What I learned from al Qaeda on 9/11

Five hundred thousand dollars.

That number blows my mind. Not because it’s so big, but because it’s so small. That’s what it cost al Qaeda to pull off the attacks of September 11, 2001. A half a million dollars to alter the mindset of a culture. A half a million dollars to inflict somewhere near 2 trillion dollars in damage to the US. A half a million dollars to change the world.

It bothers me.

Eleven years later. I’m bothered by the thought of a tiny movement of people, who live in caves, who can’t show their faces, who are hunted by the most powerful military ever, most of whom have never met their leaders in person, and do not spend much money, can organize so effectively, and devote themselves so fiercely … to change the world.

Yeah, they changed the world.

With fear. For hate. By violence. With a 500K investment.

What if we decided to network, organize, sacrifice, and lay our lives on the line … to change the world. What would happen if we realized that it has never required a multitude to change culture, just a loyal few, humble enough to get in one accord and brave enough to embrace the mission?

Imagine what we could do with loveFor justice. In the name of Jesus. By the power of his Spirit.

Let’s roll with that.

Dare you to pray this prayer

I’ve been particularly stirred by the life of John Wesley in recent weeks, and found myself praying one of his prayers this morning. Here is my modified version of it:

Lord Jesus, because you have received me into your house, because you have called me your own, because you have made me your child, I will not stand upon terms. Impose upon me what conditions you please, write down your own articles, command me what you will, put me to anything you see as good; let me come under your roof, let me be your servant, and spare not to command me; I will no longer be my own. Make me what you will, Lord, and set me where you will. I trust you. I put myself wholly into your hands; put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or trodden under foot for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily resign all to your name and your pleasure. For your love is better than life.

It would be hard for me to overstate the impact of the man who prayed that prayer. If the United States had produced a Wesley, many have argued slavery would have been abolished without a civil war. He and his tribe went head to head against the darkness of his day and made a dent: slavery, prison abuse, widespread drunkenness, lack of education for peasants, the poor health of the lower class, child labor.

What was their fuel? According to Wesley, the soul-melting experience of the “righteousness that comes by faith”. The mind-bending realization that he was in – not because of his moral record, but because of Jesus’. The experienced love of Father. See, when you’ve really been amazed by grace, you want to be used by grace.

Your life will follow your prayers.

I dare you to pray that one.

Can I pledge my allegiance to politics?

I wish we’d ask good questions.

Here’s one: Can you really be loyal to Jesus and also be loyal to a political party?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m sold on being salt of the earth. Light in the darkness. Voice for the voiceless. I love to see Christians getting involved in every sector of society.  Some of the best evidence that you belong to the kingdom of heaven is when you make an actual impact on the kingdoms of earth. Penetration, blessing, and transformation are marks of the people of God, which is why I’d love for dozens of my friends to run for office and demonstrate the revolutionary way of Jesus in that arena. So I’m not asking if we should get involved; I’m asking if you can really follow Jesus and simultaneously follow one of these political parties.

Continue reading “Can I pledge my allegiance to politics?”

I am bothered by …

I am bothered by … toxic, cheap charity that never really helps the oppressed.

I am bothered by … a painfully natural church representing an untamed and supernatural God.

I am bothered by … trivial answers to complex problems.

I am bothered by … shallow christianity that never leads to true discipleship.

I am bothered by … having to choose between charismatic excess or play-it-safe spiritual dryness.

I am bothered by … politicians hijacking the words of Jesus.

I am bothered by … christian belief that never translates into christian experience.

Sugar-high happiness (journal excerpt)

By request, this is an excerpt I read from my journal last weekend.  Read it like I wrote it, unedited.

Everybody has their native sin – something that seems to be part of who they are. Add to that a culture of self-worship, sliding standards, and personal happiness as the ultimate pursuit and we have a perfect recipe for cultural deception.  God gets made out to be the bad guy when he forbids things we are so sure will make us happy.  They feel so natural.  We are so easily deceived.  Like my three-year old daughter that throws a temper tantrum when she cannot have cookies for dinner, we object to God’s righteous, eternal standards.

