On Easter, Jesus Sat Next to Me…

Easter was awesome, but not in the way I had expected. I went to University Fellowship for the first time and sat in the bleachers next to about a dozen strangers. As I mentioned before, nearly everyone was dressed nicely, which made me in my new favorite hoodie stand out like a Duck fan at a Beaver’s game. We all stood when the worship leader said to, sat when he said to, laughed at the greeter’s jokes even if we didn’t get them, and prayed when the pastor did. Throughout it all, though, I hadn’t noticed Jesus sitting next to me.

Somewhere along the way, He had walked in through the double doors of the rented high school gymnasium in His plaid, button up shirt, shorts, and Velcro sandals. After shaking hands with a few people He hadn’t met yet, He found where I was sitting, and worked His way over. The people next to me politely scooted over as He sat down. He made some light-hearted, sarcastic joke about the worship leader’s cowlick, sang two songs with eyes closed, opened them on the third because He didn’t know the words, and bowed His head when the pastor started in. He was quiet, candid, but sincere – exactly what you’d expect from a guy who’s good at getting by unnoticed. And He sat next to me on Sunday.

It didn’t take a powerful, inspirational sermon. I didn’t need a moment of deep meditation and prayer. And it certainly wasn’t one particular Bible verse that woke me up; it was simply God doing what He does best: sneaking His love in on you. If you aren’t careful, He’ll slip around your worries of debt and unemployment, hop right over that shameful act you did the other day at work, and glide right on through your depression. At that point, He’ll put His arm around you and start talking about baseball or what kind of sauce would go well with some pork ribs – even though He’s Jewish. You see, Christ’s casualness catches you off guard. It gives you what you need just before you realize you need it. And I think the beauty of it is it was meant to be contagious.

Brett Gilchrist, pastor of University Fellowship, spoke about what Christianity has become from his perspective. He said it’s more like a coffee-table sort of faith where you can pick it up like a magazine, get what you want out of it, and then move on to something else. It’ll give you health, wealth, and success all the while demanding next to nothing. Here in America, this is the perfect brand of Christianity.

What I’ve come to see as the problem for this particular brand, though, is that it doesn’t bring about lasting change. This kind of faith, like consumerism, needs the next big thing in order to survive. It needs something new, something fresh, to keep it going. A new pastor, a new devotional, a new worship song, a new whatever – only until something cooler comes along and then it gets put on the shelf as a souvenir, forever fated to collect dust.

I think Brett knew what kind of crowd he was speaking to on Sunday morning. I think he knew that quite a few of them weren’t regular church-goers; just bi-annual ones showing up on the important Christian days (Easter and the Sunday before Christmas). I think he knew because he talked about the true gospel of Jesus and what its call for us is. He chose Easter morning to remind everyone what it really means to follow Christ. And how it is not always convenient.

Jesus rose not so that two thousand years later we can eat a bunch of candy and chase after plastic eggs that some bunny laid (which is biologically confusing). He died, as Brett said, so that we could be saved. And it’s not just a spiritual salvation – Jesus didn’t die just for my soul. It isn’t like we can be “saved,” we can be with the “in” crowd, and then do whatever we want for the rest of our lives. Jesus died so that we could be a different kind of people – a new kind of man.

What is this new kind of man? Is it that Bible-thumping freak standing in public places calling people all sorts of names? Or how about that spiritual snob who emphasizes their church only and talks about other churches and Christians (or other lifestyles in general) in a condescending tone? Or what about the super spiritual person who’s always praying, reading Scripture, or worshipping? Is any one of these the new kind of man God is creating?

Not quite.

It’s often a human thing to say, “Well if it isn’t this, then it’s this.” We want to clarify and define with absolute certainty what “it” is, but we really can’t. We know it’s Jesus to some degree, but the moment we venture to say “Jesus hates gays,” He’ll be there drinking coffee with gay men and women the next morning. Whenever we so arrogantly say Jesus wouldn’t do this or that, He does it – not only to prove us wrong, but to spread His contagious love in spite of what we’re doing.

So what does Easter mean for the Christ-follower? Does it mean we have to amp up our knowledge of doctrines and Bible verses? Does it mean we have to constantly defend our theological beliefs? Does it mean we have to go on missions trips to convert the masses? Does it mean we have to commit ourselves to several Bible studies each week and attend multiple services every Sunday morning? Does it mean we have to become some sort of extreme Christians? It might… but I doubt it.

