Gillette 3:16? The SimGospel According to Procter & Gamble

Recently the most famous razor company Gillette made an advertisement that, at length, participates in the drama of our culture’s tensions on important issues. I have seen the commercial. There is a lot of good content there. There is also a lot of crap there too. Depending on your focus, you will see what you want (or don’t want) to see.
The “crap” opinion regarding aspects of the commercial can immediately (possibly) make a couple of you reading this to shudder, re-question your opinion of me, and think you have me pegged religiously and politically.
The positive elements of the commercial involve the apparent call to men to be more than stereotypes, not evil, and stand up for the truth and the underdog. “Have some freaking morality!” it screams at the viewer while rattling the conservative and liberal buttons positively and negatively simultaneously. It calls men everywhere to have some deep convictions and ethics in society. Who can be against that? It is a very brilliant ad.

The crap part of it all, however, is that it is solely about money (I know you thought I was going to jump on it against the “#metoo” issue, (that too, in this commercial is about the end-goal of money)… I have seen how many of my Christian friends (who I respect the snot out of) have jumped in to praise the ethical message interwoven around the other messages within the commercial. Church culture has long used commercials within their worship services/sermons to make an illustrative point. The reason commercials grab us is due to their attractive nature. The people who create commercials are not stupid. They have to grab our hearts in a short amount of time in order for us to cough up the treasure that’s connected.

Ford sells Trucks, Pharmaceutical companies sell drugs, and Gillette sells razors. That’s what they sell. Gillette has felt recent pressures from other companies such as Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. One of these have an advertisement where they talk about how they are “disrupting the billion-dollar industry” (men’s razors and grooming products). Gillette has been criticized over overpriced products their “best ever” slogan is put forth so they can give the consumer the perception that their product is worth it. These other company’s creative destruction was simple… Be better and be cheaper. With the threat of competition, maybe Gillette became desperate and took a cue from the Nike playbook. The reality is that the issues they attempt to address are the flavor of the week. This is an observation, not a declaration that I am happy or excited about. Ethics, morality, love for neighbor, care for the marginalized, mercy, justice, love of enemy, embrace of the outsider, dignity, humility, etc… etc… is a duh if you are a follower of Christ (not to say that you have to be a follower of Jesus to practice these things).
Now before you damn me (if you are still reading). I will give my main point to offer a couple of thoughts from a Christian participant in this conversation. In his book “On Earth as it is in Advertising”, Sam Van Eman convincingly makes the point that most advertising (including mediums beyond commercials) pulls at our soul strings in order to get our money. Sam’s starting presupposition (Christian perspective) is that all of humanity (men and women) are broken due to sin. I am owning my presuppositions as much as possible to let the reader know that I obviously know that for some “sin” is not only not true, but a dangerous belief due to damage to a person’s self-worth. This, however, is not a post about that. It seems that every blog post that could cause offense, however, needs to die the death of a thousand qualifications so that a person realizes we are talking about ideas in an attempt to consider many angles and not just trying to tick people of the opposite opinion off. Our time is a time of reactionary absurdity of being offended by things that should not be given the air time that they do (when no loving and philosophical conversation is possible to ensue).
Sam’s book offers the illustration of the SimGospel. Because humanity longs for God, meaning, worth, value, life-to-the-full we will try to find remedies. We in our sinful experience are drawn to things that simulate the Gospel (Good news about our hopeless evil situation). We long to be saved. We long to be redeemed and live in a world where love and peace flow exhaustively (especially toward ourselves). The world/creation, however, does suffer due to wicked choices done by humans.
SO… my thoughts (which that is all they are) is that Gillette’s gospel is not sustainable since its purpose is derived from it’s end-goal of money. I believe that ethics are derivative of something or someone. For me, that is that ethics and morality are derived from a response of a human to a/the Holy God (To unpack “Holy” here is too big of a task for this post, but acknowledging this since it is a word that one might think I am using loosely in order to further Christian-Godspeak which isn’t necessarily helpful… or my point!).
The mediums, stories, and emotions that companies use to sell their products achieve their purposes. Profit. Profit is not, in my opinion, the problem. It is how we are moved in such a manner by the content that reaches for our souls to get to our wallets. Gillette cannot provide what human suffering/evil needs in order to address the problem. It is commend worthy to note the positive humanitarian call in the commercial. Those who bear the name of Jesus might remember to discern the reality that all truth is God’s truth and can be found throughout the creation. Jesus followers must remember that we often should not fit into a ditch of cultural or political assumptions. We must prophetically stand in a third stream to try and be a voice that points to the person full of Grace and Truth. Jesus. The Gospel is the Gospel. We must think through what the New Testament writers tell us about our identity before we quickly and completely baptize a SimGospel.
Instead of Gillette 3:16, I believe the Apostle Paul reminds what the Holy Spirit produces in those who are in a surrendered relationship with Jesus Christ: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This is the real Gospel and ironically is too quickly characterized, misunderstood, or rejected. And then out of nowhere… occasionally it can be popular for a season when it is presented through a slick medium.

