July 2007

Saturday night, Ascension, in a joint effort with Crucial, provided a time of worship and teaching in a cool little space called Zamar off of Baymeadows Road.  The theme of the night was “Breathe” and was directed at participants through music, video, poetry, expression and the message.  

Manny’s discussion left me walking away thinking about what I breathe out and to whom I breathe on.  He centered his talk on the idea that a complete breath consists of an inhale and an exhale.  He used a comparison of the 21% oxygen we breathe in with each breath and we then turn around and breathe right back out 15-18% to what God intends for us to do with His presence.  It was mentioned how maybe God intends for his breathe upon us to be more for those around us instead of for our own understanding, gain or even bloatedness. 

So, as I left and began thinking about the whole breathe in, breathe out concept, my wife’s recent events came to mind.  Over the past few months, one of my wife’s closest friends has been declining in her battle with breast cancer.  There have been several phone calls and visits where my wife’s sole purpose is to read scripture over her friend.  At times my wife’s friend has simply been able to rest in the presence of God’s words.  At other times she’s had a friend to talk about the effects of cancer and what will be left behind if God chooses not to heal her this side of heaven. 

Over the past 14 years the two of them have breathed into, over and around each other’s lives.  I hope you have someone that is breathing God into, over and around you.  And I hope you are breathing God into, over and around someone else.  If not, why not give it a try.  Breathe in some of what God is doing around you and breathe it back out over someone else.  This is what Ascension was about Saturday night – and is about everyday.

If you’ve got a story of how you or someone else embodies this breathe in, breathe out concept, we would love to hear about it… Go to the Ascension blog (by clicking here) and share your story.

So, I wrote my last post along the same time as I came across this list contrasting religion and gospel – and I’ve been chewing it since then.  Here’s the list… The Difference between Religion and the Gospel
By Pastor Mark Driscoll
Religion says, if I obey, God will love me. Gospel says, because God loves me, I can obey.
Religion has good people & bad people. Gospel has only repentant and unrepentant people.
Religion values a birth family. Gospel values a new birth.
Religion depends on what I do. Gospel depends on what Jesus has done.
Religion claims that sanctification justifies me. Gospel claims that justification enables sanctification.
Religion has the goal to get from God. Gospel has the goal to get God.
Religion sees hardships as punishment for sin. Gospel sees hardship as sanctified affliction.
Religion is about me. Gospel is about Jesus.
Religion believes appearing as a good person is the key. Gospel believes that being honest is the key.
Religion has an uncertainty of standing before God. Gospel has certainty based upon Jesus’ work.
Religion sees Jesus as the means. Gospel sees Jesus as the end.
Religion ends in pride or despair. Gospel ends in humble joy. 

And the reason I’ve been chewing on this is two-fold.  I find it easy to agree that “this” (our lives, the things around us, our circumstances) are all about and for Jesus – very much in agreemnet with the Gospel side.  But, having grown up in a guilt-driven understanding of Christian walk, it’s hard to move away from some of the “Religion” implications.    My friend Quincy might apply his Mt. Dew illustraion to the subtlty of the differences between the two. He explains that the enemy comes at us with subtle differences in his lies because if the lies were obvious, we wouldn’t be fooled.  Quincy uses Mt. Dew (the most heavenly drink available on Earth) as the illustration of God’s truth (in whatever situation) and Mello Yello as the subtle lies presented by the enemy.  If you put the two side-by-side they can be easily confused, unless you’re accustomed to drinking one or the other.  If you’re used to drinking Mt. Dew; you know the flavor, the color, the smell, the way the carbonation tickles your palate, you will not be fooled by a cheap substitute, no matter how close it appears to a casual glance. God has for us a purpose and that purpose lies in the Gospel.  Don’t be fooled by a cheap Religion.  Drink in God’s Word so you’ll know the difference when the enemy approaches.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve been listening to a series on Nehemiah from Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  I’m at the point in the story where Nehemiah’s team has finished the wall and people begin returning to Jerusalem (Chapter 7).  I’m also about half-way through the book “The Gospel According To StarBucks” by Leonard Sweet.  The two are haunting my periods of time between listening and reading. 

In Nehemiah 7, as Driscoll puts it, we’re looking at a page out of the Jerusalem phonebook.  And usually I would have the compulsion to glance over that piece of text or skip to where the real story picks back up.  But what I’m learning is that the names in that list are a direct representation of what God has asked me to be.  I may have an opportunity to play the role of Nehemiah somewhere along my journey and do something or lead a number of people in some fantastic way, but more likely I will be a name in a phone book.  And at first glance, that’s not very exciting. 

