How To Stay In The Conversation (Part 3)

images.jpegI stumbled across this show on CBS called Bull. I probably have binged a little too hard on it, but the show has been fascinating. The lead actor plays a psychologist who is an expert in trial science. The premise of the show is how every case has facts and every jury (every day people) hear these facts differently. So, Dr. Bull and his team weave the objective facts of the case with a creative narrative together to win legal cases. In most episodes, Dr. Bull chooses to work for the innocent party. The defendant will likely be found guilty aside from his help because the jury has already subconsciously found the defendant guilty prior to any case being heard. Sometimes this subconscious verdict is based on the media, sometimes on how the defendant is dressed or appears, or even the jury’s own self-projection from their life experiences. Dr. Bull and his team choose to present a case and narrative together which highlights the facts the jurors will actually hear.

Throughout the episodes, the narratives usually get quite creative. However, what has never been argued: 1) the objective and verifiable facts, 2) our experiences color how we see and interpret these facts, and 3) there are always more facts to be discovered.

The natural question in today’s world: Can we ever be objective about the facts?

In my optimism, I believe we can get objective facts, but what to do about those facts and how we interpret them will always be highly subjective.

The initial blog post asked: How do you stand firm in a Kingdom worldview while remaining humble and teachable in posture?

My answer: Resilient communication.

So far, I have shared the first two steps (saturation & care). The third step is FACT.

I define FACT as information without bias. Bull provides a colorful depiction of how difficult it is to present the facts without spin. It is inherent in our nature to filter everything we hear through our own lens.

In our culture where truth is “relevant” or “subjective,” FACT seems like an elusive word. The term Fake News has been tossed around. CNN recently ran an ad campaign about defining facts (to which some of you may find ironic). In most cases, everything has a spin. Most facts are articulated from personal perspective and experience, which come in layers and vary widely. Give the NY Post’s quiz on how Facebook defines hate speech a try to see how subjective statements can be. What is the core truth beneath these layers?

Because people are not all-knowing we must learn to ask good questions about the potential narrative being sold to us. Therefore, when staying in the conversation we should present what we think we know humbly and sincerely. Direct information with no judgment is a must. Statements without sentiment should be shared to find common ground from which a relationship can be built.

I would argue whatever facts we do present should be loosely at our fingertips, ready and willing to hear new information. When new information is discovered, we should show grace. Further, avoid leading or suggestive questions. In a conversation which you are trying to listen and learn, you must be careful not to skew the potential response. Suggesting a prepackaged answer will likely create barriers, rather than take them down. We tend to share our views of the facts or our interpretations of them to win, persuade, or achieve some hidden objective.

If the goal is to stay in the conversation, then we must learn to present information without bias. Here are some examples of FACT:

  • Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem to raise awareness about the police brutality against black men, women, and teenagers.
  • Marijuana affects the parts of the brain that control emotions, memory, and judgment.
  • The Bible is God’s special revelation of himself.

These three sentences could be stated very differently.

  • Colin Kaepernick is desecrating the American flag.
  • Marijuana causes negative damage to a person’s body and image.
  • It is wrong to believe in both evolution and the what the Bible says.

These are probably exaggerated and not the best examples. However, when we are in the heat of conversation, we need to be aware of which statements are facts and which sentiments are our feelings toward what has happened.

As a Christian, we need not fear Christianity in the marketplace of worldviews. I believe a Christian worldview is unparalleled to any other worldview. The narrative of God himself coming to rescue and renewal all creation through the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ is the ultimate narrative. Any other narrative which competes for supremacy will inadequately deal with the brokenness of life.

As you talk with your neighbors, co-workers, friends, family, and others online, do you espouse a worldview consistent with Christ, or bias and barriers?

Find the facts. Listen and learn. Stay in the conversation.

Lasting Legacy

 

Bill with Xavier

Bill with Xavier & Sam

Today, it is tough to find the right words. My thoughts are scattered and emotions are conflicted. So, I will simply say this…I am thankful for Bill’s influence on my life. Below is a picture of an email he sent as we began 2014.  For a little context, we (those listed in the email) had committed to memorizing a verse a week for the full year during our time together at Christmas. I think the email captures his life well. He loved Christmas. He loved his family. He loved helping others grow their walks with God. He loved God. His love for God and faithfulness to God shone through in every area of his life.

