I listen to a lot of podcasts. One that I listen to is 5 Leadership Questions. One of the questions they ask, and in turn ask you, is this:
Who are you learning from?
It is easy to get distracted. You’re going along in life, heading in a particular direction and then a squirrel shows up. Often, a pretty big squirrel. Often, again, a very pretty squirrel.
We look at distractions as bad and, yes, they can be. But often distractions don’t look bad. In fact, they can be very good things.
Perhaps you have a purpose in life to be an expert in a certain field. Maybe you want to master a musical instrument. Maybe you want to maximize your talent in golf. Perhaps you want to spend the time it takes to lead people to Christ.
No matter what, you will have to say yes to the things that matter and no to those that don’t.
If you want to get good playing an instrument, you will have to spend hours practicing scales and such and cut some things from your life. Good things. Things that you really like or want to do. Same thing with golf. And with leading people to Christ.
I recently read about a couple who had raised wonderful children. They were asked how they had done so well. Their response was probably not what the person asking wanted to here. They had given up almost everything that would distract them from being great parents. They didn’t join clubs. They didn’t spend time with friends without their children. They gave up certain hobbies and interests. Anything they did, they did with their children.
That seems extreme, doesn’t it? The thing about is that they had a vision for what they wanted their family to look like. They weren’t going to let anything stand in the way of their vision, not clubs, hobbies or friends. Now? Their adult children still spend time with them in many activities.
We can sacrifice the great in the name of the good. Or we can do the opposite. We can sacrifice the good in the name of the great. It’s really our choice.
I went to see Captain America: Civil War a couple of weeks ago. When I say that I went a couple of weeks ago what I really mean is that I went to the first showing available in my town. Yeah, I know, you already know about my obsession with comic book movies. Yes, it’s a bit unhealthy. But I want to tell you something that struck me as I have reflected on it after watching it.
Captain America: Civil War is like church.
Wait, what? At least that’s what I imagine some of you thinking as you read that line. So, yes, that’s what I wrote and I stand behind it. That movie, and quite frankly, every Marvel Studios movie is like going to church. Let me explain.
About a month or so before I saw Civil War, I saw Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. You might recall that I loved it. It was exactly what I wanted and needed. It was different from what has been coming from Marvel. And don’t get me wrong, I love Marvel movies. But I don’t want my DC Films to be Marvel Studios films with different heroes. I want them to be different.
However, the majority of moviegoers disagree with me. That’s fine. We can all like different things. How this applies to church is simple.
Marvel Studios have a formula. They follow a pattern. If you have seen enough of them, you can tell what the story beats will be. They give you enough familiarity that you are satisfied with the sameness even when they do something different.
We like that in church, too. Oh sure, some of us will say that we don’t like tradition. We go off and start different types of churches that are structured differently, but eventually we create our own tradition, our own sameness. People come to church with a certain expectation and freak out a little when it things go differently.
Why is this?
Our world is changing constantly. The speed of changes in the world increases all the time. Some days it feels like we’re being battered from all sides by change. We want a place to go where things aren’t changing constantly.
We want to sing hymns tha our grandparents sung. We want to sit in the same pew that our family has sat in for generations.
We simply want a rock to stand on that doesn’t sway with the changes of time.
We have a rock, right? Jesus talks about building on a firm foundation instead of sandy ground. In reality, He’s our Rock. He doesn’t change.
So, while we put a lock of stock in all of these unchanging things, something is always going to change. We do have lights and AC in our churches here in America, after all.
Let’s lean on Him instead.
The most popular tattoo in the world is, wait for it, the Harley-Davidson logo. 112 years of building a tribe has led to this.
If you had one product to have tattooed on your body, what would it be? Don’t worry, this is hypothetical. I won’t hold you to it.
Mine would be the DC logo. I love comic book movies and I would go with this one instead of Marvel.
Eighteen years ago we received some unsettling news. There might be a problem. We needed to think about options. Of course, there was no option in our minds, everything was fine and we soon had a baby boy.
