Christianity

Running on Empty

Social media is great, but because of the onslaught of information and news its so easy to become numb to it all.

And its not just the fact that its all there but the fact that you're expected to know what's going on at every moment–not to mention the irrational fear of missing out.

The real tragedy though I'm realizing is the fact that because of all the horrible news I'm not able to feel or empathize the way I want to.

These past few days have been crazy with the shooting of Christina Grimmie, the mass murder at the Pulse nightclub, and then this morning learning about a toddler being taken by an alligator at Disney World in front of his parents.

Its just too much and I don't have enough tears, emotions, or words for it all.

And that is just a drop in the bucket compared to what is going on in the rest of the world that I don't even know about.

I have to ask myself though, is it because I'm getting too much information or is it something else? How can I prevent the numbness? How can I empathize with everyone?

I can't.

But, I know someone who can.

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.”
— Psalm 58:6

And its not just that he knows and feels our sorrows, but that he is in the process of making everything sad come untrue. Because Jesus substituted himself for humanity there will be a day when there is no ugliness, no sin, no pain, no sorrow and no tears.

When I've reached my end of empathy and sorrow I can take comfort because there is one who's compassion is infinitely greater.

The Calling

A couple months ago I faced one of the hardest decisions of my life. If I followed through I would leave a church that I helped start with some amazing friends. I would have to say goodbye to a youth group full of the best students in the world that my wife and I led for almost 5 years. We would need move out of a small town community that we had involved ourselves in. I would need to tell my daughter she was going to a new school and would be leaving her friends. And I would be leaving full time job that I loved with awesome coworkers, paid well and had every opportunity for advancement.

I left all of this to be a pastor at Willow Creek Baptist Church.

Most would say I was crazy. But in that moment while being insanely difficult, the decision was also easy.

Why?

Because I know this is what I was meant to do.

I was called.

Traditionally throughout church history pastors have been identified in two ways. First through an internal call, which is the person's own desire to be a pastor and secondly through an external call which is the affirmation of those around him.

The apostle Paul in a letter to Timothy told him, "If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position."

This inward call was described by Martin Luther as “God’s voice heard by faith.” Charles Spurgeon described it as “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.” Basically those called sense a growing compulsion to preach and teach the Bible, and to minister to the people of God.

This is a compulsion I've had for a long time and while I've been able to dedicate part of my life and work to satisfy this desire I've always wanted to have the opportunity to take my passions, talents, and gifts and use them full time to work in a church.

Spurgeon famously warned those who asked his advice to avoid working in the ministry at all costs and to only continue if they could do nothing else. “If he cannot help it, and he must preach or die, then he is the man.”

I love to teach and preach and I desire nothing more than to communicate the Bible in ways that people can understand.

So with that the people at Willow Creek recognized my desire and affirmed the qualities for a pastor and asked me to join them.

I am so grateful for my brothers and sisters at Lakeside and you all have done so much to help me grow. I'm also grateful for the people at Copyblogger. You gave me an amazing gift of being able to do things I loved, have a ton of fun doing them all while being at home with my family.

I can't wait to see how this next chapter in my life unfolds.

Why The Bible on the History Channel Is So Popular

The History channel's mini-series The Bible has been immensely popular despite receiving generally poor reviews and has confounded the establishment as to why this is happening. I have a theory as to why the The Bible is so popular. People love hidden details and the use of "sanctified imagination."

I can't remember where I first heard the term "sanctified imagination", but growing up going to church I heard the stories of the Bible countless times and during many of those Sunday school lessons and sermons the teacher would give an educated guess as to some of the details left out of the stories. These imagined details were always tasty morsels of information because it seemed to give you an insiders point of view and it would often unlock the story as it let you see it in whole context as opposed to bits and pieces.

The Bible doesn't give us all the details. It doesn't tell us exactly what life was like on the ark for Noah and his family and doesn't tell us how God's angels interacted with the people of Sodom and Gomorra. So when someone else fills in these details it makes an already compelling story even better because who doesn't want to think that one of God's angels is a ninja?

When you have great stories re-told through cinema to our visual culture and you imagine in all the bits and pieces that are "missing" in the original text you have the formula for a great drama and ratings smash.

Like most things this can be good and bad and I believe we need to be careful when using "sanctified imagination."

Certainly there are details we can add into the Biblical accounts that we have learned from history and archeology. These are often insights into the culture which help us understand the author's intent thousands of years after the events happend. For example, when Paul is writing to the Philippian church about citizenship in heaven we can talk about how important Roman citizenship was and when we understand the importance of Roman citizenship to those people we understand God's grace in a deeper way when Paul says that his citizenship is in heaven.

But when we add in details and "imagine" up part of the story we run the risk of the imagined part capturing our attention more than the actual text. One example in particular stands out in my mind.

In John 8:1-11 religious leaders confront Jesus with a women who has been caught in adultery. They demand to know what Jesus thinks of this and if he will condemn her to death. Jesus doesn't say anything but instead stoops down and writes in the dirt. When he is finished he stands up and utters the famous phrase "let those of you without sin cast the first stone." And while the main message of the text is compassion and forgiveness that seemed to be lost on me because I remember the teacher telling us that he thought Jesus was writing down the sins those religious leaders had committed and that bit of information fascinated me. It fascinated me so much that all I could think of was that little detail and how cool it was that the teacher had brought that out.

So while I don't think using "sanctified imagination" is necessarily a bad thing as The Bible series has sparked many discussions in our family, we need to be careful to not add to Scripture in a way that draws our attention from it.