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 7.07.34 AM

Even after his passing, we continued to memorize, knowing our efforts would bring honor both to God and to Bill. I look forward to heaven and getting a chance to speak with him again.

Offer Better

Today, I as I concluded my reading in Acts the second half of the final chapter really stood out to me.

23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe. 

Paul testified about the kingdom of God. I thought the phrasing sounded familiar. In Acts 1, Jesus concludes his time on earth by “speaking about the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God has been expounded upon and heavily debated theologically. However, now more than ever, I am seeing a need to return to communicating specifically about the way of Jesus. Too many churches teach and preach as if we can fix ourselves in lieu of a God who loves us from a distance, yet never take the time to know Him. Modified self-help expressions of Christianity do not work. People do not buy it. What does it look like for God’s laws and love to permeate every aspect of our lives?

I had two recent conversations with different people about the Gospel. Both openly rejected historic institutional Christianity. They wanted no part in another social club that had a poor history. However, when the conversation changed to following Jesus and allowing his model and teaching found in the Bible affect our lives, they were more open. In fact, one agnostic Jew (non-practicing, self-proclaimed agnostic, Jewish heritage by birth), made a distinct comment as I asked him to respond to my spiritual journey coupled with the Gospel. “I like the way you have articulated the personal belief and expression to following Jesus. That makes sense. No, there is no way I would consider Christianity as a religion for myself or my family.” In his mind, Christianity brings bad, but following Jesus may bring some good.

Somewhere along the line, our thinking shifted from Christianity as a movement to be advanced to an institution to be maintained. To do ministry or to organize something to care for people and connect with people that does not directly get organized by a committee, team, or minister in the church is completely foreign in most cases. To simply equip people to go live as Jesus has transformed their lives and respond to the Holy Spirit takes serious effort, instead of simple obedience. Alvin Reid comments on the need for such a reversal:

We can complain about that and mourn the loss of impact, or we can look at the early church who had no standing in the culture, had no buildings to invite people to enter, and yet so lived the gospel in the culture that they turned the world upside down…A missional church focuses as much or more outside its fellowship (and thus outside the walls of the building!) as it does on the inside. Missional believers think of themselves as being sent into the culture as ambassadors for Christ. The typical conventional church today magnifies what happens inside its fellowship and often even more inside a building (which is not the church, by the way).

The rediscovery of Christianity as a movement (the kingdom of God manifested in every believer) is paramount to the future of the church. The rediscovery can get messy and will get messy. We are dealing with real people and their real problems. We are dealing with a real world and its real brokenness. But, seeing the kingdom manifested is nothing less than joining Jesus on His mission to seek and to save the lost through making disciples. It is seeing the holistic health of God come to a city. It is a foretaste of a future heaven. It is God in action through His people.

What’s fascinating? Our world is trying to provide holistic health, transformation, and enter into the mess. In some cases, they are doing a better job than the church. Our founder, Jesus, was the best possible example of entering into the mess.

Last week, I went to a gathering of faith-based people in all professions for the city of Vancouver. The organizers always have someone present some information. The main speaker provided a brief overview of ACEs and how to have tough conversations with teenagers and families specifically around the issue of marijuana, opioids, and alcohol (see youthnow.me for some of the information provided). The main speaker had to repeatedly encourage those in attendance, “messy means it won’t look like you think it should.” She then would provide a very normal example from her experiences. One example she provided: progress may mean the parent goes from smoking weed every day and giving it to their kid to smoking weed every day and not giving it to their kid. Progress. Steps.

Her other main point: “You cannot take (fill in the blank drug) without offering something better, or when stress gets high they will always return to (fill in the blank drug to cope).”

As I heard her plea to offer something better to faith-based people who served in health services, social services, the school systems, and other community health organization, I could not help but ask a few questions.

Church, are we truly offering something better?

