Friends

20Dec

What the North Pond Hermit Knows about Community

When he was just 20 years old, Chris walked off into the woods and never looked back.

For the next 27 years Christoper Knight, the North Pond Hermit, had only one interaction with another human, a brief “hi” as he passed a hiker in the woods.

He lived within short walking distance of several neighborhoods but went undetected for 27 years. In that time, he only ever slept in a tent and never lit a single fire, even as the harsh Maine winter temperatures plunged to 20 below.

For almost three decades, he uttered only one syllable and never saw a doctor or took any medication.

But the only reason you and I know the story of the North Pond Hermit is because he got caught on one of his 40 robberies a year.

The man who thought he didn’t need anyone quickly learned just the opposite.

Knight routinely broke into cabins during the offseason and homes only when he was sure its residents were gone. Until his capture, he never encountered another person during any of his roughly 1,080 burglaries.

He took food, supplies, and hundreds of propane tanks to cook his food and remain warm.

As you can imagine, residents began to grow aware of the hermit’s presence among them even though his exact location was unknown. One local claimed that his cabin was burglarized 40 times !

As ridiculous as the hermit lifestyle might seem, many of us live life in a similar way – isolating ourselves from others all the while failing to see how much we need one another.

We want isolation. We need each other.

We may not need propane tanks and tarps from one another but we do need encouragement and concern.

We need a timely text message and we need to pray with one another, not just tell each other we will.

We need a dinner invite and a handwritten card.

We need people who will listen and understand instead of people who merely want to fix others.

We need each other and we’re better together.

We’re better together because it is not good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18).

We’re better together because unity is surprising and pleasant in a world ripe with division (Psalm 133:1).

We’re better together because other people are better at some things than us (Romans 12:4-5).

We’re better together because we would love less and stray from God on our own (Hebrews 10:24-25).

We’re better together because we’re not too good to help each other when life falls apart (Galatians 6:2).

We’re better together because we can comfort one another with the words of Jesus when they ring hollow in isolation (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Are you ever tempted to live life in isolation?

How have you benefited from community?

How have you been community for someone else?

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” – John 1:14, The Message

2Dec

The One Regret You Never Have to Feel

It was 3 A.M. and he would not stop beating on my door.

I stumbled toward the door, simultaneously stubbing all my toes on the trappings of a college dorm room along the way, and flung it open.

His face was as red as his hair. He had  just sprinted all the way down the hall.

Our rooms could not be farther away and still be on the same wing  yet our friendship was closer than most.

We were in a group together, a small group of college boys trying to become the men we felt God calling us to be. That calling meant a lot of things to all of us but one thing was the same: our desire for purity.

We had all struggled with it as various levels. Some struggled with moving too fast with girlfriends. Others struggled with how fast you could see any type of girl you wanted on the Internet. All of us felt the longing to be better than we currently were and through several years of mostly failure we had collectively realized we needed one another.

We met once a week to encourage and pray for one another. As we ended our meeting each week in the cramped common room upstairs we reminded each other of one of the pillars of our group: If any one of us felt a temptation coming that we did not feel strong enough to resist on our own, we could always…always go to another person in the group and that person would stop whatever they were doing to be with the one fighting off temptation.

Over the years we met there were dates cut short, workouts missed, papers not completed. Whatever it took; it didn’t matter. We were there for one another. Anytime, day or nightt.

The whole concept was centered around four simple words:

“Flee from sexual immorality.” – 1 Corinthians 6:18

I love when the Bible’s simple. You don’t need to know Greek to know exactly what this verse means.

On this particular night, one of the guys was struggling with the temptation of pornography. His roommate had unexpectedly gone home for the weekend and he knew that temptation is magnified in isolation.

So at his greatest moment of need, he didn’t just try to resist for awhile and ask for forgiveness later. He literally (and I hate when people say that word but don’t actually mean it) literally ran down the hall and started beating down my door at 3 A.M.

I didn’t greet him with anger or a lecture. That wasn’t how the group worked. We supported one another with the gifts of time and presence, two things that are even more valuable to me now.

Nothing super spiritual happened except everything.

We didn’t have a Bible study on purity right then and there. That’s what we did to prepare to flee. I let my friend in and we made popcorn and watched the Sandlot until morning when we crashed.

My friend woke up after lunch the next day with…no regrets.

