Life and Aging in the Church

This opened my eyes today, hopefully it will for you as well.

The truth is we get beaten up by life. We get betrayed, divorced, abused, fired, forgotten, abandoned, we had big plans and they didn’t follow through, we made some tragic mistakes and now we’re living with it. Then what sometimes happens is we loose that buoyant, joyous, creative, optimism about life. It starts to sort of ebb over the years. Our idealism takes a couple of shots to the jaw.

So we begin to sort of tone it down and if often takes years, it’s not just one day we decide, “I’m gonna kind of check-out somewhere deep in my heart”, but the truth is for many of us, that’s what happens. And so we stop being renewed day by day and we lose that thing that we used to have. So our marriage had this sort of ahhhh, but now it has this, ughhh or this “just getting by”, or our job or that particular thing that we’re involved with. Because we get beaten, we get bruised, knocked around a bit, we’ve taken some hits. The biblical vision of aging is that those things that happen to us would not make us cynical or bitter. Our heart would not develop a sort of shell around it. But that we would stay fresh and green.

So what God asks of us is to be renewed day by day. So the ways that we have been hurt, the deep weeds we’ve gone through, the ways we weren’t prepared, the times we didn’t know what to do or how to do it….what God wants to do is heal all of that so that we with great joy, will be able to walk along side of people to the bright, glorious, joyous, buoyant future that He has for each one of us.

Because what happens is we get burned, we get criticized, we get misunderstood and something happens in our heart and what it does is that it affects those around us. We get the idealism beaten out of us, our sense of joyous revolution takes a bit of a hit and so we back off and we get a little cynical and we get a little skeptical, “okay, it’s nice now cause you’re in the honeymoon phase, but wait till your 3rd budget meeting, blah, blah, blah.”

What God wants to do is renew each of us day by day and to take those hurts and to take those dreams and those visions and those plans and those awkward periods and those desert experiences and the time you felt like you were the only one and the time that you felt betrayed and the time that you felt that no one understood it and the time that you felt, “if only people could just see” and all that…..He wants to take it and He wants to heal it, so that we would be new again and new again and new again and new again.

So we wouldn’t be the old crusty, brittle person shooting down everybody’s dreams but that we’d 98 years old with a hammer going, “I wonder what we’re going to make today.”

Jesus says in Matthew: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

Is there anyone reading this who your idealism has been beaten out of you, you’re tired, you set out with great plans for your ministry, marriage, family, work, dreams, goals, adventures, trips and somewhere along the way it got beaten out of you? And you’re tired?

So today, you give that tired heart to God. And you’re given a new one.

Is there anyone reading this who has become cynical?

You loved and the love was not returned. You gave and it just sort of disappeared. You spent yourself and no one noticed and it just kind of fell to the ground and there’s a profound sense of, “Why do that again?”. You gave everything you had to this person and you handed them your heart and they took it and stepped on it, so why love again? Why love again?

Don’t lose heart, because we are being made new again everyday. On the inside, where God is making new life.

Is there anybody reading this who you have gotten older? But the problem is, in the process of getting older, you’ve gotten older. The Jesus vision is that you’d be getting older and you’d be getting fresher and greener and younger, the exact same time that your experiences’ and the wisdom that comes from getting kicked around would be melded with youthful innocence and wonder and that those impulses together would create true wisdom, you would be the village elder, because you would, somehow, have been through it all and yet you would be more alive and expectant and assuming that God is in the midst of doing greater things than ever.

In Ephesians it says: “…Now to the God who is able to do immeasurably more, than all we ask or imagine, according to God’s power that is at work within us.”

One of the things that happens over the years, is we stop asking and imagining. Saying, “Asking and imagining is for kids who don’t realize how hard life is.“

Are you in a rut? Do feel like, “Well I’m old”…No, it’s doesn’t matter how old you are. Do you today, need to ask God for the imagination for a whole new tomorrow? Is there some country that you want to swim to? Are there some trees your supposed to chop down? Are there some kids that you’re supposed to invite into your home and you are supposed to re-parent them? And it doesn’t matter if you’re 80. It’s been done. People in their 80’s take people into their homes. People in their 70’s go out into the desert and build mind-blowing compounds. People in their 60’s swim to other countries, people in their 50’s make boats out of trees…….none of those excuses work.

Or have you somewhere deep in your heart “checked-out”? At the moment at which your community needs you more than ever. So we ask God to us a new heart and give us new things to ask for so we can imagine a new tomorrow. So that we would not lose heart, but be renewed day by day.

– God we bring before You our tired, weary, cynical, skeptical hearts, bring before You all the ways we’ve bought into that “new” is better in our culture, in the world and in ourselves that when you’re old, you’re old.
We want to be younger as we’re older, we want to be greener, fresher, like a tree by living water, that bends in the breeze. We ask right now that You would show us the next risk, the next adventure, that you would blow apart all of the myths we have bought into about our relevance and role.

Please rescue us from any view of the world that says, ‘there’s nothing more to contribute’, there’s nothing more to paint, there’s nowhere left to swim, nothing left to build, nowhere left to sail. Rescue us please, from any of these lies, with a vision of what it means to be renewed on the inside day by day. So that we might continue to partner with You in making a whole new kind of world.

