Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When Your Platform is a Minefield

The voices of the audience all blend into a steady murmur as they make their way to their seats. The lights go down and the voices quiet. A stagehand tells you its time and gives you a push towards center stage. Finally, the curtain goes up, you wonder how your mouth got dry so quickly, and the spotlight locks onto you. Every eye is focused on you.

Most of us have been there before. Staring into the spotlight like it was an oncoming train. For some of us the last time we found ourselves in that place it was an elementary recital. For others it was a high school play or maybe more recently someone talked us into the embarrassing act of Karaoke. No matter what the platform is, when you find yourself in the spotlight, your body acts like it has entered an entirely different atmosphere.

Change of perspective, Bill Shakespeare said, “Life is a stage.” If Jersey Shore has taught us anything it’s that Bill was right and people will watch anything. Life really is a stage though, and our technology and culture have intensified things. Cameras are everywhere, and if something interesting happens, there’s a pretty good chance it will get distributed on a global scale. Have you ever had a bad day? Maybe you have accidentally walked into a fountain while texting? Yeah, millions of people are going to see that. They are going to comment and video will probably get linked to their Facebook wall too.

If it gets people talking it’s newsworthy too. Forget about finding ways to create more jobs. If you can turn reality into the surreal and catch it on camera you have found an economic stimulus that politicians would die for. Have you heard of the Failed Marriage Business Model? Whether Kim and her wedding was real or just a gimmick it generated an amazing amount of attention. Fox News said that most estimators think that Kim received nearly eighteen million dollars. Who else gets paid $10,000 an hour for being married? She may be the punch line for many a joke right now, but isn’t the real punch line that we paid for it all?

Over 7 million people tuned into watch a football game on a Thursday night. It wasn’t a pretty football game either. Both teams only combined for one offensive touchdown. Still, for some reason it was the 6th largest TV audience to watch a Thursday night football game. The cause? The guy who managed the offenses’ only touchdown: Tim Tebow. Talk about living life under a microscope. Everyone from ESPN’s talking heads, all the way down to a plethora of Facebook statuses are full on arguing if he is actually a QB or not.

Tim is a pretty vocal guy. He is vocal in his faith, he is vocal in his leadership, and he has even been vocal after some of his failures on the field. His personality, desire to win, and faith have attracted a huge amount of interest. Every time he tweets nearly a half a million people read it. I wonder what its like for him to look into that spotlight?

Today, having a platform means constant scrutiny, ridicule, and constant potshots. All of that is a given, even if you don’t falter. Make a misstep in the spotlight? Prepare to get eaten alive. I’m not ready for that kind of stage. Are you? Is your faith?

Reading through the book of Acts you will find the followers of Jesus sharing His story with countless people and those people embracing Jesus as a result. Every step of the way, you will also find a huge amount of resistance. Paul, Silas, Barnabus, and Peter couldn’t stay anywhere for very long. Not because they did anything wrong, but because they made some people very uncomfortable. In Acts 14 a mob beat Paul beyond the point of consciousness and thought they had killed him. Just a few chapters later Paul and Silas are arrested and beaten without even being properly accused. Still, as they traveled from town to town their routine stayed the same. They would find people who wanted to talk about knowing God and introduce them to Jesus. They weren’t seeking the spotlight, they were simply messengers sharing the Message God had gave them. Are you ready for that platform? Can you imagine staring into that spotlight?

I’m not ready for MTV to send a camera crew out to my house to film a reality show pilot. I’m not sure what I would do if a CNBC reporter surprised me for an interview on current events. I don’t even want to think what the rest of the country would tweet, comment, and blog about if I did an in-depth interview with ABC. I would all too likely sizzle like an egg in a frying pan.

Paul followed God’s lead all over the place. He got to see God do amazing things through his words and actions. He also had a very angry group of people chasing him every step of the way. If they had gotten the right opportunity, they would have killed him too. Paul, still, was comfortable with the platform God had given him. He was also willing to go through all the other suffering that came with it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Afternoon Links

This is a blog a friend of mine writes on from time to time. The organization tackles ministering to students on a global scale. If you really wanna get involved you can support my friend and his wife Adam and Kristy Griffith. I really believe in what they are doing in Thailand and the passion they have. Great blog with some wonderful (and challenging) insights.
Harassment Survey
 I read this article this morning from WCPO's website. The article discusses how rampant sexual harassment is in schools, between students. It covers the span of topics like sexting, bullying, and moments of harassment where students really just think they are joking around. This is a very thought provoking article on the reality we find our students living in everyday.

Meals for Haiti  
I LOVE me some Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. A group of our students and leaders went down this past summer and served with Northwest at the Mole Saint Nicholas. It was a great experience. Our friends at NWHCM are doing something really cool this Thanksgiving Season. They are trying to raise money for a MILLION meals for Haiti. Here is the best part: the meals only cost a nickel a piece. They are raising money from now until December 7th. So go check your couch cushions for change and get in the game!

