Monday, November 22, 2010

The Arbiter of Loyalty

Short video clip on Loyalty with Rich Earl featured in a sermon series at a local church.

Shepherds Balm

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What would Jesus buy?

"Americans in general have little tolerance for a centering way of life that is submissive to the conditions in which growth takes place: quiet, obscure, patient, not subject to human control and management. The church is uneasy in these conditions.Typically it adapts itself to the prevailing American culture and is soon indistinguishable from that culture: talkative, noisy, busy, controlling, image-conscious-" Peterson

Alan Hirsch posted this quote and it sparked some thought that I would like to share here.

I was laying in bed this morning and turned on the TV- a rarity for me as I don't like to start my day that way. As I shifted through the channels I was amazed that almost every channel had an infomercial on (Saturday). The products were things we could (and should) all live without and would all be much better off for not having. I was incredulous as during a Magic Bullet commercial, a man in the audience (an obvious plant) was convinced of the value of the juice extracting power of the Magic Bullet and endorsed the product enthusiastically after playing the skeptic. It was powerfully bad acting, but it must be working because Magic Bullet was paying oodles for the air time. Either they think we are all idiots, or we are all idiots...consumers we are all.And Christians in America don't seem to be much better at deflecting this lure of the culture.

Christmas is here. Good grief, not again. As a follower of Jesus I have come to think it may be the single most distracting and destructive event of the year for the advancement of His kingdom. Christians go wild, in lockstep with the culture, mindlessly seeking material goodies, with nary a thought for the King whose birth we allegedly celebrate. What's with us?

Every year for the past 12 on Thanksgiving we make the annual trek back to visit family on our native Long Island, a consumeristic Mecca. We journey back home on Black Friday, and we witness cars piled high with "great deals', and traffic snarled in the frenzy to acquire. My desire to join in the Black Friday madness currently registers at zero, and has been holding steady for as long as I can remember. There ought to be a deep aversion in us to following the masses into the retail maelstrom. Not because it is wrong to buy or to give, but because it is an obscene perversion of who Jesus is. We should recoil in horror. It is a black day indeed.

The question we should ask ourselves is What would Jesus buy? Really, what would the gentle, humble, powerful King of love do on Black Friday? Would He be camped out? Would his heart pound in his chest as the guards open the sacred doors at WalMart? If the person in front of Him fell to the ground during the stampede would He risk His life to lift them to their feet? It might take a minor miracle....

We don't have to settle for craziness this year if we are willing to bear the scorn of a culture that is mesmerized by the spirit of accumulation. Swim the other way like a brave salmon to the spawning grounds. Celebrate the birth of Jesus with a spiritual calm, and do the things Jesus would approve. Rest, love, share, listen, pray, give.

Resources for a better Christmas:

Worship Fully Spend Less Give More Love All

The Divine Commodity

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Are you loyal?

I was asked to give my views on loyalty recently and thought I would share the response.

For me the big question is not whether I am loyal or not. The question is where does my loyalty stop? When can I say with good conscience that I can no longer support you? There is a dividing line somewhere that determines whether I totally support you through a crisis or will be forced to take a different position. Truth must be the arbiter.

My experience has been that we sometimes support our friends not on the basis of truth, but merely because they are friends. We feel caught in the middle and this can be paralyzing. The core value of friendship must not trump the core value of truth- a higher value.

Confronting a friend with truth is hazardous. Few people enjoy confrontation. We generally prefer to side with our friend and avoid risking the friendship. The problem is that when we do this truth can become a castoff. Telling my friend he is wrong, especially when he is already in conflict, will rarely produce a humble response. Instead, he will grow defensive, and a bond between us has been broken.

Jonathan is a great example of loyalty. He seems to have found the fulcrum in this debate. He was torn between supporting his own father King Saul, who had lost a bit of his mind in jealousy, and his best friend David. He managed to ably support and help his friend, while remaining true to the Biblical command to honor his father, no easy trick. His soul was joined to David, but he died on the battlefield with his father.

see I Samuel 13-20

Loyalty is not really loyalty until it is tested by crisis. Will we be blindly loyal to our friends, or risk living more prophetically and remain loyal to the truth?