This weekend we launched our 4th KIVU Gap Year Class in Denver to set out for a year's worth of Global Discovery. The KIVU Gap Year is quickly becoming an alternative option for students who are driven leaders and want to experience the world in a real way before entering the University.
With a track record of 100% college acceptance, we have former students at Large State Universities, some at Small Private Institutions, and even some who have decided to pursue degrees at Christian Schools across the country.
As newly elected KIVU Global Ambassadors, the KIVU Gap Year is quickly becoming the standard for students looking for a healthy dose of academics, hands on learning, networking, and resume building before they enter their first year at the University. And the world is taking notice.
Just a few weeks ago, The KIVU Gap Year was highlighted on the 700 Club, ABC's Family Network, and the CBN online news outlet as a program reaching far into the education system of America and providing students a Comprehensive Worldview.
We want our students to be able to approach global problems with global solutions. We want to expose them to cultures they've only read about on the pages of history books, and furthermore, we want to re-enforce our mantra "Loving God/ Loving Others" in a comprehensive way.
I'm so excited for the class of 2014 as they engage in learning important leadership skills, invest in global business, education, and health care, and become the leaders of tomorrow who can make a difference in the world by following Jesus.
If you'd like more information on The KIVU Gap Year, please feel free to cruise our website,http://www.campkivu.com.
You can read the stories from the current students, and see the completed journeys of past students at http://www.kivugapyear.com.
You can see up to date photos and videos on our facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/kivugapyear, or you can follow us on Instagram @TheKivuGapyear.
With the war drums beating loud in Washington, America is on the verge of seeing yet another Middle East conflict emerging. As the Syrian government has been indicted to using Chemical weapons against it's own people, it seems like we must do something to stop the bloodshed.
Nearly 100K people have been killed in this conflict, and the strategic balance of power seems to be with the current regime. Beheld to the surrounding Arab Spring uprisings, it's no doubt why leaders in the Syrian government are worried they may not hold to power much longer.
But what of a Christian Worldview in all this?
How should people who claim to follow the Prince of Peace address the cries for war and justice?
Is it fair enough to say, "God allowed war in the Bible, and thus we have a cart blanche card to use the military He's given to affect 'good' to others?"
Another argument emerges, "Protect those who can't protect themselves" that drives the American Judeo/Christian value system to rush to help.
I must admit, am torn.
I've spent a fair amount of my life now working with teenagers in the Middle East. I've made it a point to learn the factions, and understand how a culture might view people in the 'other' parts of the globe. I've committed much time, energy, meditation, study, and prayer to wondering weather the role of force in a global conflict is effective after living my 20's and early 30's through a decade of violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I have friends who have lost much.
I love my dear brothers who serve in the military.
I have a deep reverence for the people who sacrifice their lives for the good of America.
But so many questions cloud my own thinking when it comes to war.
1.) As a believer, Jesus calls me to Love My Enemy. There really aren't any places where Jesus calls us to take up the cause of someone elses war. In fact, when given the chance to respond to the Occupying Empire of His day, Jesus took a coin with Caesar's picture on it and said, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what it God's.' In other words, the King of the Universe, while here on the earth, gave no right to plow through rebellion for the sake of justice.
2.) How well do we really know what's going on? I was in my early 20's when the argument for dismantling chemical weapons was the war cry to invade Iraq. After visiting Baghdad in December 2012, I'm sure the system we longed to help create is at the brink of violence at any given moment. Car bombings have sky rocketed in recent weeks, and Iraq is no place of peace and democracy as seemed to be promised by the last administration. Over 800 people have been killed in violent bombings in August 2013. Do we really know what we're talking about? Is the End Game America so desperately wants to see across the world even possible?
3.) Do we know the 'who's' in the game? It seems to me, the Arab spring was a cry out for Freedom from our friends in the Middle East. And now upon further understanding, it was merely a cry for America to come and use its military to unseat the dictatorial rulers who were holding to another kind of power inhibiting the grass roots extremists from legitimizing themselves on the global stage.
And with these three, I begin to wonder my position. I know I'm not in any place of power when it comes to geo political decision making, but it's interesting to look deep in my own heart and ask, What if?
As a follower of Jesus is there a place to bomb Syria?
How to we teach and train our young people to think about a Kingdom not of this world, when time and time again we are dragged back in?
Does the observation of evil allow for us to engage in a violent way?
What is my responsibility as a follower of Jesus?
When I was an actor in art school, we learned how an artists responsibility was to look deep into the culture and create a conversation where people might think of a certain issue a different way. Sexuality, War, Conflict in the Human Condition, it all froths to the top in good writing. For some, we need new ways of approaching these issues so we can come to different conclusions.
Theater is an interesting art form. So many genres give actors, directors, and producers different pallets to approach this cultural mirror. But what happens when there's a critical mass? What happens when the audience turns from 100 people to 100 Million? Is there a responsibility for the artists to start explaining the direction they're driving?
I've been amazed at my previous article concerning Miley Cyrus and the VMA award show on Sunday. As of right now, nearly 26,854 people have viewed the article in just over 24 hours. Which tells me we need a long hard look at how to respond when we don't know where the culture is going. We need to ask a few questions to help us frame this debate well.
1.) How much of Miley Cyrus lives in us?
As per my article below, We need to be careful to check our response at the door. Artists have an ingrained responsibility to reflect, and it's easy to point our finger at someone on stage without taking the proper examination into our own dark heart. Remember, Cyrus is 20 something years old and has been spit out of a HUGE machine. I don't need to defend her, but before I start seeing Christian Antagonists who want to be the moral cultural police, we need to take a long hard look into the sexuality among our own.
Did Miley hit a nerve because we want to distance ourselves from the sexual revolution happening right before our eyes? Pornography is still a $13 Billion industry And I would argue the choreography from Sunday's MTV event was as close to porn as you can get without crossing into XXX ratings.
Even Bill Maher tweeted, "Watching the VMA's Haven't been in a strip Club in a while, but good to see nothing has changed."
One might take the position Cyrus was just subject to her own machine, a 20 something year old woman trying to distance herself from the cute Disney label she was known for, obviously swinging the pendulum too far to the other side. OR, we can see the VMA's as a reflection of what's really going on in our society.
"Miley was one artist in the room who truly understands what MTV Video Music Awards are all about" tweeted Rolling Stone Magazine after the event.
Is it about reflection or a culture seeking to drive us deeper into the mud and myre of our own depravity?
When I was young there were traveling pastors who tried to make the case that if you listened to certain music or watched certain movies you were actually partnering with evil to take down the moral compass of our civilization. But is that really what's going on? Is art a tool for evil? Or, can we take a minute to ask ourselves, why?
Why are we so offended?
Why is there a repulsive reaction?
Anybody walk in Cyrus' shoes to understand why she would make the choices she made?
Like I said before, I'm not defending Miley, the VMA's, MTV, or any other artist that chooses to put on a display of outright sexuality on cable T.V. I'm only proposing we ask questions of reflection before we jump to judgement.
2.) Do Christians have a place to be honest and examine the ills in our own lives?
I've been intrigued lately with the pain and trauma families are dealing with as they walk through potentially destructive situations. The guilt and shame accompanying events around sexuality, greed, pride, and failure, seem to bring out the most secretive in all of us. We have a sense that if we serve a good God, then most evil in the world will just pass us by like the angel of death during the Israelite Exodus of Moses' day.
But that's not the case.
We live in a world that is filled with evil. The stain of the world is prevalent everywhere. From television to the super market, we don't have a place to hide, and we are not guaranteed life is going to be easy just because we decide to follow Jesus. Addiction is real. Death and Disease are real. Sexual immorality is part of the human condition, and I'm not sure the question is 'should we run and hide' as much as it is 'how can we deal with it while we breath here on the planet.
James 1:27 says, "Pure and undefiled religion is this...That we take care of the widows and orphans in their distress, AND to remain unstained from the world." It's not an either or situation. It's a both and command.
Widows and Orphans can be those who we see physically lonely, but they can also be the spiritual lonely. Those in our communities who are hiding in the secret sin and are living in a world shadowed by shame. And in order to get there to walk with our friends, we have to be able to look deep into our own world and ask the hard questions about humanity, God, and our response to God's Sovereignty.
I recently talked with a friend going through tremendous amount of pain, and his comment was, "What if someone finds out?"
To which I quickly responded, "Yea? If they find out you'll know who is going to be able to walk with you through this for real. You don't have to put on a 'Christian' show for the world. You don't have to defend God. He's capable of defending himself. You shouldn't even have to defend yourself. God made you, created you, loves you, judges you, and ultimately forgives you. The fact you feel the pressure to be an example is exactly where YOU SHOULDN'T have to live."
Freedom will come when we can lay down the things we find most repulsive in our own existence and take steps to confront those things that are most offensive.
3.) How do you talk to your teenagers about representing themselves in culture?
The sad part of the VMA's is that Miley Cyrus will forever be on the playback reel for the foreseeable future. It seems like when artists push the boundaries to either reflection or driving, those are the times that continue making the news reel. USA Today had three articles yesterday concerning one moment of a two hour awards show.
Well, we can look at it as a cultural demise, or we can take the opportunity afforded to talk with our kids about right and wrong. The questions at the dinner table ought to sound like...
What did they say about the VMA's at school yesterday?
Why do you think Cyrus chose to dance like that?
Do you do things to prove a point sometimes?
Do you ever respond to others out of pain, hurt, or the need to express yourself?
What do you think are the proper ways to call for help?
And then follow up with lessons you can help your kids see how impactful this will be. Tell them of lessons you learned about how to represent yourself in public. Help your girls see why boys will give them attention for dressing a certain way, talking a certain way, or dancing a certain way. Help your boys see the world is interested in what kind of girl you can get to walk with you, but God is interested in how you treat a woman.
I think there are some incredible opportunities for us to learn, teach, train, and still remain pure from the ills of the world but we have to stop ignoring our own community issues long enough to look them in the face and push to find answers.
Last night the world was subject to the full transformation of our former Teen Idol Hannah Montana. The brilliant Disney family star approached pop music's Superbowl ( The MTV Music Awards) donned in a revealing outfit performing lewd sexual innuendos in front of millions. Even Will Smith and kids in tow were appalled at the performance of Disney's former mistress.