If you want to be a follower of Christ, then know this: You do not have to be excessive to be effective. Christ’s example from the Scriptures shows us that much. He sat with people, had meals with them, washed their feet, fed them, healed them – no matter the situation, He saw each individual’s unmet need. And He simply met that need.

And if you think this is something that can only be done by Jesus, then you’re entirely wrong:

“In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said in a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And the man sprang up and began to walk,” – Acts 14:8-10

Paul “intently” saw this man’s need and simply met it. What’s most important, though, is that Paul didn’t do this under his own power. He did this as a product of Christ being revealed to him. In other words, once Paul truly met Jesus, his world was changed, but so was the way he saw the world around him.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else,” – C.S. Lewis

Committing (or re-committing) to Christ need not begin with an extreme experience; His fire does not require fireworks, but rather a match – something small, but with incredible capabilities. Such a match-sized experience could be simply opening your home for a meal, bringing some blankets to those homeless fellows on the corner, or even something so little as asking a coworker how their day has gone. It’s casual, but intentional – not prone to backing off when things get uncomfortable, but rather seeing them through. If you ask someone how you can help them, be ready to help – whatever that may require.

Easter is the simply the day Jesus proved His casual, intentional nature of love could conquer all. We celebrate it not just because “it’s what Christians do,” but because it reminds us of what we’re supposed to do. It reminds us why we’re even here in the first place. The only question we have remaining is: Do we want to wait until sunset to do something with our lives or do want to take advantage of the light while we have it?

God bless.

Righteous Attire…

Easter Sunday, just like the Sunday before Christmas, has some of the nicest-dressed people. Shirts and ties, sundresses and sweaters, and even the occasional three-piece suit generally fill the sanctuary seats (or in my case this morning, bleachers) and give the guy in jeans and a t-shirt with a baseball hat (me) the impression that he’s a little underdressed. It’s like there was a memo sent to everyone that he didn’t get.

It used to kind of bug me a few years ago. It seemed to me that by dressing up really nicely, in our Sunday best, we were trying to make people think that God values our looks. I felt really bad for the people who didn’t have the money to afford the fancy clothes or anything more than jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies. I wondered how they must have felt amongst all the starched collars and perfumed fabric.

God does care about how we look, though. He does care that we aren’t walking around half – or even completely – naked. And, because it usually matters to our neighbors (especially roommates and spouses), He does care about our personal hygiene and hopes we’re taking showers every now and then. But whether we’re wearing the best-looking clothes or not, I don’t think it matters all that much.

Instead I think God cares about a different appearance. I think God cares more about our spiritual attire and what kind of character we reflect. To Him, it doesn’t matter what you wear, but rather Who you wear.

When Jesus left this world, when He died, He did so naked. “And they cast lots to divide his clothing,” Luke 23:34b. If He had entered the tomb naked, then I’d have to believe that He also left naked. And if He didn’t need clothes to conquer death, why should we care so much about what we wear on Easter Sunday – or any Sunday for that matter?

Please don’t take this too literally; it’s important that we all show up with clothes on every Sunday. Also, I understand the tradition of dressing nicely on the days we celebrate. But when our lives are considered in their entirety, when we evaluate all that we’ve done in this world, I’d have to think God would rather have us dressed in righteous attire – clothes that reflect who He is.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law,” – Galatians 5:22-23

Those are the sorts of things we ought to wear. According to Jesus, it’s how people know we’re His disciples (John 13:35).

I’m not saying it’s a sin to wear your best clothes; I golfed for several years – it’s fun to dress up once in a while. But when we do dress nicely, I think we should make sure we aren’t indirectly belittling our neighbor who can’t afford the fine clothing, or that we aren’t trying to be noticed by everyone, or that we aren’t wanting people to think we’re successful because we wear expensive clothes. After all, God defines success as quality of character; not quality of clothing.

A random post for Easter Sunday, I know. But I think it’s something that doesn’t get talked about all too often. I think a lot of people just assume that’s what you’re supposed to do when you go to church, but when you read Scripture – especially the red letters (Matthew 6:28-30) – you get the opposite message. Easter is about celebrating what Christ has done for us with our families (both biological and spiritual). It’s not about us being noticed by others, but rather others noticing Christ in us.

Happy Easter and God bless!