He didn’t care that he woke up half the hall, at least not enough to fall into sin. He didn’t care that his hallway dash was caught on the security cameras and the RA’s probably watched it back later laughing. He didn’t care about giving into a temptation only he would have ever know about.

He cared about becoming a man of God. He cared about purity. He cared about our future wives that we were already praying for but hadn’t met yet.

Nobody in the group was or is perfect and of course we all have regrets but none of us have ever regretted resisting temptation.

In a world that is bombarding us with the message that we should never say no to a new experience or a thrilling rush, our group helped each other do just that. The ethic of the kingdom of God, humble self-denial, flies in the face of the rampant “you deserve it” “treat yourself” culture that’s especially being marketed to millennials.

You might miss out on a thing or two but speaking from my experience, those things aren’t worth the baggage or pain they cause, if not immediately then soon there after.

What helps you resist temptation?

19Oct

41 Questions/Doubts Teenagers Have about God & Faith

Research indicates that about 5 out of every 10 high schoolers will walk away from the church and their faith after graduation. There are a variety of reasons a student might leave their faith behind:

  • Other things simply become more important (driver’s license, dating relationship, etc.)
  • Acquire a new group of friends that don’t desire to be a part of the church.
  • Some simply experiment with straying from every opinion their parents hold in the quest for their own independence.
  • Some never felt like they belonged to the church to begin with.

The Fuller Youth Institute, in their exhaustive, nationwide studies discovered the number one reason young people leave church and faith behind: the Church’s failure to engage difficult questions.

From the research, “Specifically, these young people cited the church’s failure to wrestle with issues like the reliability of the biblical text, sexuality, evolution versus creation, and the exclusivity of Jesus. But notice these students did not say they left the faith because of the stance of their church took on the issues above. They left because the church failed to address them at all. When tough questions were addressed, the answers were found to be vague and superficial.

Last week I gave 41 students a pen and a blank note card. I told them that as a church and as caring Christian adults we wanted to listen, validate, and attempt to answer any and all questions they had about faith, God, etc.

Our group comes from pretty diverse church backgrounds (wide-ranging denominational upbringings). We have a few students who are the only Christians in their family. We also have several atheists in our group as well as some who aren’t sure what they believe or why what one believes even matters.

These are their questions: (the last two were especially tough to read)

  1. Why are there poor, hungry, and thirsty people if God is real?
  2. Why do we not get what we need when we need it?
  3. Why do we have to struggle with things over and over again? Sometimes it feels like we have no help from God.
  4. How do we know someone didn’t just write down whatever they felt like in the Bible?
  5. Why does God let such bad things happen to good people?
  6. How can God be good if people who follow him get so down that they commit suicide?
  7. If God really wants us to follow him, why doesn’t he just make us? Why do we want other things more than him and why do some people never want to follow God?
  8. Why isn’t there more proof? It would be so much easier to believe if we had physical proof like the people in the Bible did.
  9. What do I have to do to go to heaven?
  10. How do I love people who are bad influences for me? I love my friends but I don’t love what they do and I worry about how that affects me.
  11. Why does God seem to punish people who don’t deserve it?
  12. I feel like I only believe in God because I’m scared of hell. Is that wrong?
  13. When you get saved, is there a chance you can still go to hell? P.S. I don’t want to go to hell.
  14. Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution?
  15. Why doesn’t God help when you’re going through a rough patch and you pray and pray and nothing happens, nothing gets easier?
  16. Can you have faith in more than one thing, more than one god?
  17. How come Christians are able to forgive so easily?
  18. How do I know my faith is true and real? How can someone restore their faith?
  19. I have heard that God is with me but why does it sometimes feel like I’m all alone?
  20. Does God stay in your life even if you do a really bad sin?
  21. How do I get away from pornography?
  22. Why can’t God simply speak when we need him the most? How are we supposed to know what we wants us to do?
  23. Is sex outside marriage really wrong? If so, why?
  24. Can you go to heaven if you are not baptized?
  25. What happens when you die? Like right after you die, when your brain stops, what do you see or think or remember?
  26. Is it possible to grow your faith, to get stronger in your relationship with God?
  27. How can I get better at spreading the word in my school?
  28. Do people always have doubts about God? I believe in him but I sometimes feel guilty about doubting.
  29. Why did God not just make everything perfect?
  30. How did different races exist if everyone came from God?
  31. Can people believe in God and be gay at the same time?
  32. Why do some people who claim to believe in God not ever go to church?
  33. Does faith in God require me to be a good person?
  34. Why is lust bad?
  35. Why don’t we ever have to be physically punished for our sin? The pain Jesus went through on the cross seems so unfair.
  36. What do I do when it feels like Jesus shouldn’t forgive me? I know he does but it sometimes feels like I don’t deserve it.
  37. Why did God make us?
  38. Do you need to ask Jesus for forgiveness more than once?
  39. If God wanted us to choose his way, why did he make it so difficult?
  40. Why would someone pay attention to the Christians when there’s so many different groups of them and they hardly seem to agree on anything?
  41. Why do some people hide behind religious cliches instead of trying to wrestle with real questions?