GOD NEEDS YOUR MONEY! (just kidding)

Ministry is the only profession that retains nothing to itself, gives away all its knowledge free, and invites those served to do the same work“. -Klyne Snodgrass

I often encounter people in my American culture that once they find out that I am a pastor/Christian/associated with church (or in their understanding “organized religion”) they usually have a pre-packaged opinion of who I am, what I am a part of/believe, and possibly a fear of what I may attempt to “shove down their throat” (In Jesus’ loving name of course).

I love talking about belief and faith. I do have a Christian identity, and that can sometimes be a difficult reality when connecting with people that do not share that identification. There are many reasons for the potential disconnects between me and others when my Christian identity is known, but one of the main ones is the church’s reputation with money.

From creepy pastors and/or priests who betray God, their congregants, (and the watching world) trust through inappropriate/sexual misconduct to sketchy-but-slick-talking tele-evangelists’ pyramid schemes who dupe lonely T.V. watchers with their “magic” anointed hanker-chief type antics… the church’s reputation remains in critical condition in 2019.

Most priest and pastors of Christian churches are not those described above. Although all humans (including the spiritual leaders) are capable of evil, many are decent, honest, caring individuals that want to better the world from their deepest convictions often stemming from their love for God and neighbor. Most pastors are not the name-it-claim-it-rather-than-exegete-it types. Many pastors hate asking for money, but realize that it is a part of keeping the ministry going and helping people respond to God with their lives (I am also not saying that they are against faith in God’s provision).

This post is mainly to reflect on “the elephant” too often in the room when it comes to many people’s objection to church… giving money (or more particularly being asked for money). Most Americans have been in a worship setting where a plate or basket was passed to everyone for a collection of tithes and offerings. This can be perceived by many as a medium or act of worship (rightly so). Others who might have second thought opinions about how a church uses the money gathered and still others feel that the church only exists for financial gain.

Unless an individual becomes popular through media, books, or building a large church, most do not become wealthy from ministry (Most churches are smaller congregations, not mega with the mega bucks). On top of the potential low pay that comes with pastoral positions, Bible college and Seminary can be an expensive investment when many must take loans out in order to get the schooling needed for their vocation.

The church has a lot to overcome with its reputation in our culture concerning money. Church attendance continues to decline and the entertainment church, I believe, has a shelf life. As the older generations that were/are faithful to institutions decline, churches will have to be creative (but faithful) in their attaining and usage of funds (hopefully it is attained as a result of healthy discipleship).

The scriptures say a lot about money. Jesus said a lot about money.

 The irony is that ministry is done with money and often used to show tangible love through the meeting of other’s needs. This must not be forgotten. So there is this both/and reality to the church and money. We should be known by our love… not by our requests for money. The church’s reputation needs a money makeover.

Churches, however, if they continue to function like franchises of denominations (in my opinion) will have an uphill battle. Pastors currently function similar to that of general managers of a local food chain. Seasonally many put out the newest product-type-program/gimmick-media-décor to attract, retain, and impress attendees (and hope they tithe or at best TIP). This too is a both/and in my opinion. Communication mediums should be done well. They should also be evaluated for their purposes and where they point the attention to.

It is expected that people who connect, get involved, and love God want to express and respond with the most tangible ways like giving. The issue arises when the bills roll in and the building projects are too often funded by things hoped for but likely to be borrowed that the watching world gets distant. “Attractive church” is usually pitched/advertised as fun, safe, and sterile. In order to keep up the hype, however, big wheels need to keep on turning. The world gets reminded to get distant because burned out people talk… (a.k.a. they social media). When a church burns people out through expectation and exhaustion the bad news of money need (rather than the good news) spreads like a wildfire.

