Friday, March 30, 2012

I Am Joe Fan

There are few things that get under my skin more than when there is a "news" piece on celebrities, whether its what they are doing, what they are wearing, where they are going, who they are divorcing, who they are marrying, who they are cheating on, what they are eating, what they aren't eating, what they are or aren't reading or watching, what they are owning and how they are "getting in touch with their roots."

It gets even worse when they do a piece on a specific person celebrity and say something like, "You know, she's just really high on life right now," or "He's just focusing on enjoying himself right now."

If you are having breakfast, join me in resolutely chewing slowly, so it still goes down. 

I'm not one of those people who don't like celebrities because of what they have vs. what I don't... I just think that their lives are, for the most part, a distraction from things that are more important. 

There are some things that are real, and some things that aren't.
There are some things that matter, and many things that do not. 
There are things last forever, and there are things that don't. 
A lot of times it's the don'ts that we see too easily.

This week at Mercy Hill, we're in Colossians 1:11... listening to Paul's desire for us... that we would be "...strengthened with all power according to His glorious might...", which on the surface looks as if it has nothing to do with celebrities. And maybe that's part of the point. 

We hear lots and lots about God strengthening us, God filling us with "the power of His Spirit", making us a way, getting us through, taking us somewhere and working in around and through us. And I utter many of these lines myself. I've taught with them, I've admonished with them, I've encouraged with them. I've whined over how much I can't stand this "Christian-eze" we speak. 

Let's be honest: somewhere deep down (or not so deep down), many of us at one time or another or many many times have wondered: where is all this power I keep hearing about? How real is this power and strength (that is supposedly mine) when the problems I am having, the goals there in front of me, the needs I am having are so very in my face?

And why is that whenever people try to explain to me God's Spirit and all the strength that is mine, I either walk away feeling like I've blown it somehow or that God is just leaving me out to dry?

Back to celebrities. 

This isn't really about celebrities. Don't think I am here to slam on you for that copy of People magazine in the basket by the TV. Celebrities just serve as a great illustration for how we get distracted by the dumbest of things. Not distraction in a confusion sort of way... but maybe more this: what draws my gaze? What sounds capture my ears? What momentum occupies my heart? 

Picture this: somewhere out there in the world, there is Joe Fan sitting there over a bowl of cereal directing their eyes, ears, minds, hearts and lifestyles towards the stars they see on the big screen, or on the field, or in the magazine... Joe Fan has that eager and fully consumed stare wondering about someone else's privileged life. 

He is a metaphor for anyone whose gaze has been pulled away in an unimportant direction. I'm on this list. You're probably on it too. For you, celebrities are most likely not the problem. I mean I say I am not distracted by them, but I am annoyed by the distraction over them, so I might in fact be distracted.


Maybe you, like me are simply distracted:
By how you physically or emotionally feel in the moment.
Or how little you feel. 
Or how much you think. 
Or how wounded you've been in the past.  
Or maybe you are distracted by the details. 
Or by all your fears.
Or by all your accomplishments and how strong you think you are.
Or maybe you are occupied by the thought of what people think. 
Or maybe you are overwhelmed by desire. Or lust. Or anger. 
Or maybe you just simply believe that you deserve whatever. 

Nearly all the time I need to be reminded: that in contrast to the big story of God saving the universe, up against the backdrop of this God-Man-Savior-part of the Trinity and what He's done for me personally and for everyone who ever lived... I am often like Joe Fan. The attention of my eyes, ears, my heart is easily drawn away from what is real and what is happening around me. 

Very practically. 
And so.

I misunderstand the unexpected ways that He strengthens me. 
I don't see the doors that the power of God opens for me. 
I ignore the sometimes obvious ways His Spirit guides me. 

Our lives are altogether spiritual. So it stands to reason that when the tangible is happening, whipping out the tangible toolbox of tricks that we've always used will only get us to the places we've already been. Which begs some questions:

Has my spiritual life up to this point been nothing more than calling on and waiting for God to fix me, wondering why He doesn't fix me, being wounded because He doesn't fix me? Then maybe it's time to see more spiritually than this. 

Has my spiritual life up to this point been nothing more than seeing the things that I own, have, accomplish, or make for myself as the results of God's power? Then maybe it's time to see more spiritually than this. 

