people don’t like Chrisitans

Churches can be really insular places.

It’s counter intuitive to say the least. Churches should be one of the most loving, welcoming places in the world. But we all know that often that isn’t’ the case. There are so many reasons why church isn’t welcoming and we’re not going to fix them here. We’re not addressing structure here.

We’re addressing you.

There’s a strong perception with people I know who don’t attend church that churches are harsh spaces filled with judgment and cliques.

This week we’re going to work on that.

This week talk to a co-worker, neighbour, etc. you’ve never had a real conversation with before. Try to speak with them more than once. Go outside the norm of your relationships. Go outside the church.

You’d be surprised how many people don’t know a Christian or even worse don’t know a Christian they like. The only Christians they know are ones they want nothing to do with and we know all the reasons why.

No more cliques, no more inward focus, no more rampant judgement.

Love and grace will be our mark.

We will be transparent and honest.

We aren’t perfect and we won’t pretend to be, or have the answer to make them perfect.

We will connect with people where they are.

People will know us by our love.

So go connect in some new relationships. It’s very possible you’re the first loving Christian they’ve ever meet.

a short do’s and don’t’s

With the good and bad of the internet practical what do we do?

I talked about connecting and begin authentic. Not presenting some kind of crafty self image but rather and honest reflection. What does all of that mean?

Do:

  • Share in others happiness and brokenness
  • Point people to love, grace, hope
  • Like, retweet and message people often
  • Where possible connect face to face
  • Connect with the number of people you can stay connected to in honest and real relationship
  • Be gracious and promote unity
  • Be open to others. Their beliefs, ideas, frustrations.

Don’t:

  • Be self serving
  • Make every post or comment about you
  • Grasp for attention
  • Make your rightness more important than unity, love, and grace
  • Pick fights
  • Be defensive
  • Connect when you don’t really mean it

worth comming back for

I think about duality a lot. Something that is two ends of the same spectrum.

Grace and judgement. How do we blend them? How do we choose? When?

Stuff like that.

For me the internet is a prime example of this sort of duality. Spend any time in a comments section and you’ll see unfetter anger and misplaced rage.

You can also see videos and read stories of people changing the world. Giving themselves to a cause and making real change.

The internet allows for relationships to grow and develop in a way that I don’t think was present before.

I sent a Facebook to an old colleague of mine who is working in Senegal. 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been possible. I don’t have an address or a phone number. I only found out he was in Senegal because of Facebook.

The chances and opportunities are amazing.

The internet is a tool like anything else. I can be so good and it can be so bad. But with intentionality and love and grace it gives all of us a chance to start, build and deepen relationships with people who we couldn’t before. We can’t take it for granted. We can’t miss these ways and spaces for connection.

It’s so easy to drift into an ego centric internet experience. Read what I write (I see the irony), look at my pictures, like my status, all of the me, me, me stuff.

But in reality it’s a chance for a type of compassion that’s new and exciting. The internet is a place and space where we can be about what Jesus was about, love and grace.

Those are stories and experiences people will come back to see and read about again and again.

generous with your generosity

I hope you’re trying to put some of these weekly challenges into your everyday life. They are a terrific way to get your mind and you actions in line with this life of compassion. It just forces you to see the world a little different and that’s a good thing.

This week I’m asking you to be generous once a day.

Originally I wanted to say “be generous one a day to someone who you think doesn’t deserve it” but there were some problems with that.

What if someone you know was generous with you? Does that mean they think you don’t deserve it? How do you know if someone does or doesn’t’ deserve generosity?

It got a little messy.

There was however a reason I started with it worded that way.

Sometimes we hold back our generosity or are generosity is based on merit.

That person is trying so hard we should give them a hand.

Well I’m not going to help someone who isn’t even trying to help themselves.

They have lots, they don’t need me.

That person is so desperate I need to help them.

We test the validity of the request. We want to make sure they are deserving of our help. That they have earned our generosity somehow.

I didn’t want you to do that. I want you to be obedient to God’s call to be generous with all we have.

So once a day when the opportunity is presented we are just generous. It’s not about someone earning it or deserving it, it’s about grace. The chance to be generous is there and we just take it. We don’t hold back our generosity but we are generous with our generosity.

I know it’s strange to ask you to generous with your generosity but it’s true. We can be really strange about our generosity. Who can and can’t get it. Who does and doesn’t’ deserve it.

This week is simple.

Just be generous. No strings, no earning, no deserving, just generosity.

pain, scars and the life we chose

I didn’t know of to start this post.

I didn’t have a good story or clever intro. I realize that you’re probably thinking “that’s different than most days how?”

It all just felt forced and contrived. So I’ll be blunt.

The life of compassion is one without rights.

That’s not a little thing.

That’s a gigantic, massive, life shaking thing.

I think for those of us who have grown up in the West is hard to understand the idea of a life without rights. We have a right to everything. And if we don’t have a right we’ll fight to get it.

Our culture, the church included, has taught us a lot about all the rights we have.

We have a right to happiness.

We have a right to be heard.

We have a right to have stuff and to get to keep our stuff.

We have a right to comfort.