A few years later kindergarten came. We had to pry him off our legs a few times, but we made it through.
Baseball came first, then football. Basketball came around for while, but most of our hours were spent waiting for football to end. A lot of waiting.
We had to argue and fight to get into honors classes. After all, the standardized tests didn’t look good enough. Plus football would take time. It would be better to just take standard classes, right?
Tonight Andrew graduates with honors. He finishes ninth in his class. It’s ending of a journey begun twelve years ago. It’s the beginning of a new one.
It’s graduation day.
Yesterday I wrote a post that focused on the first verse of the Gospel of Mark. Another thought came out of that, really in the middle of speaking to my group of campers at the campground.
What I realized is that Mark was a gospel focused guy. Why? Because the gospel had changed and affected his life.
Mark was a kid who took off on what he thought was the adventure of a lifetime. He joined Paul and Barnabas, his cousin, on a missionary journey. Something happened and he abandoned them. He headed back home. Maybe he was homesick. Perhaps Paul was an intense jerk. Who really knows?
Afterwards, Paul and Barnabas began planning another trip. Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them. That’s who Barnabas was. He was an encourager, most likely an optimist. Paul? He wanted no part of taking Mark with them. He didn’t trust him to stick with it. Neither one of them was entirely wrong, but neither entirely right either. They disagreed and split up.
What’ really neat is that later Mark become useful to Paul’s ministry. Somewhere along the way, he was rehabilitated. Barnabas surely played a role. So did the apostle, Peter. It was most likely from Peter that Mark heard what he wrote in his Gospel.
Now, here is the big idea I had. Mark knew the power of the gospel, how it is the power of God. He knew how it could change someone and not just once, but on a continuing basis. He understood what it was to live a Gospel life.
You see, I think we need to quit living a Christian life. Christian makes a fine noun, but a terrible adjective. Instead, we need to live a gospel focused life. Let’s pray and strive to let the gospel transform every aspect of our lives. Let it transform how we spend our money at the store. Let it transform how we work for our employers. Let it transform, well, everything in our lives.
That’s the kind of life Mark lived. It transformed him from being a scared kid to being a useful colleague in the gospel and even writing of the accounts of Christ’s life. Pretty crazy, huh?
Is the gospel affecting your entire life?
I love new beginnings. They are fresh, exciting and, yes, new. They hold a promise that is different from anything else. Today is one of those beginnings. It is the beginning of a new year of campground ministry. Old relationships will be renewed. New relationships will be started. A new year of ministry will begin.
My first service will be based on Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
It begins, of course, with the beginning. The beginning of a new chapter in history. The beginning of new opportunities from the Lord. If you look closely, you can see the similarities between Mark 1:1 and Genesis 1:1. Maybe not as strong as John 1:1, but still strong enough to see the resemblance.
With Genesis we have the beginning of history, the beginning of time as we know it. With Mark, we get a new shot in history. A new chance to correct what happened in Genesis, a chance to start over. What gives us the chance to start over?
The Gospel. The good news. Not just any good news. Ann Murray had a song several years ago that said that we sure could use some good news. This may be true, but it’s not just some good news. It’s not simply some positive word as the song indicates. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this good news that Mark is writing about is so much more.
It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news that Jesus brings. We often describe it as salvation coming from Jesus. It’s that, but it is so much more. It’s the good news that changes every aspect of life. It changes our perspective on everything. It causes the things of earth to be strangely dim. It is the good news that helps us to choose the will of the Father instead of our own will.
It is the good news that can only come from God’s Son. We can look at Jesus in many ways. He is the son of David, tracing his earthly reign back to the that of Israel’s. This good news isn’t just coming from earth. No this good news is coming from God and His Son. This good news is making all things right. It’s reestablishing the original plan.
This beginning is more than just the beginning of a book in the Bible. It is a beginning that continues on a daily basis. Every day is a beginning in Jesus Christ. He makes all things new. When we stumble, we have hope that He will redeem it and make it new again. We have hope in Christ.