Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
Sign up to receive blog posts via email and receive a free eBook!

Ten

braun-wedding

To be honest, I was still surprised she said yes as I stood there.

Ten years feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago, at the same time. Where did the time go? Yet everything has changed. Well, everything other than us still looking like we’re 18 years old.

She’s walked with me through a drastic career change, just 5 months into our brand new marriage.

She’s worked 3 separate jobs to help us make ends meet when I was between jobs.

wedding-picture1

All throughout dating and engagement, I promised her a lavish life, a large home, world travels—all the things I knew would come in my desired line of work. But I gave it up, knowing it would be the end of me if I kept with it. Not once has she ever complained that she went from my promised lifestyle of grandeur, to the life of a pastor’s wife.

wedding-picture2

Just as soon as she had established herself at a great job, using her advanced degree, I moved her to one of two places I told her I’d never live. While we didn’t have to say goodbye in totality, she had to leave behind everything she had known for our entire marriage, to go where I wanted to go.

From her I’ve learned how to put people first. I’ve learned that sometimes you throw away the plan. I’ve learned to “live a little” as she told me over and over while we were dating. There is no question, she’s the best thing that has ever happened to me—God’s grace in human form.

To be honest, I’m still surprised she said yes.

wedding3

1/6/07-1/6/17

Here’s to 10 more.

  • Share on Tumblr

Looking in the High Places

nativity-gari-melchers

Leading up to the time of Jesus, the nation of Israel had their eyes fixated toward the coming Messiah. He would be the one to loosen to chains of Roman rule, leading a revolution toward freedom and power for God’s people.

The Jewish people would read and study texts such as Isaiah 10 and 11 and come to an understanding that the Messiah would be a man of great nobility, of political and military prowess, and he would fight for God’s people. Several men did lead the Jewish people in victory and quickly they would gain a following: “This must be the man long foretold,” the people would think.

One of these men was named Judas Maccabeus, who led the Israelites in revolt a few hundred years before the birth of Christ. Through various battles, he led the Jewish people in taking back the Temple in Jerusalem from a foreign power. His victories led to the yearly Jewish holiday we know today as Hanukkah.

But alas, with Judas Maccabeus and several other men who gained a following, their success would wane, and the search for the Messiah would begin anew.

In this hot pursuit for a Savior, the Israelites totally missed it. They were looking in all the wrong places.

No, the Messiah was not a man of great nobility, or a man of political and military prowess.

The Messiah, God Incarnate, came down as a baby, the most helpless, needy state a human being can be.

He was born in Bethlehem, a town of zero prominence.

He was born in a stable, surrounded by the smoke of a fire, and the manure of cows.

Shortly after His birth, our Lord became a refugee, rejected by the powers that be.

Isaiah 53 prophesies about the Messiah, saying: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” While this text is often associated with the crucifixion of Christ, it just as well applies to His birth.

Everyone was busy looking for the Messiah in the high places of society, and God sent him down into the dirt, a place with which he would become familiar during his earthly ministry. While everyone was looking toward a place of prominence for the Messiah, God sent him into obscurity.

Throughout the Old Testament there’s a theme of God’s people going to “the high places” in search for God’s presence. At one point, the people built the Tower of Babel, believing it was the high places where God can be found.

Too often we’re busy looking for Him in the obvious places, desiring to find Him in the headlines, and for Him to raise us up to prominence as well. But the truth is God desires the back pages, in obscurity, where only the faithful servant can find Him.

For those who seek to find Him, this is good news, because God sits with you. He sits with the rejected, the overlooked, and the sinner. More than the feeling of nostalgia or the warmth of a gift exchange, Christmas is the story of Good News where God chooses to come as weak and lowly, extending a hand toward those who need a lift.

So, let’s be like the shepherds and the wise men, who saw past the allure of power and prominence and found God in rejected obscurity.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year friends! I’ll be back in 2017. -Tyler

[Image: Gari Melchers]

  • Share on Tumblr

Why I Wore a Safety Pin During My Sermon Last Sunday

img_1043

This past Sunday I wore a safety pin during my sermon at my fairly conservative, mostly white, evangelical church. I share those details because approximately 81% of people in that demographic of Americans voted for Donald Trump (though, here’s a well-informed read on why that number is very misleading).

Those of you who have been around this space over the past year know I’ve been decidedly against the Christian evangelical support of Trump (HERE and HERE and HERE, mostly notably).

I lamented to my wife on election night that in 4 years I would need to explain to our then 6-year-old daughter how Americans could have chosen Trump to lead them. The things he’s said about women are disgusting at best, and probably don’t make a list of the worst things he’s said or done. I’m no closer to being able to explain that to my daughter today than I was a week ago.