Which questions surprised you?

What questions would you add to the list?

8Jul

How to See God’s Grace When it Seems to Disappear

My favorite annual tradition might be my wife’s least favorite, probably because she does all the work.

Every year, she creates a coffee-table photo-book of all of our adventures from the last year. I don’t know about your life but ours at times is somewhat uninteresting. We love to travel but some years we don’t get to do that as much as we would like.

These photo books help us remember good days that would be easy to forget.

One book has a full page dedicated to a day spent in the park with our dogs. Nothing super eventful happened that day but it was a day we celebrated the simple things in life and I remember that day now even though it was rather uneventful and almost five years ago.

Another book has several pages dedicated to a night at my first church where we took our entire youth group of 12 students over to an 80-year old woman’s house and played croquet and grilled hot dogs. A lot has happened ministry-wise in my life since that night but I remember it because it’s in the book. Dozens of other nights just like it happened but I can’t remember them, and they were not that long ago.

Life is busy! Things get hectic and while we remember big vacations and fun road trips, we can easily forget the simple days and good but uneventful nights.

The same is true with faith.

We can remember the big events.

  • A life-changing week at camp, free from normal distractions.
  • A mission trip spent serving someone else.
  • A baptism, a public declaration that we belong to Jesus.

But what about all the other good, but uneventful days?

  • When we needed a friend to reach out and they did.
  • When we didn’t feel like going to church but went anyway and had a real connection with a real, loving God?
  • When what we read from Scripture that day was somehow exactly what we needed to hear.

If we’re not careful, those good but uneventful days are easily forgotten like days in the park or nights playing croquet with a dozen teenagers and an 80 year-old woman.

So then what happens when the good but uneventful days are forgotten and bad days come?

Dark days move in, like a 35 year-old kid who won’t move out of Mom’s basement. They’re here to stay. In those days we find ourselves asking, “Where is God?”

The feeling of doubt must be universal.

If you’re a Christian, you know that God’s grace is present and active but sometimes it feels like it’s at best expired, if it even exists at all.

Like a questionable carton of milk sitting on the refrigerator shelf long past its “best if enjoyed by” date, in times of doubt God’s grace seems like an outdated form of comfort that seems good enough for some people but never quite sufficient enough for others, for those of us with questions.

Real questions. The kind of questions that keep you up at night, wrestling with God in deep thought.

  • Why did ____________ happen?
  • Why does the world have to be this way instead of that way?
  • Why is there so much suffering?

My generation has often been turned away from church and faith because they feel the faith of their childhood and the status of the Church today simply does not allow room for their doubts and questions. We have made an idol out of theological certainty which suffocates any attempts to wrestle with God.

But we do have to arrive at some level of certainty. How?

4 Ways to Remember God’s Grace When it Seems to Disappear

1. Timehop – an app that reminds you what you posted on various social media networks that same day 1, 2, 3, etc. years ago.

I love social media. Roughly 10% of my articles are focused directly on social media. I love how it makes the world small. I love how it connects me with people from church throughout the week. I love how it connects me and my wife to our families that both live out of state.

My favorite thing about social media is the platform it allows people to create to share a message, and I love when people genuinely talk about Jesus on that platform. A few days ago, my Timehop brought up dozens of tweets and Facebook posts from students that I had reposted on my various social media accounts. The posts they shared were from a mountaintop experience, literally, that is still one of the most powerful moments of my spiritual life. I woke up not thinking about that time, about God’s grace on display. Yet Timehop reminded me.

It doesn’t have to be a mountaintop experience. Maybe it’s a quote from a sermon or a verse that you read at just the right time. If you posted it, Timehop reminds you of it.