Waking Up
This is a really cool spoken word video from a young adult conference a few weeks ago. Not only is it well made, but it is a great challenge to never stop dreaming, be a part of solution, and radically help others. Watch the video it is a great use of your next 3 minutes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Justice on a 7 Billion Person Scale

I heard on the radio the other day that the world’s population has reached 7 billion people. That number exploded in my head. It led me to a YouTube video on some University’s website that showed population growth throughout history. I saw how the United Nations is projecting that by the year 2100 there will be over 10 Billion people in the world. Those are big, big numbers in a small, small world. (It is a small world after all, isn’t it?) Essentially more people are being born each day then are dying.

If this info makes your mind jump to where mine did, then you know what I’m going to say next. I looked it up and scholars estimate that anywhere from 150,000 to 180,000 die each day. That would be the equivalent of Guam being sucked into the ocean each and every day.

Turkey just had a horrible earthquake that has left families trapped in the rubble, and many are still sleeping in tents and in their cars out of fear of more aftershocks. Still, at last count, far less than 1000 people have died in the earthquake. I’m not saying that this catastrophe was not tragic or that it did not affect hundreds of thousands of people. It did however only represent about .6% of the deaths that occurred that same day. I don’t know how to put death on that scale into perspective.

A student recently shared with me the story of Herod killing all the babies around Bethlehem, found in Matthew 2. He said that he didn’t believe that there was a God, but if there was, he was obviously cruel. “How could a kind God allow other innocent babies die so that His own son could escape and live?” He commented. That was the first time someone had shared this story with me from that perspective.

A few days later I started reading through the book of Matthew again. It didn’t take me long to come across Herod’s horrible act, or as my student put it, God’s failure to act. It got my wheels turning again and so I decided to spend some more time wrestling with the reality we all live in.

What about Herod, or more importantly, what about the question of God’s goodness? Does God’s seeming lack of intervention in Matthew 2 mean He is cruel? It would be very easy to turn this into ethics debate. Do the deaths of a group of innocent children justify the eventual hope of salvation of us all? I worry that putting the conversation in these terms cheapens the value of life. I don’t believe God looks at life in those terms.

It would be just as easy to look at the culture and context of this story and begin teaching the problem away. Herod was a bad man you know. He had lots of people killed for lesser things. There are lots of accounts of Herod killing big groups of people and asking questions later. When you think about it Bethlehem was a small country town. Even if you included the infants in the surrounding villages like Matthew 2 describes, the number of children killed could have been less than 100. You could go on and on. That might all be important information to better understand what exactly happened in Matthew 2, but it still doesn’t make the big question go away. Is God cruel? Is this story proof of that?

My student really got me thinking. My faith didn’t change, but I knew this was something that I needed to wrestle with, so I did. I came to a few conclusions:

Death is an experience I don’t understand and I can’t avoid.

It is a reality that hits our planet on a huge scale every day. I read Matthew 2 and see God sparing Joseph, Mary, and Jesus from a corrupt ruler’s hands. I see children in Bethlehem being murdered at the hands of Herod. I think the author of Matthew shared this story because it really happened and the prophet Jeremiah prophesied that it would (See Jeremiah 31:15). I don’t see this as proof of God’s cruelty. In fact I don’t see God as cruel at all.

God loves justice and promises it.

(See Job 37:23 or Psalm 9:16//11:7//33:5)

A leader or ruler’s job is to maintain order and ensure justice. God entrusted Herod with that job and he abused it. That doesn’t mean that God stopped serving justice. Herod’s act of evil did not go unpunished. God saw to it that those children and their families were given justice. In fact, Josephus, a Jewish historian, records that Herod came down with a ‘loathsome’ disease. Josephus credits the manner of Herod’s death as ‘Judgment from God on account of his sins.’ Herod didn’t get away with anything, and God did not sit idly by and watch it happen.

We need to trust Him even in life’s cruelest of times.

He deals with life and death on a mind numbing scale. He watches injustice on a grand scale and still honors our free will. I do not entirely understand why God spared Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, but let Stephen die in Acts 6 and 7. I do believe we are created to bring God glory and reveal His glory to others. Living and dying is all a part of that. God is above and beyond me, but at the same time he chose to come down and live alongside of me. I don’t know his thought process in every decision he makes, but He is far greater than me and I trust that He is good. The author of Revelation describes God’s final triumph over evil in Revelation 19. God is seated on a white horse. He has come to right the world’s wrongs and bring justice to us all. He is called Faithful and True and He brings Justice as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All will be made right. This is a very good thing.