So why wear a safety pin? Trump has been elected. Time to move on and give him my full support, many have said.

What’s the Safety Pin For?

Before I share my reasons, here’s some background on how this whole safety pin thing started.

The safety pin movement started following Brexit, as a way to declare to refugees and immigrants that they did not need to live in fear around those wearing the pins. The New York Times summarized safety pin accessory wearing by saying, “Groups of people across America are attaching safety pins to their lapels, shirts and dresses to signify that they are linked, willing to stand up for the vulnerable.”

My wife Rose had a client of hers share her fear of the coming Trump Presidency, not because she feared him persay—she had fear for the normalization of what he stood for throughout this campaign. He has spoken in such disparaging terms about some of the most vulnerable groups in society: people of color, immigrants, women, people with special needs, to name a few. This particular client of Rose’s finds herself in one of those vulnerable groups of our society.

Sticking it to Trump Supporters?

After hearing of Rose’s client’s fear I decided to wear the pin. What if this woman showed up to my church on Sunday, thinking that people like me stand with Trump on everything? I could not stand for that.

Those of you who know me well know that I am not a “do something to make a point” guy. I drive a boring car. I wear boring clothes. So I waffled about this, knowing some would see the pin and think I was just trying to cause a commotion.

I shared the idea with some friends ahead of time, and one wisely asked, are you doing this to stick it to Trump supporters? While I disagree with supporting Trump, I came to the decision to wear the pin because I believed I was standing up for the vulnerable, not trying to stick it to any particular person or group.

Validation and Normalization

In order for common ground to be found, even the person who leans toward the conservative side of governance (as I do) must point out when it is in error. My worry is that by Trump winning, many will believe it validates his methods and messages.

When asked if Trump wishes he could take back any of his campaign blunders he responded by saying, “I won.” Normalizing hate of people groups does not advance a society. If the KKK celebrates your victory, it should bring pause, not validation.

Wearing a safety pin (for me) was not standing on the left, sticking it to those on the right. I wore a safety pin to say there’s something wrong with normalizing the kind of behavior and rhetoric the President-elect has led with, and he does not speak for me.

As I said two weeks ago, the way forward for our society is by humanizing “the other” instead of dismissing them. Certainly many have sought to divide in recent days, and while I recognize my safety pin wearing could be seen as divisive by some, I hope it brings about a helpful conversation while discouraging the normalization of hate-filled speech of any person or group.

To the Trump Supporter: Please choose to value those who feel like their voice has been diminished in this election. Don’t let political activism get in the way of Christian mission.

To the Trump Opposer: Don’t just wear a pin, anyone can be a slacktivist. Listen to those who voted for Trump. They aren’t the evil you might assume.

  • Share on Tumblr

But Now What?

but now what? bridge water

November 9th is coming quickly. This disaster of an election cycle will be over soon, leaving us with the duty of picking up the pieces. Soon the question will no longer be “who?” and it will become “but now what?”

 —

Last week I grabbed lunch with a church member nearly twice my age. He invited me. Turned out he wanted to talk about some controversial subjects, and once the topic was established I was ready to spout my truth.

Not long before that, a young man, a few years younger than me, visited my church looking for a group of people his age to meet with. While my church has plenty of people around his age, there are no established groups for people only his age.

I explained to him our focus on being an intergenerational church, and with that in mind, we won’t have groups for one specific age range. He didn’t come back.

I think this highlights the issues that came up throughout this election cycle, as well the issues I see around me, and probably most important, the issues I see in me. What are those issues?

We (and when I say we, I am primarily thinking of me) do not value those who are different from us, so we easily diminish them in the process. And when we can easily devalue and diminish those not like us, we no longer feel a need to be decent and charitable to them.

With this in mind, I think the issue continually pressing on American society, and beyond it as well, is a gospel issue. We choose not to value those unlike us, while worshiping a God who gave up everything to be near those unlike Himself. The question that must be asked is simply:

How can Christians live out the Gospel in a way that helps our society move toward civility rather than its current contentious climate?

The Other

I have a particular perspective when it comes to various issues relating to society as a whole. My perspective is largely a summation of my beliefs, experiences, and relationships. But my perspective is not necessarily the right perspective in every instance.

For the sake of simplicity I’ll call those unlike myself “the other.” They are the people who I quickly dismiss, in either a general sense or in many instances, a specific sense. Today, the other is discarded flippantly.

Rather than engaging with, or listening to the other, we give into fear. “What if people like them had power?” Rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt, we assume the worst. “They are a big part of the problem.”

What if we made the choice to humanize the other? What if we listened before we assumed? What if we sought out those unlike ourselves for the sake of knowing them?

Fear and assumption lead only to division, humanizing leads to charity.

