Thursday, December 22, 2011

Misfits

Remember the claymation classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? You should, it's been broadcast continuously since 1964. Rudolph and rebel elf Hermy leave the North Pole in search for greener grass (or would that be whiter snow?). What they find instead during their adventure is an island filled with discarded and defective toys, The Island of Misfit Toys. There is some very interesting group psychology going on here, but I'll leave that for your observation. What is fundamental however, is that these toys never got a chance.

Jesus, himself was rejected. A rabbi with no formal training. A prophet from Galilee. A "sinner" who didn't wash his hands when he ate and healed on the Sabbath.

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Luke 9:22)

And Jesus made a habit of hanging around sinners and tax collectors, going outside of the city and healing lepers, and even striking up conversations with Samaritan women.

We have this image of a perfect Christian either by what they say, what they wear, or what they do. Our church's doors are open wide for Christians like these! But who wants to sit next to the broken and the rejected, the defective and discarded?

When we gather together to celebrate Christmas we welcome family, but only reluctantly the black sheep child or the stereotype drunk uncle. We gush about our latest accomplishments and look down our noses at the single parent or the grown child without a job. Funny how we act the same at church and at home.

We forget that Jesus, even on the night he was born, was rejected. There was no room at the inn. Instead a baby was brought into this world in a stable, surrounded by livestock, feces, and feed. Unclean. Unwelcome. Rejected.

Praise be to God for that misfit! Who so humbly was willing to love a misfit like me.

Jesus and I, "We're a couple of misfits..." (sing along!)

Do you feel rejected? Do you feel unwelcome? Most importantly, at this holiday season, do you feel alone? You don't need to. Jesus was rejected first and he loves you. If you are not welcomed by family or by church this Christmas, you are welcome to feast with Jesus.

"'Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests." (Matthew 22:9-10)

There's a seat saved for misfits like us. Come, let's celebrate.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Worship at the Mall

I'm taking today off to do some last minute shopping and decorating. (And got to sleep in, too!) I expect to encounter mobs of people all struggling to find that perfect gift. Impatience, selfishness, materialism and so on all get in the way of "the reason for the season" and "keeping Christ in Christmas". So I am going out with my mind set on worship. But worship what exactly?


 
Are practicing


 
 By the joy of their


 
But be on your gaurd while worshiping at the mall because real worship might spontaneously break out.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Gifts We Bring

So yesterday my son had is Broadway debut as one of the Magi, or Three Kings. Ok, so the stage was smaller, but he performed flawlessly to a packed house and in front of a ton of paparazzi (moms with video cameras) none the less. It has been pure joy the last couple of weeks as we have rehearsed for this. My son's big part was to follow the other two wise men around. Pretty easy. He didn't have a single line to speak. But he had one of the hardest parts. He had to be the first one on the stage to give his gift of gold to the newborn King.

My son, being a fan of pirates and treasure, quickly latched on to the idea of giving a box of gold. And it is easily identifiable in every nativity and creche. We couldn't walk past one without him stopping, looking for a wise man carrying a box, and proudly proclaiming "look, that one's me!"

As excited as he was, it gave me the perfect opportunity to explain what the gifts of the Magi meant. Gold for a King, frankincense for a Priest, and myrrh to anoint One who would die. And with each gift I was able to explain the birth of Jesus, his ministry/mission, and his ultimate sacrifice. My son was fascinated.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:


“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”


Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”


After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matthew 2:1-12)

It was refreshing to look at this story from a child's eyes. The magnitude of the birth of Jesus and the significance of the gifts took on a whole new meaning.

The Magi gave their gifts to Jesus because of who he was, not because of what he had done or was about to do. They came to honor and to worship for the same reason. Today we live in a culture where the first question is often "what's in it for me?". And sadly, many approach Jesus the same way. We need to give our lives to him not because of what he has done, but because of who he is: King, Priest, atoning Sacrifice.

(For other posts on gifts, check out these posts from last year)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

All Eyes Are On You

I've been putting off an "official" post on Tim Tebow for a while (and this post from a couple of years ago doesn't count). I'm falling behind the news cycle and was expecting to change the tone of this post after it looked certain that the "Mile High Messiah" was finally going to lose one Sunday. (For the record, I have only seen that nickname used once in an article by the Evil Four Letter and I am sure Tebow wouldn't accept such an anointing) But alas, he pulled out another win. One of my friends noted when I replied to his Tebow blog post that if I wait until the last two minutes, then this blog post will be a "win". Does that mean that the other 3+ quarters of all my other blog posts are terrible? (if you don't get the joke, don't worry)

Anyway, I could go on and on about his throwing motion, his "yards per touch" ranking, his quarterback rating, etc, etc. I could even tell you that he has "it" without ever really identifying what "it" is. I could talk about how hard it is to hate the guy because he's just so darn nice (see his last postgame comments about Brian Urlacher for example). And of course I could write about how divisive this man of faith is to believers and football fans alike. But I'll let the following articles do all that for me.