2. Journaling

I have never been much of a journaler. At times I felt like less of a Christian because of it but there have been seasons of my life where journaling has played a huge role in my walk with Christ. The great think about journaling, especially journaling when you may not feel like it, is that you slowly build this library of personal testimony to the faithfulness of God.

Whenever doubt creeps in, you get to kick it to the curb because you can go back and re-read some of your old journals. You’ll remember trials you had forgotten because God overcame them. You’ll remember triumphs you had forgotten because there’s too much goodness in God’s grace to record.

3. Get together with people.

Was there a time in your life where you know you were close to God? Who was with you then? Who shared those times and places with you? Find them. Call them. Eat with them. Remember with them.

4. Watch/listen.

Do you have some type of media that recorded a time you were close with God? Maybe it’s a baptism video. Watch it. For me, I can remember the cheesy, “contemporary” Christian song that was playing when I finally decided to obey God’s calling on my life to pursue ministry as my vocation.

While you are unable to recreate that experience or time, you can remember what it was like to be close to God. You can use those tools to remind yourself what is really true.

“And when the lies speak louder than the truth, remind me that I belong to you. And when I can’t see past the dark of night, remind me you’re always by my side.” – Bret Stanfill, “Sons and Daughters of God”

24Jun

Which Flag Will You Fly?

An astonishing amount of ink has been spilled about the Confederate flag in the last several days, and rightfully so.

This is not meant to be just another addition to that noise.

I’d like to talk specifically to Christians, those who claim to have been set free from the bondage of sin by the undeserved grace of Jesus “who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14).

Before we get to how all this specifically affects Christians, I’d like to address a few lines of thought regarding the Confederate flag I have seen tossed around by Christians in conversations, text messages, and social media.

All of the following statements were said/typed by white people.

1.) “It’s not hate; it’s heritage.”

heritage

If you sincerely want to claim the Confederacy as your heritage, by all means do so. However, have the intellectual honesty to do so with full commitment. Your heritage died when the Confederacy did, at the conclusion of the Civil War, which the Confederacy lost. Everything after the Civil War is a different history, one in which you simply cannot share if you insist on claiming a dead heritage as your own. (See: What This Cruel War Was Over)

If this is sincerely your claim, feel free to abstain from celebrating the Fourth of July, an American (not Confederate) holiday.

See: What a White Man Knows about Racism

kkk

2.) The Confederate flag’s original intent was never meant to be racist.

We can argue about the original intent of this flag, but that’s not my interest. I am deeply concerned with the flawed logic in this statement.

Regardless of its original meaning, it’s current and functional meaning is hate.

Take the well-known “God Hates Fags” agenda of Westboro Baptist Church, for example.

fred

Using this same “original meaning” thought process allows you to only be upset at their misuse of the word “faggot” which originally meant a bundle of sticks.

definition

Regardless of original or intended meaning, a “faggot” is not recognized as a bundle of sticks and the Confederate flag is not recognized by many people as anything but a symbol of racism and hate. (See: Why We Can’t Say Racism is a Thing of the Past)

The functional meaning of these words, no matter how grossly inappropriate, takes precedent over their antiquated, original/intended meanings.

 

3.) It’s my right to free speech.

It’s my right! You’re correct. While I applaud states, organizations, and schools that have removed the flag from an organizational level, I would never applaud the dissolution of one’s personal right to free speech, regardless of how evil and hateful I feel the expression of that personal right may be.

However, the whole “free speech allows me to spew hate speech” line of thought sure sounds like an avoidance of the problem. Passing the buck.

When we (Christians) insist on our personal rights regardless of what that means for others, we become Cain killing our brother in the garden of Eden then asking God, “What?!? Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is YES. We are our brother’s keeper.

Christians, we have a higher allegiance than to our country.

Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and we serve a King who reminds us that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) and we are to live as aliens and foreigners in this world (1 Peter 2:11).

I’m asking you to consider forsaking your America-given right to use this flag and embrace your higher, God-given responsibility to love and care for your neighbor.

Do you love your neighbor? Do you KNOW your neighbor?

Christians, I’m asking you to consider the possibility that you only really get to fly ONE flag with your life.

I’m asking you to consider the possibility that if you choose to fly this flag on your truck or shirt or Facebook profile, you might be simultaneously refusing to fly the flag of Jesus.

