Three Lessons on Faith from ABC’s Shark Tank

These wise investors can teach Christians a lot about knowing what to look for.

These wise investors can teach Christians a lot about knowing what to look for.

I LOVE ABC’s Shark Tank. I can’t get enough of this show. Maybe it’s because of the competitive nature of the “sharks.” It could be because I love keeping up with technology and it’s fascinating to see what innovations are coming down the pipeline (although not everything is a techy gadget). Whatever it is, I love this show.

If you are not familiar with Shark Tank, the premise is that there are five self-made millionaire and billionaire entrepreneurs and investors that are offering up their own money to invest in startup companies that come and make a pitch. It can sometimes be pretty brutal on the “shark bait” end or, in some instances, a great opportunity is pitched and the sharks turn on one another. That’s when it gets interesting. I have seen multi-million dollar operations walk out the door, and I have seen a 15-year-old girl literally name her deal. Check out an episode of the show below (clip via YouTube):

Watching a lot of this show, there are a few things I have noticed that Christians may be able to learn from watching the show.

THE SHARKS RECOGNIZE DECEPTION

It happens all the time. An entrepreneur will come in looking for a Shark to offer the lifeline their dying company desperately needs. But in an attempt to project confidence, they mention all the “good” numbers and hope the sharks don’t ask about their bad ones. But these sharks are wise, experienced and they can smell deception from a mile away. They actually call this scenario “blood in the water.”

For Christians, the Bible tells us that our enemy is a “deceiver.” He wraps his lies in truth so that they seem to make sense. In Matthew 4, Satan tempts Jesus by quoting Scripture (see also HERE). Peter tells us our enemy, the devil, “is like a prowling lion, waiting for someone to devour.” The world will throw all kinds of deceptive teaching at us. In some cases, folks will use the Bible to make their case, even when the basis of their argument goes against the Biblical grain. The things the world throws at us will seem attractive, they will seem to make sense and it will be tempting to accept them.

Believers should strive to learn the Word of God so intimately that they recognize deception at first glance, and treat it as viciously as the Sharks do on the show.

THE SHARKS SAY “NO” TO A LOT OF GREAT IDEAS

Shark Tank airs on ABC, Friday nights at 9/8c.

Shark Tank airs on ABC, Friday Nights at 9/8c.I’m shocked at how often sharks will compliment a business and then say, “I’m Out.” They know their skill sets and they are comfortable with what they bring to the table. In some instances, they know that while it could be a great financial investment, it will pull their time investment away from more important projects.

There are a lot of great things in life. Great opportunities come our way, and it can be tempting to bite on them. Keeping our priorities, our giftedness, our calling in check will help us fish through some of these. Here are some questions to ask:

  1. Is this a good thing? (Philippians 4:8)
  2. Is it going to take my focus off of more important things?
  3. Is it in line with the gifts and passions God has uniquely given me? (Romans 12:6-8)

We each have unique “spiritual DNA.” God made us with special purposes and skills. We will find a great amount of fulfillment in life when we allow those things to guide our decisions.

THE SHARKS EXPECT GROWTH

The sharks know that healthy companies will grow. They look for companies with growth patterns prior to entering the tank. They also only invest if they expect continued growth.

Likewise, for Christians, growth is only natural. We should be maturing in our faith. We should not only know more of our Bible now than when we first believed, but we should grow in knowing it — and knowing God — more deeply. We should be able to explain things that used to be tough for us to understand. The writer of Hebrews actually says that the believers ought to have moved along a natural progression to being teachers already. IT IS POSSIBLE TO STUNT YOUR GROWTH. It is possible to consume, consume, consume church and by never exercising what we learn, become spiritually obese and out of shape. It is possible to keep obstacles in your life that act as obstacles to keep you from growing and keep you from being healthy.

What is your favorite show? Can Christians learn anything from it?

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Complexity Can’t Always Be Explained

Albert Einstein was one of the world's greatest thinkers, and the more he learned, the more he (evidently) understood that copmlexity can't be easily discounted.