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7319858/the-people-hate-tim-tebow

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/story/2011-11-29/broncos-qb-tebow-stirs-debate-on-religion-and-sports/51663956/1?csp=34news

http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/Denver-Broncos-Tim-Tebow-showing-detractors-he-is-learning-to-be-nfl-qb-112811

http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/Tim-Tebow-why-the-heck-do-we-hate-him-110211

But this post isn't about Tim Tebow. At least not totally. In the second chapter of Not A Fan, Kyle Idleman calls our attention to Jesus' late night conversation with Nicodemus. Nicodemus, not Nostradamus like I thought as a kid, was part of the religious ruling class- the Sanhedrin- and was a Pharisee with respect to religious conviction. He had a lot to lose even being seen near Jesus, let alone sitting down and having a conversation with this alleged heretic. So Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night.

Idleman is right to point out that fans of Jesus are comfortable wearing their favorite uniform so long as their star is winning. That's because it doesn't cost them anything. But when the star is controversial or doesn't act the way a fan might expect, the jersey comes off. Meeting with Jesus at night didn't cost Nicodemus anything. Idleman writes: "There is no way to follow Jesus without him interfering with your life." (pg 30)

Which brings me back to Tim Tebow. No, he's not a great quarterback. And no, I'm not necessarily a fan (but as a Bronco fan, I'm glad he's winning). But does he deserve the mocking and scorn he receives? Here's a sample conversation I heard last week on sports-talk radio: "So Tebow prayed for God to help him with his spiral? Well either God didn't answer his prayer or God can't throw a spiral either." To which the other commentator replied, "Or maybe his God doesn't answer his prayers." It's gotten to the point where not only Tebow is mocked, but so is the sovereignty of God.

Even other Christian players have backed off from him. Kurt Warner, notorious for his faith, admits that maybe Tebow should "put down the boldness" to prevent critics from becoming "calloused".
Jake Plummer, who Tebow essentially replaced in a round and about way said, "I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ then I think I’ll like him a little better ." But both quarterbacks completely miss the point.

Tebow is not a fan of Jesus. If he was, he wouldn't talk about him so much. If he was, he wouldn't open up every postgame press conference by thanking his "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". (He doesn't even shorten it for simplicity like Warner's famous "Thank you Jesussss!" And he definitely wouldn't take a knee and "Tebow" for the whole world to see and mock.

No, Tim Tebow is not a fan of Jesus. He is not afraid of being seen with him. He is not afraid of talking about him. He is not ashamed. He does not need to come to Jesus in the dark of night. He does not mind that his relationship with Jesus interferes with his life, his popularity, and yes even his play on the field.

So put yourself in Tebow's shoes. Would you continue to praise Jesus with every camera on you? Would you pray to Jesus both through the good and bad, knowing everyone is watching and waiting for you to slip? Would you allow Jesus to interfere with your life that much? Or are you still just a fan?

This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sing Jesus into Your Heart

"That if you confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)

"Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God." (1 John 4:2)

I'm driving home from work the other day listening to some lesson on Christian radio when it comes time for the standard invitation to pray Jesus into your heart. I change over to the 24-7 Christmas station and hear this verse from Silent Night, "Christ our savior is born. Christ our savior is born."

Something hit me. I don't know whether to call it a dichotomy or a paradox. But the above passages that justify salvation via a prayer in the comfort of my own car while cruising alone down the highway aren't limited by the tradition of the "sinner's prayer." In fact, could they not extend to our favorite Christmas hymns? Consider:
  • "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing." -O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!... Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!" -Joy to the World
  • "The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone him." -What Child is This?
  • "Christ the savior is born... Jesus, Lord at thy birth" -Silent Night
  • And the entirety of Hark the Herald Angels Sing is a song of praise for the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
So considering the basis for praying Jesus into your heart, could not one be saved simply by singing one of these traditional songs of worship?

As you ponder this doctrinal loophole, consider its implications. A local radio station effectively goes off-air from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas to play nothing but Christmas hymns and carols. Yes, many are secular. But others have such theological depth that you cannot help but to praise God while singing along. These same songs fill our shopping malls and department stores. School choirs and bands practice these songs for months to prepare for the annual Christmas concert (where they are still allowed to do so). Television schedules Christmas specials while movie producers plan their releases to time with the holiday season.

Two thousand years later, the whole world stops what it is doing and changes course. All because of a little baby born in a manger.