Inspiration behind this post:

Social Media and the Spoken Word…

Throughout this season of Lent, I’ve discovered just how socially inefficient I had become prior to taking a break from the social media world. Instead of calling or even texting someone to see how their day went, I’d write on their wall or find them on Facebook chat. Sometimes, but not always, I’d even Tweet them. When those platforms of communication were removed, however, I noticed just how difficult it is for me to be personal.

Several years ago I took a class on creative non-fiction writing. One of the elements we learned in that class was, after writing a piece of some kind, to ask ourselves what this particular piece cost us. What part of myself was exposed in this essay? What have I told the audience that I have never told anyone before? These questions measured how real we were with our audience. For me, being real in the written word is a thousand times easier than in the spoken word.

Facebook, Twitter, and even WordPress (to some degree) have all been avenues of communication that I’ve been able to channel my “realness” through. However, if someone were to ask about a certain “real” post I had written or Tweet I had sent or status update I’d given, I’d clam up. I’d struggle with the right words to say, the right tone to say them in, and with the overall information I’d wanted to share.

Being human often helps my writing ability. But my writing hobby – that is, the regular practice of sharing my deepest thoughts with the rest of the world – can actually interfere with my ability to be human. Why is that? Because when you’re being human, you don’t have the time to edit your work. You don’t have the power to delete something you’ve said or start the conversation all over again while your audience tries to forget what you said earlier. When you’re being human, you are your final draft as well as every other draft you’ve ever composed – even that random diner napkin you used to take notes on.

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned,” – Matthew 12:36-37

And yet, you can be held accountable for the words you don’t say. You can take this not-saying-the-wrong-words thing too far and not say anything at all. Sometimes being silent is the worst thing you can do. Jesus doesn’t advocate this, nor should we. What becomes enabled via an Internet-based social life is not being able to actually say the right words when real, human encounters occur – like when you randomly get called on in class for the answer to a question or when your best friend comes to say goodbye because he’s moving across country or when that girl you admire suddenly says, “You’re cute.” There are certain situations in life that necessitate a response with a spoken word. When social media becomes our entire social lives, we’re enabled to be disabled to speak.

Granted, this isn’t the case for everyone; many of my friends have no problem at all balancing lives with social media and in-person social interactions. If you’re one of them, I envy you a little. But even if you are, there are still moments wherein you can’t find the right words to say. For me, those moments used to happen every single day of my life. No, social media wasn’t the cause. No matter what I must take the full blame. But allowing myself to spend hours upon hours every day communicating via text (and yes, text messages do apply here – though they’re a little more personal than a Tweet or Facebook post) eventually led me to be unable to respond to important situations when it mattered most (even for mundane events like ordering a cup of coffee).

I’m not saying that I’m leaving the social media world. I don’t think I really could because there are far too many useful things about them; it would simply be stupid to disregard them entirely. But I’d have to say that God is challenging me in this area; He wants to create a more personable person in me. He wants me to be more socially active away from the hiding spots of Facebook, Twitter, and the like (even WordPress). No, I’m not supposed to treat them like they’re worthless; rather, I’m to treat them as they are: tools.

Many people – especially in the blogging world – have received therapy of sorts by being able to communicate to people around the world and share thoughts and feelings. I know that I have with the posts I write. But even those bloggers know that there must be a balance. With as fickle as the weather is, we never know when the power may go out. That means we might not be able to tell the world how we feel when we lose our dream job, a friend passes away, or when so many little things go wrong on the average day that we’re about to lose control…But you can talk about things – even when the power’s out. Believe it or not, your voice doesn’t require an Internet connection.

What am I telling the world, then (or at least my few readers)? I’m saying that even though Easter Sunday is coming, and with it the end of Lent, I still might not be on Facebook or Twitter for a while. In a way, I’m extending my fast so that I might be able to grow. Believe me: I miss sharing a thought publicly at random times throughout the day just to see how many “likes” or re-tweets I’d get. I certainly have felt cut off from the social world. But I think I need to grow and develop as a person. I believe God values one’s true character over one’s apparent character. And for me, that process does not require a laptop.

I’ll still be writing blog posts – in fact, I might even be writing more posts than usual. So if you’ve valued my written words to some degree, then don’t worry; they aren’t disappearing. But, if you have valued my written words, shoot me an email and let’s get coffee or tea or even a beer. I promise you my spoken words are not as eloquent, but they are far more genuine.

God bless.