Miley Cyrus was the heir apparent to all the Disney empire only a few short years ago, and now we can't even turn on the television without seeing her performing some disgusting tribute, wearing something too revealing, or even worse, smoking something I'm trying to protect my kids from. What's going on here?
I can't help but know there will be several ministry sites today bashing the performance (and it will be difficult to disagree with them) but I think the more important question at hand is, "How did we let this happen?"
Sure there will be those who say Miley decided to do whatever....
Some will just huff in disgust at Hollywood, pop culture, and there will be those who say, "See, America is going to hell in a hand basket."
But they don't understand.
They don't understand, Miley didn't go to her closet and pick out those clothes.
She didn't choreograph that dance.
She might have had some influence into what was going to happen, but for those who want to judge this morning, be sure you're judging the whole picture.
She has stylists.
She has wardrobe people.
She has choreographers.
She's basically owned by a label.
So, how did the once innocent Hannah Montana turn into this?
I think we need to look deep into the human conscience and ask how WE allowed this to happen? Where was Disney? They made hundreds of millions off Hannah Montana, where are they this morning?
Where are her parents? What's happened that Miley feels like she has to compete with Madonna, Ga Ga, or even straight up strip club porn?
Why does the pop music industry allow this to happen when millions of kids are going to mimic what she's doing on stage? Is it because they don't care? OR is it because we let it go on in our own communities? Has it become normal?
I'll never forget when a prominent pastor friend of mine walked into KIVU and saw us setting up for our annual Barn Dance Extravaganza. He leaned in and whispered, "What are you guys doing?"
"Well, we're throwing a barn dance tonight to teach kids how to have fun dancing.'
"Aren't you afraid they'll have SEX?" He whispered in a hushed tone.
I looked at him quizzically and answered, "Well....NO!"
You see, if we teach our kids how to deal with pop culture, and reveal to them there are places where pop culture doesn't have to cross the line to 'nasty,' I think we can live in the world without much problem.
But when the only space for our kids to explore cultural identity is through the lens of a former idol who has now endorsed lewdness in front of millions; well, we're going to have an increasingly harder time having discussions about marriage, family, sexuality, and the need to take relationships seriously.
I know it wasn't Ms. Cyrus' intent to be the role model she is.
It seems, from afar, she's struggling to find herself and in doing so is bowing to the lowest common denominator of sexuality.
If she deserves to be criticized, demoted, subject of boycott, or whatever judgement our community sees fit...then fine.
But let's not forget much of what happened last night on the MTV Music Awards wasn't merely creating as much as it was reflection. Many of you have asked about the nature of teenage sexuality in the 21st century, well...it was on for all to see last night.
No more hiding.
No more secret hooking up.
No more wondering.
If you want to know what's going on in the hallways of today's high school, just watch a little re-cap, because you'll be sure not to want to see all that went on last night.
Most of my friends know my historical disdain for this silly game. I've always thought it to be a strange notion to walk miles around a grassy noll chasing a little white ball, mostly in the woods like an easter bunny looking for eggs; but I must admit, as of late I'm liking it.
My son came to me about a year ago and asked if he could join the golf team, and in a moment of weakness I said, "Well, that's a new one," sighing a long breath of discomfort. I knew if my son wanted to play golf, I was going ot have to join him. After all, what kind of dad just drops his son off at the golf course and says, "see you when you're finished, son?"
So I bought an old set of Callaway clubs and set out to try and figure out why so many of you like this game.
I started out frustrated like many others I've seen go before me. I would hit a drive to the left, to the right, and sometimes even top the ball and watch my huge swing turn into a 20 yard pay off. I was slowly loosing all mental capacity for being a man, when my friend called and asked, "are you ok man?"
"I just can't figure out this golf game. I'm trying to be a good dad, but this is really frustrating. How do you guys relax when you go to the golf course?"
He laughed hysterically, and then gave me some of the best advice I've ever heard. "Stop trying to be Tiger Woods, and take a long walk with your son. Just think of your walk being interrupted by this little white ball, but don't try to win."
And that that....
Since then I've had a blast, you guessed it, playing golf?
My friends even ask me, "What in the world has gotten into you?" But it really is a wonderful place to escape from all the stuff going on around me. Not to mention, our public course here in Durango is CHEAP!!
So this week, I've been dropping my son off at the range to practice with the school team, and then I try and find someone who needs an extra player. I've met some really interesting people I never would have met if I was just trying to crush the ball all the time.
We've laughed, shared life stories, and in some instance I've shared how what I do and how faith plays an integral part in my world.
Who would have thought? New friends...ON THE GOLF COURSE non the less. What an interesting turn of events...
Well, we wrapped up our summer at KIVU 2013 last night. If you haven't had a chance to see what's going on out here, be sure to check out The KIVU Facebook Page where we've loaded pictures, videos, and you can see comments from the people who chose to spend part of their summer out here in the beautiful foothills of the San Juan Mountains.
I must take a moment and just say a HUGE THANKS to the KIVU staff. They were undoubtedly the most engaged, enthusiastic, encouraging group of people I've been around in a LONG time. Thank you guys so much for your continued willingness to go above and beyond to make KIVU a "Best in Class" adventure for teenagers.
I want to thank our sponsors, donors, and those of you who know it takes an enormous effort to put together a program where students feel safe enough to explore adventures, relationships, and the courage to take a spiritual journey no matter where it leads.
Thanks to our international friends who came over. From France to Spain, Jordan to Saudi, you guys brought a richness to our conversation, as you pointed out how the rest of the world lives.
And to our KIVU families that have been around for years, we couldn't, shouldn't, and wouldn't do this without you. Thank you for your trust, your understanding, and your letters of encouragement.
Working with students can be the most exciting part of my life. Seeing them try something they've never done before, laugh together at a party, or just dance the night away; it was truly a joy to my soul to watch students escape the pressure they feel every day.
We will miss you much here for the rest of the year.
We move into a season to reflect.
We'll spend a time pondering on the lessons you all taught us.
We'll work on making KIVU a better place for the future.
We'll have lessons to share with our colleagues doing youth work around the world.
And most of all, we'll be gearing up for next summer to meet new friends, invite new families to the mix, and continue to give teenagers a safe place to explore.
Thanks all who were involved in th 2013 season.
Ok, now to the questions...
WHAT IN THE WORLD DOES THIS MEAN?
I grea up in a world where phrases were given out in mass cliche.
'Give it up and give it to God.'
'Let God be the captain of your ship.'
'My passenger is a Jewish Carpenter.'
And now this? FAITHBOOK?
Has anyone in the world ever wondered why Christian cliche is so cheesy? I mean really? Is this where the understanding of theology has come?
I was recently talking my friend off the long cliff of legalism, and it was amazing how much of this kind of stuff plays in the head of people searching for honest faith. They've reduced the meaning of faith to a t-shirt, they're favorite pastor's soundbite, or a slogan used in the latest series at their church. But is faith something that can be reduced?
I suppose in realm of possibility, someone can have a 'faithbook' and learn to know God, but was it faithbook, or was it God that drew them near?
I don't want to cross over to the place of cynicism, so I'll give credence where possibility is well, possible.
I wonder if our measure of faith can truly be expressed in it's fullness when our only test of faith is whether or not we click a button, sign a card, go up front in a service, raise our hand when no one is looking...OR...is faith measured under the trials and tests of life.
Previously, the verse in James "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..." was the verse I could hold on to knowing that my faith would grow.
But it wasn't until my faith was put to full test that I cling to this section of scripture, because testing requires us to come to the end of ourselves. Testing makes for a place where there is nothing left but that God might intervene in your life. It squeezes. It's referred to as suffering.
You can't really give it up and give it to God until you've experienced the press of life so fully you got no where else to go.
So this brings me to the point where I wonder if our culture, or better yet our sub-culture, has created a cloud of confusion about faith so we can swallow the messages we hear from people putting out cheeky T-shirts, insane bumper stickers, and facebook banners to ask people how dedicated they are to the faith.
It just feels strange in my spirit.
How about you?
This summer at KIVU we hosted a Summer Country Southern Christmas. Taking cues from our friends over at Duck Dynasty, we had beards, camo, and lots of laughs to host our evening. The unusual part of this adventure was the list of party goers.
I know, some of you are wondering, "how in the world can you bring all those people together?" But I must assure you, from personal experience, IT'S POSSIBLE!!
We had people speaking Southern.
People dancing to Jingle Bells.
Some were speaking Arabic.
While others were asking, "Is this how all Christmas parties go?" Not knowing anything of the christmas culture in America!! HA!!
It was an absolute BLAST!
The Lesson I learned after watching all these people groups come together is pretty simple, God sees people. Sure, I know there are categories of people that ride right along cultural lines, economic lines, and even religious lines. I know we're good at creating the Us. Versus Them. Narrative in the world, but think about it just for a second....
When Jesus came to the world, the lines that man created didn't intimidate Him.
He didn't see the heart of people any further than where they were in the moment.
In the Jesus paradigm, he didn't segregate Samaritan and Jew, Rich or Poor, or even Men and Women. He gave HIs whole attention to people beyond the boundaries mankind created.
It begs the question of us all, "Who are the people of the world we are most intimidated by, and why?"
I know the purpose of creating group think brings with it an air of security. We know how people think in our group. We know how people react in our group. We even know how they will handle us when we fail. But when you open the boundaries to see most of the world is simply trying to meet the most basic needs of humanity, the heart of Jesus begins to shine through.
He ate with the Tax Collectors.
He spoke with the Pharisees.
He gave hope to the Samaritans.
He welcomed the Zealots into His inner circle.
He even went so far as to pick out the blue collar workers to become the foundation of faith going forward.
This summer we had the sacred privilege to live the heart of Jesus with our friends from all sorts of different places. And you know what? In the end, we saw the strangest relationships begin to develop.
We saw Christians loving Muslims.
We saw Rich loving Poor.
We saw Old loving young.
We saw Men loving Women (in the most real, honest, non-agenda sort of way)
It's a beautiful thing to witness, as the people involved in the KIVU family are willing to Live Life WITH One Another, Rather than creating spaces where they have to Live Life AT One Another.
Oh, and the Christmas party....