Albert Einstein was one of the world’s greatest thinkers, and the more he learned, the more he (evidently) understood that complexity can’t be easily discounted.

Every day, thousands of scientific discoveries are being made that help us to understand how our world works. But it will never answer why we see so much order, or why we are even able to observe patterns, laws and rules. Order comes from order. Chaos never results in order. Einstein understood that. Do you?

Do you think that the world’s order is proof of intelligent design?

Bring Back the “R” Word

R-repent copyIt’s time we bring back the “R” word.

I know it’s controversial.

I know it’s hard to hear.

I know it’s offensive.

But it’s time we talk about it in openness and boldness. It’s about time we stop allowing ourselves to be offended by it. It’s long past time we stop applying it when talking about our own lives. But the word stirs up so much controversy that it’s almost impossible to avoid. It makes people angry. It breaks relationship. The word I’m talking about, of course, is “Repent”.

The first and greatest commandment.

We live in a world where people want to quote Jesus’ statement of the “first and greatest command: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength, and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.” [emphasis mine] The way our culture talks, it seems “Loving your neighbor as yourself” comes first. Everyone wants people to be all lovey-dovey to one another. This makes for a world where no one can tell anyone that anything they do is wrong. In fact, it has created a world where nothing can be known to be right OR wrong.

This is bologna.

The first commandment is to LOVE GOD. And not just have nice feelings toward him, but to LOVE him, to LOVE his commands, to LOVE his plan for us and to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that he has put a plan in place to redeem us.

Jesus’ First Message

Focusing on our love for God requires submission. And it requires admitting that I have a heart that wants so badly to resist him. It requires an admission that “I want to be my own god, and my default mode is denying you (the God of the Bible) that role.” That is why Jesus’ very first message was for his listeners to:

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is Near.

That’s right, Jesus, the orchestrator of Love and Acceptance, said that we are to REPENT! We are to turn away from the fact that we think we know better than God. It is to turn from the fact that we think we have evolved past needing him. It means to actually trust him with our lives, and not just go to church, while trusting our own instincts to take care of us.

Why this makes us squirm

This is a tough message because we don’t like to be told we are wrong. We also don’t like to think that we are not the one best-suited to guide our own lives. We all think that the truth is the best policy, until someone tells us the truth about how we are. We don’t want to hear that we are wrong, but that is the story of the Christian life.

Jesus said “Come as you are.” He never said, “Stay as you are.”

A life devoted to Christ says, “this is where I am, now shape me into what you’d like me to be.” In order to take that approach, we have to REPENT and turn from our old ways. We must turn from our pattern of thinking that says we know better than God. A life devoted to Christ gives him KINGship, not just SAVIORship.

And those who lose their [own] lives will find them [in Christ].

Why is it so hard for us to hear the word, “repent?”

JESUS WINS!

The church isn’t dying.

I kn0w we think that the world is moving to a more “post-Christian” era. There have been several articles written about the “nones,” a demographic that claims no religious affiliation. Everything is subjective. No one can claim to know anything is true. ‘Merica is growing increasingly secular and the “religious right” (gag) is in a tizzy.

Everyone is Chicken Little.

The sky is always falling.

The church is [supposedly] dying.

But we know the end of the story. We’ve skipped ahead to the last chapter! JESUS WINS! His Will wins! His Redemption wins! His Truth wins!

I know it’s easy to get swept into fray. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative press, and the signs that the world could care less. Heck, I’ve gotten caught up in it. For all we know, the Church could be going through a transformation. Things are definitely changing. The structures and churches that we know may pass away. For all we know, America itself could pass away. Who knows what would follow in its place. But that thought is a great chance to ask where our loyalties actually lie.

Every once in a while, it’s good to remember that in the end, Jesus wins!

