in-a-lifetime, spontaneous displays of His mind-blowing power, creativity, and wonder.

2. Be open to new people. Most of us, and if we’re honest most churches, youth groups, small groups, etc are tight little circles in which it is often hard for others to break into. As Christ-followers we should always be welcoming others to join the experience, inviting them to a life of shared community. You never know who may be there on any given moment and what unique dimension they may add to God’s work and to the enjoyment of your own experience.

3. Be open to letting other people take the lead. No matter who you are or how “good” you may be at something, let other people have turns leading. The collective ownership will strengthen the experience for everyone. There is a time and place for leading and a time for playing a supporting role. Sometimes you may just need to step back and be in awe of what is happening and how others are being used in new ways.