The kids from Jordan will never celebrate Christmas the same again!!
No thanks. I replied.
Hey Mister! You need to buy a bracelet.
No Thanks. I looked down with a bit of annoyance in my voice.
Hey Mister! I have Very Nice Bracelets for you.
I looked down into the eyes of one of the most beautiful little girls I've known. Her eyes were deep brown. Her skin was the color of the native people I'd been meeting with all day long. Her accent was clearly arabic. And as with many places I've traveled, she was a part of a tribe of children who try to help their parents make a living. They troll the street corners looking for people who might have missed a tourist spot to buy gifts, and make cute appeals for sales on the spot.
Ok, how much are your bracelets?, I asked, knowing I was about to be bombarded by the other kids hiding in the shadows waiting for my first financial transaction.
$3.00 for a bracelet, mister. she asked
How about $5.00? I started my reverse negotiations. I'll give you $5.00 for that bracelet right there. I insisted.
You should have seen the look on her face.
No mister, only $3.00 per bracelet.
But I want one for $5.00.
And back and forth we traveled down the negotiation conversation knowing she had no space in her mind for someone to talk the price up, instead of the countless visitors who badgered her to a lower price.
True to force, I was immediately surrounded by 15 other street sellers, all under the age of 10. They all wanted a piece of the action that this man walking the streets of Hebron was willing to give. They knew....
As I think back on this adventure that happened only a year ago, I'm reminded at how much we negotiate with God. We come to Him asking for our own needs of the day, our worries for the week, or maybe even our future. We feel compelled to ask God to come down and grant our three wishes as a genie might come to negotiate three wishes, and to our surprise, He offers more.
Instead of taking care of our daily needs, I wonder if God looks down and says, How about I take care of your entire spiritual well being?
Instead of granting us healing physically, financially, or emotionally, He says, How about I come to the earth and live life together.
Instead of asking for something we see as fully valued, He works in a way to offer us SO MUCH MORE!
You should have seen the kids when I bought the bracelet, and then started telling my own story. I pulled out my phone and showed them pictures of my home, memories of my own family, and began to share my own life with them.
One of my new friends had a soccer ball, and in no time flat, we went from transaction over a bracelet to hearing laughter and play in the streets of one of the most controversial cities in the world.
We didn't need diplomats.
We didn't need politicians.
We didn't need powerful business leaders or celebrities.
We just needed the heart of Jesus to come into the frey and once again prove that meeting people where they are, and starting relationships with an attitude of service and sacrifice for one another; we created our own memory. We forged a place in my own mind I will never forget.
And I'm sure there won't be many days when my friends selling bracelets remember the man from America who negotiated the wrong direction for the sacred honor of making a new friend.
It seems there is a constant in the blogosphere today. If anyone wants to write about ideas concerning Christian Worldview or the tenants of faith there are nasty comments to follow. I was recently reading the CNN belief blog and found the responses to people working in the religious arena to be downright rude. It's almost as if there is this undercurrent of animosity towards things of faith, and I'm watching both sides react to the insults with more than a little concern. So what gives? Why is there a downright attack from people who don't agree with certain viewpoints? Just because you don't agree with someone, isn't there a place for civil conversation, or is the internet still the wild wild west, full of un-accountable trite comments aimed to just be mean?
A couple of thoughts that might help us understand the possibility of anger and animosity:
1.) Christians love to put their ideas in the public space in order to get nasty comments.
Ok, maybe that's a bit cynical, but let's be honest; it's a way easier way to promote a position of underdog if you can stand up in the middle of your group of friends and claim you're being persecuted. So I think there are some people who live in a space where they look for the most controversial things to write about, and invite the naysayer to have a play.
I think there's a real danger when writer's begin to use their platforms to evoke bitter responses, especially concerning faith. The very practice of trying to live under the guise of persecution begs the question, 'Who are you really writing for?' Are the writer's really trying to live in the fruits of the spirit as Paul describes in Galatians, or is there some sort of self interest involved.
Of course Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." (John 15:18), but I hardly think he was saying to go out and search for the hatred.
I recently was dealing with an issue on a college campus where the administration was asking a Christian organization to leave because of their consistent badgering of students. They would walk the student centers asking people, "Do you believe in Jesus?" and to some it became an uncomfortable situation.
Obviously I agree that the answers to the world's most critical issues center around the character, nature, and principles of the person of Jesus; but sometimes a bit of tact would go a long way. When the administration and the student organization sat down to discuss the issue, there were ways for the organization to continue ministry without causing disruption among the student body. But in the meantime, the leader kept writing his supporters to step up to the plate because they were being persecuted for their ministry.
Is that what Jesus would do?
Would Jesus enter a space and cause disruption for the sake of ministry goals?
Or, would he meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual nature of the environment He entered to provide solutions?
I think our tribe needs to be careful we don't simply become a controversy for controversy sake. We need to meet people where they are in order to show them how much God is interested in reconciliation, and often that takes the building of relationships rather than our traditional evangelism models.
And then if you're persecuted, I think there's a place to say, "don't be surprised if the world hated you." Remember, Jesus wasn't persecuted by the world, he was persecuted by the religious establishment for pointing people closer to God.
2.) It's easy to be a victim.
To many times my colleagues are comfortable playing the victim card. We tought how hard life is, and how the world is infringing on 'our' rights. And to that notion I ask, 'what rights?' What rights were you given that entitle you to a life free from disagreement? There are people in the world who are broken, riddled with pain, and don't want anyone to come and tell them what to do.
It's not our place to sit in the public sphere claiming to be victims when we believe the creator of the universe is interested in reconciling all things to Himself. If we truly believe in the God of the Universe and the power for That God to have the whole world in His hands, there's no need to claim to be the victim. Quite the contrary. You are a Victor.
You have the answers to life's most complicated questions. You don't need to stand up to defend God. After all...He's God. He doesn't need you, but He desires that we partner with Him in order to help rectify the ills of the world. James 1:27 says, "Pure and Undefiled Religion is this, that you take care of widows and orphans in their distress, AND that you remain unstained from the world." We have a beautiful purpose in our faith world to reach out to those in need, and to continue working out our salvation every day. Jesus didn't walk through the public space longing to pick a fight in order to be persecuted. No..
He walked through life forgiving sin.
He spoke life to those who had no life.
He healed those in desperate sickness.
He gave hope to people who had no hope.
No, we need not be claiming victim, but rather Victor!
3.) Sometimes we need to do a lot more listening, and a lot less talking.
Last week, I sat with a student who just knew he knew all the right answers for life. Of course he is a teenager, and we all know the time we go through life when we think we know everything. It takes years of education and life experience for us to realize we know a lot less than we think we do, but in this particular instance it seemed like with every possible question I was met with a definitive answer.
I wonder if some of the animosity towards Christians isn't center around the "We're Right and You're Wrong" fight. Both sides of the conversation need to be careful to humbly approach some of the tenants and traditions of faith where we think we know, and be honest to approach people with an attitude like "well, this is the best I got."
I don't need to convince someone else God is real, that's God's job. And I believe it's high time we let God have His job back. It's our duty to live with, serve, and be people filled with the humility we can only get from recognizing God is on the throne of heaven, and we're just human.
I wonder if the animosity would retreat around the globe if more people saw the heart of Jesus in those who claim to follow Him, rather than a tribe who's always looking for the next boogy man to jump from behind the rock to 'persecute' us?
Maybe that's just the way the world spins?
But I'm deeply concerned at the level of propoganda I'm hearing from the faith community, and I wonder if there's a better way to show God's goals instead of trying to live within our own.
No matter what country I go.
No matter what people group I deal with.
No matter what religions I encounter.
It's really tough to argue with someone who has someone elses interest at heart rather than self serving ones.
What say you?
Sorry I've been away for so long. I'm not usually comfortable with taking an extended break from writing, but there have been some interesting things happening out here at our Summer Facility called KIVU.
Since the last time I wrote about our Jordanian friends, we've hosted teenagers from Saudi Arabia, Spain, France, Canda, and all over America. It's been quite a journey!! I often call my summer work "The Laboratory," as I have a bird's eye view of all things related to Teenagers. And this year, WOW!!, I've learned so much. You'd think after 15 years of doing this I would have it all dialed in just right, but every summer I learn more and more.
1. I've learned a new counseling term called F.O.M.O. or The Fear Of Missing Out. I've watched students come to our summer camp filled with the need to know who's texting them, who's left the latest facebook message, and how many people are talking about the newest YouTube Video.
It's AMAZING to watch when we have students fast from technology to see the stress literally melt from their bodies. I've worked to develop a process where we can help kids take two weeks to relax and ask quesitons about who they are, where they're going, and what their life purpose is, without the noise from the technology world. As youth leaders we need to be vigilant to help students live in the world of technology and in the world of human relationships at the same time.
2. I encountered more "pain" than I've seen in a while. From the pain of addiction to the loneliness plague that's overshadowing much of the new generation of "First Globals," there's a need for students to connect at a deeper level of friendship than they are getting in our world. They need to be heard. They need to be encouraged in their own giftedness. They need to have a safe place where they can explore their spiritual development. (one of the longest conversations we had all summer was the traditional way of doing youth work where they continue to 're-commit' their lives to faith without seeing any tangible results.)
3. Which brings me to the most important lessons I learned. When we have the opportunity to question faith, life, friends, and future inside of a space where students can grow in their own understanding of the world, something interesting shows up.
We introduced special evenings where our friends from far off places had opportunities to share how they live. It was eye opening for American kids to witness the intelligence, the fortitude, and the daily grind some of the others around the world endure. Everything from economy to academics, the teenage life around the world certainly has some things in common, but for most of us the other places are so far off, they don't have an understanding. It was a beautiful exchange, and there are friends now who will continue to know one another at a deeper level than before they came.
One of our foreign students stood up at the evening program and said, 'I've heard a lot about Jesus. I've even studied Jesus. But I've never seen Jesus until I met you all. You love well. You are so encouraging. No matter what I share, you take me in and call me friend."
And all of the sudden the paradigm of re-imagining the Christian Worldivew came into focus.