I “get” the attractive attempts by churches, but this too requires massive amounts of time, money, and volunteer energy. The issues are complex and many churches that do ministry like this do it well. The answer is not necessarily to boycott this approach (I don’t think anyway). The answer is also not to be so boring and waste people’s time through careless, thoughtless, boring homilies from the Bible and do music mediums poorly while still begging for money to keep an old ship floating.

The reality is that the Church (in all its forms) has done much good in each community to add value and meet the needs of people who would often be forgotten. This post cannot begin to highlight (and is not the purpose here) the mammoth ways that people who come to faith in Jesus end up changing the world for the better (through the generosity of the church).

This includes churches of all sizes and approaches to reach out to their world. It is a reminder to the Church to be the best steward as possible with their reputation through their use of people’s worship (giving). It is a reminder to those mad at the church for asking people to give money to be fair/reflective and also acknowledge how much churches help their local community (even if some are more obnoxious than they should be). Giving is not a sad thing. What is sad is that too many object going to a church for fear of feeling obligated or guilted into giving. Nobody should ever feel that God needs their money.

the reality is more  intense than money… God wants their life.

The good news is that God is a good steward and has a great reputation when it comes to giving grace and eternal life.

 

Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 224.

“Jesus and Marginalized Women” by Stuart Love -Book Review by Josh Kilsch

This was a book I read for my Gospel of Matthew Course. Interesting for the Interested.

Key take away: MERCY

Love’s book provides perspective to the context of the material in Matthew’s Gospel concerning those that are marginalized, particularly women. He argues with detail, as he explores this topic through social theories/models. Love explains “marginalized” through the social scientific definition by Gino Germani. In this definition, the “lack of participation” in a social sphere is key. The idea of marginalized individuals has many facets (7). His exegesis is an addition to gender studies in Matthew due to his multiple model exploration (22-23).

He contrasts the ancient social norms with our assumed social norms. Love argues that there are major differences in our current social dynamics that do not simply translate to the past (and vice versa)[i]. It is not simple enough to argue that Matthew’s gospel only promotes egalitarianism (50, 57, 65, 239). It is most surprising and educational to realize that Matthew’s text (and the rest of the NT) does not necessarily defend current liberal or conservative perspectives of justice and mercy. The answers from the NT to our current social questions are multi-layered and not simplistic. Love explores four women who are deemed marginalized in some way in Matthew.

Matthew writes through an advanced agrarian worldview (30). The agrarian societies of the past provided challenging structures to those dependent on bodily strength. The industrialized societies of recent times have created opportunities for the marginalized (35-41). Matthew is at home in this world (why wouldn’t he be? [62]) and Jesus illustrates truth through the household model (41-49). Love highlights the deviation from the expected structures through Jesus elevation of children, servanthood, and women (49-51, 61). The focus on women is where Love takes his study. Women are brought out as “symbolically significant” to challenge and reflect God’s intentions and transformative mission in the world (61-63, 66, 96)[ii].

Chapter three lays the further groundwork for Love’s study of the four women in Matthew. It is apparent that women had many excluded functions (especially in public) in the agrarian society both in Roman and Jewish contexts. (64-76). The religious leaders are very at home in the agrarian world of male dominated structures (92). Love argues that Matthew’s reference to “disciples” refers to males (responsible to teach) but does not degrade women or exclude them from being defined as responding followers of Jesus (77-82).

Another social group in Matthew’s Gospel which included women are the mentioning of crowds (87, 93). It was noted that Matthew alone is the one to mention that the tax collectors and prostitutes also known as sinners would be included in the Kingdom of God (82-83, 154). The evidence that Jesus gives dignity to women is provided in His defense of them and the constructive criticism he has of some excepted male behavior (87).

Chapter five explores the bleeding woman and the resurrection of the leader’s daughter. Love explains that both of these stories dealing with healing in public and private settings speak to Matthew’s community (115, 128). In both stories we find Jesus restoration of bodily function, removal of shame, and full life to a girl on the opposite social spectrum of the hemorrhaging woman (127-129, 132-136). These stories speak to those experiencing Jesus’ miracles and also Matthew’s community faced with how to think about heaven come on earth.

Chapter five dives into the healing of the Canaanite’s daughter. Love again rethinks the historicity of the event and concludes that it was constructed for early missionary purposes… which I am not sure that I agree (138, 158). The woman is one that is deemed culturally marginalized, and Love concludes that there is still a mission to non-Israelites (Matt. 28:18-20 [146-148]). Jesus’ “mission has been complicated” by this event/woman… and “he has extended the core value of mercy and crossed over his own defined limit to “go nowhere among the Gentiles” (10:5) [157].

