Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hot Sauce

I could eat Mexican food everyday. I love spicy, tasty food. I love to try a new salsa, hot sauce or spicy dish. I want my taste buds to get a jolt.

In general, I do not like to live a bland and boring life. I want to try new things, explore new ideas, and read things that give me a jolt.

One of the problems people often point out about religion is that it tends to be boring. I confess that this has often been true. Institutional religion becomes so preoccupied with maintaining the status quo that it loses its vitality and sense of mission and purpose.

A genuine contrast to the bland, boring religion that we get so exasperated with is the life and times of Jesus. Jesus was anything but bland and boring. His greatest opponents were always the religious authorities and establishment because he did not follow the traditions of the established religion. In fact, he openly challenged their practices and became a focal point for their anger. The amazing thing is that modern Christianity has so "tamed" Jesus that we have made him boring. This really breaks my heart and I fight against at every turn.

I believe we need to rediscover the real Jesus. Religion has often been an ugly thing in our world - Jesus, on the other hand, is universally seen as a remarkable teacher, visionary and an example of a person who put his words into practice. Many people are drawn to Jesus and repelled by organized religion - why is that?

Part of the reason is that churches spend far too much time trying to protect their "interest" rather than shape their ministry and their message through an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

I have been spending hours each week just reading and reflecting on the life and the ministry of Jesus and it is often shocking! Jesus is one "spicy" person - he will challenge your thinking, your lifestyle, your values and leave your breathless. To be sure, it is exciting and often scary!

I hope you will give it try - get to know the real Jesus. He is never bland or boring and he will call you to a new life lived for the sake of others. (Read one of the gospels from the Bible - Matthew, Mark, Luke or John - I think you will be surprised at the Jesus you encounter.)

Just thinking, Steve

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Time to Think

I just returned this week from a brief sabbatical designed to allow time for quiet, reflection, study, meditation, preparation, prayer and thinking. I did a lot of thinking.

There is a statement from one of the greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein, that captures the challenge of good thinking. Einstein said, "We cannot resolve problems by using the same thinking that created those problems." So true.

We say things like "Think outside the box" to try to get at this idea of new and creative thinking. I reflected on Jesus as a great thinker. The results of his life demonstrate that he was a truly creative thinker. For example, his disciples were having an arguement about which one of them was the greatest. (Matthew 20:20-28) Jesus response to this kind of thinking was to say this is the way the world thinks but there is a better way - to think soberly about ourselves - with humility. We don't promote ourselves as powerful and all knowing, we choose to think and act like a servant. This Jesus says is the way to true greatness.

This is creative, out of the box, thinking. In a world of self-promotion, preoccupied with gaining power, control, and dominance this is a dramatically different way to think and live.

I want to think deeply - to mediatate on things day and night for a while before I take action. Often it is days into thinking and meditating on something that clarity about a good way to respond comes. For sure, good thinking should lead to good actions that solve problems and help others solve problems.

I recalled that once Jesus' disciples came to him and said we have this huge crowd of people and they are hungry and we need to send them away so they can find food. Jesus said no. Do something - find a solution - don't ignore the problem. (Luke 9:12ff.) This is bold thinking and acting.

I read recently about an avid runner who came up with an idea to help people who did not have shoes. He starting asking fellow runners to donate their slightly worn running shoes to the cause. The first year he collected and gave away 500 pair of shoes - more recently he collected 5000 and gave them all away. He came up with a creative way to help rather than not think about it.

So as I close with my "tradtional" way of closing my blog each time, I am still ....

Just thinking, (but hoping and praying to be a better thinker with each passing day)