Archives For November 2017

4 Days Dead

Mike —  November 15, 2017 — Leave a comment

Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.

~ Paul to the church in First Century Rome

A few weeks ago, I found myself standing on a stage with a mic strapped to my face, speaking for chapel at NCC. As a soon to graduate NCC student 20 years earlier, this was barely an event that would have crossed my mind. As a high school kid a few years before that, it would have been a terrifying prospect had that eventuality sparked in the synapses of the younger me. I was petrified of speaking in public and it was the last thing I ever wanted to do. (Speeches in class were the bane of my high school existence – even at the hands of my favorite teacher.) It just would not have occurred to me that I would willingly place myself in front of a room full of people and try to communicate a message to them, let alone one as important as expounding on an Apostle’s message delivered on behalf of Christ to some of His first followers.

Incidentally, my oldest daughter was also in the room. She can see herself on the stage. She’s probably got a piano in front of her, but she can already see herself leading God’s people in musical prayer and celebration of His greatness. It’s all she really wants to do – which is why she’s on the path to enrolling there next year in the worship arts program! A former student who just graduated from that same program was there, too, leading the body to express our admiration and praise to the God who has incredibly blessed us all. It was quite a mix of nostalgia and anticipation as my past (both recent and distant), present, and future all swirled in my mind and heart like an echoing bell reverberating over and over through the landscape of my life.

Whoah. That was a little overdramatic. Sorry.

I can get carried away when it comes to the transformation that has happened in my life over the past 25 years or so. I am not who I once was because I have done as Paul instructed and God has built something different out of the pieces I returned to Him. That’s what I talked about in chapel. I have a suspicion that at least some of the students are a little uncertain as they still cling to bits and pieces of self. I suspect, like me, that they have their hearts set in the right direction and genuinely want to do whatever work God has planned for them… but they’re not quite sure they can handle it. Maybe you’re there, too. If that’s the case, let me reassure you – you’re right. You can’t handle it.

That’s why He calls us to offer ourselves (with all our inefficiencies and brokenness) to Him “as those who have been brought from death to life.” We offer ourselves to the Creator Craftsman who knows just what we’re here for and exactly how to re-shape us so that His life giving image can once again be seen in us. So just how do “those who’ve been brought from death to life” offer themselves to God?

  • With Confidence – There is no longer any fear of death. He’s been there and knocked death’s teeth out. “Where O Death is your victory?”
  • With Consistency – We have a constant reminder of who “orders our steps.” We are free to choose whatever steps we want to take, but only some of those steps will keep us on the path He’s intended and prepared for us. So we give ourselves to Him consistently with every choice we make.
  • With Clarity – We know the stakes are high. We are not made for only here and now – we are made for something more. So we give ourselves to Him knowing this moment will give way to eternity.

Jesus’ friend Lazarus is a great picture for us. Literally brought back from death, he answered Jesus and came out of the grave! He was 4 days dead when Jesus told him to come back. I think a lot of us are “4 days dead” – not really engaged in the vibrant life of someone fully living with the Breath of God within us. Lacking clarity, consistency, and confidence, we pad along through lives that are scarcely more than grave-tending. Just waiting… Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just me…

But if you’ve been 4 days dead for far too long, it’s time to take off the grave clothes, take a shower, and deliver life to the dying around us.

How do those who’ve been brought from death to life offer themselves to God? COMPLETELY

The Vanishing American Adult

Mike —  November 8, 2017 — Leave a comment

I don’t usually dig into political debate, and I don’t intend to here, but I recently read The Vanishing American Adult from Senator Ben Sasse. It’s telling that I felt it necessary to preface this post with a bit of a disclaimer, isn’t it? We really need to do a better job of hearing the dissenting voices around us rather than just snapping on the noise canceling headphones and climbing into the echo chambers that repeat to us exactly what we want to hear. That’s not to say that Sasse is, for me, a voice of dissent or an echo chamber, but rather that many will fail to grasp what he says simply because he is a Senator, a conservative, or a Republican. They’ll think he must be writing from a particular viewpoint that they already know they are against, and so, will not hear clearly through the muck of pre-formed opinions based on what particular label they assign to him.

One of the things I appreciated about the book was Sasse’s ability to seek and to share genuine understanding of opposing positions. It’s a refreshingly adult way to approach differences, which gets to the heart of what the book is about in the first place: raising adults. How can we better prepare the next generation to face the rigors of life? We have not been doing a great job at this and Sasse offers hopeful paths toward a better way for parents, teachers, coaches… for American society to equip the next generation of citizens to be more than self-absorbed consumers.

We are going to need America’s children to rise to their best in the years to come, because a nation of adult-children cannot be a nation of self-governing people…

A republic is the only form of government, the only social arrangement, that seeks to make individuals preeminent in their own self-control, their own self-possession. A republic is thus at once liberating and scary. For it both requires and assumes adults, not subjects. And this is a rare state of affairs in political history.

– Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult

Having worked with youth for the last 20 years, I see so many lights of hope in the next generation. But we need to do a better job of helping our young people toughen up enough to hold on to their hope when life gets difficult. Self-reliance doesn’t just happen by accident. It happens when we walk with our kids through a process of teaching, mentoring, and coaching them to set aside the drive for instant gratification and remain determined to progress in a certain direction. Sasse offers some helpful guidance about how we can do this via real education, travel, meaningful work, and a host of other life long learning practices.

If you have a stake in the success of the future generations of Americans (we all do), you’ll find much to appreciate in this book.