apologetics, Discipleship, spiritual formation, Uncategorized

Monday Rewind: Beyond Meat

Too often the church argues about the non-essentials.

This is a recurring habit, as old as the first disciples. It’s also very human. You find it at the local coffee shop as the seniors in the corner banter about joint pain remedies. You hear it at the daycare as preschoolers debate – in heated battle – about the nuances of the rules of duck-duck-goose. We’re all pretty good at weighing-in on what’s trivial.

Here’s an example from antiquity. The church in Rome seemed entrenched in heated conflicts. For one, they had their own version of the “beyond meat” debate. Should you eat only vegetables or is bacon still on the menu? They also wrestled with the importance of holy days. Is it appropriate to observe sacred days or are all days essentially the same? Things must have been pretty intense for Paul to commit a large portion of his letter to this issue.

Paul summarizes his solution to the conflicts in Romans 14:17-19:

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Paul reminds us that sometimes our priorities can become disordered. When we focus too much on the non-essentials we lose sight of the big picture. We make mountains out of molehills. We elevate secondary or tertiary matters and put primary matters in a corner. The kingdom isn’t about eating and drinking – it’s about the life of the Spirit working in and through the people of God, producing righteousness and peace and joy. (And nobody puts primary matters in a corner.)

Paul also says that the kingdom life should be about building people up rather than tearing them down.

My father was a demolition and explosives expert. He made his money by destroying and blowing things up. He was masterful at demolition – but he was a lousy carpenter. I’m not overstating when I say I would be hesitant to sit on a bench if he built it. My point is that tearing things down and building things up are two very different skill sets. It is far easier to deconstruct than to construct.

We are living in highly polarized times. Ideologies are re-emerging and ideologues are rising. People are shouting at each other across the great divide but few are building bridges. It’s far too easy to label people as “conservative,” or “liberal,” or “snowflake,” or “fundamentalist,” or “millennial,” or “boomer.” And because of the impact of post-modernism, we have become adept at deconstructing other people’s positions. Sadly, we’re masterful at tearing them down but we lack the skillset to build.

In my late twenties, I spent two years studying undergraduate philosophy at a university. I swam in a sea of postmodernist deconstruction and developed the capability of ripping apart anybody’s worldview, including my own. But when you burn everything to the ground, what remains? Over time, I found myself spiraling down into disillusionment and nihilism (which, as it turns out, are symptomatic of our times). I decided that I didn’t want to live in a world of doubt and despair. I wanted to hope. To build. To create. This is one of the reasons why I left the academy and went back into the ministry.

Jesus invites us into a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit. He’s calling us to something higher, something greater. What if the people of God excelled at building each other up? What if the world could see the beauty of the kingdom in how we live and how we love?

My prayer is that we would be a people who love each other fiercely, who sacrifice our preferences for the greater good, and who build each other up.

And may the world see the kingdom within us and through us.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

Discipleship, Leadership, Personal Development

Monday Rewind: Trust Accelerator

Trust is the accelerator in all relationships.

I’m not the first one to frame this concept. You can read about it in Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed of TrustAll relationships move at the speed of trust. This includes our relationships with people as well as our relationship with God. Without trust, relationships move ahead as fast as a car spinning its bald summer times in a snowbank. (Yep, a shameless Edmontonian cultural reference.)

Trust in every relationship tends to move incrementally. We’re cautious creatures. So trust isn’t given automatically. It takes time to build trust. This includes every kind of relationship: friendships, work-groups, sports teams, marriages, even the political sphere.

You might remember the story of Paul in Acts 7. He began as a young religious zealot, dragging followers of Jesus from their homes into the streets and then putting them in prison. Then one day on the road to Damascus, he met the resurrected Christ. The encounter erased all doubt from Paul and several days later he was baptized as a new believer in Christ. Paul stayed in Damascus with the other disciples and began to boldly speak about the resurrection. He was so convincing that his fellow Jesus plotted to kill him. Paul had no alternative but to flee back to Jerusalem.

But now the church leaders in Jerusalem faced a dilemma. What were they going to do with Paul? It wasn’t long ago that he was beating and imprisoning them. How could they TRUST him? And here we pick up the story in Acts 9:

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.

In this account, trust was gained incrementally. It didn’t happen automatically – it took time. Paul lingered in Damascus, proving that he was legit. Barnabas was his advocate, making time to convince the disciples that Paul was the real deal. If you’re going to build trust with others, don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Generally speaking, trust is gained slowly and lost quickly. One author writes that it’s like putting chips into a ‘trust bowl.’ As you build any relationship, you’re essentially putting trust into this bowl one chip at a time.

It’s always easier to break trust than to make trust. And there are lots of ways to break trust: making mistakes, not keeping your word, being a jerk-face, and so on. A sure-fire way to break trust is through betrayal. This includes things like cheating, stabbing someone in the back, destroying someone’s character, or a huge moral failure.

Betrayal is taking your bowl of trust, turning it upside-down, and dumping all the chips on the floor. Trust is lost and the relationship grinds to a halt.

Trust moves incrementally. It is gained slowly and lost quickly.

Which surfaces a really important question, perhaps the most important question in human relationships. Am I a trustworthy person?

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.