I've learned that we spend an awful lot of time trying to study the academics of Jesus. We toil through the theology and look for those new exciting places where Jesus can speak to our lives today. But how often do we have the chance to just live like Jesus called us to live. To love our enemy. To give generously of our own time. To listen and allow our spiritual selves to be explored and given time to grow. I just don't know if that's ever been accomplished in a traditional classroom setting, at least in my world.
So as I look back on the summer time out here in Colorado, my take away is that God is much bigger than we can even imagine. His continued operation in the world today is in a much larger box than I've even given Him in my own understanding. My hope is, from here, I can continue to write about, speak about, and provide opportunities for people to come into a real picture of a Jesus beyond the academic world.
If you want to see a clear picture of what we're doing out here, check out this 8 min. video where we've tried to tell the story well.
Yesterday we had our first group of Middle East students arrive at KIVU. They were tired from traveling for almost two days, but excited to get up and stretch their legs.
I took them down to the Challenge Course right away, and showed them all the elements we use to teach trust, teamwork, and overcoming fear. They immediately jumped in.
When I taught them the infamous "faith fall," they all lined up to do it. Each one over and over again falling into the arms of their friends, and then they challenged me.
I stood on the platform, looked down at my new friends, and decided if anyone is going to start accomplishing any boundary of trust, I should be able to risk it too.
I fell back in their arms, and we spent much of the next hour talking about how important it is to risk.
We need to risk our own comfort zone if we want to encounter a bond of trust.
We need to be able to talk about any issues we need to, and trust the other will take it right.
We need to extend grace to one another, because nobody wants to see someone fall on the ground, right?
Overall, it was an AWESOME first day. We have 120 students here, and now 10 of them are from the Middle East. I can't wait to share the experiences with you.
It's long been a dream of mine to export the experience teenagers have at KIVU to the four corners of the globe. I feel so confident we can express our mantra, "Love God, Love Others" that the world would catch the spirit and develop ways to work through even the hardest of conflicts.
We've hosted students from China, Thailand, Japan, and Korea.
We've seen teenagers from England, Scotland, France, and Spain.
We've rolled out the red carpet for kids from Ecuador, Columbia, and Brazil.
And our latest venture is to see students from Israel, Palestine, and the greater Middle East.
How incredible would it be to lock arms with students around the world to help create a generation who can think about peaceful resolutions? We know how quickly bias sets in, and agenda takes over; so before long we have another decade full of violence. But what would happen if we could create relationships with kids from different backgrounds so if conflict does rise, we can handle it.
Maybe in the future there's a time when our first thought isn't to retaliate, but actually sit down and work through issues.
Maybe there's a place in the world where level heads prevail, and the good parts of compromise can be re-instated in our vocabulary.
Maybe there's a way...
But we don't know if we don't try!
I'm excited to host more students at our mountain retreat. Partly so American teenagers have a REAL worldview, and can contextualize the point of view of many others, but also to share any of the good we've discovered in the last 15 years of doing this.
In the next few weeks, we'll be working to host our friends from the Middle East. If you have any inclination to help partner with students to help make the world a better place, we're still looking to raise funds to help them get here.
I've started a Crowdrise site where you can donate $10, $20, or any amount online you can afford. And, you can be sure I'll keep updating you with breakthrough stories of reconciliation.
These are Exciting Times around KIVU. Thanks for your help.
I've been working with High School and College Students for almost 15 years, and the other day, well...I got a new one.
FOMO - The Fear of Missing Out
With my work on Loneliness in a digital age, I wass careful not to simply dismiss this new concept, and take a longer look at what's going on. Boy was I in for a SHOCK!.
The reason we're all so lonely isn't necessarily because we have so many friends on facebook, or followers on Twitter. It's actually deeper than I initially thought. There is actually an anxiety disorder plaguing youth today, and I guess a broader culture, FOMO.
FOMO is when we sit around wondering why we're bored and everyone else is having fun.
FOMO is when you have to check your iPhone to make sure no one is looking for you.
FOMO is having to respond to every text message you get.
FOMO is checking Facebook for what everyone else is doing.
And it's a serious problem.
Gone are the days of self regulation and patience.
Gone are the sweet moments of meditation.
Gone are the times when just sitting and enjoying the moment are enough.
NOW, we have to be involved with everyone else.
I would think it's just a micro problem, but from 13-60 I've heard several folks addicted to technology. It's not that we're just trying to be efficient, ITS A REAL DEAL.
We're continuing to provide a place at Camp KIVU where kids can experience Tech De-Tox, and we're seeing some really interesting results. They see Text Messages aren't the end all be all. They know Facebook isn't the answer to the problems. And they're seeing Instagram for what it is, a fun tool to enjoy pictures from other people.
Watch out for a little FOMO in your life. If you feel anxious to check your social media, it's time for a little detox time too.
This morning we entered into the final chapter of Jesus' ground breaking sermon. It's interesting that he begins chapter 7 with such a controversial teaching. He starts saying...
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
The conversation was super interesting. This is probably the most quoted section of Jesus' sermon today because of the fear we all have of judging others. Nobody wants to enter into a relationship where they might endure the same scrutiny they put on someone else. It's crazy!!
But one thing Jesus didn't say is that we are called to NEVER JUDGE.
There is a place in the world where it's ok to juge the nature of mankind. We just need to make sure we don't call someone on an issue we're also dealing with. But it doesn't make it wrong to look at someone and make a judgement on their behavior.
Too often we are scared to reach out and put our neck on the line for something that is right and true in fear of our own judgment. We need not sit on the sidelines and wait. Jesus calls us to be careful in our judgement, and in consistency with the temperature of the day; religious leaders are the ones' to be super CAREFUL!!
Interestingly enough, he also takes special consideration for us to recognize the audience of people we think we are in judgement of. It makes no sense to judge people who have no initial base line for what we might think is true and right. Heathen are heathen because....well....they're heathen. We mustn't be a people who impose our judgement on people who don't hold to the same standard.
This is a different Kingdom all together, and until we see Jesus' words as an open invitation to a different citizenship, we'll continue being those who are on "the wide path" that leads to destruction.
We spent some time talking this morning about Fasting. Mainly, we focused on the idea of withdrawing ourselves from the daily routine we're so used to. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and snacks in between are the rhythm of America, and much of our social world revolves around food. We eat together, go out to meet together over something, and then we gear up to do it again in the next few hours. So what's this all about Fasting?
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
And so we noticed right from the beginning, fasting wasn't something of an option. We are called to fast and make it a part of our spiritual development. But in doing so, we need not broadcast our spiritual discipline to those around us. It seems as though there were a group of people whose chief concern was to moan and groan about their ritual in front of people, forgetting about the need to make their fast between God and Man.
They introduced this concept of "Look at me, I'm on the fast trek to God's heart" and instead of worrying about God's motive, they were concerned with the way people looked at them.
I don't think we're really all that different today.
We want people to notice us.
We want people to count us in the right.
For those of us in the church culture, there are certainly rules each congregation lives by that are often taken out of the spirit of the law, and moved quickly into the law itself.
What you dress like, what you wear, how you talk, who you hang out with, it's all couched in a calculated way of trying to gain approval from others. (at least a lot of time is spent in this arena)
And I believe the bigger issue here is Jesus' helping us see the value of living our own spiritual journey without the approval of men.
I was talking to a student yesterday afternoon, and she commented, "KIVU doesn't seem like a place where faith is a show, it's just a way of life." What a compliment!!
We want to live our faith in all areas of our life, whether fasting, praying, or just having fun.
This morning we continued our study into the heart of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The Section on Prayer is interesting because of the thousands of years Jesus followers have envoked "The Lord's Prayer" when they approach their faith. Here it is...
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
The Discussion was very interesting. We spent a little time talking through the attitude of prayer. Most students agreed the showmanship of prayer has taken a front row seat when people are insecure in their faith, and it's our duty to check our spirit when we pray in public. When we are tempted to use phrases that lace up our prayer life, we need to be careful prayer is used for the specific purpose of communicating our REAL lives with God.
Then we traveled through the forgiveness section since Jesus was asking us to forgive others. I think we take for granted the gravity of this section when we feel justified by the wrongs committed against us. We often rush to judgement and execution when sometimes we need to take a long hard look at what it might mean to forgive someone who has done wrong by us.
I shared a few current stories in my life where someone continues to badger my work, and shared what it meant to reach out and just forgive without any expectation circumstances would change. It's the bitterness of anger that begins to root in our spirit causing all our relationships to turn, it's those times we need to be especially careful of our responses.
Overall, the study of learning how to forgive was the highlight of this morning's discussion. So, for those of you who don't have an opportunity to join us, I'll ask you....
Who do you need to forgive today? (it's a sobering question)
But Friday, we welcomed the families of students who have been through our 14 day term here at KIVU. We gave them a place to buy KIVU stuff, showed them around the camp, and then I had the time honored sacred privilege of speaking to the parents about what's going on here.
I explained our vision of camping.
I tried to help them see our work to re-define the word.
I told them of our 7 day Wilderness Trips called Back country Experience.
I helped them see the international flare we are working toward building The KIVU Gap Year.
And at the end, one father asked me a pointed question, "If you could give us one parenting tip to help encourage our kids growth from this place, what would it be?"
I thought for a second while my mind raced a million miles an hour.
How in the world could I boil it all down to just one?
Then out of no where I blurted, "Let them fail."
You should have seen the looks on the 100 or so parents in the room.
It was like I was speaking Japanese.
And then I continued...
"If you give your kid a chance to fail under your roof, you have the opportunity to teach them how to get back up, and keep the story going. So many of our kids fail at faith, adventure, friendships, academics, and athletics, and they just don't know how to make it right again."
So, with that said, I had some INCREDIBLE conversations with families from around the country. I'll try to post some of the videos today so you can see.
Once again, I'm humbled by the fact parents trust us here at KIVU with their most prized possessions, and I take the responsibility VERY seriously to make sure we are helping teenagers grow into well healed, well thought out, well matured adults.
Thank you for your Trust.
Today begins another day at KIVU, and I can't wait to start a new adventure.
This morning we tackled the first part of Matthew 6.
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)
The crux of this discussion was the motive we have as people who follow Jesus. I've seen a lot of people who attend church just go to church to people will think they are good. I've seen people dress a certain way so the world thinks they have life figured out. And when people give, well, there certainly is a temptation to be philanthropic with one eye focused on our own individual public relations team.