Three Lessons for the Start of Lent

[Credit where it’s due: The inspiration for this post comes from a recent sermon from Pastor Tim Lucas at Liquid Church in New Jersey. Listen to/watch their Lent sermon series HERE]

With yesterday’s celebration of Ash Wednesday, the season known as “Lent” has officially begun. Lent is a 40-day period (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter, meant to represent the 40-day period that Jesus spent in the desert at the onset of his public ministry (Read the story here).

While in the desert, we are told that Jesus fasted, and so one of the most notable markers of Christians celebrating Lent is selective fasting for forty days — giving up any number of things for the forty day period. Some examples of the most common items are listed below (based on twitter #lent hashtags, source: Christianity Today):

Most common things being given up for lent; size represents frequency.

Giving something up can be a great thing. Denying our fleshly desires and using that energy to focus on God can be a great spiritual discipline. But I think this story teaches a couple other lessons, and that all believers would do well to glean some wisdom from this narrative. (For reference purposes, I will be following Matthew’s account of the story).

THE SPIRIT DID THE LEADING (4:1)

The first fact we see in this story is that Jesus was led by the spirit, for the purpose of being tempted. If the Spirit would lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, he might similarly lead us into times of dryness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in your weakness.” We shouldn’t live our lives focusing on staying within a comfortable situation, assuming that trouble is always the Devil’s doing. The devil doesn’t show up in this story until the end of the 40 days. Before that it was just a time of hardship. Times of dryness and periods in the “valley,” offer Christians opportunities to feel their own weakness and rely on God’s strength.

SATAN USED SCRIPTURE (4:6)

We need to be seriously watchful against this. Satan knows the Bible, and probably better than you or I. He knows his opponent, has advanced scouting reports and has watched lots and lots of game film. Don’t take him lightly.

Seriously, though, it needs to be pointed out that Satan knows what the Bible says, and in this story he shows that he is okay with mangling it to serve his purposes. He doesn’t say anything that’s unbiblical, but he tries to apply it to meet Jesus’ personal desires. Likewise, as we approach all kinds of cultural issues, we can see many people support their agenda with Scripture but often times they don’t take into account what the whole of Scripture has to say on the topic.

Sometimes it can be a great thing to challenge the “establishment.” But we must be cautious of Scripture being used to push our own agendas. Lies are simply false statements, but deceptions are lies wrapped in truth. Satan is a master deceiver. Be wise in how you accept these arguments and ground yourself in the Biblical text first.

JESUS DIDN’T HAVE A BIBLE WITH HIM

This isn’t explicit. But it doesn’t say that he said, “Wait a minute, Satan, let me look up what the Bible says about this before I respond.” Jesus had internalized Scripture. He knew the tempter’s schemes, and he had Scripture ready to go at every turn. When temptation strikes, it can be a great thing to turn to the Word. If it’s not available, though, you’re in trouble. Believers should know what they believe. We should be ready to combat Satan and his lies. We should invite God’s spirit to speak through us by verbalizing his Words on our lips.

Lent would be a great time to start building an arsenal for just such occasions. There will be times when you feel exhausted from the desert you’ve been going through, and that is when Satan will wish to deliver your final blow. God’s wisdom is the sword with which we fight back.

I hope these lessons give you something to think about  as we start this Lenten season this year.

What about you — how are you celebrating Lent this year?

3 Reasons Why the Pope’s Resignation is Important

Photo from Google Images

Photo from Google Images

Yesterday, the world was shocked at the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would be resigning at the end of the month. This is HUGE news in religious circles, whether you are Catholic or not, because this hasn’t happened since before the protestant reformation. That makes it a big deal.

Every protestant takes a different stand on Catholicism, ranging anywhere from brotherhood despite differences, to apathy concerning differences, to condemnation of perceived idolatry (worship of the saints) and perceived heretical teachings. Some see the Roman church as brothers and sisters in Christ. Others are more acrimonious.

Regardless of where you fall, events like this one offer a great platform for dialogue with those who believe differently than ourselves. It’s an open door for conversation, and a great excuse to bring the gospel into your daily life.

Here are a few reasons this is important and questions that this event might raise:

BY WHOSE AUTHORITY?