In chapter six Love reflects on the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet and who “crashes” the meal while providing prophetic symbolism of Jesus’ passion (182, 185, 197). The three references to the women who stand by Jesus in his passion, burial, and after the resurrection attest to the gap they fill in the absence of the male disciples (195-196, 199).

Technology (and modern machinery) in the modern periods has drastically changed the “playing field” that once was considered impenetrable by women (230-232). The NT does not pretend to understand and speak to all future societies that could exist. It does, however, argue the norms of the Spirit of the Kingdom of God… Inclusion, Mercy, Restoration.

The take away from Love’s book is that the Kingdom of God that Jesus’ proclaimed and built his community of followers into is tethered into obedience, justice, mercy, and love that is not self-serving. Matthew’s God is a God of mercy (16,239-240). “Mercy” could possibly be the defining word for Matthew and Love’s study. He writes with depth and balanced ideas to approach a hot topic. I recommend this to all those who are students of the Gospels and want more conversation with an important conversation.

I like what Love says when he writes:

No longer is gender, family status, ethnic background, religious patronage, or socio/economic circumstance the basis for religious standing before Israel’s God. The Evangelist’s community is not an egalitarian group, but neither is it to correspond to the “agrarian mould”-and therein is the rub, the give-and-take between these two social actualities” (96).

Matthew’s community and audience must reflect on what this means for each period in which humanity attempts to do life with a bent toward dominance and selfish striving (165). Jesus’ disciples can change the world as they actually follow Jesus.

[i] i.e. Honor and Shame societies, healing in non-Western societies, purity issues covered in chapter four (102-112; and 169).

[ii] Love, quoting Anderson, writes, “Women of the Gospel fulfill extraordinary roles… while remaining in subordinate and auxiliary positions to men”. One further sees the both/and approach of God’s communication and action in the world through the settings in which Jesus came and Matthew wrote (23).

WORK CITED:

Love, Stuart L. Jesus and Marginal Women: The Gospel of Matthew in Social-Scientific Perspective: Eugene, OR. 2009. Print

Jehovah’s Witness Funeral Part 2.

Francis Schaeffer  (20th Century Philosopher and Xian Apologist) talked about “going where Truth leads”. That is my motto. There are some things that I will choose not to read, but these are for personal reasons and convictions that I have arrived at over time. I do, however, try to understand the framework of other people’s beliefs and honestly listen to their questions and objections to my beliefs with open ears and heart. The irony to me… is that my openness to the faith of others is due to my studies of the Christian scriptures. My journey has made me more open to seeking truth (TRUTH) than shying away from the difficult task. I don’t have answers to everything about my Christian faith, but I am not closed off to the questions or materials that would challenge me to do a double take and reflect a little longer beyond what the Church, pastors, fear of hell, or parents have told me to believe.

So… with that… My good friend John had a friend who’s relative had died. This is how I made it to the JW funeral. I was humbled to be there. Many good people mourning the loss of their friend. I was the outsider in their midst… (I did not feel dressed for the occasion, but I did have my sleeve of tattoos covered!). I walked in late (never have been in a Kingdom Hall before). It was a small but warm worship space. The room was packed, and I arrived just in time for it to start.

I looked through the memorial bulletin as some decent music was played. Soon a gentleman (pastor, elder, minister I assume) began to talk about the deceased life. The funeral was nothing out of the ordinary from my Christian/Protestant experiences except when it came to the scripture usage. The minister used the often-quoted funeral passages from Ecclesiastes, Gospel of John (John 11, not John 1 or John 14!), Psalms, and Revelation. The main theological point that was drove home was the certainty concerning the deceased destination which was the grave (Ecclesiastes was used to make this part of the case closed). The deceased was asleep awaiting the resurrection to the earthly paradise.

I think… It was kind of hard to follow. Of course, I had my own presuppositions about the JW theology concerning death, annihilation, and the revered (or coveted) 144,000 (those who actually make it to heaven). I heard the name Jehovah used at any opportunity and Jesus was only mentioned when he was caring about “Lazareth” (should be Lazarus, not sure if that was an honest mistake of combining Lazarus with Nazareth or if there is a legitimate usage of Lazareth to describe the man from Bethany (John 11). Anyways… what my main take away from this was…

The minister did a good job of honoring the deceased’s life. Those from the congregation that showed were dressed finer than any funeral I had been to before. The elderly woman sitting next to me was incredibly faithful to try and thumb through her NWT Bible to attempt to follow along.