Thank you for Jesus, who has died, was resurrected, who gives us life, the kind of life that spills over. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

- A talk by RB.

It Just Takes Time

I loved Wired’s feature on Pixar a few months back. Pixar is one of those companies that is so creative and so collaborative that I always enjoy reading about their culture and their processes. And while I liked the article a lot, the element that most stuck out to me was the timeline for creating Toy Story 3. It starts as you might expect: an entry titled, “Day 1.” The creative team heads out to a remote cabin and hammers out the film’s plot.

For some reason, my eyes skipped down to the bottom of the timeline. The final entry: “Day 1,084.” Wow!

As someone who spends a few weeks on articles and two months on an issue of a magazine, I was blown away by the scope of Pixar’s Toy Story 3 production timeline. As I pondered spending three years on a single project, something clicked in my brain.

Great art — really great art — takes time.

I know that’s not a fantastic revelation by any means, but the more I think about it, the more I feel conviction to give each project the time it needs. Maybe as you read this you’re thinking that you’re already out of time, already stretched too thin by too many projects with restrictive deadlines.

And maybe that’s the case. Maybe there is no time. If so, what’s a person to do?

Well, I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet. All I know is that if I want to make my Toy Story 3 or paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I’m going to have to make the time. Great art takes time.

Can you remember the last time you actually let “time” not be a factor in creating something?

God Stories

Where God is at work, when He heals people and changes communities, there are meaningful stories to tell.

As Christians, every-day workers, and leaders, we ought to be about the business of telling those God-stories to the people that need to hear them. These days we have fantastic tools for telling God-stories through a variety of media, and we have the ability to archive and preserve them for the days to come. What a blessing and a high calling!

As you work today — writing, facebooking, tweeting, studying, — look for God-stories and tell them.

New Christians

When someone decides to follow Christ at your church or in your ministry, what’s next? Do you hand them a Bible and recommend they join a small group? Do you give them some CDs to listen to and a copy of Mere Christianity to read? Do you task a mature believer with regularly checking in on the new believer? Whatever your next steps, I’m sure you have some.

LifeChurch.tv has a kit, called the What’s Next Kit, and Tony Steward reports they’ve been shipping it around the world to people who come to faith through LifeChurch.tv initiatives. And as you might expect from LifeChurch.tv, they recently took their What’s Next Kit online. WhatsNextKit.tv invites new believers to begin engaging and exploring the Christian faith in four areas: Community, Bible, Prayer, and Baptism. Each area includes an introductory video, helpful resources, and an invitation to go deeper.

It’s an intriguing development in the world of online church and digital discipleship, huh? (Though I don’t imagine it’ll assuage the critics of online church who worry about the implications of discipleship and the sacraments.) Whatever your stance, be sure to read Tony’s post for the LifeChurch.tv perspective and tips of the hat to those whose contributions made WhatsNextKit.tv a reality.

So going back to the  earlier question: When someone decides to follow Christ at your church or in your ministry, what’s next?

How Does God Teach Us Things?

Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn, my God you do learn. – C.S Lewis

I came across this quote today and realized just how true it is. As Christians we never stop learning, it’s a continual process until we die. We may think we have it all together, then God brings us through another time of teaching and learning (which 99.8% of the time is never a pleasant experience when you go through it) and the circumstances that He’ll use are most likely harder and more difficult then the last time He taught something.

I like how J. I. Packer puts it…”Sooner or later, the truth will be that God is now exercising His Child – His consecrated child – in the ways of adult godliness, as He exercised Job, etc, by exposing them to strong attacks from the world, the flesh, and the devil, so that their powers of resistance might grow stronger. All of the children of God undergo this treatment – it is part of the ‘chastening of the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:15, echoing Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:11), to which He subjects every son whom He loves.”

Thank God He cares enough for us, that He continually brings us through hard lessons, that will in the end bring us into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Him.

Church….Does it still serve a purpose? It Sure Does. (In response to an atheist’s view of church)

I go to church regularly. Not because I’m made to, or because I feel pressure to…I go because I love Jesus. He’s been and is working in my life. I have felt His presence and He is very real.
The church I go to is made up of “worshippers”, people who love the Lord and each other. It’s like family.
Serving each other and the community, just loving people and helping others. Through a foodbank, homeless shelter and help provided in many other ways for people.

To name just a few things. But of course it’s not about the action, it’s about the people.

It’s about reaching out to people and just loving them as well as the relevance of the bible and how it applies it practically to our lives.

The King Of Pop is gone

thriller-cover-michael-jackson

So Michael Jackson died today, really unexpected! …I have a couple albums by him….and like them…but I actually feel bad I won’t ever get to see him live and that an icon is gone. Cause I would’ve totally gone if he came close to here…….he brought the dancing of Fred Astair to the main stream, the Thriller video (the first video to be shot as a mini-movie) which is legendary! Directed by Francis Ford Coppolla…no one will ever touch his level of success or beat his album sales…Thriller, still the #1 selling album of all time. Truly an icon.