Jesus Didn’t Die To Give You A Political Stance

I am fed up.

I don’t like to use this space for social and political commentary but recent events are crying for a different perspective, one that I thought I might be able to speak to.

It seems that there is a misconception in American Christianity that the only way to live out your faith is to be bold and fanatical regarding social or political  issues. Somehow the Christian duty of loving God, loving others, sharing the gospel, and making disciples has been replaced with making political statements, arguing, fanatical postering, and boycotts.

The implication in all of this is that to be a true Christian is to be bold and outspoken about cultural and political issues. Despite lines and lines of Biblical texts that discuss loving your enemies, care for the unfortunate, and going the extra mile, Evangelical Christians feel that the only model for a devout faith involves becoming overly confrontational and entrenched in Christian culture.

John 13:34-35 states,  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorifyyour Father in heaven.”

Ephesians 5:8 explains, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light”

Our call as believers and followers of Jesus is to let his life work through our life so that the Kingdom of God (where what God wants done is done) is spread. We can only do this through the transformation of our life through Christ.

If you want to change culture, change your heart, not your political stance. The only hope for this world is Christ’s children living his life in their life.

Take a stand for righteousness and Christlikeness, consider the damage of your own sin in your community before attacking others (even heathens), and above all seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Do these things, and the cultural and political changes we all long for will become an increasing reality. God looks on the heart, scripture says, and that is where we make change happen.

This is why spiritual formation is so important to me and this is why it should be important to you. Our world needs changed hearts and Christians living Christ-like lives. Heart change is so much more important than political change.

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We Are All Addicted

Though psychologists and researchers are reluctant to label excessive technology use as an addiction there are some tell tale signs that may be personal to us. Answer these questions:

How many of us have more than one TV in the home?

How many of us have more than one computer in the home?

How many of us leave the TV on even though no one is watching it?

How many of us talk or text on the cellphone while driving despite understanding the dangers of such actions?

How many of us have web access on our cell phone?

Does your percentage of unplugged time come close to matching your plugged time?

Have any of us interrupted a meal with family to text or answer a cell phone call?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you may have a problem with excessive technology use.

I am reminded of this advice from Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, at the 2009 commencement at Carnegie Mellon University:

“Turn off your computer. You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us. Nothing beats holding the hand of your grandchild as he walks his first steps.”

How Would Jesus Use A Smart Phone?

Just as hurry has made the present a place that few people are satisfied living in, technology and its communicative ability to transport us digitally someplace else and with someone else has made us more and more distant from the people who may need us right where we are.

Mark Galli, in a piece entitled “Does Twitter Do Us Any Good?” expounds on this point, “I often find myself so drawn to my Blackberry and laptop that I fail to be present with the flesh and blood person who is standing before me. I look at them and pretend like I’m listening, but my mind strains to get back to my email. The technology is obviously undermining my ability to be present in an embodied way to the real person in front of me.” [i]

Have you ever noticed how much Jesus, as presented in the Gospel, never seems to lose sight of the present moment? Consider the story of Jesus when his mother and siblings are trying to reach him (Mark 3:31-35) or the way the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter progresses (Mark 5:21-43). Jesus is never in a hurry and never loses sight of an opportunity to minister in the very present moment.


[i] Galli, Mark. “Does Twitter Do Us Any Good?” Christianity Today 4 June 2009. Web.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are Our Digital Lives Damaging Our Spiritual Lives?

Technology Use, Southampton City College

Technology Use, Southampton City College (Photo credit: jisc_infonet)

It must be trendy to discuss the ubiquitous nature of technology and personal connectivity. A new term has even been coined for it – connection addiction. I saw this term first as a part of the headline for Newsweek’s latest cover story. Just a few months ago, The Atlantic cover story asked, ” Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”

A few years ago, I grew fascinated with the spiritual ramifications of all of this connectivity. I am convinced that the church needs to address this issue for the spiritual health of its members. I have included some of my writings on the topic below. I would encourage discussion. More to come.

  • The Ever Connected

Modern people are finding it harder and harder to unplug themselves from their electronic devices. Consider these recently documented findings:

– International studies tell us that “people would rather lose their wallet than their cell phone.” [i]

– Two thirds of 8,000 respondents in a 2009 poll go to bed with their cell phone nearby and refuse to switch them off because they are afraid “they’ll miss something.” [ii]

– an average working parent spends twice as long dealing with email as playing with his or her children [iii]

The Results of all of this Connection

Some people may be proud of their connectivity and ability to multitask but according to a 2009 Stanford study those people who are exposed to multiple streams of information have trouble paying attention, have poor short term memory, and can not switch from one task to another effectively.

