Saturday, September 20, 2008

Expiration Date

"Now listen, you who say, `Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. " - James 4:13-14

" is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..."- Hebrews 9:27

For a moment imagine that you have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. By the time the doctors figured out what you had it was too late. The cancer has spread and your options were exptremely limited. I can't imagine how that feels- to know that "your time" is on the horizon. If this were you, what would you do with the time you had left? How would you live today differently?

Not to be a big downer, but we're all "terminal." All of us are going to die. A person with a terminal prognosis just happens to know the window of when it may happen. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Only God knows. We all have an expiration date, but we live oblivious to when that will happen. How weird would it be if we had an expiration date tattooed on us from birth, like alot of items we buy at the grocery store!? It would probably drive many of us crazy to know when "our time" is appointed. Whether we are 32, like myself, or 80 we never think that we're going to die anytime soon. But wouldn't it make you live with more of a sense of urgency, to take advantage and appreciate every moment? If your date was October 5, 2008 what would you do on October 4? I think we all need to live like that today because it could very well be our last.

If you think about it, we're all on bonus time from God. Life is so short in comparison to eternity. We all need to make sure that we're ready for eternity because our time may come quicker than we know. (Cue "Live Life Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw)

"Live Like You Were Dying"

He said, "I was in my early forties with a lot of life before me

when a moment came that stopped me on a dime.

And I spent most of the next days looking at the x-rays

Talking bout the options and talking bout sweet time."

I asked him, "When it sank in that this might really be the real end?

How’s it hit you when you get that kinda news? Man what’d you do?"

And he said, "I went sky diving.

I went Rocky Mountain climbing.

I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fmanchu.

And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter.

And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.

And he said, "Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying."

He said, "I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t.

And I became a friend a friend would like to have.

And all the sudden going fishin wasn’t such an imposition.

And I went three times that year I lost my dad.

Well I finally read the Good Book and I took a good long hard look

at what I’d do if I could do it all again."

Like tomorrow was a gift,

And you got eternity,

To think about what you’d do with it.

And what did you do with it?

And what can I do with it?

And what would I do with it?

Sky diving I went Rocky Mountain climbing.

I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu.

And then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter

and I watched an eagle as it was flying

And he said, "Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.

To live like you were dying.

To live like you were dying.

To live like you were dying.

To live like you were dying.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Relational Evangelism

I've been both humbled and challenged by the current series we're doing at Good Hope - LOST.

I've been challenging our people to see the "lostness" around them and do something about it. The real question is "What do we do about it?" I preached Sunday on Jesus' Lost Stories in Luke 15.

The passage starts off like this in verse 1: "Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear him. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, `This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'”

What a telling indictment the Pharisees give of Jesus! They are upset that Jesus actually hung out with the people who needed or wanted Him the most. They probably were upset that Jesus wasn't particularly chasing after them to hear their pompous teaching and talk. The Pharisees didn't need Jesus. They thought Jesus needed them. We're like Jesus in that we don't particularly like to stay where we're not needed or wanted. He preferred to hang out with those who needed answers and didn't have it all figured out.

Don't you love Jesus' evangelism plan here?! He welcomed sinners and He hung out with them. No outlines. No string of verses or slick questionnaires. It was all about relationships. I'm sure many of the conversations dealt with spiritual issues around that table and in those parties. I'm sure there were lots of questions asked and answered. The key is that Jesus knew how important it was to look someone in the eyes that you know and talk to them about what matters most to you. Otherwise, it's more like a sales pitch to strangers.

Just yesterday I had a door-to-door salesman knock on my door and offer me a free bottle of dish detergent. Smiling, he tried to initiate a series of questions leading toward a demonstration of his particular brand of vacuum cleaners. I smiled back and politely said, "No thank you. I'm not interested" a few times while he did his best to get the foot in the door. I gave him his detergent back and closed the door. It really made me think about how we present the Gospel. Do we do the "bait and switch" method with our events and carnivals? Do we ask leading questions to illicit the right response so we can get someone to agree with us?

