Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Let Your Yes Be Yes" or Not

Interesting article on Slate regarding the discrepancy between the number of Americans who say they attend church and the number who actually do. What does this mean about us?

Walking Santa, Talking Christ

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lazarus, Revisited

At the conclusion of The Lazarus Experiment, I said there would be more coming from me. It’s taken a while, but here it is.

All along the forty days, one thing kept impressing itself in my head. It’s not strange that it did, because this one theme has dogged my life. It’s always been lingering around the edges, always haunting the inner life. In fact, I have proof of the longevity of this particular mind-shadow.

I’ve posted this picture around before. It’s me at seven years old, sitting atop my brand new birthday bike. But, while she was organizing our photos this summer, Linda took out the picture and looked at the back of it. In my mother’s handwriting:

Ronnie – Looking a little chubby.

Nope. Never looked at the back. Never caught that before. Explains a lot.

So lay me out on the proverbial psych couch and let us regress!

Not really. I’m not one for digging at excuses like scabs, seeing if I can make them bleed enough to build my self-pity and garner sympathy for my oozing wounds. I’m not going to blame anyone, or cast my problems out onto the relational landscape to see where they stick. It just is what it is.

A struggle with—weight, diet, exercise, health, overeating, imbalance, emotional eating, obesity—there are so many names for the thing. For as long as I can remember, this cloud has hovered over my head.

The Lazarus Experiment forced us to ask how we live life—second life. We posed the question: What kind of things would Lazarus have done differently once Jesus called him out of the tomb and the mummy wraps were pulled away? What Would Lazarus Do?

From day one of the experiment I knew this: Lazarus would not live with this cloud. He would not live a life that was not healthy. We don’t know what killed him off, but if it was anything that was within his own personal control, you’ve got to believe that on the next go-round, on the other side of the grave, on the resurrection rebound, he would not have continued on the same weary-worn path.

If Lazarus died because of lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking, for instance, I just can’t see him asking for a cig once the grave clothes were unwound. If he kicked off because of a venereal disease, I’m thinking he would change his wanton ways after he heard Jesus say, “Come forth!” Getting another swing at life would change your perspective, I think, and motivate life change.

Add to that the realization that Jesus did this, for you, alone, to his glory, and the will to change becomes even stronger. The idea of Lazarus falling at the feet of Jesus, worshiping him for proclaiming victory over death—YOUR DEATH—seems like the motivational equivalent of a power boost button in a car racing video game. Move over, Mario! Luigi’s coming on strong!

It just kept hitting me, over and over, that Lazarus would not have stayed obese if he’d died of a heart attack or diabetes.

Now—I also believe this: Lazarus would have lived life to the full. He would have loved and learned and labored and leisured like he never had before.  He would not give up bagels. He would eat cake and ice cream. In fact, I’ve got to believe that one of the first things he did was sit down to a steak, medium rare, and onion rings.

OK. Maybe not onion rings. Maybe asparagus instead. And that’s just my point. Lazarus would have a new awareness of how to enjoy the miraculous gift of life in every way. Including health.

So, for many reasons, now is the time.

I’ve done it before. Twenty years ago, when Linda and I and three of our four kids pulled into Royal Oak, Michigan, I had just completed six months of NutriSystem and lost nearly 100 pounds. In those two decades since, I have found all of them, and enough new ones to bring me to a new personal record.

I was 35 years old then. Now I’m 55. It’s going to be different.

Lazarus would do it with grace. He would do it with the awareness of his value to Jesus. He would do it with a joy that comes from facing into the mouth of death and hearing your name called by the giver of life. It would be—fun.

I am fully aware that all of you will have advice for me. I appreciate your help. I know that you want me to succeed. I know the secret of weight loss: take in less than you burn off. Easy as pie. OK—easy as a cucumber. But the truth is I’m not after losing, I’m after living. Health gained, not pounds lost.

I also know that now you’re all in on this. So if you see me at a potluck with a mound of calories enough for a week, you can say something. Or if you invite me to lunch, steer me away from the buffet. You can steal the cream cheese off my tray, or slap the donut out of my hands. I know you’re watching me.

