The Sin Of This Modern Era and What We Can Do About It

Ed Stetzer tweeted in June, “In the last 5 days: 700 refugees drowned off Greece, 9000 babies were aborted in U.S., and 68 were shot in Chicago…and a gorilla dominated the news.”

There is this subtle sin that has crept in the world and grown in power the past several years. Sadly, the Church has not been immune to it. What is it? The subtle deadly sin of disengagement.

Why are we so disengaged?

Let’s look at what has happened in recent history. In the last ten years the Iphone, Ipad and cloud computing have taken the world by storm. We are more connected in more ways than any, ANY other generation in the world…. ever. We are more interconnected as a human race than we ever have been before. But the world has changed in other ways as well. More fighting, more wars, more tension, more offense, more distraction and more taking sides. I wish I could say this was only outside the Church, but you and I both know it is happening in every religion, every country and in every nation. And yes, that includes those who are following Jesus.

I’m thankful and grateful for modern technology. I am. I can send videos to my friends back home in the States in milliseconds. I can communicate, in real time, with anyone I want no matter where they are in the world with an internet connection. I have files stored in a server thousands of miles away from where I live. I can listen to any music I want, watch any movies or shows I want, and keep track of how many minutes of sleep I get a day. I can publish a book, on my own, and have it sent worldwide in a few hours. It’s unbelievable.

And it’s distracting. Simultaneously, we are the most engaged and the most disengaged generation in history. We are the most engaged- engaged with knowledge that is. But, completely disengaged with reality. Disengaged with life, people, living human beings. Disengagement, it seems, is the sin of this modern era.

Second, it seems this way especially when looking at current political circus in the States, it’s clear that there is something darker going on. There is an underlying idea that the world is going to Hell, everything is falling apart, but we as Christians will be ok. The idea that we need to circle up the wagons, grab our guns and protect ourselves. And at the same time, held in tension, there’s this idea that we’ll be ok, so let those who don’t know Christ die knowing that their eternity is uncertain…as long as we’re ok.  It’s the, “I’m in, you’re not; I win, you lose. Sayonara,” mentality that for whatever reason the Church just can’t shake. I’m not saying that everyone in the Church believes this. But there are those who do, and no matter how small they may be in number, they seem to be the loudest.

How have others been engaged?

We have disengaged from the “least of these.”  If we’ve done it to the abandoned, forgotten ones in the world, we’ve done it to Christ, Matthew 25. But there are examples of engagement.

God reveals to us that we are to be active participants. Think of Esther in the Old Testament standing up for her people before the king. Think of four simple fishermen who were content doing just that the rest of their lives until someone showed them the Truth. Peter, Andrew James and John became active participants in the world and did not sit by and let it fall apart. In recent history we can think of so many more….Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Lyman Stewart, Amy Charmichael and more.  These people did not say “Sayonara” to the world. They became actively engaged in being a part of its redemption history.

Taking an honest look at ourselves

Let’s look at the Church in a couple of areas. First is social justice. To be fair, we are considered aliens in the world. So, it is hard to look around and not allow the thankfulness of our salvation in Christ to turn into some sort of prideful sneer towards someone who does you wrong. It’s hard not to feel some sort of weird justification when something bad or hard happens to someone who was hurtful to you. We want justice but only in those things we deem important. When we look at social justice or fighting for justice to those oppressed innocently, it seems that the Church in many ways does this well. And I am so grateful for this.

But in other areas, we as the Church fall way short. Even now I hear from fellow believers in my home country, this attitude of “Well, that is unfortunate for you. You should work harder, be stronger, get over that, move on.” We fail to see that many things in life aren’t up to us. Many things aren’t something we can just get over or work harder at. They aren’t things we can immediately, from out of no where, become stronger in. Many of us are completely powerless to either situations or privileged people.

Go to any Alcoholics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Over-Eaters Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery or any other recovery type of meeting and you will soon see people who are unable to just “get over it.” I honestly believe there is no difference between the ones who attend those meetings and everyone else except for one thing- the ones who attend those meetings know how helpless they are and how much they are in need of a Savior. The other group of people would probably have a hard time admitting that.

Second is the area of knowing versus doing. David Fitch in his book “The End of Evangelicalism?”   writes, “the ‘inerrant Bible’ allows us to believe we have the truth while at the same time remaining distant from actually engaging in it as a way of life. We assent unabashedly to the perfect book without it truly meaning anything. It acts as an “ideological fantasy” wherein we live in a projected world where we can believe we have the truth, but in real life have to make little or no changes to the way we live.”

I admit that I have given give into the selfish desire to become judgmental and disengaged at times as well. Knowing I have the Truth and no one else does gives me a sense of power and of judgment. It gives the idea that because I know the Truth, there’s no reason for me to change. Knowledge somehow gives us power and control…. we think. We are still grasping for control and think we can do a better job than He can. If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be people burning out, falling from moral failure, blindly sticking with one political group, having more protests about what they are against rather than what they are for, among other things. But knowledge doesn’t cause us to become engaged.