The Empty Tomb…

“Serious Christianity begins when Jesus comes out of the tomb on Easter morning,” – N.T. Wright (borrowed from Near Emmaus’ post)

Since Holy Week has arrived, I’ve begun reading through the Gospel of Mark. I chose this gospel specifically because it contains a narrative structure which emphasizes the miraculous act of Jesus rising from the grave. Why do I think this? Because the original copy of Mark’s gospel ended with Mary Magdalene and Mary (Jesus’ mother?) encountering an angel at Jesus’ empty tomb and running away scared. No Great Commission. Just an empty tomb and an angel.

N.T. Wright hits it dead on the money: Christianity begins at the resurrection. Why? Because, in the ancient context, it was bizarre. It was an unbelievable story, but yet enough people believed back then that it thrives today – they even died because they believed this story. Mark’s ending to Jesus’ narrative causes the reader to wake up, go back to the beginning of the Gospel, and reread the entire story. The culmination of Jesus’ life wasn’t the cross; it was the empty tomb.

His empty tomb meant He wasn’t just another prisoner being publicly executed. Well then why was He executed? And thus the inquiring mind begins to seek out the truth around Jesus all because the story of the resurrection was told to them.

And yet we like to dwell on the cross as the center of Christianity. No doubt, it reveals quite a great deal about God, His love for humanity, and so on. But any experienced Christian will tell you that they didn’t become a Christian because they heard about Jesus’ death; they became a Christian because He rose from that death. Easter is not only about celebrating the remission of our sins – although that is a great thing to rejoice over. It’s about celebrating our King’s defeat of death. Or to put it even shorter: It’s about celebrating our King.

What exactly does it mean, though, to celebrate our King for His resurrection that Easter morning? Why is that a big deal? N.T. Wright writes in another of his works that Christ’s resurrected body is an allusion to our own future selves. What he means is, Jesus’ resurrection from the grave is foreshadowing our own transition into the completed life. No, I’m not talking about us rising from our bodies as pure spirits into heaven; I’m talking about our bodies being intertwined with our souls in such a way that, as John’s Gospel depicts, our spiritual and physical forms are one in the same. We will be completely and perfectly renewed.

It means our focus in this world isn’t about the things in this world: fame, money, possessions, or even the more desirable things like marriage, raising children, etc. Our focus in this life is beyond all those things, which in a strange way makes having those things all the more enjoyable. You’ll enjoy your friends more when you know and realize they aren’t what your life depends upon. Likewise, you’ll enjoy your marriage more when you know you can be content without it.

If our purpose in this world isn’t about the things within this world, then why do anything at all about anything? Why should I care about a world that God will simply resurrect and renew anyway? Well, for starters, because Jesus means to reign in this world, not just in some distant heavenly realm. Our bodies, our lives, and everything we do in this world matters. It all matters because it’s all a part of ushering in God’s kingdom. If Jesus says we will reap what we sow, then if we sow a bad seed by not taking care of our bodies, not working to care for our neighbors, not taking care of the environment (yeah, God cares for His creation, too), then in all likelihood we may not reap anything good from it.

My focus this week – what I aim to meditate and pray over – is the empty tomb and its meaning. I want to get a glimpse of what my purpose in the next world might be so that I can get started in this one. Jesus was beaten beyond recognition for ushering in God’s kingdom. There is a very serious message for those of us who believe Him to be a foreshadowing example for us to follow: We could be brutally murdered for believing all of this. But even with this serious warning there is a serious promise: There is life after it. And not just any life: life with the Author and Source of Life.

Death will reach everyone one of us, like it or not. What the empty tomb reveals about those who profess Jesus as Lord, God, and Savior, though, is that death does not have to be the end. It can merely be the transition from one life to the next. We must choose.

I’m sorry if I appear to be rambling; it is nearly one in the morning and I’m drained of energy. But I hope I’ve made my point clear: The Resurrection – the literal rising of Jesus’ dead and mutilated body into a renewed and perfected body – is a very serious matter to Christianity. It’s what caused a stir about Jesus, which caused many to reflect over His teachings and write them down. It’s what caused many to believe – even to their deaths – that Jesus was God’s Son. And it’s what has kept Christianity alive to today.