Christian, are you living something better?

Better is not demonizing their choices or the consequences. Better is not fixing them. Better is not making them more moral. Better is not a message of faux happiness. Better is not dismissive of “faulty” reasoning. Better is not merely waiting to talk and share information. Better is not ignoring the mess.

Better is resiliently listening to those in front of us and seeing them as people, not projects. Better is keeping curious even when we do not want to be. Better is being empathetic. Better is following through on a care path. Better is connecting the dots from the Gospel to life’s situations. Better is including them in your walk with Jesus on how you are letting the kingdom of God transform every area of your life. Better is hope and joy in the ways of Jesus.

30 Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

 

CP Students’ Next Step (3/29)

SUNDAY MORNING

This week we discussed how Jesus is our warrior who saves us from judgment. Zephaniah describes God as a mighty warrior for is fighting for us.

KEY TEXT: Zephaniah 3:9-17

CENTRAL TRUTH: Jesus is our warrior who saves us from judgment.

PERSONAL CHALLENGE:

  • Dwell: As believers, we must be diligent to live our lives for Christ in a world that is adamantly opposed to His name. We will suffer because of that and the Bible warns us of those days. When you find yourself suffering, never forget that you have a God who stands as a mighty Warrior who is among you and who is ready to save.
  • Memorize: Zephaniah 3:17
  • Pray: Thank the Lord for standing as your Warrior and for seeking you out. Thank Him for His love in sending Jesus and for the salvation we have in Christ. Ask God to help you trust Him as Warrior and King of your life.

KEEP ON DIGGING: 

Read the Book of Zephaniah this week. It is a short book, but reading it will give you a better understanding of what was going on that prompted the verses that you studied today.

SUNDAY NIGHT

Luke tells us that Jesus came to die for our sin, but also to form a people of God who, renewed by his Spirit, are able to serve him in righteousness and holiness all of their days. This good news is open to all and God wants the news of Jesus shared with all. As followers of Jesus, as Christians, we are to partner with God is carrying this good news of forgiveness and hope because of Jesus to those in our lives where God has placed us and is calling us.

KEY TEXT: Luke 6:27-36

CRITICAL QUESTION: What does it look like to love our enemies? How does loving of enemies show people the character of Jesus?

CP Students’ Next Step (3/22)

SUNDAY MORNING

This week we discussed how judgment is coming against evil, but there is a sacrifice for those who call on His name.

KEY TEXT: Zephaniah 1:1-7

CENTRAL TRUTH: Judgment is coming against evil, but there is a sacrifice for those who call on His name.

PERSONAL CHALLENGE:

  • Dwell: Evil is prevalent in the world  today. It is not challenging to look around and find something that is in direct rebellion against God. Despite the trials we face in this life, we can still have hope because there is a day coming when God will rectify all that is wrong. Evil will be dealt with and God will reign supreme. While we wait, it is our job to shine the light of Christ to those who need Him.
  • Memorize: Zephaniah 2:3
  • Pray: Ask Jesus to give you strength and endurance to press on even in the midst of difficulties you may face. Thank Him for the day to come when He will make everything right. Until that day comes, pray for Him to help you to be a witness who points others to Jesus and to the sacrifice that was provided for their sins.

KEEP ON DIGGING: 

For further study on the Day of the Lord, read the following verses:

  • Isaiah 13:6,9
  • Joel 1:15; 2:1,11; 3:4; 4:14
  • Amos 5:18,20
  • Obadiah 15
  • Zephaniah 1:7,14
  • Malachi 3:23

SUNDAY NIGHT

Luke tells us that Jesus came to die for our sin, but also to form a people of God who, renewed by his Spirit, are able to serve him in righteousness and holiness all of their days. This good news is open to all and God wants the news of Jesus shared with all. As followers of Jesus, as Christians, we are to partner with God is carrying this good news of forgiveness and hope because of Jesus to those in our lives where God has placed us and is calling us.

KEY TEXT: Luke 6:20-26

CRITICAL QUESTION: What do you learn about Jesus from this passage? How does what we learn about Jesus cause us to respond to Him?