And third, the area of spectators versus participants. In recovery groups there’s a level of grace towards one another that is unmatched to almost any other group of believers that I’ve ever been in. Why? Because those in recovery all understand that they are in the same sinking ship in this world. Citizens of the world or citizens of heaven, we were all born into this fallen place. It’s what we choose to do with this time while here that counts. Giving grace and living a life of honesty, vulnerability and forgiveness allows us to transcend the boundary between disengaged spectators and participators. Spectators watch the world fall apart like they’re watching a movie in a theater. Participators are the ones who are scratched, beaten and bloody because they decide jump in the pit and help those who need it.

What do we do now?

So, how do we stop this and start becoming engaged with the world?

First, spend time in reflection asking that the Spirit reveal to you areas in which you have been disengaged. If you think you haven’t been, that’s a good sign that you probably have. Then as those areas come to mind, seek forgiveness. This is not a one time reflection, but an ongoing one.

Second, for those who have lived a life of engagement listed earlier, and the countless others, it came down to a decision. A decision to become active. Willing to face the pain and suffering around them and become “one” with those in the midst of it. They went against the trends of the culture they were in. Becoming engaged with the world is starting to see faces, eyes, of those suffering. Not just read headlines.

Third, it begins with looking around your world and finding the suffering that is around you. Looking up from your phone, laptop and tablet, and seeing the world for what it really is. Not the digital world we have become too comfortable living in.

Fourth, becoming engaged starts with being honest with your own emotions and acknowledging the feelings of those around you. Just like Christ did. The women at the well, the oppression of the merchants in the temple, the lame man unable to get to angelic pool to become healed just to name a few. He empathized by being honest with what He had gone through in order to engage with those in pain around Him. He wept.

By becoming engaged with the world and not just informed about it, we are living out that second commandment of loving our neighbor like our self; and, almost on divine accident, the first like it, loving our Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind. May we be known as the generation that engaged the world for Christ.

be blessed today




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How to Better Understand Others

A friend of mine and I had a long discussion a while back about looking inward at ourselves. We were talking about whether finding our faults, taking personality profiles, mode of operation analyses, the Enneagram studies, genograms and other evaluations where actually important. And why we as believers in Jesus, focus so much of our time on them as opposed to “just the Word.”

Up to this point, there had been a wave the past decade or so prior, of spiritual formation and focusing inward on ourselves…”the journey within,” I’ve heard it called. Though I perhaps dabbled in it growing up, asking God to search my heart, and then ask for forgiveness for those things, it was never an intentional desire. The intentional, continual and consistent inward journey only began about six  years ago. I’ve talked about it before in other posts, but it really was a stripping away of falsities and untruths that were either put on me or I had accepted as truth.

I have had many conversations the past few years on the idea that we just need the Bible and nothing else, and all of these extra things were a waste of time, taking away from the Truth of the Gospel. Some have said those very words and, sadly,  weren’t open to the idea that perhaps other things may add in our understanding of Christ, ourselves and ourselves in Christ. I also used to be this way, until I came to a point and began to realize that there is a great journey both inward and upward in my soul.

Marjorie Thompson said in her book, “Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life,” that  “One of the most precious results of self-knowledge is greater compassion.   The more clearly we see ourselves, the harder it becomes to  judge the weaknesses and failures of others.” I’ve also found this to be true. The moment I am quick to judge, I also quickly remember when I acted similarly and suddenly have more grace. I am human, so it doesn’t happen all the time, but I hope it has become more frequent (that might be a question for Iris 🙂

Looking at scripture we see the same pattern. The more the disciples began to understand themselves and those around them, the more compassion they began to have towards others. No more talking down to those sick, in need or children. In the early church and church history we also see this pattern. The early Desert Fathers and Mothers, missions to help the poor, sick and destitute all understood this concept as they practiced daily times of silence and meditation on scripture .

 The more clearly we see ourselves, the harder it becomes to  judge the weaknesses and failures of others. -Marjorie Thompson 

As with anything, this life of following Jesus requires a change of perspective from what we know. No matter what culture, social strata or color of skin, we all need to see life from  different perspectives in order to have a fuller understanding of ourselves and the God we serve. When we have a better understanding of ourselves, we then are able to come to others in humility, to learn from them and about them. To better understand them and give grace as grace as been given to us.

Nothing earth shattering here, I know, but a reminder to us all as I was reminded this past week as to why I desire to have a better understanding of myself. May our journey inward be upward focused in order to better love ourselves, those around us and our Creator.

be blessed today

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How Surrendering This One Thing Might Change Your Life

Last month, we decided to take a trip out West. What was to be a six hour drive on paved roads, ended up being about 10 hours, taking an accidental wrong turn and driving 125 miles off road. At the end of the day, I realized our rear tire was low, so I ran over to a tire repair place to have it fixed after we arrived at the guest house we were staying that night. They fixed the tire, but he next morning before we departed, I noticed it was low again, so I took it back and had them replace it. They ended up putting a cheap tube in it and sent us on our way. Three hours down the road, we hit a pot hole hard enough that it pinched the tube and air started to escape quickly. I got out, jacked up the car and began to remove the lug nuts from the bolts on the wheel.And that’s when the real problems started.