As the week rolls on, take some time to think/meditate over the resurrection’s meaning. And not just the “covered my sins” part, but also what’s beyond life in this world. Is living with God really going to be us just sitting around on clouds doing random little things or is it going to be something like a completely new adventure? Is God really going to cast our bodies aside and leave them beyond or is He going to bring them out of the grave, too? By what we have to go off of, I’d say it’s going to be a totally new kind of life with totally new kinds of bodies.

What does the resurrection mean to you?

Being Un-Plugged…

This is by far the longest I’ve gone without Facebook and Twitter. For the most part I’m loving life: I’m not glued to my phone checking Tweets and status updates, I have a ton of free time that I don’t know what to do with, and I’m getting a lot more reading done. One other thing that came to mind just the other day, though, is a major challenge that the absence of social networking sites presents.

As those of you who know me are aware, I’m not the most outgoing person. I can be candid and energetic at times, but more often than not I’m the quiet kid in any given group. A couple years ago became an actual problem; I was too distant. Whenever I’d be with a group of close friends, I’d find ways not to participate in conversations. Sometimes I’d open a book and start reading even though I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was reading. My most common move was to find somewhere off to the side, out of the way (and out of eyesight of most people), and sit there to browse Facebook. Even though I’d be surrounded by close friends, I was still seeking the attention of Facebook friends.

Being real with someone – talking about deep, serious stuff – is so easy online. You can edit what you say before you post, you don’t have to face the disgusted reactions of others if you happen to write something stupid, and you don’t even have to leave home. It’s safe. It’s convenient. But, as I’ve recently found, it’s lacking.

My lonely feelings of late are probably mostly due to the fact that I’m not involved with any church. But they’re also partially due to the fact that I received most of my social interactions via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Once those platforms were removed, I now have to do something that I don’t like doing: work. I have to go out of my way to call up friends to hang out. I have to inconvenience myself just to get any kind of social exercise with friends or family. I can’t hide behind my computer screen anymore; I have to send my friend requests face to face.

My lazy side is not looking forward to this. It means more time away from my books, my journals, my blog, or whatever else I like doing, and more scheduling my days just to meet with other people. But I think the long-term benefits are going to far outweigh the upfront costs. It’s like my trip to Cost Co. tonight: I spent $139, but (if I stick to my schedule) I won’t have to spend a dime for a month – maybe even two months.

My point is this: Lent, which is what started this Facebook/Twitter vacation, is not just about giving up something; it’s about meeting with people. It’s about investing in God’s kingdom, His body, His church. It’s about going through the nitty-gritty stuff like heart-to-heart conversations or face-to-face confrontations. It’s about learning how to mend previously broken or damaged relationships and friendships without any mediator. It’s about learning how to tell a girl – in your own words, with your own voice – that you love her.

On second thought, Lent is about giving up something. Not Facebook or Twitter. Not alcohol or tobacco. Not movies or TV. Not coffee or soda. Not cookies or cake. Not burritos or burgers. Lent is a focus on the heart of Christianity. Christ demanded that we give up our selves – that we deny “me.” And you give up your self when you serve someone else. Once you’ve done that, then you’ll find out what specific thing you need to sacrifice.

God bless.

Lent: Day One in the Books…

Every year there is a forty day season called Lent leading up to Easter. Colloquially, it’s a period when you give up certain, usually unnecessary things that take up a lot of your time. From what I’ve seen in the past couple of years, Facebook has been the number one thing given up for those partaking in Lent. I never thought I would be one of those people because I thought it somewhat impersonal to go along with everyone else to “sacrifice” something incredibly superficial. I just didn’t think God would really be pleased with me avoiding Facebook.

This year, however, I decided to give it a try. But, to be honest, it’s not just Facebook I’m giving up. Actually, of all the unnecessary things I do that evaporate my days, Facebook is lower on the list. Watching movies or TV shows takes the cake by far, but they’re closely followed by my Twitter time. All of these things I’m giving up for forty days not just to prove to myself that I can do it, but to learn how to do more productive things when I’m bored.

As is usually the case with publicly-declared commitments, the first day was the easiest. Instead of watching another three episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” – episodes I’ve already seen, mind you – I researched healthy meals that I could start cooking. Once I was done with that, I read several chapters of C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. And moments before I trekked over to Safeway to pick up some salad ingredients, a friend sent me a text to see if I wanted to hang out.

Before I knew it, I had prepared lunch for myself for the next three or four days, cooked tacos with Tyler, and got twice as much reading done as I normally might. Oh, and I also did some laundry in between all that. It’s safe to say that my boredom activities yesterday were way more productive.