Has my spiritual life up to this point been nothing more than feeling good, cool or blessed by a 75 minute session on Sunday, and then filling my life with everything tangible I can get my hands on, and then calling it God's grace? Then maybe its time I see more spiritually than this. 

Once again, our lives are altogether spiritual. Let's spend some on this at Mercy Hill. 

We can be strengthened by God. 
We can be empowered by Him (though I still cringe when I hear Christian-ese). 
We can be guided by His Spirit living in us. 
We can see. 
We can hear. 
We can sense and live in, through and from Him. 
Not perfectly, but that's the point. 

We're all going to get distracted. 

Even by the celebrities. 

"And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." - Colossians 1:10-13

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Lot Like Me

Proctor & Gamble spent a whole lot of dough and a whole lot of time creating Febreze. Just ask Wikipedia. I mean, it says it there on the internet, so I believe it. And now I'm sharing it with you on the internet, so quite honestly, its that much more believable.


We all know it as this glowing success, because most of us have it in our homes, and at bare minimum, when we are honest in front of ourselves we at least know someone who should have it in their homes, right?

It removes odors, and not just by masking them, but by making them go away. These days it has a very specific scent that we all know and can identify to the product. That smell wasn't originally a part of the product though. It simply removed odors... nothing more.

So when it first came out, it was a massive failure. Sales, "started small and got smaller" (Charles Duhigg).

Which is weird if you think about it. I mean we all have smells in our homes we want to get rid of. Who wouldn't want a product that takes away unwanted smells at the source? Who wouldn't want to stop being plagued by unwanted smells.


Well, except for those who get used to their unwanted smells.

Which is everyone. Most people get used to their own bad smells.

They no longer realize they are there after a period of time. Febreze wasn't selling because there was nothing drawing them to the product other than the fact that it got rid of smells most people don't realize are there. It's one thing to buy a can of Glade for the bathroom for temporary moments of stinky... its a different thing to buy a more expensive deodorizer for a long-term resident smell we don't realize is there.

Sometimes we lose track of our own aromas.

In many places in Leviticus, God explains through Moses how His people are to make offerings to God, identifying themselves as set apart for Him... and they receive many very specific instructions on a series of rituals through which they can do this.

And at the end of many of these instructions, there is this term: "It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD."

It doesn't mean God likes the smell of bacon. I mean maybe He does, and if I, being someone who really really likes the smell of bacon, was made in His image, then it stands to reason...

I digress. Again.

Honestly God likes the smell of us placing Him first in our hearts and letting it practically change who we are and how we do our literal every day.

Keep this in mind.

Later in the Bible, we see Paul draw from this and explain that even though Jesus has now died and risen for our sin and brokenness, to still make an offering or who we are... by saying in Romans 12:1 that we are to "...offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God..."

Though our salvation is not at risk, our eternal security is sealed, God still desires for us to take and run with the spirit of sacrifice for Him by the way we do life, without all the burning of animals, fat etc on the grill.

Though that is a thoroughly enjoyable smell.

Now check out what it says in 2 Corinthians 2:15: "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing."

God desires for us to be the smell of Christ to the living and the dying. I'm going to take a wild stab at assuming that means everyone.

It is hard for me to picture myself being the smell of Jesus for anyone, because I usually just smell a lot like a dab of Patchouli, my lavender bar soap and some deodorant.

And anger.
And maybe insecurity.
And maybe some jealousy.
Or a touch of wickedness.
Or maybe greed. Impatience.
Or straight up selfishness.

At Mercy Hill, we're slowly going through Colossians 1, and this week we find ourselves at the beginning of verse 10: "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord..."

There is no way for anyone to word-smith their way out of it. As a follower of Jesus, there is a demand on your life. A confrontation, if you will. For you. For me. To live a life worthy of the Lord. I don't know any other way of putting it.

He wants all of you.

And all of me.

And this is no small task... which is why Paul is praying for them. Not only is it because it is critical, but because we desperately need the help of God in giving Him all of ourselves.

So the question that I wish I had a friendly way of asking myself or you, is this: What do you smell like on a spiritual level? What do I smell like? Am I an aroma pleasing to the Lord? Am I the smell of Christ to the living and the dying, or have I simply been around myself long enough to not realize that I simply smell a lot like... well, me?

More to come. See you at Mercy Hill.