But on the flip side of the coin, I noticed most of the students I'm teaching this year just don't know how to give. They've not been taught because someone interpreted this section to be silent when you give. Although Jesus wants giving to be void of self righteousness, I think we need a generation that has an idea of what it means to give and sacrifice for the needy.
One University Sophomore stated, 'I know how to give because my mom and dad set an example. They let me know how they spent their money, and so I got to see two Godly people who wanted to pass on their legacy of giving to us.'
Sure we don't want to be a people who shout from the mountaintops of the earth of our exceeding ability to spread our wealth, but we also have to temper our humility with an honest mentorship.
The discussions are moving away from strict theology to start working through processes of self action today. It's a GREAT morning to learn about Matthew 5,6, and 7.
Most of us are pretty good at loving people who love us. Jesus even recognized that!
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Well, Jesus said it.
I'm not exactly sure how to live it.
But I'm trying...
This morning we asked the staff here at KIVU, "What does it mean to Love Your Enemy?" And I got all kinds of answers.
"This is a more personal thing."
"How do we respond to this in a national interest context?"
"Surely, he doesn't mean to love evil empires, right?"
"Maybe He's just trying to be sarcastic before he gets to the point of living out this Kingdom of God on earth?"
I'm not a Christologist, so I hesitate to make definitive points here, but it seems like Jesus is saying....well..."LOVE YOUR ENEMIES."
Again, I think this is one of the counter cultural arguments for following Jesus. If you think this is some simple minded, easy to follow, crutch for life; I dare you to try this one. Think about the last person that cut you off on the highway. What was your first response?
Think about your fellow employee who got the promotion, while you were the one who did all the work. What did you feel at that moment?
Think about your competitor in business who took over your area without any warning. How do you deal with that?
Living in the context of the Kingdom of God is counter cultural, and requires us to take a serious look at loving people aggressively, even our enemies.
Well, today we ventured into another deep hole of wonder. I'm not sure what's going on here in this one, but I'm certain Jesus is trying to develop a new way of thinking about the Kingdom of God.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42
I'm not sure if you've had a chance to see how controversial this work is. Jesus is asking those interested in the Kingdom to stop senseless retaliation, and look at the way to make peace. This section has been used in the non-violent resistance camps since the civil rights movement of the 60's, showing that you can give someone what they want, and still make them out to look like the bad guy.
For example, when He says, "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles," the west sees this as humble giving to someone in need. A Jewish citizen of Jesus' day would have interpreted that section as when the Roman army would ask an innocent Jewish bystander to carry his equipment, by law, the citizen was required to carry it a mile. But if the citizen would carry it a step beyond a mile, the law would actually force the Roman soldier to pay for a crime.
In other words, Jesus isn't talking about taking up a humble "poor me" attitude. He's actually asking the followers of God's kingdom to be counter cultural and give the oppressor the opportunity to do right. Show them how the shackles of injustice work by taking their own line of thinking to the edge of their own understanding of right and wrong!
This morning in the barn there were several who thought this was absolutely crazy, but hey; so did the people of Jesus day. We're in good company when we investigate the historiography of the Bible along with the sermons. To just read it might lead one to think Christians are just simple, stupid, senseless people; but actually, we are called to bring the salt and light to the world.
There's a LOT more to come. Up next, LOVE YOUR ENEMY?? This ain't your momma's lesson anymore.
I wasn't really looking forward to this morning's sermon on the mount overview. It's one thing to talk about lofty goals of loving your enemy, or working through lust, but when you start talking divorce in our culture today, everyone has a play.
This morning, the KIVU staff were incredibly gracious. We started with Matthew 5:31, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
So, what's the deal here?
Is Jesus carving out exceptions to the rule of marriage based on sexual immorality?
On the surface, it seems confusing that Jesus might give any exception for divorce, but we started working through the ideas one at a time.
I think when we survey this divorce section of the sermon on the mount we have to be careful. The culture of Jesus' time was that married women were property, released from their bond of commitment by a certificate. So to try and give any rights to a woman here would be outside the intention the scripture was written.
So what is Jesus saying to the men?
If you go back to Deuteronomy, Moses told the people about certificates of divorce and the ways to release a woman from here duty. But here, it's almost like Jesus is evoking a spirit of mischief. He's telling the people they can make this contract of marriage, and then in the section just following he evokes this spirit of integrity. “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."
I can't imagine a place where Jesus calls it ok to divorce through this line of thinking. Which calls us to another pivotal question, "So what about our culture today?" The current statistic is somewhere around 60% of marriages end in divorce. As I talk with my marriage counselor friends, the Christian community is high on that percentage if not exactly the same. So what gives?
What is the purpose of divorce?
Why should our culture adopt divorce?
And how can the Christian community support it?
I realize everyone has a reason for divorce. Abuse, adultery, just down right inconsistency with who we thought we were marrying; but in the end; the Christian community is supposed to be the salt and light of the world. The divorce idea stands in direct opposition to God's dim shadow of metaphor when referring to marriage, especially when He calls our relationship with Him like a bride and bride groom.
I think we've allowed our culture to run rampant on our excuses, and those who wish to follow the message and teaching of Jesus need to think very carefully about the impact of divorce on their own salt and light to the world.
I'm not saying anyone who is divorced is going to hell.
I'm not saying anyone who is going through a divorce is out of bounds from God's plan.
This is not a message of condemnation, but rather; a look into the heart of God's perfect way for us to live out the difference between what the world thinks is right, and what God thinks is right.
What do you think?
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angrywith a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
The Conversation was Incredible.
Basically we concluded Jesus was aiming to connect the spirit of the law with the hard boundaries already set in Jewish Culture. It's one thing to say "I murder," but quite another to say the spirit of anger that drew me to murder is inside each one of us.
Most people won't become murderers, but all people have a hint of angry at their core. We are, after all, ALL human.
So the importance of understanding how much weight God puts on traveling through life reconciling with each other can't be overstated. Even if you're worshipping at the alter, Jesus asks us to go and make sure everything is right with those people around us.
By the end, I asked each one to name someone in their life they needed to reconcile with, and the testimonies were EMOTIONAL. Anger, Bitterness, Hurt, all flowed this morning from our small group, and I witnessd Freedom begin to pour over the souls of the students we were working with.
What a sacred privelage to teach, train, and live out the message of Jesus!
Today, I start teaching 100 students how to Love Aggressively and Humbly begin to form solid foundations to their faith. I welcome any and all PRAYER!!
This morning we kicked back into our Sermon on the Mount series with the staff here at KIVU. We finished last week with the Salt and Light analogy, and today was the first time we read where Jesus started to address the "religious" leaders of the day.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The significance of this set up couldn't be more overstated. Jesus begins to draw in the religious-ness of the day as He begins to outline some of the parts of faith setting apart the Kingdom of God from the World.
One of the staff members this morning used a metaphor of God who used the law to put a cast on humanity. He set up the rules and boundaries so we knew right from wrong. He delivered the righteousness of faith through Moses and the Prophets of old. And now Jesus is about to show the importance of living righteous without the boundaries of the cast. It's the difference in living by the law or living by the spirit of the law.
Intuitively it seems as though the spirit of the law might be an easier way to live. Images of freedom and deciding what the core of faith can be in your own heart drive us to develop systems of belief whereby Jesus morphs into this hippie walking through a squishy life.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
The spirit of the law requires dedication and devotion to understanding the heart of God. The law is easy. Check the box and you know where you stand. The Spirit of the law is much more difficult to learn how to live by. We have to be in constant communication with the overall philosophy of God's worldview to understand the essence of the life He wants us to live.
It was a POWERFUL morning, and we spent a significant amount of time praying to understand how God came to fulfill the giving of the law to us here on the planet.
This morning we talked through the section in Matthew 5 concerning Salt and Light.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Interestingly enough, there were questions concerning our response to 'being' salt and light in the world. Is this a section where Jesus is asking those who follow Him to stand out and be different, OR; is this a reminder that the Kingdom of God is just going to look different from the Kingdom of the world.
Yesterday I saw an article on a Valedictorian that "Stood up for His Faith." CLICK FOR ARTICLE HERE. Evidently Roy Costner IV decided to tear up his pre-approved valedictorian speech and recite the Lord's Prayer in spite of the rules the school board adopted for separation of school and religion.
There were cheers all through the Christian community as this bold young man took a stand in the face of adversity, but is this really what our gospel has come to?
I understand the need to express your faith in places where people need hope.
I understand the passion of youth to raise an issue of importance.
I even get the bigger picture of the way faith is slowly being eradicated from the public school system.
But in the end, this story begs the question, "What was Mr. Costner's End Goal?"
Was it to declare his faith in the face of adversity?
Was it to change the policy of the school board concerning prayers?
Was it to show the students in his class how important faith was?
But one thing I do know, there are a lot of people who want to stand up and be counted for their faith for their own personal agenda. I would wonder if the end game in being salt and light is being a stanchion for God, OR; is it to be so attractive in the face of a hopeless world, there's just something different about the way we live?
We had a GREAT conversation this morning about striking the balance between the two. I'd love to know what you think...
With 20 twenty somethings gathered in our old barn, we started our trek through the Sermon on the Mount with "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for Righteousness sake, for they shall be filled."
We spent some time talking about the implications of being hungry for satisfaction, and most of us agreed, we spend entirely too much time and energy trying to satisfy the hunger for rest with things that don't help. Money, Success, Validation, Love; all good things in and of themselves, but when they become the "go to" places where we seek rest, we've forgotten.
All of us know wealthy people who long for satisfaction.
There were stories of CEO's of Fortune 500 companies looking for validation.
And when we started talking about the notion of marriage, it was interesting to see how many thought once you get married, life will just start to spin in the right direction.
Jesus' proclamation here is grandiose in scale. Certainly, those who long for the world to spin right will see that it is going to spin right someday. Jesus came so that God's beginning work of reconciling all things to Himself may begin. But on a micro level, those things we look to for satisfaction serve only to satisfy for a short time. We all have a longing to be filled. We all were created with a sense of the world being a "right" place.
We want a world void of death.
We work diligently to relieve the human condition from disease.
We have places of conflict resolution in hopes we can make Peace.