What I’m more focused on, though, is what am I going to do when there’s nothing to do? If I’ve prepared all the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners I could possibly prepare or wash all the dirty clothes I could ever wash or do all the other necessary chores, what then will I do? You see, I don’t think the purpose of Lent is really to sacrifice one or two things simply to improve our productivity. I think it’s to get rid of our “easily-distracted” tendencies and return our complete focus onto God.

Over the past month and a half or so, one common theme has been rattling around my mind. On the Cross Training winter retreat back in January Darrin Ratcliff shared three messages out of the same chapter of Revelation. Every message dealt with the overall importance of worship, but focused specifically on various things. But what I came away with from that weekend was how in every thing I do or even think I can worship God.

It’s important here as it was in Darrin’s first message that weekend to highlight what it really means to worship. How it’s used throughout Scripture, it could mean serving, sacrificing, or laying prostrate before God. Or all of these meanings at the same time. Worship isn’t simply singing songs with other believers while some musicians play; it’s a constant, internal and/or external reverence of God.

A picture that comes to mind when I think of worship in this way is Matthew 17: 1-8:

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’

When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”

God’s presence in His nature is too much for us to handle. At the mere sound of His voice everything that we would be doing or saying in that moment would stop and we’d take cover. Now granted, Peter, James, and John were terrified of what they were hearing, but the picture given in this passage emphasizes what’s most important in our walks with God: reverence, submission, and acknowledgement of the Holy One.

As it ought to be every Lent season, this is my focus. And as I said before, it’s really easy starting out, but I believe that if I continue to focus on the purpose of fasting from certain things (removing all hindrances to commune with God), then Easter will come and go before I know it. And heck, I might even get to a point where I won’t miss Facebook, Twitter, TV, or movies. I might be more enthralled with Jesus.

God bless.

Be The Jesus…

It might be due to Easter weekend or the Easter season in general, or it might be something else, but for whatever reason, I’ve come across a lot of complaints about the church. “Church” as I mean it here is the global body of Christ; not the Catholic Church or the Protestant Church, but rather all those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ. Their complaints are mostly about the lack of authenticity, the lack of genuine love – the love of Jesus. And while I was pouring my coffee and milling over what I might possibly say in reply, I felt a strong conviction.

What I wanted to say to all those who complain about how the church isn’t operating as it was meant to is that if they notice such a problem, they should be the ones making an effort to change it. And in the very act of thinking those words, I realized I needed to hear that message just as much as anyone else. I complain about church politics and church hypocrisy more than anyone else, when I really think about it. I’m tired of the debates about inerrancy, salvation, or using drums during worship. I’m also tired of the common lust for material possessions and monetary gain I see rising up within Christianity. And I’m sick and tired of the increasing carelessness towards sexual purity. And while I constantly argue that others should do the work, I fail to realize that I, since I notice it, should also be one of the ones making a change.

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” Jesus says, “which is hypocrisy,” (Luke 12:1). “Take care,” He says later in Luke 12, “and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” (v. 15). Here I am noticing and being frustrated by the general pursuit of things and wealth within Christianity, and yet here I am partaking in it all, too. Here I am acquiring countless books – mostly because I want to read them all, but partially for the sake of just having them. I am the biggest hypocrite I know.

Gandhi has been famously quoted with, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but I believe he got it terribly wrong; a better saying is, “Be the Jesus you wish to see in the world.” I could wish for a number of things to change, but would they really benefit anyone else besides me? Probably not. But when we strain to be the Jesus we wish to see in the world, we align ourselves with a God-man who teaches us to renounce all that we have so we could be His disciples (Luke 14:33). It’s the only kind of change that would truly benefit all parties involved because Jesus would be the one making the change, not ourselves.

Even so, it takes commitment. It takes sacrifice. It takes a constant and genuine repetition of saying, “Not my will be done, Father, but yours,” (Luke 22:42). It takes a constant devotion to following Jesus. And what I’ve been hit with today is the realization that no one else ought to be the Jesus that I wish to see in the world; I should. I should be the one removing my Sunday smile and instead being authentic and real. I should be the one living generously with what I’ve been given. I should be the one doing everything possible to retain sexual purity. I should be the one straining to follow Christ as fervently and simply as possible in order to see the Christian culture begin to change.

It won’t happen over night; it’ll take my entire life.

And that’s the point.

God bless.