But let’s look at a couple of those names in the Jerusalem phone book.  Zerubbabel is the first listed, a descendent of David, ancestor of Jesus, and will be a prominent community leader.  Then there is Jeshua a High Priest of Israel and the predecessor of 14 generations of faithful High Priests.  These two illustrate something very telling in what was and is important to God – faithfulness.  These guys reaped the blessings from their fathers, grandfathers and such and they left behind them other men who knew God and lived their lives in accordance with what was important to Him. 

This hits home with me.  I have been blessed to be born into a family where both my maternal and paternal sides of our family have chased after God and took others with them while they did it.  Maternally, I know very little about many of my ancestors.  But one stands out that is only a generation or so back.  My Mom’s uncle was a missionary in Africa and left behind a region of people that now know Jesus.  Mom had the chance a few years ago to travel to Africa in the same region and was greeted as royalty because of the gift her uncle transported to that region.  Paternally, my Great-Grandfather was a pastor who raised a lineage of boys that became pastors and/or wonderfully gifted men of God.  From them came more pastors and a few missionaries.  From them came me and my cousins (pastors and pastors’ wives).  Not everyone from my Great-Grandfather to me had followed God’s path, but I’m certain that there was a point where they had the choice to.  I’m not going to gloss over the women God has blessed me with either.  My Great-Grandmother, both of my Grandmothers, my Mom and my wife have each prayed for me and blessed me with their understanding and support and provided for me an example of what it means to follow after God. 

I’ve been blessed!  God has placed me in a lineage much like Zerubbabel.  Can you imagine being of the Davidic descent, in a time when history and lineage was still something more than a Google search, coming back to the city, “The City of David”, and rebuilding what God had given to David?  But basking in the glory of what was passed down to me is only half the picture.  There’s also a desire or responsibility to be like Jeshua and leave something for those that carry my name after I’m gone.  My Great-Grandfather made that commitment to his sons, their sons and me and now I’m faced with that task. 

And that’s where the Starbucks book comes into play.  Sweet does a great job of making the parallel of how Starbucks has engaged today’s culture and made people want to pay $4 for a cup of coffee and what the church is going to become to engage these next generations.  But it’s not just the coffee that you’re paying for.  It’s the experience, the participation and the community.  People line up and wait to talk in a foreign language of sorts, smell the aroma of a bean ground and brewed, listen to the sounds of someone setting the flavor for the day, to hold the warmth of the brew in your hands and to taste the bold flavor of the bean – all for $4.  There is something engaging about going to Starbucks. 

My kids love Starbucks and they don’t even like coffee.  They miss out on the feel and flavor, but the sub-culture, sounds and smells entice them all the same.  Starbucks has figured it out.  But the single-most important thing to remember is that Starbucks is in the game to sell coffee and create an environment.  There is very little lasting worth to what Starbucks has to offer. 

Jesus on the other hand has all the long-term worth but has been painted and portrayed as boring and out-dated.  The sub-culture associated with Jesus has become less and less participatory and engaging to this same group that feels at home at Starbucks.  Why is that?  It’s because of me (and people like me).  I’ve forgotten how sweet the aroma of Jesus’ presence is.  I’ve forgotten how beautiful He is when seen across the path.  I’ve forgotten how warm and flavorful His word is.  And I’ve painted Him to be less relevant than the new media of this generation.  And when I forget these things, there’s no way my kids will want to chase after Him.  There’s no way that on this path will 14 generations from now look back and trace their heritage and Christian lineage back to me.  So what do I do?

It’s time to engage.  Realize that Jesus is at Starbucks just the same as He is at church.  Maybe it’s time to paint a new picture of what it means to follow Christ.  Or maybe it’s time to flip back a few decades and remember what it means or used to mean.  I am a lazy church-goer that is described in Revelations as being worthy of being vomited out of Christ’s mouth.  I’m a consumer in church much like I am at Wal-Mart.  It’s time to quit being lazy and do something.  So, here’s what I’m doing:

·         I’m helping others to worship.
·         I’m teaching others to learn.
·         I’m walking with others and listening.
·         I’m remembering the appeal of Jesus.

Maybe you don’t relate to Zerubbabel.  Maybe you’re the first person in your family to relate to Jesus.  You have no control over any of that, so move on.  You can definitely be a Jeshua.  Your kids, their kids, 14 generations from now can look back and say it was that person right there that set my spiritual ball in motion.  What are you doing?