I feel ya – the empathetic heart of Christ 

I shared last week that my daughter started a blog, Divinesixght.

Her latest post is about the empathetic heart of Christ.

One of the greatest things about life is that you get to do it with other people. I love people and I love reading about how much Jesus loved people. When it comes to loving on anyone and everyone, Jesus lead the way. Lately, I have felt God putting the word empathy on my heart.

Read the entire post here: I feel ya – the empathetic heart of Christ 

Share Your Faith Story With Your Kids

As Easter approaches, many churches and families look for ways to prepare for and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  Some people give up something as a way to focus on the significance on the season. One person I follow on social media is fasting from his personal social media feeds “to focus more on my faith, family and friends.”

Others choose to add something to their schedule like devotional readings, times of prayer or specific periods of reflection.

Here’s a great idea for parents to use this Easter season:  share your faith story with your kids.

Do your children know how you came into your relationship with Jesus?

As I was reading The Jesus Gap the author gave several suggestions to youth workers and parents to help point our students to a Biblical picture of Jesus.  One was a pretty simple idea – to have families share their faith stories.

In the book the author referred to research done by the College Transition Project.  The author wrote this:  “Don’t assume family members already know each other’s faith stories.  Most don’t, even though the College Transition Project showed us that parents sharing about their own faith is vital to the process of a child growing into his or her own.”

If your family has been going to church your whole life, do your children know why?

Do they know the when/why/how that lead you to become a follower of Jesus?

Our “conversion stories” don’t have to be dramatic or even long-winded.  Taking some time to share the people and events that lead you as a mom or dad into a relationship with Jesus  can be a great story for your children to hear.

Without being too morbid, isn’t amazing what we learn about people after they are gone?  Over the years I have been involved in a number of funeral services, both as a minister and having lost family members. During the visitation hours and the meal times, you get to hear stories about the life of your friend or loved one.  Many times you learn something about that person because someone shares an experience that is new to you.  It gives you a different perspective on that person’s life.

As Easter approaches, why not take a few minutes, maybe at the dinner to table, to share your faith story?  Perhaps your children have heard it before.  But, maybe they haven’t.  Perhaps we assume our children already know it.  It could be they don’t.  Take some time to share how you came to follow Jesus and even why you still follow Him today.  It could lead to some great conversations.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

For The Love Jen HatmakerWhen I was looking around the Book Look Bloggers website for a book to read, I came across For the Love. I recognized the name Jen Hatmaker, but don’t remember reading anything by her in the past or hearing her speak. As I trolled around the social media world, I saw a lot of people posting and tweeting about the release of her new book. Some of them were authors I had read before or speakers I enjoyed, so I was drawn to it by their recommendations.

I had hesitated at first because it was a female author and thought it might be geared for the female population. Then I remembered my same hesitation in reading Michele Cushatt’s book Undone. I ended up reading it and enjoying it, so I thought I would check out For the Love.

I got through the introduction and right away I noticed Hatmaker’s sense of humor, so I thought it was a good pick. Then, as I’m reading through the first chapter, I come upon this phrase: “Here is part of the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods.” So, at that point, I made the brilliant observation that this particular book was directed toward women.

That being said, I think the message is helpful for any reader. The tag line of the book says “fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards.” I’m pretty sure that all followers of Jesus have experienced that and Hatmaker spells out how that struggle plays out in how we see ourselves, as well as in our home, our neighborhood and even in the church.

Right before I realized this book was geared for ladies, I read Hatmaker’s observation that because we don’t accept God’s grace for ourselves, we have a hard time showing that grace to others. The self-critical become others-critical. If we don’t see ourselves as good enough, we won’t see others that way either.

So, for any females, who might read this post, you should check out For the Love. Hatmaker points to that fact that Jesus came to set us free. We all could benefit by living out of that freedom.

Conforming Jesus to our Own Image, Part 2

facesofjesusEarlier today I posted some thoughts on how some recent surveys indicate that students (and adults, too) conform Jesus to our own image. The prompting came from a book I started reading called The Jesus Gap. The book takes a look at what teens believe about Jesus.

A few hours after writing it, a Facebook friend shared a link to an article that was written somewhat in response to a video posted by BuzzFeed called “I’m a Christian, but I’m not.” I had not yet seen the video (I have watched it since) and there was a link in that article to another blog post talking directly about the video. One particular point in the article echos what was shared in The Jesus Gap.