Now I'm not necessarily suggesting that one can "come to Christ" by singing along to a Christmas hymn, but I am suggesting that maybe these songs are the only glimpse of Jesus someone else may see. If we can go door knocking to invite someone to church, shouldn't the same principle apply when we go door to door caroling?

These are more than just favorite traditional songs. They are hymns of worship and praise. Come, let us adore Him!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Internet Fan

The first chapter of Kyle Idleman's Not a Fan is titled D.T.R. for "define the relationship". Makes sense. Like a good technical paper, we want to define terms up front. And since the focus of this book is our relationship with Jesus it is best to define where we're at right from the start.

Are you a follower or a fan? Yes, it's that simple. Are you in the heat of the game or are you in the stands cheering?

It may not be an obvious difference, but the difference is huge. You might say, eternal. Of course the instinct is to answer with an emphatic "follower!" That's how I would have answered the first 24 years of my life. (at least once I was old enough to speak) But once challenged to look back at the choices I made and the priorities of my life weighed against God's own Word, I saw that I was just a fan.

Eleven year later, by no means do I consider myself to be perfect. Today I'm still tempted to be just a fan. It's easier to sit in the stands and play Monday morning quarterback on internet forums. (sitting faceless behind a computer screen and writing this blog without ever actually doing anything) Being in the game is hard. It risks injury. It risks defeat.

Like I said, easier to be an internet know-it-all. This reminds me of a Bud Light "Real Men of Genius". (Don't know if this ever was an actual add, but it circulated on sports forums and fits perfectly to this discussion. Though the version I remember had a verse about criticizing athletes for their performance though you've never once played the game, you still get the gist.) Read this and ask yourself again if this could describe you.

***
Bud Light presents...Real Men of Genius

"Reeeeal Men of Geeeeniuuuus..."

Today we salute YOU, Mr. Really Mad Internet Sports Fan

"Mr. Really Mad Internet Spo-orts Fan!"

Only YOU can fully appreciate the mind-blowing tragedy of a bunch of 18-22 year old athletes you'll never meet, losing a game.

"Don't you TAAAAALK to me about perspective!!"

While others are too preoccupied with things like real life, you take your anger directly to the place where it will make the absolute least possible impact: An Internet discussion forum.

"Loggin' on now!"

Your unique eye for logic allows you to sling turds of doom every which way, and then brag about how you were RIGHT as soon as one of the pieces sticks to the wall regardless of how many dozens fell limply to the floor before that.

"See I told yooooooooou!!"

And if some idiot newspaper columnist has the gall to not be as incensed as you are, you unleash your fury down upon him with all the tenacity and mercilessness of a rabid pit bull with a tender buttock locked in its jaws.

"Total anonymity!"

So keep clicking away, oh Marauder of the Mousepad. Because when the results you so desire finally come about years from now, you can say it was because YOU demanded it.

"How come they haven't fired that clown, yet? Mr. Really Mad Internet Spooorts Fan"

Anheuser-Busch St. Louis, Missouri...

***

Let's try a not-so-creative rewrite:

Water to Wine presents, Real Fans of Jesus

Real Faans of Jeesuuuuus!

Today we salute YOU, Christian blogger!

Here's to youuu, Christian blog er!

You had an emotional response at a Christian rock concert and now you want everyone to know!

I went to this concert and all I got was saved... and this t-shirt... and this Jesus fish for my car... and this NOTW sticker...

You read a best seller and want everyone to live a Crazy Radical Wild life in devotion to Christ.

You're preaching to the choir!

But don't dare disagree with your doctrine or you'll release the fury of a thousand Twitter followers.

Farewell Rob Bell!

And don't expect you to practice what you preach. You're too busy reading everyone else's blogs, following your Twitter stream, and updating your Facebook account to actually step outside and live like Jesus.

Follow my tweets as I follow the tweets of Christ!

So keep pecking away at your keyboard, Christian blogger, calling out every moral slight. Because since you know Jesus, you also know you're right and everyone else therefore is wrong.

Do as I say, not as I do because I'm a Christian blogger!

Water to Wine, Jerusalem

Monday, December 05, 2011

Under-horses

So the Bowl Championship Series match ups are set and we are lucky enough to watch a rematch of Alabama and LSU in the BCS shampionship, er I mean championship. But where is the underdog? The dark horse? Where is the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl or the Utah-Alabama Sugar Bowl? No such luck this year.

But everybody love to cheer on the underdog (except for the rabid Sooner and Tide fans in the games above). Why is that? What captures our collective conscience when it comes to cheering for the little guy?

That, and more deep thoughts related to sports and football in particular, will be reflected on over the next few weeks as I go through Kyle Idleman's book, Not A Fan. Please join me in the weeks ahead as I explore the difficult question, am I a fan or a follower?

But in the meantime, some tunage: