Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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Fast Food Faith

Last week I drove by a McDonald’s at 5:30pm only to find a drive thru line over 10 cars deep, wrapping all the way around the restaurant into the surrounding parking lot. I said to the people in the car with me, “People still eat at McDonald’s?!?” Ignorance is bliss I guess. I certainly don’t eat the healthiest, but I do draw the line at fast food. Oh, and I rarely use the drive thru (though that may have more to do with my power window being broken than some ideological position on drive thrus, it’s possible).

fast food drive thruWhile I tend to point a finger at those who would eat the “food” available through the drive thru window of so-called restaurants, I’m certainly not adept at allowing for slow change in my life. If something doesn’t come quickly, I’ll move onto the next thing.

I’ve noticed something in myself and I see it in other Christians, and subsequently in other churches as well—there’s a pull toward something that on the outside looks like it will quickly meet a felt need. We’re drawn to things that will scratch the itch, put a salve on the wound, and provide a quick boost. But rarely do these things change the trajectory of our lives.

Talk to anyone involved in helping individuals change—psychologists, physical therapists, financial advisors, AA sponsors—they all teach that change offers no short cuts.

This is the struggle of change: our minds are like rubber bands; they want to revert back to the status quo after being stretched.

It takes incredible patience to change.

Eugene Peterson describes this well in his book on discipleship, saying, “There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness” (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction).

A friend of mine recently told me he chose the church he’s part of because he thought the pastor had depth lacking in many of the other pastors he’d interacted with. I found his reasoning to be refreshing, yet rare. Most often I hear of people choosing a church or a book to read or music to listen to because it seems to scratch an itch they have.

Christians, in choosing to follow Christ, enter an ongoing journey toward Christlikeness. But this journey offers no short cuts. And the destination is both realized and far off, at the same time. From this stable foundation of your realized destination (you are in Christ, seated in the heavenly realms) you can endure the slow process of change, knowing God’s timing is always best.

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Valuing the Ignored Virtue of Charity

The Catholic tradition has long emphasized charity as a needed virtue in those who would follow Christ. They not only recognize charity as financial generosity, but also in the love of man toward God, and in the love of neighbor. But who is your neighbor? Is it only the person you live directly next to? Jesus says who your neighbor is must be seen as far more expansive.

To truly love your neighbor the way Jesus envisions is to love your enemy—whether this enemy is philosophical, physical, or idealogical. To your love enemy, you must give them charity.

Today society does not understand charity. Differences are exposed, commidified, and leveraged for gain. Middle ground is a waste land. What we’re left with is a world in which people are condensed down to their positions, left to cluster with the like-minded, together throwing stones at those opposed.

Last week the President of the United States shared a video of him at a pro wrestling event, only the video was edited to show him body slamming a person with a CNN logo on their head. The President has been decidedly opinionated on CNN throughout the election process and his attacks on the network have only ramped up since he entered the Oval Office last November.

The President believes the network as a whole is against him. And what do you do with those opposed to you and your leadership? You disparage. You attack. You point fingers. You might read my description here as an indictment against the President, but it is most certainly not. The President is often a reflection of the people, and the way the current President handles his dissenters is most certainly a reflection of us.

In my interactions with people from various walks of life, I notice a lack of nuance, a lack of open-handed opinions. In short, there is a lack of charity. And in my moments of weakness, I am reflected in this. You are too. Right?

My presupposition is this: I am not drawn to charity toward my neighbor. Instead, I am drawn to divide, to conquer, to finish on top. So I must counteract my natural bent so I’m in a position to more easily give charity to those who are different than me.

Rather than simply dismissing people who are different than you, we must learn to value difference. How do I try to accomplish this? By focusing on two separate principles:

Read, Listen, Watch Widely

I purposely read, listen, and watch widely, especially pursuing things I would not naturally be drawn to. I don’t naturally listen to rap and hip-hop, but I listen to it and learn to appreciate it. I do not naturally follow Fox News or The New Yorker or MSNBC, but I expose myself to all of them. If something grates at me, I consider it all the more valuable.

I try to read right-leaning and left-leaning sources as it relates to current events. Why? Living in an echo chamber of continual validation of your own presuppositions is a dangerous place to be.

Engaging widely allows you to hear the arguments from proponents and naysayers on their own terms, instead of making assumptions. Even in spaces where I still disagree with the final assessment, engaging widely helps me to be able to understand various positions in their best light.

In spite of all this, I do draw the line at country music. No way. Never. Some things are beyond redemption and benefit to me.

Learning Leads to Humility

You might assume that learning pushes a person on a trajectory toward pride. As you gain knowledge,  you begin to believe your understanding is right and best, slowly seeing yourself as better than those around you. But I’ve had the exact opposite experience.

While I’ve never been an exceptional student, I’ve had the opportunity to pursue a graduate level degree. One perspective on education has gone with me through each level of my studies: I don’t know very much.

As you learn more, you expose yourself to the reality of new things, you find more and more spaces that you don’t know much about. As it relates to learning from people with differing perspectives than your own, you will grow in humility by realizing they have valid reasons and experiences that led them to where they are.

Never has the virtue of charity been more needed than now. As middle ground dries up, as opposing sides hurl stones of accusation back and forth, charity springs forth a well of

As middle ground dries up, as opposing sides hurl stones of accusation back and forth, charity springs forth a well of relational opportunity to love our neighbors.

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What I’ve Learned About Navigating Difficult Choices

I recognize that at the age of 32 I am nowhere near being an expert at navigating difficult choices. In fact, you should probably stop reading this because I’ll have a whole new set of items for navigating difficult choices in another 10 years after making a myriad of mistakes between now and then.

Some of the biggest decisions I’ve made—whether to move to a new church or whether to buy a home—were the culmination of years of continued processing from various angles. I tend to make decisions slower than average, especially bigger decisions, because I want to make sure several key components are all in line.

These components are especially vital for me in making big decisions, but they’re also in play for smaller decisions. My choice for US President in the 2016 election did not have the same weight in my personal life as the choice of whether or not to buy a home, but I still utilized all of these components.

We approach opportunities to make decisions every minute of every day, but most of those are not what I would categorize as “difficult” decisions. But every so often, decisions with positives and negatives on both sides come up, and they need extra attention to process well.

Here’s the 3 main components I use in navigating difficult decisions:

What Does God’s Word Say

Now, let me be clear, The Bible is not a map showing you which way to drive to go from your current location to your future destination. The Bible is not an answer book that will provide you with a simple “yes” or “no” to your question.

The Bible is a compass that points to Jesus. The Bible is a guide that cultivates your heart in order for you to enter into the life God is orchestrating. The Bible helps provide a framework for us to understand God’s will in many situations, so we should obey it in those situations where truth is found with clarity. In situations where it is

The Bible helps provide a framework for us to understand God’s will in many situations, so we should obey it in those situations where truth is found with clarity. In situations where it is not we continue mine God’s Word allowing it to cultivate in us the ability to hear from God and to follow where He is leading.

What Do Respected Leaders Say

You might include your pastor here, or a ministry leader within your church, or a respected individual within your community. You might include some of your favorite writers. The key here is to look to people who you not only find to be wise, but are also respected by others beyond just yourself.

For instance, if Tim Keller wrote a book on the importance of the rootedness of Christians near their local church, I would more highly value living close to my church. Or if Dave Ramsey wrote about the importance of living debt-free, I would avoid taking on debt at all costs.

In the case of some of my largest decisions, the voices of respected people around me were the most important component, and in the case of other people navigating difficult decisions, I would say this is the most neglected component.

Be the kind of person who asks for help and asks for advice, you’ll be surprised how willing others are to walk through these decisions with you.

What Does My Spouse Say (or Family or Close Friends)

Usually this is the first step, not the last. What does the person or people close to you say? Unless I have a huge need to push in a certain direction, if my wife says no I stop dead in my tracks. As with everyone, there’s a certain amount of trust and wisdom I give to those closest to me, so their level of input in my difficult decisions varies.

In the dreaming step of making large decisions, my wife is my sounding board. If an idea gets past her then I usually begin the step of more focused listening to God and navigating conversations with respected leaders. But, this all starts with my wife and my family having input.

I’m sure you could list plenty of other important components to navigating difficult decisions, but these 3 have proven to be an effective core list for me.

Anything you think I’m missing?

[Image: Dillon Klassen]

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Self-Help Can’t Help Enough

“It is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Romans 7:18-19

Paul’s encouragement to the believers in Rome—read by us in Romans 7—is filled with an explanation of their own demise. But he does this by describing his own demise, something directly opposed to how their society believed leaders should function. Leaders were supposed to be the ones who had it all together, not the ones who shared their struggle.

Not much has changed since then. The fastest growing genre within book sales is “self-help.” Most bookstores now have whole sections to house this genre of books now making up over 5% of all book sales. What is most astounding is that this genre didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Today’s leaders are the ones who provide a picture of the life we want, and they teach us how to get there.

The overly used self-help picture of liberation

The overly used self-help picture of liberation

But the premise behind it all deserves to be questioned: how much can we help ourselves? Does becoming more efficient and having better self-awareness and knowing how the most successful people run their lives, actually help you become a better person?

There’s also the Christian self-help genre that encourages you to be brave, that you’re stronger than you realize, and other encouragements that place you at the center of the story. Self-help pushes a narrative that says the best life possible comes through personal fulfillment—a 21st century adaptation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Read through Romans 7 and you’ll get a picture of Paul shaking his head, as if to say, “You’ve totally missed it.”

At one point the middle of chapter 7 Paul begins to describe the good things that sin was able to distort, turning them against him: “For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me” (Romans 7:11). What he’s saying is that there are plenty of good things in our lives that Satan can use to deceive us into thinking we’re a big deal, or we can do this on our own, or that the good thing should be the main thing.

That hobby you enjoy on the weekends? What if it becomes the focus on your life? The thing you lived for? See how easily something good can be turned around into something harmful? It’s true, we’re each one step away from turning a good thing into a harmful thing.

Thankfully Paul doesn’t end Romans 7 with bad news, and he doesn’t tell the Romans how to fix themselves. No, God has stepped in to fix our problem:

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

None of this means you can’t work on becoming a better follower of Jesus, or a better employee, or a better boss, or a better husband, dad, student…you can obviously make an effort to improve, but you will never improve in a way that ultimately matters if you do not realize you cannot improve by yourself.

By yourself you’ll constantly be losing a battle to Satan by making good things ultimate things. What you need instead, is a God who stood in your place to deliver you from that ongoing death sentence.

Thanks be to God!

From Tyler: Today’s post is taken from Renew Daily, a devotional app I help produce. We’re up to nearly 150 daily devotionals for under $5. If you have a device on iOS, be sure to check it out. 

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The Best Quotes from Strange Days by Mark Sayers

Back when Mark Sayers was releasing the book Facing Leviathan I had the great privilege of endorsing it (you can read my endorsement on the first page of the book), and I still believe it’s the best book on Christian leadership I’ve ever read. Mark’s next book, Disappearing Church, was equally as helpful for me as well. So you can imagine my excitement to read Mark’s latest book release titled Strange Days.

strange days sayersOn a podcast John Mark Comer described Mark Sayers as the most brilliant cultural commentator of our day and that is most definitely not an overstatement. I have a short list of authors I read no matter what and Mark is on that list. Strange Days is most definitely a worthy book purchase and read. Here are the best quotes from Strange Days:

Like Cain, our selfish rebellion, thrusting us into the fleshly condition of fear and mortality, seeks to find security and stability in the spaces, places, and social structures that we create.

Lost, wandering east of Eden, we, like Cain, scratch out imitations of home in the dust of where we find ourselves. Unable to return to Eden, we create a place for ourselves. (pgs 26-27)

Our nations, our cultures, our places, and indeed our religions—buffers against the flesh—soon turn into barriers distancing us from God, which is an essential component of the flesh. These systems take on a life of their own and go rogue, becoming destructive rather than protective forces. (pg 33)

The miracle of the resurrection was not just a once-off, individual miracle reserved for the risen Christ. It was and is an invitation to join God’s salvation project, to be resurrected, to live fully human lives through the work of Jesus, minus the corruption of the flesh. (pg 36)

The world is becoming a construction site where walls—physical, cultural, and spiritual—are being simultaneously erected and torn down. All in an effort to keep the chaos at bay, to reach for the purity of a utopia, to find a sense of home, and security. (pg 45)

Globalization integrates cultures, expanding our ability to reach around the world and move across boundaries. For traditional societies, meaning is found in the correct and sacred ordering of space and time. Globalization radically rearranges both. (pg 47)

Part of the reason we feel as if we’re living in strange days, like culture is decaying and the world is moving into greater conflict, is because of a fundamental and implicit assumption. The assumption is that we have reached a new era of human history, a post-conflict world in which we’ll gently slide toward a future both diverse and tolerant. (pg 52)

The reason we feel as anxious as we do is that we don’t see what we expected. We came running into the new world with arms raised in triumph, like a boxer waiting for flowers to flood the ring. But as the darkness swirls around us, our posture shifts. Our arms slouch in confusion, as if to ask, “What is this?” Expect utopia, and dystopia is jarring. (pg 60)

We fear commitment and don’t want to be bound, preferring instead to travel relationally light. Thus we have more freedom, but the cost is a sense of lostness, isolation, and an absence of meaning. (pg 64)

Melancholic, anxious, and pining for the warmer days of the past, churches, Christian organizations, and believers can find themselves retreating from their God-given mandate, forgetting their prime place in Christ’s mission to win the world. Instead of providing a shining alternative to the anxiety and despair of the surrounding culture, we can simply be a mirror reflecting its worries. (pg 117)

Our unhindered comfort not only makes us spiritually sick but mentally and physically weak…Our lack of hardship weakens our resilience. We are born for struggle, created for a cause, formed for a great battle. (pg 121)

Christians, formed by the church, shaped by its relational rhythms, abiding with Christ, fighting flesh and living in the Spirit, are built for the real world. (pg 143)

We settle in with culture to try and influence it for Christ. We contextualize so heavily that we dishonor—usually subtly and unknowingly—the biblical distinctions between the church and the world. (pg 152)

The Christian who lives by the grand story in our strange days becomes like the men of Issachar “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron. 12:32). (pg 170)

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The Punishment of Parenthood

Almost 5 years ago I released my first book, only to become a father for the first time a few months later. Now, as the dad to two children (ages 4 and 2) I can’t imagine having to move my life around to have the time and energy to write another book. Some days of raising two toddlers it’s hard enough work just to eat three meals, much less have time to write.

Last week, while my wife was busy at work all day, I spent the day with our kids. After she got home they were hanging out in the kitchen, I told her I needed a couple minutes just to sit down on the couch. I fell asleep for 30 minutes. This is not an anomaly.

Recently I heard someone instruct a group of soon-to-be-parents that their productivity would drop by 15%-20% for each kid they welcome to their family. I thought that sounded about right, to be honest.

I tend to poke fun at couples who are soon-to-be-parents or who are about to add another child to their family dynamic. Statements like: “You think you don’t have free time now? It gets worse.” Or, “Better enjoy getting your sleep now because that’s about to go away.” I do this in jest, to be sure, but part of it is the harsh reality of parenthood—it’s part punishment.

brauns easter

But this isn’t the full picture of parenting. Sure, becoming a mom or dad is signing up for exhausting days and sleepless nights and the unending array responsibilities that exist for raising a human being. But this is obvious. Everyone knows this.

Too often parenthood is seen only as a chore, rather than a joy.

The Bible describes parenthood as a command (Genesis 1:28). It’s not so much a command that those who do not become parents are operating in some sort of sinful behavior. Some people don’t get married. Some couples are not able to become pregnant. In God’s Kingdom parenthood is a corporate church responsibility, not just a father and mother responsibility, so no one is really exempt from its requirement.

In my church, we often perform what we call child dedications for infants and young children. While much of the charge to raise the child is given to a parent(s), a charge is also given to the extended family and the charge at large.

Parenthood is a command, but we must also hold closely to this command the reality that God never commands something not meant for our ultimate good and flourishing. You wouldn’t have to look hard to find many words written about the punishment of parenthood, but what of its blessing? Does this not deserve even more words? And what if we could be honest about the struggle of parenthood while also acknowledging its blessing?

God’s Word is clear about the blessing of work, of suffering, and of sacrifice, but parenthood is a unique blend of these and many more.

Here’s some unique blessings I’ve been learning through the punishment of parenthood:

Shared Purpose

While certainly, this is a tension to manage with jobs, relationships, marriages, and hobbies, parenthood forces you to learn how to keep your purpose as an individual while also giving up some of your self-drive agenda for someone else. Raising children is all-encompassing, for it to be less would miss the mark, but the hardest part is figuring out how to maintain your own life within it.

As I’ve learned to give myself to my children, I’ve also found it easier to care for others around me. Slowly but surely I get more comfortable letting go of the desire I have to build something great out of my life and I shift it toward building something great in others. Parenthood pushes the opportunity to experience this others-driven purpose forward at a faster rate.

Identifying Selfishness

You’ve been waiting all week to watch this game, but your daughter just got home from school and she wants you to take her to the park. Every fiber in your being just wants to sit on the couch.

Every parent has been there. You know you have a responsibility to say yes. Every good parent would, you think. But sometimes you want to do what you want to do.

Nothing exposes your underlying self-inspired desires like parenthood.

Expansive Reach

Each of us wants our lives to make an impact. This doesn’t mean we should desire fame and fortune, but it is a godly desire to influence the lives of people. Many people want to change the world, but the greatest opportunity we have for change is with the people we are invested in right in front of us.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Our impact on the community around us is most forceful through the children we raise.

mothers day photo booth

Maybe it’s my own personality bent toward a “glass half empty” mentality in my weaker moments, but I think it’s easy to look at the punishment of parenthood, all the while missing out on its great blessings.

-For those of you who are parents, spend a little more time considering how God has blessed you through the command of parenthood.

-For those of you who aren’t parents but are involved in the raising of children around you, be sure to point out the blessings a child brings to your life.

In all this let us strive to remember the wise words from the Psalmist:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb a reward.

-Psalms 127:3

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