If Only Life were "According to Ben"

Here’s the thing about perseverance:  It takes a while.

I want the non-existent concept of instant obedience.  I say to God, “OK, I’ve checked the box marked ‘experience emotional strain and pain from a precariously low bank account and trust God to provide’ and now I’d like to move on to the box marked ‘experience the joy of giving out of an abundance.’”

But that’s not how persevering in difficult times works.  This whole deal isn’t written like the script of a sit-com.

God is concerned about the end of this process, and people joining our team of financial partners. But right now he’s most concerned that we continue to run to the gospel even in the midst of this stuff.

More verses I’ve never heard on "Christian" broadcasting.

This is the latest in a series.  To read the series from the beginning, click here.

Romans 1:18 in combo with Romans 3:23

I’ll give it to Christian radio.  They might have actually played these as the “verse of the day.”  But I’ve never head it.  The first one says that the wrath of God (not exactly a ratings-hog of a concept) is poured out against the unrighteous.  The second verse then clarifies (in the same book, a couple of chapters later) that all of us are unrighteous. (Even and especially religious folks, see Romans 2:17-29, especially verse 23)

Neither positive, upbeat, nor encouraging, as I read it.  God’s got a whooping stick with my name on it.  And yours.

But here’s where not taking the verses out of their context is helpful.  Romans is Paul’s most in-depth systematic treatment of the gospel.  He spends 11 chapters explaining it’s theology, and the remaining 5 explaining how that theology ought to change the way we live.  He nails all of us to the wall in the first three chapters, and then spends the remaining 8 of the first section showing us how Christ satisfies the law, and saves us, from the mass-murderer to the serial rapist to the smug, self-satisfied religious guy (who is worse than both, if you ask me).

Without the bad, discouraging, and condemning verses like Romans 1:18 and 3:23, the gospel makes no sense.  Rescuing someone from a building that isn’t burning down is foolish and annoying.  If you die during that rescue (as Christ did), it adds tragedy to foolishness.  But if a building is burning down, it’s the ultimate display of love to die in the act of saving someone.

These verses show us just how much our spiritual “building” is crumbling in burning embers around us.  And that’s encouraging, no matter how you phrase it.

The Terrifying thought of Christ-centered Laborers.

Thanks to the power of Twitter, and my ever-running search for “campus crusade” I saw this tweet yesterday:

A terrifying description of the Campus Crusade for Christ Club: “We are here to help turn lost students into Christ-centered laborers.” —@gogocosmonaut

To which I responded:

you and I must have a different view of Christ. It’s terrifying that anyone would not want to be a Christ-centered laborer.

To which he responded:

If your life is centered on labor for someone you’ve never met and that has a chance of not being real… That’s terrifying.

At which point, I felt the 140 character-at-a-time limit on our perspectives needed lifting.  Hence, this post. (to which I welcome a response either in the comments or on some other platform—even email)

I don’t know anything more about Nick Wood (@gogocosmonaut) than is revealed online, but from what I can tell about him through a brief perusal of his tweets, He and I share a lot of the same interests.  This isn’t a blog post where I slam the guy.  From his perspective, I’ve never met Jesus, and Jesus has a “chance of not being real.”

I could write a long defense of why I believe in God, but he’s heard it before, and probably has convincing arguments against even my best philosophical positions.  Ontological proofs are not what he wants or needs.  What he needs is to meet a Christian who actually finds their ultimate purpose, identity, and joy in Christ.

Because Nick is absolutely right.  If I’ve never met someone, and don’t know anything about that person, and then proceed to devote my life to them, and call that devotion “labor,” I’ve either lost my mind, or worse.  But, if I were to devote my life to someone like President Obama, or Billy Graham, or my pastor, or even my wife or child, and call that devotion “labor” it would lead to disastrous results as well.

Why? Because, at the end of the day, and at their most basic level, those men and women are flawed, as well. Ever met a parent who hinges all their hopes in life on the success/fame/competence of their child?  More often than not those are crushing expectations for flawed people to live up to.

That’s what’s different about Jesus.  The Jesus I meet in the Bible is perfect. Not swayed by human opinion, not selfish, not greedy, full of integrity, perfect. The type of guy that finds 100 bucks on the subway and gives it to lost and found.  Whether or not the Bible is true (different topic for a different day), the picture you get from the Bible is of a Jesus who never stopped giving himself away.  Devoting my life to a completely (and perfectly) selfless person would lead to me becoming the type of person who increasingly gives myself away.