But all those things are only temporary.
The only true Peace in our souls, and in the world for that matter; is going to come when God makes All Things New Again.
It was an interesting morning. We skipped down through the rest of the sermon and have committed to have the rest memorized by tomorrow.
If you're on the Journey with us, we're now through Matthew 5:3-12.
This morning I continued our journey through the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5,6, and 7). We began the conversation with "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
When Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God through his Sermon on the Mount Discourse, those that Mourn take a special place in the list. We started this morning with an ask, "What is the mourning He is referring to?"
As Jesus shows His interest in the personal lives of those He encounters, there's no way to divorce the microcosmic view of mourning from our individual pain. Could He mean that pain in our world concerning death, disease, divorce, displaced; could all those things be the tragedy that causes mourning individually?
Of course if you look at the whole narrative of Jesus, His very presence lifts those in the darkest hours of night to a place of hope and calm.
There's also a bigger picture. What if Jesus referred to the grave injustice we all know shrouds the world's population today. Orphans will be comforted as they will know they are valuable again. Those going through times of disease will be healed of those things we know we can address because of poverty or cultures looking the other way.
Those that mourn will be comforted. Jesus said it, I want it!
And then we dove in head first to figure out what Meekness meant. Jesus states, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
First of all we need to understand the heavenly way of the Jew of Jesus day was to dwell in the end here on earth. There wasn't a heaven OUT THERE, but rather; the Jew of Jesus day was looking for the Kingdom of God right here on planet earth.
So Jesus is bringing to our attention a reward for an attitude that is counter cultural.
When we have the ability to do, but seek to reign that ability to control, we become Meek. I think of strong personalities I've met along life's highway who constantly prove a deep humility to bless those around them instead of claiming what could be rightfully theirs. It's an attractive quality to watch meek people function in the world. It's certainly not the way of the world, and Jesus declared it part of a counter cultural Kingdom.
The Mourning will be Comforted.
The Meek will inherit the Earth.
This is turning out to be quite a challenge for those of us who want to follow Jesus.
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for Theirs is the Kingdom of God - Jesus
The first of the Be-Attitudes section of the sermon on the mount describes the "poor in spirit." When asked this morning, I employed our staff to think about what the word Blessed Meant, and what the phrase "poor in Spirit" refers to. The Kingdom of God is an obvious win for anyone walking the faith journey, so it begs us to discover the meaning.
Remember, this is the passage in Matthew 5 directly following the section where Jesus heals the sick from all nations. He actually sets out to bring all people together, "proclaiming the Kingdom of God." Interestingly enough, there were blue collar workers, white collar workers, academics, suburbanites, and religious people all watching Jesus with wonder.
When he begins teaching on the hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee on the shores of Tiberius, Jesus opens the proclamation with "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God."
WHAT A REVOLUTION!!
Till this time, it was only the rich in spirit who ever had a chance to peek into the eternal wonderment of God's Ultimate Destination. Those who were down and out, were literally spiritually bankrupt with no hope of ever climbing out of their despair, when finally Jesus declares there is Hope. There's hope for the hopeless. There's a way out. There's a place where no matter what you've done or where you've been, there's a place at God's table.
We spent an hour wading through the different ideas about Jesus' proclamation. What say you?
This summer I committed to helping re-shape the message of Jesus. This morning 60 University Students met inside this Barn to discuss, work out, and understand together Jesus' declaration of the Kingdom of God.
We started at the end of chapter 4 when it says, "23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him."
The Lesson for Today:
It was amazing to watch University students simmer on the idea the gospel is intended for everyone. I was surprised to see this idea not the normative culture in today's postmodern world, but human nature is what it is.
The Gospel is not simply for those who think like us, talk like us, worship like us, or live like us. This umbrella is intended to extend far and wide. And when we take time to think about it, it's a pretty uncomfortable scenario. If we're honest, we want to figure out how we can get ahead, perform better than someone else, divide to isolation, and naturally group into our own version of Gospel.
But Jesus came to set us free from the notion of thinking that there's some division among the Good News. The Good News is for ALL, no matter where you come from, where you're at, or where you're going. What a revolutionary idea!!
There's nothing like taking a group of teenagers down a white water river for the first time. The fear coupled with the excitement of adventure helps to build a foundation where everyday is one left up to those who are explorers, and Exploration is a plays a vital role in happiness.
Last night I spoke to a leadership team in Colorado, and I invited them to a place where daily discovery is a prominent value in life. I believe when we look at the world as something to be discovered, rather than some rote every day turn of events; the beauty of creation jumps into life and allows us a surprise at every turn.
Just like the raging rapids of the river change with the different water flow, we have a chance to take every moment as one to enjoy and dwell. We have a chance to learn new ideas, understand different people, and know about new things we've not known before. To be a person dedicated to discovery is to be someone looking out for a fresh new story to tell, and in the stories come bonds of trust.
A dedication to discovery is an important value to take with you, and this week, I'm on the journeyman's road to live a life full of exploration. I can't wait to report what I find.
I'm sitting in the Southwest Corner of Colorado watching the storms ravish the Mid-West. My heart is heavy for the families enduring this fearful weather pattern, as they never know when the next one is going to hit.
I've watched the news of hundreds who have lost everything, only to wonder why I've been spared. I'm sure I know today wasn't promised to me, and there's no guarantees tomorrow will arrive as it did today.
So on this humble Journey of understanding, praying, mourning, and wonder; I'm thinking of my friends in Oklahoma. I'm thankful for another day not promised, and grateful I've been given air to breathe.
Today I return to a spirit of Thankfulness.
Fifteen Years Ago I warned a group of evangelicals working with teenagers to "Rest Assured" America is only a few years behind Europe when it comes to Religion issues. Magnificent churches built centuries ago were empty as culture decided there was another way to live out truth.
Well, a recent article published at CNN.com Belief Blog is proving my prophetic voice. The article is titled, "America Losing It's Religion," and points out more than 3 in 4 people say religion is loosing it's influence on America.
Ten years ago when I started exploring the idea of re-imagining the Christian worldview, I spent some time studying the faith movement history throughout Europe. I watched as the cradle of the western faith movement turn dark and cold as the neo-atheists began touting life without god. So, here we are. Living in an America now that sees God as something of a fairy tale.
Believe me, I'm surely not someone who wants to climb the mountain tops of America and scream, "Let's take the country back for God." I'm not even sure how God might feel about wanting to take back American anyway. But I AM concerned with the fallout of religious tradition. Although the history of religion might bring a negativity to conversation, I believe the hope faith brings to life is important. After all, we're not simply a conglomeration of biology, are we?
The word "religion" has a negative connotation among believers today. It brings back memories of those who lived in a legalistic world adhering to certain traditional laws that were less than honest. Churches popping up all over America called 'Fellowship,' 'The Village,' even 'Mars Hill' are all trying to live out the scripture. At the same time they are leaving the word 'religion' and replacing old time language with a new word, "relationship." Is this the lack of 'religious' fortitude the article speaks of?
Maybe the culture is re-defining the word without throwing out the important principles.
The notion of American falling into a spiritual black hole like other western countries conjures questions that make me wonder?
Why do people feel as though this is the time to run from God? We have a rich tradition of a people who worship and believe there is something out there bigger than ourselves.
Is this a true cultural shift, or is it simply people longing for a more real view of faith? Have the nature of people who worship turned off the people who see through the hypocrisy we all live?
What will the landscape look like when God is reduced to a choice? After all, if there is a God in the Universe, I don't think it should be equal to the type of candy I pick out at the convenience store.
As a fellow faith traveler, I'm curious how this plays out.
What do you think?
Is it reasonable to worry about the lack of faith participants in the world today?
What can we do about it?
Just the other day I introduced the concept of Fear to our University Students helping us get ready for our summer season. Part of the beauty of doing this job is getting a chance to interact with the current trends of high school and college students.
When I put the word FEAR up on the big White Board, and then asked them what they were most fearful of, it was AMAZING!!
And it went on and on....
We spent the next hour or so just working out what it means to be afraid. We worked on reasons why we fear things, we talked about our cultural addiction to fear, and finally we had a chance to develop tools to help when we feel the anxiety of fear begin to take over.
I'm so blessed to have a chance to speak into the lives of these incredible students. I'm thankful for the ability to just have honest conversations about what's really going on in life. They've made it a wonderful beginning of a summer season here at KIVU.
But in the meantime...I think it worthy for us to continue the conversation here on the blog. What are the things you're most fearful of? I'd love to begin to share those places we fear, so that we can be a people willing to pray for one another.
Walk the hallways of today's high school and the last thing you'll expect to find is Peace. Teenagers are renown for constantly putting on a show to stand out from the rest. Bullying continues to be a problem in the halls and online. So, how in the world are you ever to encounter a group of people interested in the peaceful lives of another?
Well, we found them.
There is a unique generation rising interested in the core of relationship building that may set the stage for turning the world in a different direction. The news today is riddled with stories of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel. We often hear of the terror plots conceived by radical Islamists being thwarted by some sort of government intervention, and wars continuing to find purpose in the world of fear.
What if we could change all that?
I'm not trying to be over optimistic here, but what if we had an opportunity to get out of the suit and tie meetings in the grand ballrooms and actually invest in the future of our world? Jesus said it clear, "Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God."
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of people who just talk...talk...talk.
I'm fed up with comments like, 'What if we...'
I keep hearing all the elders of the world longing for peace together, but few are willing to sacrifice the contracts, accords, and formality of image to actually make a real difference.
I'm tired of reading the news and hearing more people dying.
I'm tired of watching from afar to see if there's anything I can do.
I'm taking action...
The first step in my plan is to Introduce Teenagers from Hard Places in a Neutral Environment. We've been doing summer camp now for nearly 15 years, and we know how to show teens a good time. It's my deepest belief that most teenagers around the world are longing for similar needs, and we've cracked the code. Certainly we've got much to learn, but after working with hundreds of thousands of teens and families, KIVU has a unique way of speaking to the heart of teenagers from all over the world.
What if we had the table set to introduce teenagers from America with teenagers from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia? What if we had the chance to live life together through an adventurous story in Colorado? What if there were ways of communication like never before, and those teenagers could grow their relationships online via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google +, and then engage together again in years to come?