But don’t take it from me. Over the last few days I’ve had conversations with over 40 of my black friends. I asked them all the same question, “How does it feel to see the Confederate flag? What is that like for you?” All of them live, or have lived, in the South and most of them are Christians. While their answers were all extremely similar, the most heart-breaking answers are listed below:

How Black (Southern, Christian) People Feel When You Fly/Post/Wear the Confederate Flag

Seeing the confederate flag honestly stirs up fear in me, that wherever I am or whoever has the flag up is a threat, that I am unsafe there or with that person. I understand that people say it’s the flag of the south, etc, but I don’t think people take into account what the flag really means and represents. Like they don’t want to accept or acknowledge the FULL truth of honoring such a flag. At face value, I consider whoever waves that flag to believe the values of the confederate flag 100%.”

“When we think about southern heritage, we must remember that the Confederacy was fighting to preserve a way of life, which was their right to have black slaves for farmers which was the primary economic engine of the south. So if the Confederacy had won the civil war, where would black people be today? There is a high likelihood blacks would still be slaves, not considered human, still considered a commodity to be bought and sold, and we would most likely accept this as the norm of society.”

“Anyone who asks does the racial divide still exist in America, needs to only look at their local church. How many blacks are in the area versus who attend your church? Churches are some of the most segregated places in this country.”

“From a southerner perspective it represents arrogance, a refusal to allow anyone to tell us to do anything we don’t want to do. From a racial perspective it cares nothing about what me or my family thinks or how we feel. In certain environments it creates feelings of fear for the safety of my wife and kids.”

“Flying the Confederate flag, or posting it on Facebook, conveys an attitude of longing for a time to return again where black lives weren’t valued. That one flag reminds me of all the times racists raped black women, dehumanized black men (only calling them ‘boy’ or ‘N-word’) and treated black children like pests to be exterminated. It represents with pleasure every evil the South could create against any and all black people.”

“It forces me to pay more attention to my surroundings. I have to stay cautious even if it’s as simple as stopping by a store to fill up the car. The flag itself has history attached to it, that’s what people are most afraid of…you never can tell who is friend or foe.”

“When I see it flying in the back of a truck, I simply do not believe the driver when he says he’s just celebrating ‘heritage.’ He’s taunting me. He’s taunting us. He’s even taunting the police.”

“I would never do anything to harm the American flag. I don’t understand anyone of any race that would do such a thing. But there is nothing good about that Confederate flag. How would white people feel if I drove around with a Black Panther flag in my truck? I would never do that because it is so ignorant. How can people not see the same ignorance in the Confederate flag?”

 

You are your brother’s keeper, and your brother has spoken. Will you listen?

 

Which flag will you fly?

22Jun

Fake or Real?

“We’ll just rip out the old carpet,” she said.

“We’ll just throw down new flooring,” she said.

“We might as well do the whole house. 2000 square feet will go fast,” she said.

Famous last words…possibly of my marriage.

Over the last few months we have slowly but surely been installing new floors in every room of our house. My wife has chronicled our flooring adventures over on her website here.

Frustration hit an all time high when I had to demolish some really old tile which was glued to the concrete with all the adhesive ever manufactured in 1976.

I needed to buy an angle grinder, a tool I fully planned on never using again so instead of spending $100 at Lowe’s I spent $15 at Harbor Freight. What could possibly go wrong?!?

I’ll tell you…everything.

7 minutes in and the Harbor Freight $15 angle grinder starts spewing smoke…blue smoke and then shuts down. Fried.

I furiously drove to Lowe’s and bought the $100 angle grinder minutes before they closed and returned home to finish the job.

It took forever but it’s done. I still get a little frustrated when I look at that area, not because it took so much longer expected but because I pursued a counterfeit instead of the real deal.

I find myself doing this with more than angle grinders.

I used to chase a lot of fake, surface level friendships instead of putting in the work and time to foster meaningful friendships. I thought being known by a lot of people meant being really known. That’s counterfeit friendship.

When I first started preaching I would listen to tons of other preachers, trying to find my own voice while emulating what was effective in others. I would try and be more serious than I really was or more funny that I really was. It took me several years to find my personal voice in preaching because I was chasing something fake instead of the real.

I used to pursue fake relationships because they were easier than putting in the hard work of finding someone who was actually worth finding. Even worse, I wasn’t always sure I wanted to put in the hard work to BE someone worth finding.

Just because fake is easier than real doesn’t mean it’s what’s best.

In the work place it can be a lot easier to complain about a co-worker instead of doing the hard work of reconciliation and pursuing real partnerships.

Following Jesus can be difficult because honestly, denying myself sure feels fake in a culture that defines “real” as do whatever feels good to you.