When the tire repair put the wheel on that morning, they cross threaded not one, not two, but three of the wheel lug bolts which ended up breaking off when I went to remove the wheel. Please keep in mind AAA doesn’t exist here, our Mongolian is nowhere near fluent and there was no cell reception. Not to mention we were an hour, easily, from any type of village/town/city. After a brief moment of me losing it (some words we shall not mention and a few punches of the tire of which I’m not proud of), we were able to call an expat friend of ours at the guest house who sent out a mechanic. Several hours later, we were on our way to continuing our vacation.

Reading that, I’m assuming some of you could feel the tension and frustration and may have reacted similarly. But why?

Very generally speaking, North Americans are pretty planned out people. I know I am. I’m not to the extent as some people (funny how I automatically disassociate myself from extremes :), but I still do like to plan. Planning in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s good. It’s when the plan begins to dictate everything that it becomes a problem. For example, I used to be the kind of guy who could never relax on any vacation we went on. Why, you may ask? Because I was too busy planning our next vacation.

Sad, I know.

Planning is great to create strategies, business goals, budgeting and saving for future things. When it begins to power over relationship, or potentially, whatever God has for us in that moment though, we begin to no longer engage with what is going on in the present. We’re too focused on what it “should” be and not seeing what  it “is.” As I often say, “it’s not good to ‘should’ all over yourself.” We can get buried in the law of “should.”

It’s not good to ‘should’ all over yourself

I’ve grown in this area, not because of any great thing I’ve done, but simply because I’ve lived in two separate cultures that are far more event oriented than time oriented. Being from a time oriented culture (time rules the day), it really messes with you and can cause some great frustration if you move to an event oriented culture (more about the event no matter when it “should” start or how long it “should” go on). Why? Because if you are used to people being on time and ending on time and move to a culture where things may start 30 minutes to an hour later, it can cause impatience. The reason- it messes with my plan. In the simplest form, that’s it. It fluctuates, changes, challenges my plan.

I wish this simply applied to the start of work, a meeting or even a date. But it doesn’t. It applies to many aspects of my life. What I’m going to do next week, month, year or even a decade from now…if it messes up my plans, I react. And usually, not in a good way. To me, it is a small (or big) form of control. And control is only a thing reserved for God.

I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day. We were talking about recovery, what was going on in our lives and how we can’t control what will happen no matter how hard we try. Then he said “I’m simply trying to surrender what I think tomorrow will look like.” That thought stuck with me. The idea of surrendering my idea, my “design” of what tomorrow will be with all of it’s nuances and intricacies. Huh, what a novel idea.

“I’m simply trying to surrender what I think tomorrow will look like.”

If I am able to surrender what I think my tomorrow will look like for the sake of relationship, I can begin to see how my life would be lived much differently. If I can surrender what my tomorrow should look like for the sake of being present with where I am, who I’m with and where God is in all of it, what a more colorful life I could be living. I am not saying give in and have no boundaries. God also desires that we have healthy boundaries in place for our physical, emotional and spiritual health. But boundaries are much different than holding to a plan above everything else.

Pause for a moment and wonder how your life might change if you began to live in such a way to be present where you are. Surrendering that bit of control may bring awareness of God and awareness of self like you’ve never encountered before. And it’s here we begin to see the world with God’s eyes.

be blessed today

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What Happened Last Week?

Storytime!!!!!! So, how about it? Is God in your mundane life? Or does He even care about your boring life? Or, is your life so crazy running here and there, that He can’t possible have anything to do in the midst of all that…only when you set aside separate time for Him?

 Last week, I wrote about God in the mundane. If He’s even there, that is. In those routine parts of life like punching numbers, checking over the next item that comes down the conveyor line, or in running your kids to the next practice. And I asked that we all join in the experiment to simply reflect and ask Go what He has for us in the mundane tasks of our lives. Washing the dishes, cleaning the house, driving to work, mowing the lawn, at work, etc., and then share about your experience here. So, did you? What did you find? What happened?

I don’t want to ask too many leading questions as if to say that some astounding booming voice spoke as the heavens came down and parted your dishwater soap bubbles…no, no, no…it may have been that. Or perhaps you were just aware of your surroundings for the first time. Perfectly present where you were in space and time. That, my friends, is one incredible gift just as much as hearing His audible voice. 

So please share. Please tell what happened, your truth in how you felt, your experience, your thoughts. By sharing with each other we encourage one another as the Body does. As the Church does. Growing our understanding of God, our understanding of self and our understanding of self in Christ. So fill the comments with words of what happened in your life…a testament of you in Him!

Be blessed today

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