The Catholic Faith has a different authority structure than do the Reformed/Protestant or Restoration (Christian Churches/Churches of Christ) traditions. While the latter would affirm that Scripture holds authority on its own, the Catholic Church argues that we need someone to interpret Scripture. Both would argue for the authority Scripture, but the Catholic Church lets its Cardinals have the final say and absolute authority over issues of faith and morality.

As the highest-ranking Cardinal, the See of Rome (aka the Pope) is believed to be speaking in the role of the apostles, following their succession based on the authority given to Peter in Matthew 16. If this is a divine appointment of infallible authority, how may a man simply “step down” out of that position? I’m sure the Church has a procedure and an answer for this, but your average Catholic coworker probably doesn’t know it, so it could at least make for some good conversation.

WHAT IS REALLY CHANGING?

In his official statement, the Pope cited, “today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith” as one of the reasons he is stepping down. Yet Solomon (the wisest man that ever lived, by the way) said:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

The first-century communities to whom Paul wrote were corrected for sexual immorality; Our culture is seriously sensualized. They worshiped many gods; our world promotes pluralism, subjective truth and the “different paths up the same mountain” theology. They were greedy; America (enough said). The religious among them were legalistic with judgmental hearts; our churches are criticized for having too many hypocrites.

The question is this: Is the world really changing that much? I don’t know that it is, but that is good news. It means the Bible tells us more about humanity than about specific humans. It is still relevant. It still applies. It is still truth.

THERE’S STILL THEOLOGICAL DISAGREEMENT

How about just having a conversation about where you differ in belief? What about the issue of saints (Catholic v. Protestant view), Justification (Faith v. Works), The Priesthood, Purgatory, Authority, etc. These might drive you into your Bible to grapple with tough questions and that is a good thing. The challenge is to have these conversations and decide where you agree and disagree and whether you can have fellowship as brothers and sisters that is built on the similarities. We are sinners. Christ died for our sins. He saves us by grace. On these and other things, Christians and Catholics tend to agree, and these are pretty big questions.

What other questions does Pope Benedict’s resignation bring forward?

You’re too worried about YOU! (And I’m too worried about me!)

WorldRevolvesAroundMe

One of the exciting things about being in seminary is that I have access to lots of books and ideas that I would not have otherwise ever pursued. As much as possible, I would like to share these thoughts with you. Today’s post us just such an occasion. Rediscovering Community by Daniel Overdorf is a great commentary on what the Bible says about the Church — what it was meant to be, what it stands for and what it represents in God’s plan. Check out what he says:

 We risk disregarding our place in God’s grand story and inviting Him only into our smaller stories. While God’s story certainly manifests itself in the smaller stories of each congregation, these are but pieces of something much more grand.
Overdorf is talking about our tendency to want our churches or denominations to be autonomous of one another. But that is not the way God intended fellowship to be.

Jesus didn’t die for YOU, so much as he died for Y’ALL

This is a touchy statement. But I believe it is true. He didn’t die for Stephen, or Melanie or eve, (gulp) Nick. When the Bible says he died for your sins, this your is almost universally plural. Jesus’ bride is his church. The body of Christ. He died to make his bride — the church — holy (Ephesians 5:25-7).

One of the most dangerous evolutions in the Church in recent decades/centuries is the rise of individualism. God’s purpose is not to make YOUR life make sense, but to make Y’ALL’s life a witness. The Bible tells a story of community. It tells a story of a nation, a people set apart for God. God’s heart is for his people, not his persons.

When we all stop worrying about ME

What is God’s will for ME?

What does God have in store for ME?

What is God doing in MY life?

As the quote above suggests, We are to see ourselves as part of God’s bigger narrative and part of Jesus’ larger body. Our passion should be for the rest of the body. It should concern us when we start to view every single thing that happens as some part of God’s plan for us (individually).This kind of thinking leads us to thinking that everything is “part of God’s plan for me, that God has a reason for everything that happens to me.” It leads to self-centered revolutions focusing on the Prayer of Jabez, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:13, and on the list goes. It leads to athletes that preach an “If you’re a Christian, God will make your team WIN!” (A sentiment that more and more people believe). It leads to us making God out to be a mystical “lucky rabbit’s foot” of sorts, carrying him around in our back pocket to bring us luck.