We have a right to not be offended.

We have a right to justice.

But we’re called to give them up. It’s not that they are bad or that we shouldn’t strive to create a society where everyone has these rights. We should. We should strive for equality.

It’s just that these rights are not for us keep. We give them up, freely.

Yes we have a right to happiness, but we give it up to put others first.

Yes we have a right to be heard, but we give it up so others are heard and valued and seen.

Yes we have a right to have stuff and to get to keep our stuff, but we give up our claim to generously bless others freely with all we have.

Yes we have a right to comfort, but we give it up to create spaces comfortable for others where they can be and express who they are, free of judgment.

Yes we have a right to not be offended, but we give it up so others can share their hearts and their pain.

Yes we have a right to justice, but we give it up to seek restoration and wholeness.

This isn’t hyperbole, this is the hard reality of the life of compassion. Everyone comes before us. Sure there will be times when we give up our right to happiness and in putting others first find a fulfillment and happiness that deeper and truer.

Then there will be times we just get yelled at because of the pain Christians and the church have caused. We don’t get to offer reasons or take offence. We gave up that right. We will be wronged so many times and we keep responding with grace.

It’s not fun, it hurts. Sometimes it scars. But we keep responding with grace.

Other centred living costs.

But I see the value in that cost. I see what my sacrifice can and will do in the lives of my friends, family, community and my own. I think it’s worth it. I hurts, but it’s worth it.

but change sucks

I talked on Monday about a change to this space.

I’m hoping the change to this space will in turn make a small change in you.

I think when we talk about change and growth and goals it can get really scary really quick. It may just be me but when I start to think about change my mind goes all the way.

Jesus called us to be generous with all we have soooooooooo do I have to sell my house?

Jesus called us to connect with those who are marginalized by society sooooooooooooo do I just go sit on the streets at night to find some marginalized people?

Jesus calls us to a life of grace soooooooooooo do I always have to let everything go?

It gets so big so fast.

It gets so daunting.

It gets so impossible.

I think it’s a strategy I’ve developed so that I don’t have to change. It’s a tool I use to justify my lack of change.

I’m just not in a place where I can give up my house yet so I’ll pray and connect with God and hope I can be there one day. All the while I’m doing nothing. I’m not really praying and connecting more and because the idea of generosity leads, in my mind, to giving up my house I do nothing.

It causes me to be stagnate.

And then I come and write here that I want to live a life of compassion. That I want to be more generous and build relationships and share God’s amazing grace.

Soooooooooooo what do we do? How do we reconcile our minds to our hearts?

We start. We start with small things that are direct and attainable. We start with things that are totally achievable. We share our experience in community to be encouraged and to be challenged.

We stop making excuses about being ready and how much it’s going to cost in the end. We stop making it so much bigger and impossible. It’s and act of will. A choice that say’s we control our actions and I’m purposing myself to be the person I tell myself and others I am.

We find something we can do and we do it. We trust to the process and believe that there is value in effort and that God honours our hearts desire to be close to Him and the life He’s called us to. We understand that small steps are part of the process. We look at the next step and not the big scary end.

So if I didn’t convince you yesterday, go say Hi to some people.

it must be money

So we tithe.

It’s a part of the life of compassion. We tithe to the church and I suggest we start at 10%.

Our giving certainly doesn’t end with the church or with the 10% but it starts there. As part of our source and our community and our commitment we start there.

And our tithe IS our money.

I may have heard every possible interpretation of giving and tithing.

“I tithe my time.”

“I tithe my cottage.”

“I tithe my expertise”

“I tithe me ….”

NOPE!

You give your time out of generosity and love.

You’re gracious with your cottage and the blessing you have.

You pour back into community that has poured into you.

You tithe your money.

If there is one lasting thing I can impress upon you this week let it be this.

If you strive to live a life of compassion you need to give money away.

We spend far too much time thinking of reasons why we don’t need to give our hard earned money. We create reasons and systems that tell us we can keep our money if we do this instead. We hoard our money and then cover up our guilt with good deeds.

We need to give our money.

Generosity includes time, effort, resources, knowledge, it’s all there. We are called to all of those graces and to be generous in each of those spaces.

But none of those change our need to be generous with our money.

is 10% a taboo number?

I think more than the idea of tithing the amount one tithes is where it gets tricky. Frame a tithe as “we as members of the church should support the local church” and people are on board. Set a number and they get weird.

No one likes to be told how to spend their money. And for all the talk about how all we have is God’s, they are still the gate keeper. Everyone has their interpretation of how God wants their money spent. It’s a deeply personal thing which people often don’t want any input on.

And since I’m a man who respects and understand how deeply personal this is…I’m going to tell you how much you should give.

Start at 10%.

The big key in the sentence is START at 10%. It ties into the why we tithe from Monday, but if you commit to giving as a way of breaking money’s hold on you and showing your support for the local church I think just how I encouraged you to start with giving to the church we start at 10%, then go up.

Yes it’s Old Testament and yes we’re not forced to do it but I think the plan Jesus had when He abolished the law and called us to live by grace was not for us to regress to less than the law.

