Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Are We Sharing Stains?

It was a typical morning of getting the girls dressed, fed, packed and ready for school. In the rush of our morning rituals, we somehow all ended up in Kenzie's room. Kenzie was picking out her clothes for the day when the conversation steered to Dad's ineptness at putting up their clothes. Apparently, I made the grievous error of placing a few of Kenzie's tights in Mady's closet. As the arrows were flying across the room from my beautiful daughters toward their stereotypical father who doesn't pay attention to whose clothes are whose, I made the small suggestion that the girls share clothes. Mady, my 12 almost 13 year old, was not having any of that. She said emphatically in a matter of a fact tone, "No, no, no, no, no. We are not sharing clothes and we are not sharing stains." It was quite a humorous moment in the midst of our morning chaos.

Kenzie takes after her Dad. Sometimes, she misses her mouth and ends up with a food stain on her shirt. Mady wanted no part of Kenzie's stains. As the morning continued, I thought a lot about that. The question came to mind, "Are we sharing stains?"

Stain means "to leave a mark on something." In the Audacity of Everything age we live, we are constantly being stained with offense. Are we sharing stains? Are we sharing those offenses? Basically, are we tainting someone else's view of a person or situation based on our perceived offense?

It is like a classic scene from a movie or T.V. show, someone throws food across the cafeteria
staining the clothes of an unsuspecting student. Then, the retaliation happens. Food is hurled violently toward the offending party. Still frustrated with the situation, the stained party turns and hurls tuna surprise in the direction of their close friends who have been laughing at their plight of green peas and potatoes oozing down their shirt. Pretty soon, lasagna and bologna are flying across the cafeteria in all directions. Everyone leaves stained.

When we are offended, do we turn around and stain an innocent party? Do we retaliate and stain someone else? The Bible teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Leviticus 19:18 (NIV) reads, " “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people,but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." We need to love our neighbor by not seeking revenge and not holding a grudge. We should love our neighbor by not sharing stains.

How should we respond then? Jesus taught us how to respond in Luke 6. 

Luke 6:27-31 (NIV) "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

So, the next time someone offends us, let's not share our stains. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Audacity of Everything

Audacity is a funny word. It is not a word we use on a day to day basis. It is only reserved for those special occasions when we really want to emphasize a point about an event, group or individual.

Audacity is defined as "a confident and daring quality that is often seen as shocking or rude." A person who is audacious is one who has qualities that come off as shocking or rude. We make statements like "Can you believe the audacity of them?" The boldness of an individual, belief system or decision causes others to react based on what they see, hear and perceive.

America is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode over a topic in a matter of milliseconds. In the last 48 hours, we have seen followers of Christ get upset over a red cup. "The Audacity of Starbucks for making their cup red with no reference to Christ." The flip side occurs as well. "The audacity of church people for getting up in arms about a cup from Starbucks when there are orphans to take care of and people who are lost."

Our culture has become easily offended by anything and everything. Social media has given us instant access to express our opinion (whether it is right or not) and gain public support in a matter of seconds. We are living in the age of "The Audacity of Everything." Everything can be deemed shocking or rude. This blog, your last tweet, a look from a co-worker, etc. It all has the potential to offend because we are easily offended.

What happened to being able to dialogue on different subjects without worrying about the backlash? Where is our civility? Where is our love and compassion? Where is our mercy? We need to learn how to handle offense again.

How do we handle offense in "The Audacity of Everything" age?

1. Check Your Heart - Why are we easily offended? Is it because the offender made us see something in ourselves that we don't like? What caused us to react to something a certain way? Answer these questions and you may find the offense is inside of you and not with the perceived offender.

2. Go Private Before You Go Public - In "The Audacity of Everything" age, we are quick to tweet or post our grievance before we ever talk to the person, group or company we feel slighted us. Jesus in the book of Matthew gives us a great example of how to handle conflict. Matthew 18:15-16 (NLT) states, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses." As believers, we should go in private to the person, group or company. We may find that it was misunderstanding or something that can easily be fixed.
3. If all other options are exhausted, then go public. If the person, individual or company still refuses to listen, then you may have no other choice. Matthew 18:17 (NLT) states, "If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector." If we have no other choice, then go public. However, we still have a responsibility to do this in the right spirit. We should never get personal enjoyment out of taken our offense public. In fact, it should grieve us. It should break our heart to have to take an offense public.

If you would like to read more on this subject, a great resource is "The Bait of Satan" by John Bevere.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why I Decided We Wouldn't Host A Halloween Alternative Event

For the past 20 years, I have served some great churches. As far as I can remember back, my Halloween nights were devoted to Halloween alternative events. Fall Festivals, Trunk or Treats, Hell House, etc. You name it....we've been a part of it. Who doesn't love a good cake walk and bounce house? 

Several years ago, I was challenge by a blog I read by my friend, Brian Dollar. It really made me think about the purpose of Halloween Alternative Events and the effectiveness of them as a church. We spent a lot of money on Hot Dogs, Candy, Inflatables and more. Not to mention all the volunteer hours to pull off an event like that. In fact, one year we did a Hell House and Trunk or Treat on the same night. Every year, we would invite those guests attending our event back to our services. We saw little to no return. It hit me. Most of the people who were coming to our event were making the rounds to every trunk or treat and fall festival in town. They were great events for our church family and I'm not bashing the leadership for making the decision to host such an event. In fact, I always enjoyed the event. Although they were a lot of work, they were tons of fun. Even if no one came and connected to the church because of the event, it was an incredible party for our church family with free candy and games. We were able to spend time connecting with our people in our church and there is nothing wrong with that. 

When we moved to Sulphur Springs, someone told me that the neighborhood we moved into was the hot bed for Trick or Treaters on Halloween night. I admit I was skeptical. I was really skeptical last year when I was sitting on my front porch at 6:00 pm and there were just two groups of trick or treaters that I could see. By 6:30 pm though, our neighborhood was packed. Our street was a traffic jam. We made up over 400 bags of candy with invite cards in them and passed them out. 

This year, I decided to get enough candy for 500 trick or treaters. I got nervous when I ran into a neighbor and she told me last year was "a down year." I grabbed another bag of candy. This year, I was on my front porch from 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm with a steady stream of trick or treaters. We passed out candy to over 550. 

While Fall Festivals and Trunk or Treat type events are great in some locations, they are not right for me here. All of this can be summed up to three reasons why I decided not to do a Halloween Alternative Event. 

  1. The Community is already coming to my front door. We didn't need inflatables or free food to attract them. They just showed up. We will redeem the strategic location of my house and use it as an outreach hub on Halloween night. We are already thinking about passing out bottled water to parents next year. 
  2. Our Community is already saturated with Halloween Alternative Events. Several churches are already doing quality events and anything we did would be in competition. Basically, we would get the same people who are hitting all the festivals and probably already coming to my front door.
  3. We are called to be salt and light. On the darkness night in the world, I want to be a light to my neighbors
There are a lot of great events out there. There are people who are called to put them on and they are effective events. Just because another church does it doesn't mean we need to as well. Whatever you choose to do on Halloween, redeem the day! Be salt and light in your community!