Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Gift of Going First

In keeping with my one-post-old tradition of reposting something from someone else's blog, here is an old one from Stuff Christians Like. I just copied and pasted it but here is the link to the original post.

Have you ever been in a small group with people that confess safe sins? Someone will say, “I need to be honest with everyone tonight. I need to have full disclosure and submit myself in honesty. Like ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan, I need to give it to you raw!” So you brace yourself for this crazy moment of authenticity and the person takes a deep breath and says … “I haven’t been reading my Bible enough.”

Ugh, you, dirty, dirty sinner. I’m not even sure I can be in a small group with you any more. Not reading your Bible enough, that is disgusting. And then once he’s gone someone else will catch the safe sin bug too and will say, “I need to be real too. I haven’t been praying enough.”

Two of you in the same room? Wow, freak shows! I can barely stand it.

But what happens when people start confessing safe sins is that everyone else in the room starts concealing their real junk. I mean if I was surrounded by confessions like that in the eighth grade I would have instantly known I couldn’t follow the “not reading my Bible enough” guy with my own story:

“Soooo, this weekend when it was snowing I told my parents I was going to the dump to sled but instead I was really just digging through a 200 foot mountain of warm trash looking for pornography.” And the same principle would have applied to me in my late 20s. I wouldn’t have been honest sharing my struggles with Internet porn if everyone else confessed their “safe enough for small group” sins.

And that sucks. It sucks that as broken as we all are, as desperate as we all are for a Savior, we feel compelled to clean ourselves up when we get around each other.

But this blog has taught me something unbelievable. If I stop writing tomorrow, this will be the lesson I cling to the most.

When you go first, you give everyone in your church or your community or your small group or your blog, the gift of going second.

It’s so much harder to be first. No one knows what’s off limits yet and you’re setting the boundaries with your words. You’re throwing yourself on the honesty grenade and taking whatever fall out that comes with it. Going second is so much easier. And the ease only grows exponentially as people continue to share. But it has to be started somewhere. Someone has to go first and I think it has to be us.

We’re called to give the gift of second to the people in our lives. To live the truth, to share the truth, to be the truth.

Let’s give the gift of going second.

To be clear: I did not write this. I am just sharing it. But it is SO true.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

I read the Jesus Creed blog everyday. Scot McKnight brings up some fascinating topics and read a lot of very interesting books. One he has been working through lately is a book called "Almost Christian" by Kenda Creasy Dean.

I have not read the book. But in reading about the book I have been introduced to her basic thesis: (I am copying this right off of his blog. If there are blogging copywrite things I don't know about, please let me know)

Dean knows that the best description of youth faith is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, a set of factors that emerged from the National Study of Youth and Religion (see Christian Smith's writings). What is MTD?

1. God exists, God created, and watches over the world.
2. God wants us to be good, nice and fair to each other.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God is not involved except when I need God to solve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. That is a mouthful. I am just going to go ahead and say that I agree with her for the most part but I want to hear what you all think.

I would be very much interested in this question: Assuming that MLD is NOT what following Jesus is about, then what is following Jesus (being a Christian) about? Why is Jesus necessary? Why should people give their lives and put their trust in Jesus?

Please feel free to comment. I want to know what people think. Please also be respectful of people who comment something you may disagree with.

Just a quick note: No one ever got crucified for telling people to be nice and happy.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Where Moth and Rust (and Termites!) Destroy

I recently read a book called "The Hopeful Skeptic" by Nick Fiedler. In the beginning of the book, he and his wife go on a 14-month trip around the world. As they are packing and putting things into storage and throwing other things away, he realizes that he has a peculiar connection to his books.

His books are trophies. They are conquests. They are badges of honor. Ones he hasn't read still sit on the shelf because he wants to look more intelligent.

His books begin to define him and give him value.

There was a lot of thought-provoking stuff in that book but I think I connected the most with that one little anecdote.

I have a large bookshelf that is built into my wall. It was one of the things I was most excited about when I moved into my new room last year. I have a lot of books and it would be great to have a place to prominently display them. And like Nick, they are a source of pride for me. It is a good feeling having an 11-book series all displayed in order with the knowledge that I have actually read all of them. There is a nice boxed set of Lord of the Rings. There is a growing collection of books by N.T. Wright so you know that I am smart.

I have a bunch of books around that I have no intention of reading again but I think they might be of use to someone someday. Then I can be the cool person who lent the book to the other person and helped them fix their life.

Just make sure you give it back to me.

The shelves have a sort of order to them. The shelf in this story was the one with my practicum books and a few other random ones that didn't fit anywhere else like Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and Michael Crichton's "Timeline."

Last night I grabbed Timeline off the shelf to read the opening paragraph. I noticed that the book was stuck to the shelf. I gave it a good tug and it let go. As I turned it around to open it, I noticed dirt clods on the edges. I forced the book open, which broke the clods. What was in them? I am glad you asked!


There were termites in my book! I inspected the shelf a little closer and noticed that they were building a colony out of my bookshelf.

A quick note: Here is a list of other things I have found in my house in the last few years: Kittens, spiders, giant spiders (notice how far south they are found), roaches, rats, a plague of flies (presumably from a dead rat. sick.), and flooding. This was a new one.

They were eating the binding on the books. It had been a while since I had looked closely at some of the books but they were literally rotting away on my shelf. It was disgusting.

My landlord came over and we picked up a chunk of books, threw them away and sprayed a termite killer on the shelf. This was repeated until we had them all.

All in all, I lost about 20 books. I have an empty shelf that is doubling as a termite graveyard.

And Jesus' words from the sermon on the mount started playing in my head.

19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It was a eerie and very tangible reminder that the things we use to define ourselves are temporary. You never know when you will come home one day to find a termite colony eating your book collection.

Moral of the story? Termites are gross and don't put your hope in possessions.