Mollie Hemingway shared five observations regarding the BuzzFeed video, but her first one was dead on. While the BuzzFeed video may have had some good intentions and helped communicate a message to a particular group of people, it left out one thing – Jesus.

Here’s what Mollie Hemingway wrote:

When you build your faith around what type of Christian you’re not, your faith is not built around Christ. Below is the text and transcription of the viral video. Note the absence of any mention of Jesus.

Text: “BuzzFeed presents, I’m Christian but I’m not…”

I’m Christian but I’m not homophobic;
I’m Christian and I’m definitely not perfect;
I’m Christian but I’m not close-minded;
but I’m not unaccepting;
but I’m not uneducated;
but I am not judgmental;
but I’m not conservative;
I’m not ignorant;
but I don’t place myself on a pedestal;
I’m Christian but I don’t have all the answers.

Text: “What are you?”

but I am accepting;
but I am queer;
I am gay;
but I am a feminist;
I’m a feminist;
definitely am a feminist;
but I do believe in science, in fact I think science makes God look really cool;
I’m not afraid to talk about sex;
I love me some Beyonce;
but I love wine;
I do believe in monogamy before sex but I will give you sex advice if you need it;
but I do go to church on Sundays;
I was a YoungLife camp counselor;
I do listen to Christian music, Christian rock, Christian rap, T-Mac, all the cool kids;
I have friends from all walks of life and different religions, and I love them all.

Text: What do you want people to know about Christianity?

I guess what I’d like people to know about Christianity today is that we’re all kind of not crazy;
We shouldn’t be judged on just the people that you see in the media, or just the people that you’ve met in everyday life. every Christian is different, and we deserve a chance to explain ourselves;
A lot of people think Christianity ruins people, but to me I think it’s people that are ruining Christianity, you never really see the good that happens, you only see the hypocrites, and the people who put themselves on a higher pedestal;
But at its core it’s really about love and acceptance and being a good neighbor;
Just because we prescribe [sic] to a faith that has some really terrible people in it doesn’t make all of us terrible;
I don’t think that Christians should judge people for who they are or what they do, I think everybody is in different part of life on their own path to wherever they’re trying to go. we’re all people and love is the most important thing.
Not a single mention of Jesus, the author and finisher of the Christian faith. In fact, you could easily switch out all references to “Christian” with any other religion or belief system and it would have the same amount of meaning.

I don’t question the intent of the people making the video or their desire to communicate what Christianity is to people, but it is somewhat disturbing that within all of what was said, there was no reference to Jesus. I think this is one example of many that seems to indicate that we can be guilty of conforming Jesus to our own image. Jesus is this or isn’t that based on the fact that I am (or am not) certain things.

In the opening pages of The Jesus Gap, Jen Bradbury shares a story told by Donald Miller in his book, Searching for God Knows What. Miller is teaching a class at a Bible College. He shares the Gospel with his class, but leaves out one element. The class has to determine what he leaves out. He talks for quite a while about sin, repentance, the promise of forgiveness and heaven. After a rather lengthy explanation, he asks the class what was missing. They have no response. The missing element: Jesus.

Miller doesn’t berate the class, but makes the observation that sometimes we get caught up in our own approach to Christianity, that we miss Jesus.

I found it interesting that this the video and subsequent articles came across my news feed on the same day I started to digest the information in The Jesus Gap. Perhaps God is gently nudging me (and obviously others) to make sure Jesus is the center of my faith, life and teaching.

Conforming Jesus to our Own Image

facesofjesusDuring the summer months, as I was ordering some small group curriculum from The Youth Cartel, I picked up a copy of Jen Bradbury’s book The Jesus Gap. I just started digging into it this week and am intrigued to move farther through the chapters.

The book takes a look at what teens believe about Jesus and it is based on both research and the author’s experience in working with students. In the opening chapters, Bradbury references a 2010 article from Christianity Today written by Scot McKnight. He writes about how people view Jesus and His conclusion is that we as people conform Jesus to our own image.

“Instead, if given to enough people, the test will reveal that we all think Jesus is like us. Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and, on the basis of the same questions, extroverts think Jesus is extroverted. Spiritual formation experts would love to hear that students in my Jesus class are becoming like Jesus, but the test actually reveals the reverse: Students are fashioning Jesus to be more like themselves. If the test were given to a random sample of adults, the results would be measurably similar. To one degree or another, we all conform Jesus to our own image.”