But now let me turn the tables on you: If you want to live your life like you mean it, like you are purchased out of the grave by grace, what would you never do again?  How can I help you? How can I hold you to it?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Looking For Grace

Over the last month, and for the next two weeks, we've been considering the way people look at the church. We've tried to be honest about some of the fails, while pointing to some solutions.

We've discussed Church and Politics, Church and Religion, Church and Isolationism. This Sunday we'll consider Church and Disingenuous Faith. And we're going to stretch the series one more week into November to take a look at Church and Corporate Culture.

I consider this series to be a stamp on us at Grace. I'm praying we come away from this month with a clear awareness of attitudes and positions we want to avoid. I also pray that we can establish a clear picture of what we want to pursue.

We want to pursue God, love Jesus, and surrender to the Holy Spirit. We can all agree with that, and use that as a starting place.

How that works out in us is a matter of grace. More than ever, and with a renewed sense of purpose, calling, and destiny, I believe God desires that we live out the nature of outrageous, amazing, shocking grace. Grace in action, not just grace on a sign or in a song. Grace with feet on. Grace that works. Graceability.

We've been encouraging that individually. How can we do it as a church? Is it possible that people would know us for our reputation as a people of grace - a people who live it out? What are some ideas you have about how GCF could power-up the Graceability factor? What are some specific, legitimate areas where GCF could do some Graceabiltiy strength-training, toning and growing our grace muscles?

Give us your ideas!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Lazarus Experiment - Reflections

Forty days. Easter to Ascension Day. Living like Lazarus. Or at least thinking about it.

Some things I did:
  • Day 40 - Enjoyed a second helping of the best homemade falafel ever.
  • Day 32 - Prayed for Russell's wife. (Russell from Survivor, who is a complete a--).
  • Day 31 - Kissed a beautiful woman. (Not Russell's wife - mine).
  • Day 25 - Burned incense while I prayed in my office. (I know - spooky!)
  • Day 21 - Held my tongue.
  • Day 20 - Fished with Jeremy. Helped Linda sell $200 in Yard Sale. Waved at boaters. 
  • Day 19 - Not saying.
  • Day 17 - Told the proprietors of Big Apple Bagel that they make the best bagels in Mid-Michigan.
  • Day 15 - Took the day off from the Lazarus Experiment.
  • Day 8 - Windows rolled down:::Fifty degrees:::Bright orange sunset in front of us:::Juke Joint playing the blues loud on the radio:::Jono and I boogie-in' down the old Freeland Road.
  • Day 5 - At an intersection between Bay City and Freeland, at approx. 9:30 p.m., I did one of those "car-run-around" things, where you get out, run around the car, and jump back in. I did it alone, but with cars waiting behind me. They honked. 
  • Day 1 - I took a walk in the grass without shoes.
This was so much better than Lent. Not that I would have any real personal experience, since I've never really done Lent. At least not the whole thing. Just like a day. Or maybe 22 hours. OK - 21 hours, 34 minutes.

Many people expounded to me on why the whole big deal was all wrong: Lazarus would not have been happy about being brought back. In fact, he would have been majorly peeved. Once the binding of his death-shroud was removed he probably pulled back his un-dead arm to slap Jesus up-side of the head.
"What were you thinking, man! I was just settling down for my fifth harp lesson, sitting there on the clouds all dressed in white, getting ready to really rock the house with my awesome heavenly fingering, and then I hear you call, 'Lazarus! Come forth!" And I'm like, huh?!  And I tell my harp teacher, 'Ah, fiddlesticks!' because there really aren't any stronger words you can use up there, and I pull up my robe and walk on down to the gate. And Peter says, 'See you next time!' And then it occurs to me - I'm going to have to die -- AGAIN! Thanks, Jesus. You're a real pal."
(That's all wrong, of course, because Peter wasn't at the get yet, he was with Jesus at Lazarus' tomb, watching all the fun.)

