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”?

Expose’ on Teen Sex & Dating (Free Kindle & Nook)

A couple of weeks ago I was able to meet a few people deep in the trenches of ministry with teenagers while attending a meeting for TH1NK, the student line of books from NavPress. Andy Braner was one of those passionate servant leaders. In addition to being a writer, Andy runs Camp Kivu, an intensely focused time of outdoor adventure designed to instill a passionate Christian worldview in teenagers. Andy has devoted his life to next-generation discipleship.

His new book “An Expose on Teen Sex and Dating: What’s Really Going On and How to Talk About It” (NavPress) is intended to give parents and youth workers a glimpse behind closed doors, so to speak. Download a free copy to your Kindle or Nook this week only (ends May 22). As a parent of three little girls and former youth pastor, I’d say this is a must read – or at least check it out. I haven’t finished it yet, (I’m reading it in bits on my phone’s Kindle App) but I appreciate the urgency of Braner’s straightforward approach AND that from page one he does two things:

1. He admits that there is no specific biblical model for dating, because dating didn’t exist! He then proceeds to speak to biblical truths that are present, primarily that God is sovereign over every tiny detail of our lives – this is the central reality even in dating.

2. He humorously confesses that he’s not going to “Kiss Dating Goodbye” as the only or best God-honoring solution for young Christian teenagers… and neither are most teenagers!

This isn’t just his personal musing either. Two years of research went into this book (In addition to the daily interaction already mentioned). So grab your free copy on Kindle or Nook and spread the word while it’s still free to other parents and youth workers (feel free to purchase physical copies of the book too). This is a conversation that we need to be equipped to recognize and address from a biblical perspective – whether or not anyone agrees with every point in this book (or any Christian book, for that matter) is not the primary issue. The great thing is that Andy is seeking to open the eyes of our generation to what is happening in the next generation and how to guide young men and women through this ever-present issue in a way that honors Christ. (It’s a conversation, that quite frankly, parents and churches just aren’t very good at having).

Thoughts? Comments? Other recommendations? @JRMaxfield

Miscommunication

Wow. What a Sunday. Ever wonder if what people hear is in no way what you’re saying? I’ve wondered this a lot lately as I’ve read various blogs and forums of people “hearing/reading” all kinds of different things from the same writer/pastor (including my own). How do some people hear the opposite of what someone else hears? This is critical question to ask as communicators, leaders, disciple-makers… Though we are not responsible for what people do with our message, we are stewards of that message – how we deliver it is important. So, we need to keep our finger on the pulse of what is heard, not just what we’re saying. It’s easy to get defensive or dismissive. But our goal is to communicate, not just write/speak.

Here are a few funny examples of gross misunderstandings from my family afternoon (Me, my wife, and our three crazy daughters):

Us: “What did you learn today in your class?”

Ella (3): “Jesus did not die on the cross.”

Us: WHAT?!?!?!

Ella: “The teacher was wrong. He said ‘Let my people go’ but the bad man said ‘no, no, no!'”

* I’m guessing one teacher said something along the lines of “today we’ll probably talk about how Jesus died on the cross…” But another teacher said “No, today’s Bible story is Exodus.” OR maybe even an attempt to explain that Jesus did not stay dead after the cross – He rose again on Easter. (???)

(Thanks Orthodox, Bible-Believing Church)

 

Later, Adalyn (5): “Dinosaurs lived a long time before people.”

Us: That’s right, what else do you know about dinosaurs?”

Adalyn: “I think God killed them.”

Us: WHAT?!?!?

Adalyn: “Or maybe they just died.”

(Thanks Christian Preschool)

 

Ella: “Yeah, like Curious George had blood in his eyes and mouth and people were dancing on his body.”

Me: WHAT?!?!?!?

Amanda: “Oh gosh. Yeah, you mean on PBS when they showed the cartoon about how your bodies work when George was sick and they imagined that they went inside his body to see everything and were dancing around with good blood cells and bad germs?”

(Thanks Educational Programming)

 

Closing example. While we were at Dairy Queen, eating our kiddie cones, I noticed this sign. Again, two completely opposite meanings could be conveyed from this overly simple graphic. Is this a kid running TO Friendly McHugger or FROM Scary McGrabber? Either way I understand that this is a safe place, but what is on that disturbing sign?

So is what you mean to say clear?

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.

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.”