The 2 main ways we think of evangelism in most churches are Events and Gospel Presentations.
Both of these options have their place in the church and can be used within the context of relationships to bring people to Christ. For example, an event gives you an awesome excuse to invite someone to church. It would be awesome if Good Hoper's took the initiative to invite a lost friend to the events we do at the church. The problem is that most attention and effort gets spent on pulling off the event instead of asking our neighbors to come with us. We can't just throw out a blow up jumpy box and expect people to come see us.

Events give us great opportunities to invite friends to come to church and to build upon the relationships we're working on. Likewise, Gospel presentations are important to know so you can simply and easily show someone how they can know Jesus. It's handy to memorize the Romans Road or to practice your testimony so you can be ready to share your faith. What I want to see change is the CONTEXT in which that information is given. Instead of strangers, share with a friend who trusts you and wants to hear what you say. Otherwise, you'll probably get the same response I gave the door-to-door salesman yesterday, "No thanks. I'm not interested."

Watch the video below and tell me what you think!
I've not read the book these guys wrote, but it is on my "Must Read" list. **Disclamer**I don't know if I agree with every premise in the book these guys wrote. However, the insights of Casper, the Friendly Non-Christian, reiterate my point about the importance of relationships in evangelism. Enjoy!

Friday, September 05, 2008

How Important is the Backstory?

Between the Olympics and the 2 political conventions, my sleep quotient has greatly diminished this past month. I enjoy both sports and politics. When you think about it, they are really similar. It's a way for people to compete, hear the roar of the crowd, root on a cause, and pump up the bravado. There's even a little contact if you're in the Taiwanese Parliament (check out the videos below).

Recently, the Olympics and the conventions have taken on a new angle over the past few cycles. Our country is mesmerized by the biographical back stories of the participants. In many cases, the biographical histories are featured more than the real competition at hand.

There's the Somalian runner Samia Yusuf Omar from war-torn Somalia, featured in a recent blog on the Olympics...

"Samia Yusuf Omar headed back to Somalia Sunday, returning to the small two-room house in Mogadishu shared by seven family members. Her mother lives there, selling fruits and vegetables. Her father is buried there, the victim of a wayward artillery shell that hit their home and also killed Samia’s aunt and uncle.This is the Olympic story we never heard.It’s about a girl whose Beijing moment lasted a mere 32 seconds – the slowest 200-meter dash time out of the 46 women who competed in the event. Thirty-two seconds that almost nobody saw but that she carries home with her, swelled with joy and wonderment. Back to a decades-long civil war that has flattened much of her city. Back to an Olympic program with few Olympians and no facilities. Back to meals of flat bread, wheat porridge and tap water."

Then, on the political side, there's Barack Obama who came from a single parent, wandering existence before his meteoric rise to being a community organizer and legislator. There's John McCain who spent 5 and a half years in the Hanoi Hilton.

I guess I would be a really boring Olympian or politician. I can hear Bob Costas now saying my story: "A man brought up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, young Jamie struggled with stuttering early in his life and battled obesity, often suffering the ridicule of wearing Husky jeans...."

My questions are: Are our athletes or politicians in these contests to showcase where they came from, or are they here to show what they can do today? Does your past really matter? Does your past qualify you better than someone who came from a semi-normal background? We Christians are just as guilty when we emphasize the "powerful testimonies" of "really bad sinners" who came to Jesus. You know what I'm talking about. We'd rather hear how God saved somebody from drugs, child smuggling, and other illicit activity than know what God is doing TODAY in someone's life. I've counseled with people who said that their testimony was boring because God shielded them from many of the pitfalls in which many people fall. Which is more important to God- our past or where we are today? Isn't it an awesome story that God shielded a person who accepted Christ at an early age and who lived a beautiful, uneventful life? Our past is important because it demonstrates the powerful work of God in bringing us to our current state. But I'm more interested in what God is doing in your life today. If the past is all we have...if our old life story before Jesus is the most important qualifier for us to share or to minister then I feel we're negating a whole lot of people who have a bland, powerful story to tell.