In Psalm 51, David is getting real with God. He’s just had his fakeness called out in a huge, life-changing way and he comes to this beautiful realization…God loves the REAL us and wants us to be real with him, not fake.

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17

Do you ever struggle with pursuing something fake instead of something real?

23Feb

Make the Snow Day(s) Count

I have lived my entire life in the South.

We tend to freak out a bit when it snows. Or ices. Or slushes. Or rains.

Or when the temperature plunges below 60 degrees.

The last few days we have had a few inches of snow, nothing like what our friends in Boston are enduring but enough to cancel a few school days, especially in the more rural parts of our area.

Snow days keep kids home from school and many adults home from work. Snow days present us with an interesting opportunity if we take advantage of it.

5 Ways to Make the Snow Day(s) Count

1.) Do something adventurous.

Start a snowball fight. Grab a trash can lid and find the nearest hill to sled down. Build a snowman without singing Frozen! Find an empty parking lot and do something crazy.

Maybe don’t do that last one but you get the idea…get off the couch and do something awesome!

2.) Do something restful.

Maybe the adventurous route is not for you. Your life is hectic enough and the snow day presents an unusual opportunity for you to rest. One of my former students recently wrote a great article about the need to be still.

Take a nap. Read a book. Make a fire. Enjoy the silence. Draw a bath. Journal. Whatever you find life-giving and restorative, do that this snow day. The busyness of life will still be there when the snow melts.

3.) Work anyway.

One of the only things I dislike about snow days is how they can really mess up the rhythm of the week. If you’re like me, there are certain things I do every Monday morning or Thursday afternoon, etc.

Most of these tasks need to be accomplished snow or shine. As I’m able to on snow days, I just do them so things don’t fall off my plate as the week progresses.

4.) Spend quality time with family.

If you get the opportunity to spend a snow day with family, don’t waste it. Don’t do #3. Cuddle with your spouse. Throw snowballs with/at your kids. I am not yet a parent, so I do not know the parental dread that comes with hearing schools are closed.

But I do know that if you have children, you have a blessing many do not have. Don’t take that for granted today.

5.) Chip away at your dream.

You are living on borrowed time, my friend! Whatever your dream is, you have a day, today, to get closer to seeing it become a reality.

Want to write a book? Punch out a few chapters today.

Want to start your own business? Iron out the next part of your business plan.

Unsure of your next step? Find someone who’s successful at what you want to do and read their book today.

 Question: How do you make the snow day(s) count?

17Feb

What Christians Can Learn from Cross-Fitters

It swept through like a plague, infecting so many.

When our group of friends first started hanging out together, it had claimed no victims from among us.

But slowly and surely it lured them in, one by one. Some of them used to make fun of it. They laughed at the culture, the cost, and the attire. But then something happened…

CrossFit happened!

 

I’m not pro or anti CrossFit. I can’t really be anti-CrossFit because yesterday I woke up early to do some core workout exercises and I’m pretty sure I pulled my core. I think that’s a thing. I guess I can be pro-CrossFit since I have a couple of Physical Therapist friends who stay busy at work seeing CrossFit athletes patients.

On a more serious note, CrossFit has been really interesting to watch as it swept across the country. It has clearly helped lots of people get in shape and achieve fitness goals they failed to attain otherwise.

As I stated in my very first article, I firmly believe that Jesus sought to learn, understand, and redeem culture. Practically, this means Christians can sometimes learn from culture how to grow in our faith instead of constantly seeking to change the culture to become more like us. As Christians, we can learn a few things from CrossFitters.

4 Things Christians Can Learn from Cross-Fitters

1. Dedication

You know what I’m doing at 5 A.M. every morning? Sleeping! I don’t skip any mornings, either. 5 A.M. every morning, fast asleep. I’m dedicated to my craft.

CrossFitters take dedication to a completely different level, though.

After they experience CrossFit, they completely change their routine so they can go to an intense, long workout class at 5 AM. They change their diet. They go to bed earlier the night before so they don’t miss out.

So why aren’t we as Christians as dedicated?

How many times do well-meaning Christians miss church on a Sunday simply because they overslept? We make it to work every morning by 8 A.M., 9 at the latest five days a week. Why do we struggle to make a 10:45/11:00ish service one day a week when CrossFitters can make a 5 A.M. class every day of the week.