As I sat there in the short 30 minutes of the service, I had a lot of feelings. I reflected on the theology I was being handed. I was feeling the loss of those in the room. I also had a couple of other observations… Most Protestant funerals I have been to you don’t see many people bring their Bibles to. The usage of scripture was extensive (even if I thought the usage was misleading and furthered group think). I was forced to also reflect on the importance of what outsiders to Protestant Christian funerals feel/think when they attend. I was invigorated at rereading the theology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This post is already super long… Sorry (kind of). A few of take away questions that could (and is meant to) spur further thought and contrast. These are obviously from what I believe… which I believe to be derived from Orthodox Christian beliefs:

  1. What does a JW do with the unavoidable failed predictions of the return of Christ of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s?
  2. Should an individual be only allowed to ask questions that a faith organization is comfortable answering? Should a faith organization practice strict information control? (as mentioned, I recognize that my tribe has been guilty of this too).
  3. According the Christian scriptures… Is God’s name Jehovah? Or is this an issue of letters from Adonai being placed in the YHWH and then a German pronunciation of the “Y” as a “J”? According to the Bible and History is God’s revealed name Yahweh/Trinity? (This is a fascinating question to me, and it is meant as thought provoking… not a slam toward JW’s)
  4. Who was Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Rutherford, and Nathan Knorr and how does one qualify as being the only authority on interpreting/translating Scripture?

I have a bias against JW theology (not against people who have these beliefs) for the nature of their origins and their beliefs not corresponding to exegetical and historical scrutiny (my opinion). This, however, does not mean that I think that the people are bad or should be silenced etc. I simply disagree and know that many would disagree with me. An observational difference (too often) is that I would listen to their points of argument and in my experience, they would not do the same. When we have closed communication concerning our faith or an indecency regarding how we communicate our beliefs we all lose.

My Updated “About” Page

Just wanted to take a moment to highlight my blogs “About” section. Thanks for taking your time to read!

In my undergrad degree I took a course on Worship (Christian). We were required to read a book by Robert Weber entitled “Worship Old and New”. A thought from that book has stayed with me. “The early Church gathered to retell the saving events of God… predominately the Exodus deliverance and Cross/Resurrection Events…” Weber continued to explain the different mediums that were involved regarding how God’s saving stories were retold. They would meet in homes, fields, over meals, with singing, with musical instruments, with drama, with Psalm sharing, scripture reading, prayer, and most of all through action in their world through radical relationships filled with Mercy and Grace. Jesus was their TORAH. Resurrected Jesus was their proclamation. Dynamic selfless Love was their ethic. My experience growing up was that Worship was mainly synonymous with music forms. This sadly truncates the more full reality of worship or worth-ship.

This site is a place to read my musings and opportunity to participate in creating thought and conversation starters regarding faith.

Everyone will attribute worth to something with their life. One picture of the word/concept worship in the ancient world regarded their posture in which they approached the king. They did not come in with their head held high or with their own agenda. I have the mental picture of opportunity, awe, or fear with someone crawling into a earthly king’s presence. Whether the king was good or bad was probably always on the minds and hearts of the people (esp. the person coming into the king’s presence).

The people had the same relationships with their gods. This is where the God of the Christian scriptures stands in stark contrast to the kings and gods that were not of good character. Not different… non-existent… The biblical concept of Israel’s God is that this God was/is Holy (meaning different or set apart). This God was worthy of attributing life worth to because this God was/is good (in the truest sense of the word). N.T. Wright says that we become like what we worship. I believe that is true. The biggest warning of dehumanizing an individual in the Bible is the worship and keeping of idols. Idols are items that captivate us to the point of addiction and are not life giving. As opposed to icons, idols fixate on themselves and become a hopeless god. Not a living or life providing God.

Jesus is the full expression in human form of Israel’s God.

Since the Church is not really a building or institution… but the community of those that profess that Jesus is God and has risen from the dead, those who want to be His disciples on earth, those who want to take action for the betterment of the world… consider this a form/extension/type of church space… Maybe it will evolve into more…

We all have a story. We all find worth in something or someone. I would like to provide a space to think and reflect on the one who I think is worth attributing your entire story to. Jesus.

