Friday, January 25, 2013

Cheesy Christian Analogies

I've heard it said that the GPS analogy is getting too much mileage. (See what I did there?) If you've spent any amount of time in the church environment you'll know what I'm talking about:

"All right my congregation/flock/sheep, today we're going to be talking about how the Bible is your GPS to (pause for dramatic effect) HEAVEN!"

It gets kinda weird when you hear the metaphor used as much as it is. And I understand that it's cool 'cuz it's all hip and relevant, what with the abundance of GPS-enabled cellular devices. I get that it makes the speaker look like he's "with it." (I was hoping I'd never see the day I used that phrase...) But c'mon people, I'm sure you could be more creative. If navigation to heaven is what they're trying to get at, I'm sure that pastors could say things in a much more original way. Like a sailor using his compass to navigate the treacherous seas. Or a vagrant finding his way by the use of a star. Something other than a GPS. Anything. Really, anything.

If I hear another "God's Positioning System" joke again, it'll "drive" me insane. (Man, I'm on a roll.)

In any case, I find that pastors usually use this analogy to talk about how the Bible gets you to heaven. I'm not sure that this is entirely the point of the Scriptures, however. I definitely think that the reward of every believer is eternal life in paradise, but I think that's just the by-product of what we get to experience now:

Knowing God.

If you're going to take an axe to my dislike for bad analogies, at least do it with the right goal in mind. Yeah, Heaven's gonna be amazing. Beyond belief. But as my boy Matt Chandler says, the reward of the gospel is not that we get God's stuff, but that we get God. Period. Exclamation point. No question mark. Unequivocally, the unbelievable truth of God's grace is that we get to be perfectly intimate with Him at all times, not simply that we would enjoy the perfect afterlife.

John 17 puts it this way, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

So please, take advantage of put-downs. As in, put down that GPS-enabled phone and put down your knees to the floor so that you might find your ultimate navigation.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy Pills and the Holy Ghost

It's pretty crazy to see a patient change completely after they've had their morphine. One minute they'll be cursing you with creative insults you thought only gypsies could come up with, and then next they want to buy you a drink. In these moments, I'm always fascinated by just how imaginative patient's mockeries become in the heat of pain. I'm not even mad. I'm impressed.

But, yes, things get weird. And I'm not even talking about addicts. These are normal people who are in a lot of pain, and morphine is one of the only drugs that seems to do the trick.

And we give it to them.

It'd be slightly unethical to allow a patient the kind of pain that leaves them wishing that your scalp would be invaded by the fleas of a thousand camels. And yet, doctors worry that they'll get addicted to the euphoria morphine has been known to cause. The only issue is, are they really experiencing euphoria, or are they just mad happy that they're no longer in pain?

Imagine being in so much pain that you spend most of your time writhing around in your hospital bed and wondering if being alive is really all that hot of an idea. You've spent a considerable amount of time in this kind of pain, with little hope of relief. Then, all of a sudden, someone comes along and offers something that can take the pain away. Wouldn't you be ecstatic?

Imagine being in so much pain that you spend most of your time writhing around in the darkness of sin, wondering if being alive is really all that hot of an idea. You've spent too long in the agony of a life characterized by a gloomy tale describing your constant and unrelenting fall into evil, with little hope of relief. Then, all of a sudden, Someone comes along and offers something that takes the sin away. Wouldn't you be ecstatic?
"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
When we have an encounter with the Holy Spirit, there tends to be victory over sin - a time of delivery from the body of death that dwells inside of us. One of the first, and most obvious signs of this release is pure, unadulterated joy, if for nothing else than just the fact that we've been finally released from the anguish of sin.

So, are you ready for your dose?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Squirrel Shirts and Worn-Out Jeans

When it comes to matters of fashion, let's just say I'm not the guy you want advice from.

Squirrel shirt in 52XL? "Sure!"

Neon pink fanny pack? "Only if I can have one, too!"

Overalls and a tank top? "Can I give you my helicopter hat to accessorize?"

While fashion might not be my strength, I will say that I've noticed a trend change throughout the years: worn-out jeans. When I was about 15, these were all the rage. And when I say rage, I'm talking charging bull. People couldn't get enough of them. Youngsters were selling their arms and legs so they could have them, an action which made it really difficult to put on said jeans. All in all, it was a fiasco.

It wasn't uncommon to hear stuff like, "I want the jeans the raggedy tear right along the inner thigh, so people know I'm hardcore when I wear my spaceship undergarments," or, "Is it normal to have a breeze running along my hindquarters?"

Now, as a few years have passed, I've noticed the whole trend change a little. Jeans are still washed-out, but holes don't make much of an appearance nowadays. For whatever reason, the holes have started to disappear from our jeans and appear in other places.

Like our churches.

If there's one thing that you don't want to appear old and weathered by time, it's the church. The one place in the world where people have historically sought life and energy from is instead quickly deteriorating into a washed-out opportunity to have a social hour. Instead of being a place for challenge and conviction, we've allowed the holes from our jeans to become the holes in our theology. The church, which is called to be separate and different from the rest of society has become another pair of nondescript, garden-variety jeans that makes no effort to step above the sea of religion.

Well, to solve the crisis of the worn-out church, I don't suggest anything new. My solution does not consist of jumping into something fresh, but rather to dive into something really, really old.

“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” - Charles Spurgeon

My solution is to transition from a worn-out church to a church with worn-out Bibles. Since the church is made of people, it becomes the individual's responsibility to make sure that they wear down their Bibles with constant use, and that they wear out their jeans with constant prayer. We aren't called to come up with the next, crazy fix that'll take care of what's wrong with us. We are called to radically apply ourselves to the simplicity of the Scriptures and fellowship with God.

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1)

Friday, January 4, 2013

What an Airport Taught Me

They changed my flight. Yuck. I have to wait three more hours in an aiport. Blech. The place smells like old mushrooms. Yum.

As I walked through the security checkpoint, I saw a tearful, sniffling blonde. I turned around and followed her line of sight to see a young boy with long hair who looked slightly less impacted by his girlfriend's departure than she was. But perhaps I'm just crazy. Or right. One of those.

Near those two lovebirds, I heard a lady emphatically proclaim her joyful thanks to a security guard who had helped her.

Having grown up being in and out of airports, I've had some time to analyze this cultural anomaly, and I'm always blown away by the fact that airports are simultaneously one of the happiest and one of the saddest places in existence. No other place can you find a mother tearfully saying goodbye to her children standing next to a man excitedly anticipating his reunion with his dearly missed girl.

No where else do you see a grandpa joyfully wrapping his rarely seen grandchildren in bear hugs while a fearful soldier looks on as he contemplates his future with his heart in his stomach.

It's a strange place with the most polar of opposites coexisting in the closest of proximities. But everyone there is on a journey.

And so are you.

Though, in the journey I'm talking about, there's really only two flights available. One to eternal joy and the other to eternal torment. And if you booked your flight correctly, your final destination ends at a hub where all tears will subside and all tearful goodbyes turn into your last hello.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”" (Revelations 21)

So as I sit in this airport typing away on my little phone, my encouragement today is simple.

That day IS coming.

Hang on. Christ is coming back for His Bride. Your struggles? Gone. Your heartache? A distant memory. Your fate? Secure and perfectly, unimaginably, and infinitely rewarding.

Just hang on.