are you normal

are you normalI love reading and hearing about how people live their lives as they attempt to follow Jesus. I get inspired, uplifted, convicted, motivated and encouraged. Those people who share their ideas and actions challenge me to think and to grow.

But then, sometimes when I read too much about what other people are thinking, I get tired. I begin to feel dissatisfied and restless.

I just read a blog written by a woman who doesn’t want to be “normal”. I liked her blog because it showed a real example of living in the tension. Having your stuff and following Jesus. You can read it here http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/faith/essentials/growing-in-your-faith/i-dont-want-to-be-normal and form your own opinions.

Even though I liked her blog, reading about her desires to be more “sold out” and “surrendered” to God started to make me feel tired.

Sort of the same feeling I get when David Platt tells me how to be “Radical”, Shane Claiborne tells me how to be “Revolutionary”, Francis Chan talks to me about “Crazy Love”, Erwin McManus takes me down the “Barbarian Way” and Tullian Tchividjian tells me how to be “Unfashionable”. Yeah, I love all those books. I love their thinking. I love that their writing and their lives are all sold out, surrendered and way out there for Jesus.

Yeah, I want to be like that too. When I first became a follower of Christ, I told my friend, who was largely responsible for dragging me into the Kingdom, that I wanted to be a radical Christian. I didn’t want to be a namby-pamby pew sitter. I wanted to go all out for Christ. I still do.

But now and then, I wonder. What is wrong with being normal?  Why does normal have a stigma attached to it? Why do we glamorize “surrendered, radical” lives? Why do we agonize if we feel we aren’t measuring up to being “sold out”? Do we really understand what Jesus meant when he said follow me?

Do we just have so much stuff here in America that we feel like we have to get rid of it to be sold out? Do we believe we aren’t radical enough if we have a regular paying job instead of a helping-the poor-ministry job? Do we really believe that focusing on our kids and spending most of our time and energy on raising them well is not surrendered enough?

It seems as though a publishing/speaking industry has grown up around those buzzwords like “radical” and “revolutionary” and “unfashionable” and we all want to get on the bandwagon. Or at least talk about getting on the bandwagon.

And honestly, all those buzzwords did originally come from Jesus and the life he modeled for us.

There is, however, another thing that Jesus modeled for us and that is maturity. Yes, maturity. That is one of Scripture’s buzzwords. Somehow maturity just doesn’t sound as glamorous as radical or revolutionary. But when I think about it, maturity is the natural course of life. It’s normal.

So, I have come to realize that as long as I continue to follow Jesus, I am going to be living in that tension of how to be radical, revolutionary and unfashionable as I grow and become more mature. And I guess that is just normal.

What are your thoughts?

couple disagreePursuing Peace is hard. Whether you are listening to the news or looking at your facebook feed, there are plenty of people including Christians who are faced with the choice of joining a heated discussion or logging out!

There are many who will go to Chick-fil-a this August 1 to show their support. There are also lots of people on the other side of the issue who will take their stand as well. My question is how can the Christians who stand on either side of this issue pursue peace when they disagree?

“Blessed are the Peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:1) Peace isn’t some passive experience that I gain by letting go. Instead peacemaking is active.* I have to work at making peace.

I believe that all Christians need to learn how to pursue peace and actively make peace.

Here are 5 things to remember:

1.  Every Christian needs to remember they are poor in spirit.  I’ve got to remember that log in my eye before I point out the speck.

2.  I need God’s Spirit, His Word the Bible, and people to reveal my heart.  True conviction and spiritual change don’t happen alone.

3. I am not the Holy Spirit: I don’t have to convince you! That is God’s work!  The point is not winning an argument but seeking to know God and what He says.

4. I need to remember that there is a bunch of pain under the surface!  If there is heat then usually there is something else needing to be addressed! Who among us hasn’t felt hurt and pain due to sinful actions, thoughts and words of others? Many times we argue most vehemently because of what is under the surface.

5. Pursuing peace and making peace doesn’t mean we agree.  I might never agree with you but that doesn’t mean we have no common ground.

So Christian, before you take to the streets to defend your position at your local Chick-fil-a or call your local talk show, how about opening your Bible and listen to Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7?

Matthew 5-7


You are not the first Christian to disagree about the Bible. I think that many of us need to stay in the tension and humbly open God’s word together to find His answers!

There is an alternative to this hard work of peacemaking: you could choose to separate and isolate, speak harsh words, attack anyone who disagrees, and form a new group that agrees with you. Jesus warned us against this as well! (Read John 17)

 

*My thoughts have been greatly influenced by my Pastor and Fellow Brother in Christ, Chris Robins. Listen to his sermon on peacemaking at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church Website. 

It’s difficult to do an honest reading of the gospels and not come to the conclusion that discipleship is one of Jesus’ primary concerns and focuses.  However the difficulty comes when we ask the question, “Who actually makes disciples, us or God?

One could easily point to the great commission in Matt. 28:19 and proclaim that its obviously Jesus’ intention that his followers “go into all the world and make disciples”.  But in the same way, you could also point to the previous verse and note that the power and authority to accomplish this task belongs solely to Jesus Christ.

We’re prone to forget sometimes, but a defining characteristic of discipleship is that it involves reproduction and multiplication.  However, we’re also prone to forget sometimes that we’re not called to reproduce ourselves, but to reproduce the life of Jesus in others.

But this doesn’t mean that we have no part in the making of the disciples, the answer is that making disciples is a mysterious process that involves things that we do, and can measure, and things that God does, which we can’t begin to understand.  It’s a beautiful mystery.

seedling

Jesus gives us a picture of this in Mark 4 as he tells the parable of the seed growing:

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.  The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

In that passage it seems like Jesus references a natural organic growth process that is progressive:  first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain, then the harvest when the grain is ripe.  But in the exact same parable he says, “the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how”.

I love that.  And what’s more, the man goes out and plants the seed, he’s doing actual work.  It wouldn’t be outlandish to assume that if this man was a farmer then he would use techniques that he had learned that would help the seed grow, such as watering the seed, making sure it had sunlight, planting it in season, etc.  But I love how Jesus notes that he works for a while and then goes to sleep and doesn’t do anything, but all the while God is working.  That gives me great comfort because apparently God will cause his children to grow even if we are asleep on the job:)

We plant the seed of the gospel, and we can expect to see growth and have an eye on the process and what to expect, but ultimately it’s the power of God’s spirit working inside the seed that causes the growth in a way that is utterly mysterious.  This is a tension that we’d all do well to remain in.  We work, but we count on God to work in people’s lives in a way that we can’t begin to predict or understand.

At WDA, we’ve done a lot of thinking about what this process looks like.  Take a look at what we’ve learned from studying Jesus’ method of making disciples, and spend some time thinking about the process of discipleship and how to be a careful farmer and tender of the souls that God has given you charge of.

But don’t lose sight of the truth that ultimately it is the rain and sunshine of God’s graciousness and power that bring growth and change in people’s lives.  This thought should both reassure and humble us at the same time.

So in closing… Remember:

  1. Discipleship is about reproducing Jesus, not us.
  2. Discipleship is mysterious tension between our work and God’s work.
  3. But without God’s power, our work is useless and we can’t expect growth to happen.