Maybe we should be willing to change our routine. Maybe we should go to bed earlier on a Saturday night so we don’t miss Sunday morning worship. I’m guilty of this even as a pastor. When I stay up too late on a Saturday night, I know I’m not giving God my best on Sunday morning. Even though I’m there I might be more inclined to go through the motions during music or not be as attentive during the sermon.

How would the Church be different if everyone on our team was as dedicated as CrossFitters?

2.) They talk about it…a lot.

I have only met one person in my life who was doing CrossFit that I did not know did CrossFit. It is much more common that I discover people in my life who I am surprised to find out are Christians.

CrossFitters love talking about CrossFit! I’m so glad they do, because if they didn’t, Internet gems like these would not exist.

CF4CF5CF3

The apostle Paul talked about Jesus a lot. Maybe he would be annoying to be around today, too. But I think that has a lot more to say about us than him.

What would the Church be like if Christians talked about Jesus like CrossFitters talked about CrossFit? See: Stop Evangelizing in Starbucks

3.) Progression

There’s a progression into the CrossFit world, a path to move from outsider to insider.

  • You go to the elements class to try it out.
  • You buy a month.
  • Start making friends.
  • Buy a tank-top that scoops down just north of the belly button.
  • You start thinking Reebok is a relevant brand again so you go ahead and buy the CF Reebok shoes.
  • Before you know it, you’re hooked.

One might argue that a CF’er is only really a CF’er based on their progression. There is no rush and the path is not exactly the same for each CrossFitter but the goal is always progression.

There is a progression for Christians as well. This progression is not as natural or clear cut. Not everyone goes through the same process. The goal is always to simply become more like Christ.

For some that might mean giving up some habits that have long held residence in their heart. For others it might be becoming more proactive in areas like generosity or encouragement.

If you’ve found a Christian who is no longer progressing, who has hit pause on the journey of becoming more like Christ, you have found something but it is probably not a Christian.

We never fully arrive yet we’re always progressing. Sometimes we move forward faster than other times but we’re always progressing. Sometimes we take a few steps back but then we reconnect with grace and keep progressing.

4.) Teamwork

I get why people love CrossFit. It’s the same reason I would love it if I ever tried it: teamwork. It’s a lot cheaper to work out on your own at home. Even a good gym membership in my city is half the cost of CrossFit.

But CF’ers know something Christian need to be reminded of at times: we’re better together.

The same thing that makes CrossFit great is what makes the Church great. Yet here the Church has the upper hand, even though it’s not a contest.

The Church’s unity is not just unity forged through pain and trial, although that is a powerful bond. No, the Church’s unity is founded by Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and forged through pain and trial.

The Church is not some random collection of people gathering in the same vicinity to worship once a week.

The Church is teamwork. The Church is knowing you’re not alone. The Church is knowing you have friends on the same journey you’re on: progressing to be more like Christ.

 

Question: What else can Christians learn from CrossFitters?

15Feb

Don’t Should on Me

I thought my pastor friend cussed at me.

We were having a perfectly pleasant conversation, at least so I thought, when all of a sudden she calmly said, “Don’t should on me.”

What?!?

Imagine if you heard that sentence instead of saw it written out.

My friend was halfway kidding but the truth she was conveying was powerful.

Thankfully, she was patient enough with me to explain this punchy little truism.

The conversation we had happened like most do when someone “should’s” on someone.

Person A: _______ that you did was really great. I really liked how you _______ and did ___________.

Person B: Thanks! It was a lot of hard work but I’m glad you thought it went well.

Person A: Yeah! It was good but you really should have __________________.

Person B punches Person A in the face and goes to jail. Friendship over.

“Should” falls well short of constructive criticism. It does not motivate someone to change or help someone see the good done in the midst of falling short.

Especially when used in past tense, should leaves no room to improve. In the scenario above, Person A is helpless to improve the situation Person B described (“you should have___”). Person A does not own a time machine!

“Should” is useless, paralyzing criticism that is most often given by those who eagerly point out problems yet just as eagerly refuse to be a part of creating solutions.

But what about when “should” comes from within? This might be the most harmful form.

Self-inflicted “shoulds” are just as unhelpful as when they come from others.

Whenever you feel a case of the “shoulds” coming on, ask yourself two questions to determine if the feeling really is something that you need to act on or if it’s just guilt you need to kick out of your life.

Guilt and Should are like ugly twins trying to keep you stuck in the past. See: Are You Living in the Past?