For God, we are the other. We are unlike He is. Yet he humanized us in the fullest sense. God hears our prayers. God sought us out.

Common Grace

The other piece to this puzzle of civility in public life is seen in common grace. In many conservative circles, common grace is a frowned upon term, seen as a way to promote a progressive agenda. But what is common grace?

Here’s Theopedia’s take on the term:

Common Grace refers to the grace of God that is common to all humankind. It is “common” because its benefits are experienced by the whole human race without distinction between one person and another, believers or unbelievers. It is “grace” because it is undeserved and sovereignly bestowed by God.

What does this have to do with the divisions we see in society? Well, everything.

Common grace teaches that the other—the person despised by your preferred cable news network—has received a touch of grace from God without having accepted that God exists or believing that He provides a Lord and Savior for their lives.

All people bear the image of God, and therefore, contain a picture of grace in and other themselves by merely existing. Rather than simply dismissing them, we can choose to see grace and offer grace as well.

If I’m being totally honest, I’ve never been as discouraged about the future of Christian faith in my home country than I have been the last 6 months. This election has brought out the worst in Christians living in America.

But even as I say that, I still believe the best days are ahead. I do not say that flippantly. I say that because I believe we can experience civility instead of division. But it will only happen if we choose to give grace to those unlike ourselves.

If you’re interested in more on this subject I’d commend to you a recent event in New York City titled “Civility in the Public Square.” You can watch the video of this event here.

  • Share on Tumblr

The Christian and Marijuana Use

In recent years marijuana has been legalized in a handful of states, including my own home state, Oregon. In a few weeks the state of California will likely legalize marijuana, continuing the trajectory toward universal legalization of the drug around the United States.

For nearly all of my lifetime, the question of whether a Christian should use marijuana for any reason was an easy answer: no. No, because it broke the law outside of some allowances for “medical” purposes available in some states. Today this question is more convoluted. Now marijuana is legally available to nearly every adult for medical or recreational purposes, but does that mean the Christian should take part?

Cannabis Dispensary near My House

Cannabis Dispensary near My House

What is Marijuana?

To get a clearer picture of marijuana use for the Christian we must understand what it is first. If you want a longer answer, check out this helpful video below or read this article which I found very informative:

A shorter summary of marijuana is that it is a plant named Cannabis. The term “marijuana” is the unprocessed use of the entire Cannabis plant and its extracts. When people refer to “medical marijuana” they are referring to studies that have shown some medicinal benefits from marijuana use, but these benefits have not been recognized by the FDA or given support through extensive medical studies.

In other words, there is no difference between the use of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, the whole unprocessed Cannabis plant is used in both instances.

The FDA has approved the medicinal use of two compounds from the Cannabis plant. One helps with patients struggling with nausea, the other helps increase the appetite for patients who aren’t eating enough.

How Does Marijuana Work?

In referring to marijuana here, again I’m referring to the whole unprocessed cannabis plant, not it’s various compounds, some of which have been used for prescribed medicinal purposes.

The two main functions of marijuana in the brain are: 1) an increase in dopamine (feeling of pleasure) and  2) a decrease in motor control firing.

The combination of these reactions creates a few short-term effects: memory loss, diminished problem-solving skills, motor coordination loss, increased heart rate.

Many of the medical marijuana users believe it helps with pain relief, but various studies have shown that the drug helps you cope with pain while not diminishing pain intensity. Because of this, the American Medical Association says, “Under federal law, marijuana has no currently accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse.”

Maybe most troubling in all this is that marijuana use has shown to do irrevocable brain damage to developing brains. Couple this with our knowledge that brains continue to develop in people into their mid-twenties, and you can see the danger.

A Conclusion, of Sorts

So what kind of conclusions can we make for the Christian and marijuana use? The Bible encourages Christian believers not to enslave themselves to anything (2nd Peter 2:19). In many places the Bible encourages the Christian to be of sober mind, ready and alert.

Does this mean the Christian should never take an addictive chemical substance? No. The Bible does not prohibit all recreational uses of alcohol, after all.

While taking part in alcohol use or marijuana use to the point of drunkenness is clearly a sinful act, can a Christian believer take part in a small dosage of marijuana without sinning? It’s difficult to compare two completely different substances and their separate side effects, but there’s ample proof that moderation of marijuana is difficult because the drug is so palpable, only a few puffs are needed to produce its effects.

But really the question must go deeper than whether it produces drunkenness quickly or not. Ultimately the sinful use of marijuana will be found in wrong motivation for using the drug, not is encountering its side effects. It is the intent of marijuana use that should often determine its viability, not its side effects.

Can a person take part in a little marijuana use without entering into a sinful “drunkenness” stage? Possibly.

Would I consider this wise? No.