The DNA of a church/groups that meet in Kansas where I live has already been in the works. More of this to come.

Pastor Josh Kilsch

Jehovah’s Witness Funeral Part 1.

I had the opportunity to experience my first Jehovah’s Witnesses funeral this past Saturday. I promised a blog post on this, so I am attempting to be somewhat faithful to that promise. I say, “somewhat” because there is a lot to say about the differences in my theology than the those of the JW’s, but my point (I hope) is not to poke fun or be condescending to their beliefs per se.

In my worst self… there is pride that needs to be “checked at the door” of judging another person’s beliefs (this happens with people who even hold the same orthodoxy as myself). We all do it. We long to be right. We long to be part of the TRUTH tribe. We want the “A” at the end of life and the cheese at the end of the maze. We all want to do it for various reasons. I believe one of the reasons we judge other people’s beliefs is out of fear and out of our own sinfulness. I am no different so I guess I will apologize on the front end (when saying “judge” I am meaning being judgemental with harsh perspective, not “judge” as it should be used as to mean to judge rightly or think critically).

James Sire talks about how we believe things for mainly four reasons: 1. Sociologically (My parents, friends, society told me it was True, 2. Psychologically (a supposed Truth makes me feel good), 3. Religious (The priest, rabbi, church, guru told me that it was true), 4. Philosophical Consistency (I have surveyed the data and looked for the most logical and consistent explanation). I think I first read this in a book “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”.

These four categories are interwoven in all of our belief systems that we carry (knowingly or unknowingly). I love the language of Rob Bell’s oft quoted “What we caught and were taught” by all the influences growing up. Some of us explore our beliefs and try to make sense of the inputs we received. Other people sometimes do not care that much, and others lose faith along the faith journey or even get angry (a lot of times all of these happen along the exploration of beliefs/faith). Facing questions concerning the things we have held dear can be a very disturbing and lonely journey. Most faith traditions have an ostracizing, excommunicating, shunning-kick-you-out-of-the-family-and-never-talk-again-kind-of-policy (spoken and unspoken) about them. Some even use violence to enforce the group think and ensure compliance with the faith tribe.

This is probably my biggest hang up with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They do not allow any outside feedback loops to question themselves. They are unwilling to seek truth (unless it is from their own tribe/Bible translation). They practice information control. They are exclusionary. Many Protestant Christians do this too to be fair, but they do so not because they get that instruction from the Bible or Church History (Church History must be qualified but obviously not here). Christianity is a “faith that seeks understanding”. In my opinion, the Bible welcomes the scrutiny of the curious and the skeptic (even if a particular denomination or group of persons don’t).

Reflecting on some of my experiences with information control: (I have had acquaintance relationships with probably six to seven individuals from this faith background). A girl that I worked with at Starbucks in Colorado was instructed by her father not to talk to me anymore once I had some basic non-coercive conversations with her concerning God and gave her some books to read on the subject of reflecting on biblical theology and interpretation. She even explained that she was afraid that her family would disown her for even having taken the books…

Another example is of a couple that are super great people that I know who claim Jehovah as their God. They are some of the most outgoing and kind people I have met (from the JW faith community) who often probably ask themselves WWJ(ehovah)D? Many Saturday mornings they would bring me their pamphlets and Watchtower magazines in the most professional way. They would offer to share a Biblical passage with me (from the New World Translation of course). I would oblige and sincerely listen to their offerings and their gentle sincerity. I would read their materials and ponder the data (which is often pretty general and doesn’t go into any major theological positions but rather encourages good moral behavior inspired by Jehovah).  A couple of years later I went to this couple’s house to bring them a copy of Max Lucado’s “The Story” as a gift (Our Church was giving them away to help spread biblical literacy). The guy (who I do respect) refused to take my gift. There are many reasons that he rejected it, however, the main reason was that he was trained to do so. He expected people to take what he was pushing, but was unwilling to receive anything from anyone else.

PLEASE STAY TUNED ON THIS BLOG FOR PART 2.