Often when I talk with folks about how we don’t have to tithe 10% because we are called to live by grace and not law it segues in to them not giving. It’s the reason why they don’t have to give. It’s the little gilt valve release that lets them hold their money.

“Well I haven’t felt Jesus call me to give recently so we’ve just been waiting for God to speak.”

“I’m just in a season where I can’t give and you know I think God has placed me here. I’m being faithful to the commitments (read debts) I have and God will honour that.”

I can’t recall a case where someone has argued that they are not tied to a tithe and then followed that statement up with how they are now giving more. If your giving more you won’t argue over if you must give 10%. You’ll probably say while it’s not a rule it’s probably not a bad idea because you get that it’s not about the number but the heart and that discipline helps the heart.

Bruxy made the point that grace calls us to deeper and greater commitment. Love your enemy kind of stuff. So wouldn’t it stand to reason that grace would call us to deeper generosity, or MORE than 10%?

Giving and generosity is a discipline. It’s hard to do sometimes and needs to be worked at and committed to. It’s not something we do when convenient. I think the commitment of a tithe sets our hearts and actions in line to the discipline of generosity. A tithe is the starting point of a generous life. We start there and go forward with more generosity. It is a good start to break the hold money has on us and our excuse making over why we can give.

For context, shortly after my wife and I got married we ran into some tricky financial times. I got laid off from my full time job and Sarah only worked part time while in a full time master’s program. We had two cars, a mortgage and all the expense of life.

So I get not being able to afford it, I really do.

But it still needs to happen to keep your heart and your actions in line with this life Jesus has called us to, which generosity is an important aspect.

We could have stepped back and said “God has blessed us with this house and these cars. We need to stop giving so we can afford the blessings God has given us. We will in the long run waste so much more of God’s money if we give up our home or car and have to buy it back. We wouldn’t be good stewards of what God has given us. This is a season where we can’t give but when it gets better we will.”

But we committed to giving back to God what He’s given us. We were blessed in such a way that we didn’t have to give up those things, but that was by no means a guarantee. We could have lost a car or our house. And admittedly that would have been a far harder discussion about tithing at that point. I’d like to think I’d have kept tithing but I don’t know.

Maybe you’re in that spot between giving and heat. I don’t have an easy answer for you. It’s a cop out on my end. I think you should give but I’m not you in your place. I’d love to hear your side about it.

But more than likely if you’re reading this on a computer with internet things might be tight but it’s not a choice between giving and paying your hydro. It’s between do we keep eating out or give? It’s between do we buy new clothes because ours are tired or give? It’s between do I have cable or give? It’s between fulfilling your desire and fulfilling the desires of Jesus.

I think Jesus is clear that as a follower of Him giving and generosity must be a part of your life, poverty or not.

worth standing in the rain

We have really screwed up the message of Jesus.

A young lady comes to my door and asks me to help support Amnesty International and their work in Syria and I don’t think it’s strange.

This young lady was not embarrassed at all.

This was a cause worth standing in the rain for. This was a cause that would change people’s lives not just now but in a fundamental way for generations. The work to end a genocide resonates through history. She wasn’t embarrassed to say she believed in the universal rights of people. She didn’t shy away from asking me to get involved. She was cryptic about what she was asking.

People are not being treated like people and we have the means to help. We must help.

And sometimes I don’t want to even tell people I go to church let alone that I’m a committed Christ follower (note how I won’t even write Christian down. Serious cognitive disconnects going on).

We have be invited into a life of depth and meaning. I’ve written about it before. But somehow we’ve become embarrassed to share that life. We’ve made it so complicated with rules and politics. We corrupted it a point where the church becomes the oppressor.

But the message of Jesus is love.

A radical,

life changing,

live giving,

undeserved,

unprecedented,

over the top kind of love that changes not only people today but generations. Families and their children’s children.

There is nothing embarrassing about being a follower of Jesus. There is nothing embarrassing about living another centred life marked by reckless love and grace.

But if your faith is church on Sundays, do’s and don’ts, and judgment then I can see why you’re not as excited to share it. It’s just too bad we haven’t been able to find the same Jesus.

try again

I’m distracted.

I’ve got sooooo much going on. It’s the busy time at work, I move to a new home on Saturday, our new home is getting work done, I have a new baby coming in July-August, and so on and so on.

I’m distracted.

And to be honest I’m slipping back into old Phil. The less other centred, less generous, generally less of the man God has called me to be.

It was subtle and slow but reflecting back I think distinct.

At the onset of this space I talked about the need to be purposeful. I talked about how things won’t just happen and often we need to commit ourselves to doing something. We need to pick a concrete task and do it or it may never happen. We will talk and think about all the changes and love we want to give but it just doesn’t happen.

But today is a new day. Every day is a new day. A chance to commit, chance to change, a chance to love unconditionally, a chance to give without strings, a chance to open up your life and help someone else find safety and love and grace and acceptance.

Today I commit to being generous once a day again. In some way every day I plan to be generous.

I’m also writing grace on the back of my hand. I’m hoping it will remind me to choose grace in every situation.

What are you doing today to make sure you don’t slip back into old you?