1. Is this something I really want to do? (Or am I just trying to please someone else?) 

2. Is it worth it? (You can have the desire to do many things, but what is most important? What one thing is necessary? [Luke 10:42])

Sometimes we do simply need to be told to pick it up a bit. Maybe laziness has set in. Maybe unhelpful patterns in decision-making have set in. See: Chop Wood & Carry Water

Whatever the reason, change for the better is always a good thing. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to create that change.  “Should” is not the right way.

Next time you hear “should” from someone else or from within, simply say,

Don’t should on me.

17Nov

5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

It can’t go on like this.

Adolescence cannot last from 11 years old to 29 years old.

The headlines are everywhere:

Most sociologists view adolescence as beginning at puberty (for some at 11-12 years old) but that’s not the problem. The problem is there is no longer any conceivable end to the age of adolescence.

Adulthood used to be measured by 5 major milestones (completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a child). Yet these depict a cookie cutter path to adulthood that not everyone takes. (See: You May Never Get Married)

And that’s okay. Some of the most mature people I know have never had children or been married and some of the most irresponsible crazies I know have the most children. But I would argue the first three of those traditional milestones are still really important.

So are 20-somethings just up the creek without a paddle? It’s getting harder and harder to obtain financial freedom. Student loans are a necessary evil for many and that debt can shackle you for decades. Not to mention the degrees you took the loans out to obtain mean less and less all the while more and more education and experience is being required for entry level jobs. Where do you go to work to get the 3-5 years experience that everyone seems to want for you to get a job?

I know the deck can seem stacked against 20-somethings in many ways. But that’s not my concern. I see it almost everyday. Some of my friends have looked at the landscape of their 20’s and simply concluded, “This period of my life doesn’t matter.” And that’s a narrative they have bought into: hook line and sinker.

All this talk about millennials yet so few conversations with them. With that in mind…

5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

1.) You’re not a teenager anymore. You’re not an “emerging” adult. You’re an adult.

While there is no denying adolescence, it needs to have a definitive ending point. Your 20’s are not simply a continuation of your teenage years. They are not a time to grow up; they are a time to be grown up. I know it can feel like you’re stuck sometimes but real life is happening all around you today. (See: The In-Between Places)

The apostle Paul wrote the following about maturing into adulthood:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. – 1 Corinthians 13:11

2.) The relationships you make and cultivate in this defining decade will shape the rest of your life..

Many people meet their spouse in their 20’s. Who you date matters because who you marry matters.Your 20’s are not a time to waste time dating losers you know you could never marry. Keep the bar high because if you lower it a whole bunch of jokers will start jumping over and then you’ll have deal with the fall out.

The friends you have in your 20’s are also different than any friends you’ve had before, even if they’re the same people. In high school and college it can be hard to tell who your real friends are because they’re picked largely based on proximity. You go to class together. You live near each other, etc. But once you graduate college and/or start working, you really start to learn who your real friends are. Friendships can be harder to maintain but ultimately more worthwhile.

3.) You’ll gain financial freedom or financial captivity.

Student loans stink. Learn to HATE your debt. Think about all you could do without that amount weighing you down every month. Work hard. Get promotions. Move up the ladder as you’re able and feel comfortable in doing so. Learn how to manage a budget. (See: Chop Wood, Carry Water)

It’s not just a financial issue; it’s a discipleship issue. Everything is God’s. We’re managers at best. Manage well. Your success or failure in this area during this decade will largely determine your financial health for the next three decades. (See: The 1 Thing We Fight About)

4.) You’ll find your sweet spot at work, eventually.

A lot of your 20’s is spent discovering what it is you’re truly passionate about. You’re young enough to switch careers and depending on your personal life situation (married/unmarried, with/without kids, etc.) you can really pursue a wide path. But don’t be afraid to settle in when you find something you love. No situation/job/boss is perfect. (See: Why I Love and Hate Kids Ministry)

In the immortal words of Monica to Rachel, “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it.”

5.) Your 20’s are not your own.

You don’t own any part of your life. It’s all a gift of grace. Life with Christ isn’t just for your 30’s and beyond. You’re not even guaranteed to make it to 30.

Your 20’s are a wonderful gift, given to you and me from God. Honor him with these years. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have had more to be truly grateful for in my 20’s than ever before.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (and your 20’s). – 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20  (italicized mine)

Question: What would you add to the list? Why else do the 20’s matter?

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