When you must create something.

Christians are called to be “salt and light” in our culture, which is to say we must create culture, not just critique it. We have special resources to renew, restore, and create godly culture embodying the life of Jesus. He told us not just to believe the things He said; He taught us to also do whatever we saw Him doing. Since He is the one Creator, we get to borrow His creativity as co-creators.

Many today are “culture warriors,” which is to say they want to go to war against any and all anti-Christian sentiments. They battle against evil worldviews with the force of their far superior “Christian worldview.” I think a biblical worldview is important (and am convinced you cannot attain one without meditating on the Scriptures constantly), but what I find lacking among these “culture warriors” is an awareness of the true enemy. Paul said we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but rather an hidden, wicked enemy, that (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Are other people the real enemy, whatever their category or label? Are these our enemies: liberals (or conservatives), those for (or against) gun control, politicians, public schools, taxes? Our enemies become our prime targets in an election year like 2012. (Maybe you’ve seen the expensive propaganda mailers in your mailbox already.)

Let me ask you: is this really making things better? Can someone be salt and light, known for the message of Jesus, if they’re whole platform in life is what they are AGAINST?

How about we fight the real enemies that war against our souls: pride and greed.

How about we rail against those?

Pride and greed are daily on display in our foolishness, where we resist following God’s ways and choose to run our own lives. When we try to be the hero of our tiny stories, and be sure to “get ours,” we become everything we ardently criticize. Yet we remain blind to our real problem, thinking it is “out there.”

 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. —Philippians 2:14-18

When we resist the urge to grumble and complain, we give ourselves opportunities to cultivate a culture of grace and peace, right where we live. As we follow Christ (who never complained or played the ‘victim’ card), we become like Him, borrowing powerful light from the Light of the World. As His light shines, we become co-creators of new, attractive opportunities for righteousness, peace, justice, mercy, and grace to live.

One day the whole world will be just as He designed it to be. Until them, we’re invited to live like we are as He designed us to be — loving God and loving people. We’ll be imitating Jesus who created the world, and then stepped into our fallen mess to re-create it again in His image.

Go create something good.

In the meantime, if you have a hard time knowing what to create in the darkness, trying some of these:

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Top photo credit: “Go on creating” by fotologic

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Getting #Linsanity: waiting for your big shot.

20120221-031836.jpgWhat do you think of Jeremy Lin’s story? Are you caught up in #Linsanity?

The power of his story has almost single-handedly saved the lockout-shortened NBA season, and reminded us of the pure joy we find watching players who make everyone around them better, lead by being generous more than prideful, and the team becomes a more powerful force than they could be as a random assortment of stars.

“The Lin story has broken out into the general culture because it is aspirational in the extreme, fulfilling notions that have nothing to do with basketball or race. Most of us are not superstars, but we believe we could be if only given the opportunity.”

David Carr (via New York Times), adding:

“We are, as a matter of practicality, a nation of supporting players, but who among us has not secretly thought we could be at the top of our business, company or team if the skies parted and we had our shot?”

Do you secretly have those same thoughts? Are you patiently waiting for your ‘big shot,’ toiling away in obscurity while embodying faithfulness and perseverance, on the path toward gaining godly wisdom?

Source: Getty Images

Just having a conversation about Justice.

Today and tomorrow I am at The Justice Conference, hosted here in Portland. So grateful to join in the conversation.

The Justice Conference 2012 is the second annual international gathering of advocates, activists, artists, professors, professionals, prophets, pastors, students and stay-at-home moms working to restore the fabric of justice. For some it means speaking. For others it means singing. For some it means going. For others it means giving. For all, it means living with mercy and love.

Justice Conference founder (and lead pastor of Antioch Church in my beloved hometown of Bend) Ken Wytsma writes on why justice matters to followers of Jesus and all who trust Scripture:

People matter to God and therefore they should matter to us – every bit of them from the salvation of their souls to the meeting of material needs (see 1 John 4:20-21).
Justice is rooted in the character of God, commanded in his Holy Scriptures and exemplified in the life of Christ and the history of the church.
Justice is the right ordering of our relationships with God and neighbor.
Justice, in all spheres and slices of life and especially in the social sectors, is biblical, God-honoring and right. Politics, theories or political platforms, however, are open to dispute and disagreement.

Because Justice is much bigger than “social justice,” he gives a helpful pie-chart to see how various kinds of justice are interrelated:

Hello (9 years after I caught on fire).

Nine years ago she said Yes.

I proposed in an old fraternity building undergoing massive renovations, the least likely place she would anticipate. Yet, if you know me, it kinda makes sense. After using a Lite-Bright to ask the big question, we sat to thank God and in the middle of prayer my shirt caught fire from a rogue candle.

True story.

I can confidently say it’s been the best near-decade of my life.

Still get goose bumps when she walks in the room.

Trouble: the rush and pressure of modern life.

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence… activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence… It kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

—Thomas Merton, via Chad Lewis of the Sojourn Network, who adds:

“If you are not doing the hard work of sitting at Jesus’ feet daily, you are in trouble.”

So true.

When you lack hope. Why pray?

“If God is composing a story with our lives, then our lives are no longer static. We aren’t paralyzed by life; we can hope.

Many Christians give in to a quiet cynicism that leaves us unknowingly paralyzed. We see the world as monolithic, frozen. To ask God for change confronts us with our doubt about whether prayer makes any difference. Is change even possible? Doesn’t God control everything? If so, what’s the point? Because it’s uncomfortable to feel our unbelief, to come face-to-face with our cynicism, we dull our souls with the narcotic of activity.

Many Christians haven’t stopped believing in God; we have just become functional deists, living with God at a distance. We view the world as a box with clearly defined edges. But as we learn to pray well, we’ll discover that this is my Father’s world. Because my Father controls everything, I can ask, and He will listen and act. Since I am His child, change is possible—and hope is born.”

—Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life: connecting with God in a distracting world

A whole new American dream.

GOOD has a great new infographic out: Not Your Parent’s American Dream: a whole new national ideal [flat, larger version], based on the 2011 MetLife study on the American Dream.

Overall, the new generation of young adults (Gen Y) is more likely to want to own a home than get married. I dare say it’s much easier to buy a home than build one that shall abide in love and peace. Marriage is seen as more an “non-essential” than going to college or owning a home. Yet, which of those pursuits is more rewarding? After owning four homes, I can say it’s overrated. There’s no price one can put on a thriving, happy, godly marriage.

Click below to see the whole graphic, which is a wealth of information (no pun intended), though I wish it more clearly showed what the “American Dream” looks like now across generations. (There are some good clues.) It goes without saying — but I shall say it — that we, the new, hip, cool, new kids on the block — Millennials (Gen Y) and the now less-famous Gen X (my generation) — are living the lifestyle benefits come our way through the hard work and persistence of those before us. I doubt our nation’s founders envisioned the luxurious lifestyles we now enjoy; today, even the middle class lives like kings.

In the course of the last few years, Kari and I have begun to dream anew about our hopes and goals. We dreamed out downsizing our life and becoming more generous, giving away more than we spend on ourselves. There were times when that seemingly noble dream had to die, and I’m grateful to journey through our momentary life story, together, and on the same page. Truly, it’s more blessed to give than to receive.