There are countless examples in the history of Christianity of this principle coming true, from Mother Teresa to Jim Elliot to Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Martin Luther (King and otherwise).  People who saw it as a small thing to stand up against the Nazis, the bigotry of early 20th century America or 15th century Europe, and the horrors of poverty and disease.

If we have this view of Christ—selfless, sacrificial giver—there is nothing terrifying about an army of people walking behind Him and modeling their lives after him.  This world could stand to have a few more Martin Luther Kings who stand up against tyranny, even when there’s nothing but death in it for them.  Even if Jesus weren’t real, as Nick posits, to have a big group of people live like that imaginary man would actually benefit the world.

My fear is that many Christians in general and Campus Crusade staff and students in particular are not living in light of this Jesus, giving guys like Nick every reason to dismiss Christ without a second look.

I would beg folks like Nick to consider Christ.  You’ll always find more than enough Christians to ridicule, and find fault with.  After all, being a Christian means surrendering in the fight to be perfect, and admitting we can’t save ourselves.  But look at Christ long enough, and you’ll find an amazing truth worth devoting your life to.  In light of Christ’s perfect, selfless love, grace, and ultimate control over all the earth, it would be far more terrifying to center your life on fleeting counterfeits like self-actualization, money, sex, fame, power, or control.

Tim Tebow, Abortion, and the Gospel.

I’ll be honest, I’ve gone every direction on this one. (and before we get into it, none of the directions I have gone or will go represent the views of my employer or anyone else)

In case you haven’t heard, Tim Tebow is at the center of a firestorm regarding a pro-life advertisement set to run during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

I started out frustrated that the Christian right-wing was building their soapbox again. Before you freak out and think I am OK with abortion, hear me out.  Abortion is murder.  But so is hating pro-choice people.   Furthermore, it is such a politicized issue that you can’t tell the red tape from the genuine issues without an answer key.  And while I think abortion is a cut-and-dried issue, I don’t think that solving the crisis is as simple as legislating it.  There are hearts involved that need changing.  And there’s almost no fact more biblically true than “laws don’t change hearts.”

Then I started to read more about it, and have gotten pretty frustrated at the pro-choice lobby (which is really showing itself to be more pro-abortion than pro-choice, as astutely pointed out in a great article in the Washington Post yesterday).

Here’s the bottom line, for me:  I am glad that God has called some Christians to the front line of the abortion issue, because it is clearly taking a life when you abort a baby.  And taking lives in the numbers we are currently is nothing short of a holocaust.  But even in saying that, I am potentially alienating folks who otherwise might listen to the gospel.  You don’t have to be pro-life to become a Christian. (Although, if you are persuaded that the Bible is God’s word, it’s tough to remain in favor of abortion in any way. The Bible is not silent on the issue.  John the Baptist worshiped Jesus from within his mother’s womb.  Pretty strong argument for personhood.)

God has called me to be about one thing: proclaiming the gospel, over and over.  And part of the gospel that I proclaim is that I am not right. What bothers me about many pro-life lobbyists is that they argue from a position of “I am right, you are wrong.”  That type of finger-wagging and pretentiousness will never change anyone’s opinion.  Jesus met with the most heinous sinners of his day, and all of them (with the noted exception of the religious right-wing, who I’d argue are the worst of the sinners) were drawn to him.  We could learn much from his approach.

Now, I haven’t seen the ad by Tebow and Focus on the Family, but here’s my hope: I hope they lobby to individuals and not to Washington.  And I hope they don’t start from a position of finger-wagging, but of humility.  Even if we are right in the argument, we don’t have to win the philosophical debate.  Our acceptance, worth, and value are not tied to our ability to save the babies.  Jesus, after all, is in control.

What do you say? Is this a hornet’s nest I should have avoided? Why or why not?

The Skeptics are Watching. Show them Redemption.

Campus Crusade 4 Christ president is in 1 of my classes. He talks about being faithful, yet he lies about his homework and is late to class?

That’s what a tweet from a self-described atheist declared last night.  See, you might think you can compartmentalize your life, and keep “school” separate from “Cru.”  But you can’t.  The world is watching, desperately hoping you’ll show them that you really mean what you say.

And to the skeptics watching, I’d implore you to look at Christ.  Like going to a hospital and only looking at the patients, scrutinizing the lives of Christians will only show you all the ways we are not yet fully healed.  Talk to the physician.  Look at the Jesus of the Bible.  Try to find a fault in Him.  When you don’t, bow down and worship.