In the first chapter Bradbury shares some of the views that students have of Jesus – from Jesus as a Superhero to an Average Joe Jesus – and whether they see Jesus as being either obedient or rebellious or quiet or talkative.  The responses are so varied that she feels her investigation supports what McKnight wrote about in 2010.

For church workers, it does raise the question of how students (and adults) in our congregations view Jesus.  I have to assume that the views we would discover are as varied as the research Bradbury shares.

For followers of Jesus – and for me – I have to wonder whether I have conformed Jesus to my own image.  Is my view of Jesus based on what is revealed in Scripture or do I view Jesus more in line what I think He is?

I’m curious to not only read the rest of the research in the book, but also to learn how to apply that in our specific context. The point (I think) is not just to learn about how people – how our students – view Jesus, but how that impacts our relationship with Him. Bradbury quotes Carl Braaten in her introduction pointing to why our view of Jesus is important: “…faith stands or falls with what it knows about Jesus of Nazareth.”

 

Life Is _____________

life isI had the opportunity to read Jesus Is ____________ about a year ago. Judah Smith’s follow-up Life Is _____________ was a good continuation of what he shared in his previous offering.

Smith uses solid insights, personal stories and doses of humor to reveal from various passages of scripture that Jesus is life. In one chapter he writes these words: “Jesus is always more. More than what? I’ll let you fill in the blank . . . He’s more than bankruptcy. More than sickness. More than sin. More than murder. More than divorce. More than tragedies, tsunamis, wars or famines . . . What are you facing? He’s more.”

Most of the Biblical accounts that Smith uses are probably not new to those who have grown up in church. He brings a new perspective that is refreshing for those who have familiarity with the passages, but writes in a way that communicates with a reader who might be new to these verses. Smith also writes with a practicality that is helpful to the reader. He brings the person of Jesus into our current culture and context.

As an example, he writes about one of the most well-known verses in scripture – John 3:16. Then he asks this question that puts that verse in a new light: “God loves the whole world? This doesn’t make sense. This is crazy. What about bad people? What about indifferent people? What about those who mock him to his face, who flaunt evil and flout his commands?” It gives a new filter through which to think about God’s love.

Probably one of the most powerful moments of the book for me was what Smith shared about his daughter’s birth. He writes about his dad’s battle with cancer and how one day God told him that Smith and his wife would have a third child, a girl, who they were to name Grace. When she was just a day old, they took Grace to church. Smith felt a strong urge to go hold his newborn daughter and took her to a room off stage. That moment, as he looked at his little girl, it was a reminder to him that even though life doesn’t always go the way we want (his dad lost his battle with cancer), God is good and loving and sustains us. He gives us grace to sustain us.

Life Is __________ is an encouraging book that points people to the love of God and how it has the power to change our lives. This book would be a good resource for personal reading and for small group discussion.

Junior High Retreat 2014

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Last weekend we took our junior high students to the annual Middle School Retreat held at our church camp Butler Springs. We had a good weekend playing some pretty messy games, hanging out, singing together, listening to some good messages and just having a good time.

The leaders of the weekend did a good job unpacking the theme Messy Spirituality.  We started the weekend by admitting that we are all a mess – we all have our shortcomings, we all fail, we all mess up. The good news is this:  Jesus knows that and He gets in the mess with us and helps us clean up and move forward.

There were two phrases that they used during the weekend that I thought were helpful for our students.  The first was this:  “Say ‘Yes’ until you can’t.”  The idea behind that phrase was to encourage the students (and adults) to simply try.  Whatever task or challenge that was presented, we should say “yes” until we couldn’t anymore.  Rather than decline an invitation because we didn’t know if we could handle it or accomplish it, we should simply say “yes” and give it a try.

The second phrase made sense to Star Wars fans.  It was this:  Yoda was wrong.  In the movie The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda has a conversation with Luke Skywalker.  Luke is faced with a challenge and tells Yoda, “I’ll give it a try.”  Yoda says, “No. Try not. Do…or do not. There is no try.”  The invitation in following Jesus is to try, to trust in His power to help us when we need it and to depend on His grace when we mess up.  The invitation to follow Jesus is to be faithful, not to be perfect.

It was a good retreat and gave our leaders and students a chance to spend time together outside of our regular student ministry programs.  I’m grateful for our leaders and the time they invest in our students.

Here’s a short video with some pics from the weekend.  Special thanks to Dale for putting it together.