What if those Teenagers turned out to be the future leaders of our world?
We've tested this concept.
We've watched it work with kids from Asia, South America, Europe, and the Middle East.
Each time we help kids see the basic commonalities of human kind, we see God move in the middle to create a space of relational respect.
The hallways of the high school are no match for your average teenager, but give them a vision for global understanding, and watch them take the banner of leadership to the future.
Would you consider helping Sponsor an international student to come to America and spend 2 weeks at KIVU?
What started as a normal Memorial Day Weekend, turned into an incredible walk down memory lane here at KIVU. Certainly we wish to reach out and Thank all the people that make America a wonderful place to express ourselves and afford the opportunities to do things like KIVU around the world.
We had staff members arriving all weekend for the annual Alumni Weekend get together, and we saw old friends from all the way back to 2001. I don't know if I've ever laughed so hard reminiscing about the "golden days" of camp as I did on Saturday night when everyone just shared their most valuable memory.
I've also never taken the time to really sit back and think about how impactful this place has been for so many people. Nearly 15K high school students have walked through the gates here in Southwest Colorado. Nearly 1500 University Students have given their summers to show those High School Students a Good Time.
And the impact...well, it was quite sobering to see how the principles they learned at KIVU set the foundation for family, career, and social well-ness. I'm just overwhelmed at the way God has used Jamie Jo and I in the lives of so many. I'm humbled to see what wonderful people God has given us to share life with.
To all the KIVU alumni both here and those who couldn't make it, Thanks for making life so fun!!
Here's a short Podcast of one of my buddies who came around 2002. I think you'll love it!
I've often pondered the value of Summer Adventure Experiences compared to other options families have to choose. There's Sports Camps, Music Camps, even School Camps (yuck), that vie for the summer time seemingly to be shortened each year. I know first hand the value of a retreat, but I'm always wondering what sets some facilities a part from others.
Some Camps boast of luxury accommodations, while others keep the rustic life alive.
Some are trying to provide technology awareness, while others want to fast from technology.
Some camps are super spiritual, others not at all.
Well, I've got a new project that is starting to gain traction on a Global Stage.
Last year I began asking questions like, "How can we provide the MOST impact in the programs we facilitate." For the last 13 years, we've brought mainly Christian teenagers to come and understand their faith from an experiential, academic, and relational level. I function well in that environment.
But I ran into some friends who were interested in knowing more. They were students from Bethlehem and Jordan, the heartbeat of the Middle East. They are interested in coming to play in Colorado, and go through our program explaining Jesus.
We invited 10 students to come last year, and they were excited about participating. We welcomed them into our facility with open arms, open hearts, and open spirits. We shared what we believed, and had GREAT conversations about some of the differences they believed. It was absolutely life changing. I met with the kids in Amman Jordan, still smiling and telling nostalgic stories of their time at KIVU.
This year we have 50 kids interested in the program.
50 kids buying plane tickets.
50 kids camp tuition
50 kids eating, laughing, an interacting in a place where spiritual matters can be discussed without any threat on either side.
It's AMAZING to watch Christian Teenagers explain their faith, and then hear from people who live in a totally different environment. It's TOTAL learning, and challenging for both sides.
We've got the equipment, the staff, and the tested program. All we need are financial partners to help sponsor students to come.
If you or your sphere of influence might be interested in sponsoring students from Bethlehem and Jordan to come to Colorado this summer...
If you would be interested in launching a new process to invest in future leadership between two cultures....
If you find yourself wanting to play a part in the bigger narrative of Global Events, but you just don't know how...
100% of your donations are going directly to KIVU in order that we might facilitate an exchange program between two groups of teenagers in desperate need to make friends. It's Tax Deductible. Easy online. And you can give any amount from $10 - $50K.
If you're tired of people talking about Peace and relationships and you want to make a difference, join our team of dedicated staff who are Changing the World, one heartbeat at a time. Come Sponsor a Student, and Join Us at KIVU! http://www.crowdrise.com/brokeringpeaceatkivu/fundraiser/ahavaministries
Yesterday, I took a group of students down the river here in Durango. Every summer, we like to share the outdoors with our friends from around the world here at KIVU. We Mountain Bike, Hike, Raft, and Ski, all to develop friendships and connect people with one another.
Well, crazy thing happened. I started asking the kids in my raft about cell phones and their usage habits. Once again, you can learn a lot from someone when you have their undivided attention on a raft.
"So how are you guys doing without cell phone coverage today?"I asked.
"You know, I thought I was really going to struggle. But actually I like not feeling like I have to answer someone all the time." she responded.
One of the teachers mentioned they were thinking about cell phone rules at their school, and the kids went ballistic. "We can't do without cell phones at school. Our whole life is on that thing."
And then it hit me...
I wonder if we gave over to technology too fast. We didn't think about the addiction a cell phone would have on us.
We constantly feel like we're saving time going through emails we don't have to do at the office, but it only serves to take more time spending our free time on emails.
Students feel like it's a defense mechanism. After all, if someone talks about me on twitter, I need to have my own version ready to respond.
We feel like we're connecting through all the social media, but really we're just isolating ourselves to the screen in front of our face.
And we think we're being efficient with our time, only to wind up a thousand people sitting alone communicating with one another on a screen. Hmmm...I wonder....have we taken this technology too far?
One of the students yesterday said, 'It's kind of nice to just talk to someone by looking them in the eye.'
You can actually look someone in the eye to communicate.
What we do is so fun to watch. When you take people outside of their normal and introduce them to the possible, life changes. These students are comfortable without cell phones, they said so.
KIVU is Open!!
Yesterday we had 100 staff people arrive for training, and we had our first frisbee golf tournament, our first picnic by the barn, and our first evening program filled with lots of dancing, skits and FUN!!
I decided, this morning, to take a second out and interview Luke Parrott, the KIVU Men's Director. He has been with KIVU for 13 years in various roles, and there's just not many people out there who know the operation aspects of EVERY SECTION of KIVU.
The podcast below is 9 min. of my interview with Luke.
Just saw some buses role up. The Retreat Program at KIVU is open for business, and today we're expecting 120 students from Valley Christian High School from Phoenix. They are doing their Senior Trip, so I gotta go and start moving and shaking.
Listen to the Podcast. And Enjoy. We're having fun!!
It's a quiet corner on the Los Pinos River in Southwest Colorado.
In less than 24 hours there will be almost 100 staff, 120 kids, and The Adventure will begin.
For 15 years, I've been working on a dream to develop a place where Teenagers could begin to work with University Students to life live together.
With the help of thousands of staff over the years...
Hundreds of thousands of donor dollars...
And a little over 10K students who have actually attended...
The dream is once again becoming reality.
Some might say, "Well there are hundreds of summer camps all over America, what makes KIVU different?"
So for the next 12 weeks, we'll be hosting students from all over America and have over 20 countries represented. We'll have students from Israel, Jordan, Spain, Australia, Canada, England, France, and most of the 50 States right here in our backyard.
It's such a beautiful picture of how The Journey mission continues to play in real life. I've been a part of conversations in Church circles, Para-Church circles, Government Peace Organizations, and Civil Service Groups who all talk about wanting to do something like this. Well, We're doing it. The Dream is Reality, and KIVU starts today.
If you'd like to know more about what's going on this summer, be sure to stop by our website at http://www.campkivu.com. Or if you jsut want to look as some quick action pictures, take a peek on our facebook page filled with photos and videos at http://www.facebook.com/campkivu.
If you're looking for a cool Colorado Summer in a unique place doing some of the of the most cutting edge life on life work with Teenagers, hit the registration button today, and come join us. We welcome new people as if they've always been here.
A Few years ago, I had an interesting opportunity to visit the Grand Mosque in Bahrain. The Al Fateh Mosque is one of the most beautiful structures in all the world. Literally, marble flown in from Italy, Lights fashioned in Paris, rugs from Persia, it's an absolutely wonderful building to take in.
I was meeting a Muslim Friend at the Mosque, and we were going to talk about the similarities of the Christian Faith and the Muslim Faith, but were were also going to outline some important differences.
Of course when we talk to people of a different faith than the one we claim is truth, there's always a bit of a poker game going on. To try and be cordial while still holding to truth is an interesting skill. Most of us just think "well, we're right, they're wrong and that's that." But when you start really discussing the issues, there are some great places to share life together.
His first shot across the bow, "How do you read your Great Commission?
Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Most of my life, I was taught this verse meant that we need to go out and ask people to say a prayer, sign a card, or give their heart over to Jesus. But of late, I've been wondering what the word disciple really meant.
The Encyclopedia says, "A disciple is a follower and student of a mentor, teacher, or other figure." So if Jesus was referring to making disciples, he was actually telling the disciples to simply follow. He referred to this in John 10 where he said, "I am the way the truth and the life..." The way actually refers to a method of behavior.
I stumbled across a video I thought was interesting in describing this problem. David Platt is a well regarded pastor in Birmingham Alabama. He gave 2 minutes to discuss this problem like this.
When I revealed to my Muslim friend the fact that I believed the Great Commission was to help people follow God, he looked at me with great interest. "You mean you aren't trying to convert me?"
"Well, if by conversion you mean I'm asking you to dance a little mantra, then...No."
His eyes grew wide and he said, "Andy, there's something different about you. We need to continue this conversation."
I started talking through this concept today at KIVU. As we mentor and train students in the fullness of the gospel, how might this change the worldivew of our day?
Feel free to chime in at your leisure.
Turn on the News, and all you hear about the Middle East is destruction. Syria, Arab Spring, Afghanistan, it just goes on and on. The images we see are hopeless, filled with pain, and leave Americans wondering if there is any way to solve some of these enormous global problems.
I'm not sure there's one solid answer that would make sense to everyone around the world, but I've traveled to the Middle East quite a bit. I have friends in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel, and the UAE. One thing I've noticed, the older groups I hang out with are pretty much already set in their ways, but the students...well, that's another story.
I've taken what I've learned over the last 20 years working with teenagers, and I've started applying it to my relationships with Middle East Students. This Volleyball game was on the Arabian Gulf with American kids, Australian kids, British kids, and Saudi kids, just having a good time. We played volleyball, kicked the soccer ball, had a cook out, and at the end of the day I made some new friendships that are continuing even today.
