Tag Archives: change

NakedPastor gets another one right.

God Loves Us All - from NakedPastor

Christians make a lot of assumptions about God. It’s actually totally normal. Theology itself is how we each make sense of who God is and what God is up to, and the Bible is not a systematic theology book. At some point, we have to fill in the gaps and holes in our theology with new ideas. Sometimes, we call this tradition, since our broader denomination may do it for us. Still, the challenge of making assumptions is that often we get it wrong and the hole we filled in has to be dug out to make way for something different.

The first response in NakedPastor’s fake text message above is basically what I remember of my theology during high school. It was simple and basically persuasive. God loves me. God died for me. I get to go to heaven. Awesome!

Except – there are lots of those assumptions, and over time, as I paid attention to what God was doing in my life and in the world, many of those assumptions had to radically change. Sure, God loves me, and God’s sacrificial love is poured out for me that I may experience wholeness – but it’s more than just about me.

God loves the world.

Even the people in it who are pretty terrible.

Even the people who get it completely wrong.

Even the people that I think are scum.

God loves everybody.

The more I have followed and sought after God, the more I have come to see how God is not someone or something that I own. Though I can make assumptions, I have to be ready constantly to have those assumptions changed. Sometimes, that’s painful. Sometimes, it’s freeing!

Yes, God loves me. But it’s not about me.

It’s about what God is doing in our world, bringing hope, reconciliation, and healing to everyone.

A better first text to God might be this instead – “Hey, God – thanks for loving everyone! What are you up to in the world today? How can I participate?”

 


It’s not about right belief.

When I was thirsty, when did you give me drink?

I am really thankful that a lot of the ways in which our culture understands faith is changing.

In the book Missional Spirituality, authors Roger Helland and Leonard Hjalmarson point out that the Christian faith you find in many churches is an excarnational practice. What does that mean? Excarnational faith is one that lives mostly in the brain, rather than the body. It’s understanding the religious life as being about knowing the right things and believing in the right stuff. Even in our many seminaries, religious education, though certainly a great tool, teaches church leaders how to write and research and study theology.

While the intellectual understanding of one’s faith tradition is great, without practice it is irrelevant.

Unfortunately, true change rarely begins in the mind.

Sure, believing the right thing can be important. But the true test is whether or not it is lived out. If “loving your neighbor as yourself” is what you believe as one of Jesus’ core teachings, how are you living it out each day? How is your faith community providing opportunities to love neighbors that you may not even know or may be very different than you? I feel like our culture is getting tired of hearing about “right belief” and is ready to see more faith that is lived out.

True spirituality is about embodying God to the world, to be part of God’s physical expression of love to the world.

I’d rather be wrong in my belief and help someone in need then be right and do nothing.


It’s Okay to Mourn.

Nathan & Emily at the State FairI’m here in my church office, listening to Akron/Family’s newest album after a busy morning and a beautiful memorial service for a dear friend.

And as I am thinking, I got to say to this – especially to us guys – it’s okay to mourn.

Grief (from dictionary.com) means “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.”

Grief is big and broad. It includes life changes – like new jobs, moves, relationships, church families, and so on. But it also includes death and dying, which is what we most naturally think of when we think about grief.

When my wife and I moved from DC to Dallas, we grieved for a while. Dallas is a great city, but DC is also a great place. We left behind friends, familiar roles, favorite restaurants, and warm memories. Dallas required us to start over. There is some joy in that, starting over and all, but it’s tough too. It took us a while to find some new favorites and new friends… and hey, it’s still ongoing.

In other words, we grieved.

Sometimes, in life, we assign grieving to just funerals and so on, forgetting that it’s bigger. And sometimes, we don’t even allow ourselves to grieve at the loss of loved ones. We say things like, “they are in a better place now.” Or “God needed another angel.” Or “it was God’s plan.” Personally, I understand what people are trying to say when they say those things, but it’s not always helpful.

It’s okay to grieve, to cry, to lament, to weep, to experience the flow of emotions (which can include joy and laughter), and to not get over it quickly.

It’s okay to mourn.

This Sunday, my message is going to be about death & dying, how we have permission to lament the loss of loved ones in our lives, even if it means getting angry at God. For a sneak peek, check out the Mourner’s Bill of Rights. Is there anything in there that surprises you? Do you agree with it? Have you followed it in your life? Why or why not?

- Nathan


What’s your calling?

We begin our New Year often in the same way – making resolutions, looking to the future, and welcoming a second chance to do the things we’ve always wanted to do.

What's Your Calling?Saturday’s horrific tragedy in Arizona reminds me, that each day, week, month, and year, the question of what we make of our lives goes beyond just ourselves. Can our choices, values, and passions make this world a safer place? Are we given a chance each day to influence some action that might bring darkness or light into our culture?

Sometimes, I wish I could answer that no. Despite my status as a “clergy”, there are lots of things in life that overwhelm me or leave me without answers. There are times when I wish I could be off-duty. There are many times I want to just blend into the crowd and imagine that my actions have little effect on the people around me.

Since my wife and I have welcomed two children into the world, I’ve begun to understand that someone is always watching. My words, my actions, and my attitude are being observed and even copied. I set an example – I open and shut doors with how I approach life each and every day. This has challenged me to be more reflective and sensitive to who I am and how I want others, especially my kids, to see me.

If there is one thing, then, that I want my children to learn from me, I hope they discover that life is a blessing and they each have a calling, given from God, to be that light for someone else.

I pray that they find their calling – the thing that they alone have the gifts, resources, and talents to do to make this world a better place.

So that one day, senseless violence will be no more, our communities will be places of safety and care for the least among us, even those with deep psychological struggles, and all people will have mentors and friends who love and welcome them.

This is the image of the Table – a spiritual oasis – a community of broken people that yearn for a better world – a gathering of followers of Jesus, one who lived and taught and died that the world might taste abundant life.

In this New Year, answer that question with me – what’s your calling? May we respond to the call and usher in that better world, together.


Change Month: Clean Water for Haiti

We all have a lot of pocket change laying around, right? Maybe not as much as we used to, since debit cards are pretty convenient in our lives. But we all need those quarters and dimes in our cars for tolls or some loose change in our desk for that midday cold beverage at work.

During the month of May, the Table and East Dallas Christian Church is being challenged to make some change with our change. We have plastic jugs loosely scattered over our campus and are collecting whatever you have in the depths of your pockets to go to provide clean drinking water for work teams and refugee camps in Haiti. The organization we are working with is International Action. They are fairly young non-profit but are doing some amazing work at an amazing pace.

Before the earthquakes in January, International Action was already on the ground, working to setup local and sustainable water systems. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and their water system reflected that. International Action brought in very affordable chlorination systems, worked to make the maintenance of the machines and distribution of chlorine tablets a small business opportunity, mapped the locations of their water systems, and even began to provide “de-worming” pills to children who got sick drinking local water.

The video below shows their work to get clean water distributed efficiently and quickly to thousands after the earthquake:

In this season of resurrection, we know Christ invites us to transform our lives and the world. By sharing something as simple as pocket change, our brothers and sisters in Haiti are offered a helping hand, and our lives are changed by blessing others with the gifts we have. See you Sunday – bring your change for change month!


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