About this whole "Was Lazarus happy to come back?" thing, I'll just say this: Life is life. God views life as really good, and death as a robber and a thief. We really don't know much about what was going on with Lazarus wherever he was after he died the first time, but I think he was happy to be back among the living. Besides, if we did the whole WWLD? concept based on the assumption that he didn't want to live, I don't think it would really be much fun. Kind of depressing, probably.

So, what have I learned? Here are a few things:

  1. You have to plan these things. At least for the first forty days. I set out to do something every day that was out of the ordinary and distinctively life-affirming. On days when I didn't plan something, it was hard to look back and find something. Next time I'll make a list of several dozen ideas on day one, and then use the list when I need it. That being said, I like the spontaneity of ideas, so I won't stick to the list. 
  2. After forty days, you begin to see things to do without planning or thinking. That is a pleasant result.
  3. God desires our celebratory worship, and that doesn't mean just singing at the top of our lungs in our cars. It means doing things out of our love for him and our zest for life. And when we participate in that kind of worship, it feels really good.
  4. The best, most satisfying things I did were for other people.
  5. From day one, I knew that there was one thing Lazarus would do that I was resisting. I'll have more to write about that later.
Thanks to those of you who continued the experiment, whether you went all the way to the end or just jumped in whenever - it still means something.

Next year we'll do it again. We'll be more prepared, and we'll give more warning. We'll offer ideas, and we'll provide assistance.

But if you're reading this, why wait? Ask yourself, "What would Lazarus (the post-dead Lazarus) do?"  What would you do if you had life? New life? Resurrection life? What would you do if you knew death was not something to fear? What would you do if you knew that the friend who loved you, spent time with you, wanted to be with you, that friend, also had the power to pull all the sting out of death and give you everlasting life?

Jesus is that friend, and he gives that life. You don't have to wait for it. Ask him for it now. And if you know you already have it, live it like Lazarus.

Friday, April 9, 2010


So, we've been thinking about Lazarus, and his post-dead reactions. I've had some very interesting discussions. I've heard some great things going on with The Lazarus Experiment, a forty-day adventure living out what we think befits someone who's come back from the dead. We've asked the question: If Lazarus had an after-resurrection bucket list (things to get done before he kicked the bucket--again), what would be on his list?

Here's another question--from the opposite direction: When Lazarus went to bed that night, before he closed his eyes, if he thought about the rest of his second life, what would he decide NOT TO DO?

Put yourself in Lazzy's shoes. Based on your through-death experience, and in light of the breath you are now taking, what would you resolve to NEVER, EVER DO AGAIN AS LONG AS YOU LIVE?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Come Awake! The Lazarus Experiment.

When Lazarus came out of the cave after being dead four days, how did his life change? Use your imagination. WWLD?

From Easter to Ascension Day (May 13), I will be doing something every day that celebrates new life in Christ. It will be something I don't normally do, or it may be doing something I do all the time but in a new way. But every day for the next forty days, I will bring something into my life that affirms and accentuates living in grace, freedom, and joy. I'm not going to give anything up, but adding something in. Call it "anti-Lent."

Join me!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why God Likes Emotions

Starting April 11, the Sunday following Easter, we'll be taking a break from "Explosive!" - our study in the Book of Acts - and spending five weeks with our emotions.

Sounds scary, huh? We are taught to consider our emotions as a weakness, a liability. But is that how God put us together? What role do our emotions have? How could emotions actually help our growth in Jesus? Do strong, healthy Christians feel emotions?

Join us for this provocative and productive series. Worship is at 10:30 each Sunday morning at Grace.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Explosive Christianity

Here are two interesting reads about the gospel of chain-reaction:

Charles Colson: How Christianity is Growing
Chicago Tribune

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Help for Haiti

Here are three agencies that check out as legit and evangelical for your gifts to Haiti:

   Samaritan's Purse
   World Relief 
   Hopegivers International

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ignition - When God Detonates

Sundays, 10:30 a.m. Amelith Road at Bay Road. Grace Christian Fellowship.