I started thinking....
What if we extended our hand of frienship, and started bringing more and more Middle Eastern kids to experience some fun "American" style adventures. After all, I've been working at a Colorado Adventure camp for the last 13 of my 20 years in youth work, and so I tried it last summer.
We brought over 10 students from Jordan who had an absolute incredible time!! We rafted, hiked, biked, rock climbed, and shared life together. It was nothing short of a U.N. style peace accords, only it was with teenagers, and we weren't trying to prove anything...we were just allowing the relationships to take their own life.
This summer, I have a unique opportunity to bring 50 students from Jordan and Bethleham.
Wouldn't that be AWESOME!!
We could begin long term friendships with people from the Middle East in hopes of helping to heal relationships here in America. The only Caveat...We need Resources.
I've only asked for money on this blog a couple of times, but THIS IS IMPORTANT!! If we can continue to develop long term relationships between Middle Eastern Teenagers, American Teenagers, Muslim Teenagers, Christian Teenagers, and Jewish Teenagers, What would our world look like in 20 years?
I'd love to invite you to help me on this journey. If you, or you know someone who can see far into the investment future of relationships with the Middle East; please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a few donors starting to work on this project, but we need more. We need people who want to help change the course of history, who trust in the fact we are going to work tirelessly to help mend relationships between East and West.
We're changing the course of the future, one student at a time. Come join us along the way!!
Today is the Day!! KIVU is beginning. For the next 100 Days, we'll be hosting America's Finest College Students in preparation for our family of High School Adventure Loving Students. The crew has started to arrive, and the adventures are about to begin.
For those who have been here before....we miss you.
For those who are coming...we are anxiously awaiting your arrival.
For you who are wanting to beat the heat of the summer time, and head out to Colorado, check out http://www.campkivu.com where you can register online and come and join us.
It all begins today.
This is the BEST part of the year!!
This week, I was invited to teach at Shelterwood, a teenage residential facility outside of Kansas City. Most people would probably describe Shelterwood as a place of last resort. At least that was my understanding of what I was getting into. I thought I was going to teach some of the down and out students of society. I figured it was going to be one of those times where I would do most of the talking, and the kids would be bored to death hearing more about how to think about Re-Imagining their own Christian Worldview.
I couldn't have been more mistaken.
When I arrived, I was greeted with such warmth and hospitality. Kids were looking me in the eye, shaking my hand, introducing themselves, and I had a unique opportunity to share how we can see the world in a way we can live out our faith, and make friends.
One student came to me afterward and handed me a note that said, "I personally do not believe there is a God. I am agnostic, and I just don't care if there is one or not. If there is one, cool there's a God. But if there is no communication with him/her whatsoever cool we're just here living our our lives just as we would if there is one. I'm interested in the God you're talking about, and I'd like to continue our conversation."
That's what we do.
We don't just tell people about God, we live life where people are. Of Course I would hope that someone would know God and experience the fullness of life He affords to offer each one of us. But yesterday was a HIGHLIGHT for me this year. To sit with students, some who believe and some who don't, and just have real honest conversations is a joy. Being honest with the things I've learned in life, and the struggles I still have to try and make sense of the world is such a wonderful place for me.
So a BIG thanks to Shelterwood for having me in. I'm looking for more times where we can connect in the future.
If you'd like more information about Shelterwood, Click on this Link http://shelterwood.org
The KIVU Gap Year is an exciting project we've constructed to serve the future. We believe with the investment of Time, Resources, Education, and Real Worldview understanding, we can seed the next generation of professional people to engage the world with an honest Jesus-Centric Faith.
The KIVU Gap Year combines the passion found in the heart of adolescence to help one another, with a special formation of cerebral intellect, and the tools to actually be effective going forward to make a difference in the world.
It's easy to send students on a short term mission trip around the world and see effective change when they come home. The platforms of churches missions Sundays are filled with students who experienced something different than they knew before they engaged with a culture different than their own. So, what makes The KIVU Gap Year different from a well healed high school student mission trip?
1. We don't want to ever settle for the emotions of grattitude. Often a student will return from a mission trip with a heart to help, but an attitude of grattitude for the life THEY'VE been gifted. It's not a bad thing, but it is a bit demoralizing to the people in other economic situations to say you've been blessed financially and they haven't. Doesn't God love all people?
2. We want to create a generational culture whereby students can see the world as potential partners, not as some sort of economic caste system. Sure, America has access to resources that have been unrealized in all of human history; but what is our responsibility to manage those resources for the better of someone else? How can we look at someone in the eye living in the slums of whatever country you choose, and live life with them instead of At Them?
At the KIVU Gap Year we want the heart of students to regulate all people as human, rather than objectifying people based on socio-economic class or platform.
1. Short term mission trips are valuable to expose people to the world, but rarely do they have the time to introduce participants to reasons why? Why does poverty exist? Why is healthcare systematically the way it is? What historical events lead a particular group of people to be living in their own current conditions? At The KIVU Gap Year, we want students to be able to articluate the problem in an intellectual way, but we also want them to participate in the solutions.
2. Each student has been given a gift from God. It's our position that if we can ignite that gift to a place where it can be used and honed in a practical way, we can help provide experiences where life comes alive. The way people think, the way they interpret certain experiences, and the speed and efficency at how they come to conclusions are largely developed in educational settings. We don't want students to come on the KIVU Gap Year and leave saying, "It changed my life," Unless of course we've provided an environment where professional, social, and educational spaces will be forever changed.
It's easy to stand up after a week on a short term trip and say the experience effected me. It did, in the short term. But a quick glance at the students who I've taken around the world in the short term shows a better chance of effective change if we include proper education.
1. The KIVU Gap Year student will not only begin to hone the emotions of the heart and the intellect of the brain; but they'll also be provided the resource to use certain Tools to develop a network of people who will actually be life long friends. They'll have actual performance evaluations as they intern around the world with global leaders in actual proffessional positions.
2. I've started to interview our graduates, and I'm finding a healthy use of the tools they were provided on our year long program. Some are interning in social work, others are interning in law firms, and one is even working in a hospital to provide health care. Like a carpenter with access to the latest woodworking tools, they can't pass a problem without engaging in a solution. They're different than the students in their class because they've had a multi-phased educational year to prepare them for life.
The most important piece of these three is the core center of faith. We don't create a place wehre we argue over theology, but rather; we lock arms with people around the globe who simply Love God, and Love Others. When students catch a whiff of what it smells like to live a life full of the gospel, they can't help but be changed forever.
I'm so excited about the transformation happening at the KIVU Gap Year. Our hope is that hundreds of students will begin to seed the world as honest faith believing citizens who have the ability to love the whole world. (John 3:16)
Podcasting is a great way to listen to your favorite authors, speakers, or even your friends who are creating interesting content. Most Churches have some sort of "casting" that allows their congregations to participate in the message they feel called to sharing with the world.
I tried podcasting a few years ago, and it was just not in the cards. The amount of time and energy to get a podcast up and running is pretty immense, but with careful thought and consideration, I've been encouraged to start it back up.
So today..yes today...I'll be working on getting the podcasts back up and running. The theme of the podcasts will be centered around current Worldivew thinking, re-defining the word Worldview as it relates to cultural events, and of course our Teenage environment. I'll try and keep it fresh and new as I review books, movies, educational opportunities, and most importantly how we can see those through the lens of following Jesus.
BUT I NEED YOUR HELP!!!!
Here's the deal. As many have asked for a podcast, I just need you to help me get the word out. If you like what's going on here at andybraner.com, don't be afraid to share it with your friends on whatever social media outlet you use most often. If it's facebook, share it with your friends. If it's twitter, help me by re-tweeting the podcast to your network. And as always, there's a way you can feed the podcast directly into your mobile device by subscribing through iTunes.
If you have any suggestions for shows...
If you have any questions for me...
If you want to be on the podcast...
Or, if you just want to give a shout out by recording your own message...
Feel free to comment below, and we'll crank up the podcasting here at www.andybraner.com.
Thanks for pushing me back to the middle. I'm excited to see where this is going to go.
While trying to encourage people to re-define their own Christian Worldview, it's come to my attention how many differing Worldviews there are out there. Everyone likes to use the word "Worldview" to highlight how intellectual, or authentic, or foundational they are when approaching the framework of what it means to live in the world and follow Jesus.
Some are political.
Others are economic.
Some are philosophical.
Still others try and combine some sort of cultural division, as if there's some sort of counter subculture of "secret" Christians who have the corner on the market of truth while all the others are sinking in the pit of worldliness.
But after doing this work for nearly 20 years, I'm seeing more and more differentials between people who all use the same word...."Worldview."
Sure a worldview is a set of principles whereby you see the rest of the world.
Yes, a worldview can be an idea with God at the center, or it might be an idea where God is non-existent.
You might even find a worldview where the core of someone's basic beliefs are born out of family tradition, emotions, or even some need for everyone to live in a similar economic situation.
Whatever the word means to you, I hope you take it serious.
A Worldview isn't simply talking about how you think, it's about applying the ideas of your philosophy/theology/sociology/biology/psychology and so forth; to your real life.
Recently I was working with a group of people who called themselves Christians. They prayed well. They praised well. They even talked a good game when they met people who were potential "conversion targets.' But the minute they had to sacrifice some time, some money, or some other resource valuable to them; they ran!
In other words, I watched people who could talk a big game, but when it came right down to it, their behavior wasn't any different than a worldly salesman. They were interested in reporting how good they were, but when no one was looking, they couldn't care less about the people they were leaving in the dust. (of course I'm writing vague as to not get in a liable lawsuit about someone's character)
I think the world has had it with this kind of X-Tian.
It's such a game where the worldview at the moment we can agree to, but when people have to be called on to prove it in real life, they run.
When it gets hard, they revert to the life most comfortable, not the life most right.
I guess this week, I'm being reminded about how important it is to make sure we re-define the Christian Worldview, but we do it in a way that is represented in our actions. Anyone can talk a big game. What sets you a part today? What makes you a re-definition? If someone watched you work today, would they be able to tell you are a counter cultural being working for something higher than yourself?
If not...you need a re-definition.
A spritual journeyman interested in sharing life with teenagers around the world.