God’s plan is BIGGER than YOU or ME. His purposes span all of history, not just this little slice of time that we call the present (James 4:14).

When Joseph was beaten by his brothers, sold into slavery, treated poorly and thrown in prison, it would have been only natural for him to say, “God has forgotten me.” Or to say, “What is God’s will for my life?”

While God’s promises to Abraham did not come to full fruition through the Joseph narrative, God sovereignly and significantly advanced toward the fulfillment of these promises through Joseph and his family. (Overdorf, 126)

God worked out his plan for Israel through Joseph’s little part of the story. Joseph never wavered in faith. He never claimed “God is testing me.” He never said, “God has a purpose for me.”

He just said God had a purpose.

Stop worrying

God has a plan.

It could mean misery for some of us. It could mean riches for others. Suffering or riches might be the works of  his hand. They might simply  be allowed by him (if not caused). It might mean times of suffering or times of celebrating. But God has a purpose for his church, his people that is bigger than his purpose for any individual.

It’s time we let go of our own interests and trust him. He sees a bigger picture than we do.

Do you think the church is too individualistic?

Weekend Roundup

  • In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is a fantastic piece on what dialogue on tough issues looks like.
  • I don’t understand the Zombie obsession.
  • In the wake of a great Super Bowl, let’s remember that athletes are not role models.
  • As a communicator I try to keep this in mind. As a person it rings true as well.
  • “Prayer in an unhealthy congregation is often a response of desperation rather than a marker of the DNA of the church.” Thom Rainer makes som great observations about what commonly plagues churches.
  • I’m a big fan of This American Life. This week’s podcast on kids’ logic was particularly well done.
  • Pretty cool use of the iPhone Reminders app as a prayer list.

Thoughtfulness is the new Praise Band

Our world has evolved past “church.”

That’s the general idea behind the term “post-Christian.” We used to be a Christianized (i.e. Westernized) culture, but have now grown enlightened enough that we can glean the teachings and leave the “church” behind. We are past “church.”

My wife and I recently had a very interesting conversation about what that brand of atheism/agnosticism looks like in our society today, and what will it look like in the future. More importantly, how will the Church be able to reach those who feel this way about “religion?”

Praise Bands of Old

Turn back the clock a few decades and the scene in any given church would be relatively rigid. Hymns. Pews. Scripted orders of service. Pastoral prayer. Stand. Sit. Stand. Sit. Stand. Kneel. Stand. Sit.

Enter the Praise Band. Songs that sound like those that you’d hear on the radio. Preaching outside (gasp!) the pulpit. The New International Version upending the iron grip of the KJV and RSV. Church started to become notably more “relevant” and the seeker-friendly movement was born.

Music was the catalyst that re-invigorated people’s commitments to their faith.

Thoughtfulness the new Praise Band

The biggest mistake we could make is to assume that a “post-Christian” society is the same as a “disinterested-in-Christianity” society. On the contrary, there are MANY folks out there that are highly interested in having conversations about issues of faith.

But they desire to have conversation (you know, with talking and listening), and they want to be able to ask questions of the Bible that are not met with “well, you just have to have faith.”

In short, those that have cast off “religion” have often cast off what they see as “empty,” or “mindless,” or “blind” religion. The way we can re-engage these very thoughtful nay-sayers is to be thoughtful about what we believe.

Return to doctrine.

Return to theological discussions.

Return from the land of spiritual lethargy and wrestle with why you believe what we do.

Return from the land of letting the Pastor interpret for you.

The churches that reach the vast numbers of unbelievers in the coming years will be the churches that encourage members to be thoughtful in what they believe and engage in the tough conversations.

Growing churches will be thoughtful churches.

What is your experience with thoughtfulness in religion?