Selfies, Death, Hope, 2019

A friend of mine recently went to a seminar that encouraged parents to be engaged with their kids’ use of social media. The ill impact of mindless hours of scrolling through “news” feeds on one’s Facebook is a complex reality (not just for kids). My friend brought back a reflective statistic that basically acknowledged that on average people will have spent 11 years of their life on Facebook and 1 full year of taking selfies! This is a powerful thing when one thinks how one spends their short life. Sleeping, working, and eating take most of our lives and along the way we try to make and maintain meaningful relationships.
Another year gone. New outcomes at the end of this one. New plans and resolutions to make it happen and unwire bad habits. I often think about (sorry if it seems morbid) about how short life is and how close death is for each of us (even if it seems like we have a lot of time ahead). Not very hopeful sounding am I?
I do, however, have a lot of hope and I attribute that hope to my Christian Faith. This past year I performed the funeral for four different people that died. I have been a bi-vocational pastor for a few years and I am on the backup list of who to call when one of our local funeral homes need a pastor (for multiple reasons including that the deceased individual didn’t have a church affiliation or that other Xian pastors refused to perform the service).
Funerals are a major part of a full-time pastor’s role in Christian service to the church and community. For me, most of my time is not spent in Christian church buildings or settings. My experience is a lot like most of the lay people in Christian congregations, and it is a very interesting feeling when I step into those moments to be and perform the high task of servicing the dead and their families. The key point I am trying to make with all this part is that dealing with and thinking about death is something we as Americans try our best to avoid. We want to feel alive. We want the moments that we get to last. Most all of us are shocked when death happens. Some people have been blessed to live long lives and many often realize how fast life had gone. Death definitively feels like a blow. It sucks. The biblical story, however, is never shy regarding the grit of life and death (as so many people have assumed). Words and concepts like “peace”, “save”, “hope”, “resurrection” etc. carry the revelation that God’s plan is not death of creation but the restoration of it. Death’s sting is even questioned by the Apostle Paul.
So… what does this have to do with a year of your life spent on selfies? One thing is that there is a reminder that life is precious and short. Maybe that we would spend that time and those selfies a bit more serious this year. This morning was the first morning of 2019 and I took a picture of my kids and I eating breakfast together at our family dinner table (Andrea was at the gym working out and practicing her stuff for her class). When I snapped the picture, I had thoughts that dealt with how special the moment we were sharing was. This was a moment I wanted to hold onto while realizing someday this picture would be far in the past.
Simultaneously I had a flashback memory that brought emotion to the forefront of my mind. In college and when Andrea and I were first married, I worked at Chipotle. Within the first few months of working there one of my managers died. A couple of months later another manager shot himself at his home (I still think about him when I see our Betty Crocker Cookbook, he gave us for our wedding gift). Both guys were in their early forties. I was age 22.
The first manager I mentioned was named John, and he died of a heart attack. The second manager (Cory) of despair and self-infliction. John’s family had a funeral for him at a local church and we went to pay our respects. I never heard again from Corey’s family. I was as close to John as most people are to their co-worker/managers in that kind of work. I was not that close to him as others might have been, but I do remember him being a good guy as far as I had been able to know him. At his funeral we stood in the back of the room and outside of a couple people from work we didn’t know anybody else there. They started a common video containing pictures of his life. Life with his friends and family.
I remember a rush of emotions coming over me while I was watching the video and his kids watching the pictures go by. Almost twelve years have gone by since that seemingly forgettable moment, but I remember the universal human experience of what loss of life feels like. I think that this was the first time I had reflected on death in that kind of way. Someday will be each of our turn for death. I know that those can be for some very intense thoughts going into 2019. Let’s make the moments of each breath and day we are given. For those of us who know what faith in Christ means, let us share that with one another and share that hope through our love this coming year. Death is not the end.
One of my favorite bands released a song from their upcoming album. Demon Hunter’s song “On My Side” explores the ideas of 1 Cor. 15:55 and Romans 8:31. Ryan from the band explained that because of Christ, death is not a period. Hope in Christ gives hope for the now and the eternal. Lyrics below:

“On My Side”
I’ve been waiting, give me a sign
There’s nothing left to face, only the time
I see shadows, devils, decline
I’ve lost my faith in us, found my design
So now…
Where is the enemy
I can feel no bite
Where is the enemy
When death is on my side
Something building, raging inside
This hope gave me release, gave me a why
Can’t shake this ground beneath, I came to fight

Consuming victory
The trumpets calling out to me by name
By name
No looming debt for me
No, death will find his aim to be in vain
In vain
-Ryan Clark (Demon Hunter)

Link to YouTube Song below:

Demon Hunter “On My Side”

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