In the second half ... after Half Time ... we/I/you must begin to consider what is really central to life itself. Jesus knew this. He made several statements that challenged us to decide what is really central. He confirmed that the most important commandment is to love God, others and (with painful honesty) ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39) LOVE. He said that if we were to come after (follow) Him we must decide the cross we must bear for Him (Matthew 10:38) LIFT. He said we must look to Him and not look back at other things, responsibilities or excuses LOOK. And He said if we would follow Him we must leave the things that keep our hearts away from Him (Luke 18:22) LEAVE. Loving, lifting, looking and leaving are central things to the mission God has planned out for us.
There is an interesting thing happening in the rap/hip hop world. Kanye West, noted for music, bad-boy comments and some pretty bizarre outbursts, has (in his words) changed. He has decided to follow Jesus and has even published a 9th album called Jesus is King (true whether Kanye says so or not). On a talk show he was asked whether he was a Christian artist. Kanye replied "I am a Christian everything!" While I know exactly nothing about West, his music or his passion for Jesus, I truly love this answer. Kanye West is, at least in words, drawing a line in the sand that describes what is now central in his life. He expresses love, work (our daily heavy lifting), seeing (what he looks for/at every day) and (in his response to the talk show question) what he is leaving. Paul summed all of this up in 2 Cornithians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!" That is the gist of deciding what is central to our lives.
Over the past few weeks I have shared a few stories of the Iranian Church. It is an amazing story of visions, discipleship, redemption, danger and God's power in the midst of oppression we, here in America, cannot even imagine. God's Spirit is changing people in very unorthodox ways. While doctrine, church polity and the normal process of inviting people 'to' church are largely ignored, people are asked if they would like to learn about a God of love, grace, light and life? People do not enter as converts but as seekers who may, at a later point, become followers, after knowing the cost of discipleship and the story of Jesus. They are taught, as Matthew 28 says, to follow and obey the things that Jesus said. And they are choosing Jesus in droves, even knowing that this God is one who 1) loves all, 2) leads us to lift a cross (a burden He says is an easy, light yoke), 3) points us to a life of looking to Jesus as our center and 4) calls us to leave things that are toxic to our faith. And, like Kanye West, they are saying "I am a Christian everything" who chooses the inconvenience and danger of meeting with broken people who are different, high-maintenance and hard-shelled. It amazes me! How about you? Randy