Clifford Nass, a Communication professor who helped conduct the study, states that habitual digital multitaskers are “suckers for irrelevancy” because “everything distracts them.”[iv] Who would have thought that we would become addicted to distraction?


[i] Fahmy, Miral. “People would rather lose wallet than cellphone.” Reuters 4 Sept. 2009 [Singapore] . Web. 26 June 2010.

[ii] Stone, Brad. “Breakfast Can Wait. The Day’s First Stop Is Online..” The New York Times 10 Aug. 2009. Web. 26 June 2010.

[iii] Honoré, Carl. In praise of slowness: how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed. p. 9. HarperCollins, 2004. Print.

 [iv] Gorlick, Adam. “Media Multitaskers Pay Mental Price, Stanford Study Shows.” Stanford University News 24 Aug. 2009. Web.

One Method of Praying The Scriptures

Long time readers will remember the theme of this year has been the Word of God. I have sought insight and guidance in the reading of scripture and worked to gain a greater appreciation and love for the Bible. Several books have helped me in this process, George Guthrie’s Reading the Bible For Life and Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet to name a few. But the book that I would recommend for a more spiritual approach to the Bible is Chris Webb’s book The Fire of the Word. 

In the book, Webb introduced me to the Exercises of St. Ignatius and provided guidance on conducting my own exercises with scripture. The beauty of the Ignatius approach is it immerses you in the story of scripture. After spending 15-20 minutes meditating on a passage, you then begin to pray and seek out a response from Jesus.

At the end of the exercise, you begin to talk with Christ and most importantly – listen. I don’t always hear a response but I feel closer to Christ and feel like our relationship has a more honest element to it. Also, because of this exercise, I spend the rest of the day thinking about the passage and reflecting on the parts of the story that meant the most to me.

I would highly recommend Webb’s book and encourage you to give the Ignatius meditative approach to scripture a try. Here are the steps to follow as you read a designated passage:

Step One – Imagine the scene as clearly as you can. Use your imagination to take in smells, sounds, and sights.

Step Two – Place yourself in the shoes of one of the characters

Step Three – Continue to run the events of the story to run through your mind. Pay close attention to what people say and do.

Step Four – Ask yourself what emotions does this passage create in you? How do you want to respond to the questions asked or statements made.

Step Five – Use your emotions and questions from the previous step to spark a conversation with Christ. Listen for his response.

If all of this seems strange to you then maybe it is time for you to try something new. The Bible is too important for us to not do everything we can to engage it and the method above has worked very well for me.

The Need For A Spiritual Vacation

I spent last week traveling and relaxing with my family. It was a classic summer vacation with beaches, interstate rest stop picnics, and

Lazzy Feet on a Blue Ocean Beach vacation

Lazzy Feet on a Blue Ocean Beach vacation (Photo credit: epSos.de)

peculiar road sign sightings.

Should I have used the additional down time and scenic locales for more intentional spiritual exercises and thought? What should my spiritual life do while my vocational life is on retreat? I made the decision to let my week off be a week off from my usual routine of spiritual growth and training. I slept in instead of getting up early to read my Bible, I brought along a book that I knew was heavy on story and lighter on spiritual seriousness, and I let myself soak in the moment instead of planning my every move. Am I a slacker? Did I give the Devil a foothold?

I don’t think so. I remember Richard Foster telling a story once about listening to prayer expert Agnes Sanford talk about her love of reading murder mysteries. She encouraged her listeners and readers to be serious about prayer but then take a break and do something you enjoy. The point is to find balance in your life and vacations are designed to bring balance. Spiritual vacations can have the same effect.

I don’t want to suggest that we should all become less devoted, but just as our bodies and minds need breaks from work, our spirit needs a break from its training as well. As I returned to work this week I have had a renewed energy and have been able to focus on the tasks at hand. I seem to be, for the time being at least, less easily distracted and more aware of what really matters. The same is true with my spiritual life. When I opened my Bible today, I realized how much I missed reading it and I sought out a deeper connection with God through it.

If you have been pushing hard through spiritual disciplines or intense studies, give yourself a break and let your life flow for a time. Take up your practices again soon and you will find that they have a more meaningful effect.

It may be time for a spiritual vacation.