Why? Because marijuana use typically embraces an escapist mentality, and because even a few puffs could produce an addiction to the dopamine release side effect.

As with many areas of life, you must determine whether your decisions are violating God’s desires as stated in His Word. Certainly I have not closed the case on this issue, but hopefully this provides a better foundation for you in navigating it.

Some questions to ask yourself in regards to marijuana use:

Is my medical use of marijuana forming an addiction? Is it providing any actual medicinal benefits? Am I merely taking advantage of the system in place so I can use this drug?

Am I partaking in this drug with an escapist mentality?

Am I being enslaved to this drug even for a few moments?

Am I susceptible to abusing this drug by partaking right now?

  • Share on Tumblr

“Thank God for Innovation”

hillsong-conference-nyc-2013

Last week at the Catalyst Conference, Brian Houston, who heads Hillsong Church, referenced a couple popular songs written by his church. Each of these songs is either not sung or rarely sung by their church today. Here’s the quote:

You may be shocked to hear we don’t sing Shout to the Lord anymore at Hillsong Church. It’s not 1993. If you come all the way to Australia and you hope to hear ‘Shout to the Lord,’ your chances are slight. We don’t even sing Oceans much anymore.

Whether you find this surprising or not, here’s the explanation behind this decision:

When it comes to influence, predictability is our enemy. Because you never get influence from doing things the way they’ve always been done. You get influence from creating new ways…Thank God for innovation. Thank God for creativity. Spontaneity is our friend in the church.

The Church: A Space for Creativity

As you can imagine, once Brian’s quotes were turned into headlines, people cried foul.

What about hymns?

Do you even want people to know your songs and sing with them?

Those who feel like the church is too forward thinking call into question the mentality of moving on from songs of years gone by.

But the church must maintain itself as a space for creativity. After all, our God is Creator. His words spoke the world into existence. That same Spirit dwells within His people. And we are His ambassadors. It stands that part of being a Spirit-indwelled ambassador is through creativity. One of the great creative outlets seen within the church is songwriting. Churches should sing new songs because God has provided new songs through His artists.

If you get stuck in a “hymns only” mentality, you have crippled the artists God has given the church for today. God has consistently done some of his great work through the gifts of artists.

God spent close to forty days instructing Moses on the provisions for the tabernacle, and yet He created the world in six days. What we gloss over as boring details clearly had much importance to God. The tabernacle, though built by the hands of mere mortal men, was the perfect design and idea of God. We should then find it striking that something so highly important to God was given into the hands of artists.

Hillsong Church releases a new album more than once a year, so their church should be singing new songs, potentially more often than the average church. That is part of their own localized expression of the Christian faith.

But What About Hymns?

No one should complain when a church stops singing a song. I’ve had plenty of conversations about no longer singing a particular song. Sometimes it’s a lyrical concern, sometimes the leadership feels like the song is no longer connecting, sometimes a song was reliant upon a musician or instrument the church no longer has available. There are plenty of good reasons to shift what songs are being sung by a church, but being a church focused on innovation is not one of them.

Innovation and spontaneity are the reasons Houston said Hillsong no longer sings Shout to the Lord, but those are awful reasons. It says “this song no longer feels cool enough,” and you move onto the next “big” thing.

In You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith examines what he calls liturgies, large stories we center our lives around. These stories orient our lives, bending the needle of our hearts toward a certain end. So if your corporate worship gathering liturgy is most influenced by innovation, the past has no service to the goal.

And this is a huge problem, because the Christian faith is a historical faith. How Christians practiced their faith a thousand years ago carries weight to the Christian believer today. Putting this altogether, the form and practice of Christian worship provides life-altering shaping for our lives. Smith says,

“When we realize that worship is also about formation, we will begin to appreciate why form matters. The practices we submit ourselves to in Christian worship are God’s way of rehabituating our loves toward the kingdom” (78).

More Balance, Please

This is where I think balance is needed. Churches need not worship innovation if it does not serve the end goal of discipleship through worship. Similarly, churches need not worship with hymns-only, forsaking today’s creativity.

The problem here isn’t Brian Houston or Hillsong Church, though they can become representative of the problem due to their size and influence. The problem is that innovation is often the enemy to discipleship, especially when we continue chasing the ever elusive “cool” thing. Predictable might not fill the seats with people ready for a show but it will help steep the seat-dweller in a liturgical format where they can “rehabilitate their loves” toward God’s kingdom.

There’s a great challenge here of balancing new and old, of balancing big and small, of balancing innovation and predictability, but it’s worth the effort because it often changes people on a level deeper than they understand.

What do you think about this?

Should a church be focused on innovation or predictability?

  • Share on Tumblr
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © 2014 by Tyler Braun. Designed and coded by Paul Bae...