But everybody disagrees with God somewhere. Every person. Every family. Every culture. Every epoch.

The question is one of wisdom.  Will we be wise enough to humble ourselves and agree with God? Will we be smart enough to recognize that he sees something around the eternal corner that we do not see ourselves? Will we not realize that God wants us happy even more than we do?  But his long-range mind sees things we do not.

We want quick-fix, sugar-rush happiness. He sees eternal weight of glory.

The message of Scripture is this: play it out.  Live to please yourself, live for your personal happiness – it’s an experiment in futility.  Destined for disappointment.

Be smarter than that. Be wiser. Be more forward-thinking.

Sin is not just evil; it’s stupid.

Our idols are like middle school boyfriends: they lie to us.  Sin lies. It over-promises and under-delivers.  It is an expert marketer, but completely untrustworthy.

Yet I’m a sucker. I believe the hype.  Everybody believes the hype – it just has to be the right hype. Wise is the man who learns what hype he falls for.  We are so prone to judge people for being gullible in areas we don’t fall for.  But we all fall.  Moral stupidity is part of our fallen condition.

Good thing we have a wise savior.

Solomon nailed it: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)

Chick-fil-A – part 2

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but we have (at least) seven children.

Recently, my three-year-old daughter wanted a piece of the action with one of the big-kid games called Connect Four.  It was the end of a long day and I really didn’t feel like teaching her to play the game, so I tried to let her win as quickly as possible.  When she refused to cooperate I took matters into my own hands, and strategically connected four of my own chips.  Game over.   “Oh no, Daddy.  The game’s not over till we fill up the whole thing.”

Reluctantly, I submitted, as we dropped a chip in every single square.  What felt like an hour later, her face lit up as she looked into my eyes and said, “Now that was a good game, Daddy!”

How exactly was that a good game?

“Because I was with you.”

My heart melted.  The purpose of the game was to be with daddy.  Yeah, that really was a good game.

The way you know if something is good is if it fulfills its intended purpose.

That’s why I don’t get angry with my tennis shoes when they don’t drive nails into the wall.  That’s why gay internet phenom Antoine Dodson still eats Chick-fil-A. (Youtube it.)  And that’s why my little girl was thrilled to play the longest game of Connect Four in human history.

So how do you know if a human is good?

You have to know the purpose.

Continue reading “Chick-fil-A – part 2”

The morning after Chick-fil-A day

It’s the morning after the Chick-fil-A drama and I’m still chewing.

I remember the day I was sitting next to an incredibly nice gay guy, enjoying a really good conversation when he dropped the ultimate conversation-killer.

“What do you do for a living?”

I hate that question.  I hate that question because people can’t help but size you up when they hear the answer.  I hate that question because we’re already prone to think of ourselves as human doings instead of human beings.  I hate that question because of what it does to people when they find out what I do.

I’ve often tried to find ways around the question. I’ve told people I work with non-profit organizations (this is true). I’ve told people that I write (this is true). I’ve even told people that I am a spiritual guru that assists people in opening their third eye (I really like this one).  For whatever reason, on that day, I just cut to the chase.  “I work as a pastor of a church.”

Everything changed.  His next words went something like this:

Listen, I’m gay and I’m content with who I am. I’m sure you are going to say that I was not born this way, and I won’t argue the point. For a significant part of my childhood I was violated by a neighbor and then an uncle.  Did that play a role in my sexual orientation? Possibly. I also know many people that had a trouble-free childhood and they turned out very happily gay.  Regardless of how it occurred, this is who I am now and I make no apologies for the man I have become.  If God has a problem with a man who tries to be true to himself, then I have a problem with a God that allows these kinds of things to happen to kids like me in the first place.

I kept thinking how much easier it would have been if I said I was a writer.

Continue reading “The morning after Chick-fil-A day”