Dear Young Christians: Reject Legalism, NOT Discipline!

Illustration of teen arguing with parents, Ron and Joe / Shutterstock.com

Illustration of teen arguing with parents, Ron and Joe / Shutterstock.com

Within the evangelical Christian universe, few things are more damning than being labeled 'Legalistic.' The term evokes images of strict rules, ruthlessness, enforced doctrines, unforgiving judges, and worst of all —unpopularity

When churches, schools, pastors, institutions, and communities are viewed as legalistic, they are demonized and shunned — sometimes rightfully so.

One disturbing trend I’ve noticed — especially among young believers — is to assume that everything associated with a few of legalism’s attributes: structure, requirements, consequences, and work, is legalistic — it’s not.

How to Make Space to Create, And Why It Matters

Pile of lego blocks. Photo courtesy Nenov Brothers Images/shutterstock.com

Pile of lego blocks. Photo courtesy Nenov Brothers Images/shutterstock.com

My children spend more time building with Lego than just about anything else. Almost always, what they make is surprising, unexpected, startlingly new.

I want to share some observations from when a totally different thing enters the picture: the Lego building challenges.

For days after they read about a new “challenge” (build a dream home, build some kind of robot, etc.) they’ll work and re-work a project and pester us to photograph them and worry about whether or not they’ll win. Here’s the surprising part:

When they are building for the contest — for that $100 gift card and their picture in the magazine — their creations are startlingly less creativeAll of a sudden, they are timid and anxious about their creations. Honestly, their for-contest work is always inferior to their regular work.

Why does this matter? Because I think it shows us something important about motivation and its effect on creativity.

After Giving up Alcohol, I’m Addicted to Lent

Easter mug. Photo courtesy Maglara/shutterstock.com

This spring, I gave up alcohol for Lent, the forty days of penitence between Ash Wednesday and Easter. And now almost one week after the Alleluias and Easter baskets, I may be addicted to Lent.

On Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent began, my thirteen-year daughter Maya explained alcohol to her seven-year old sister in the backseat of our car: “See, sometimes adults just like having a drink after a long day of work. It helps them relax.” That same week, one of my friends said, “You aren’t a heavy drinker, but you are a consistent drinker.”

It was time to take a break, even if I knew that one glass of red wine at night wasn’t the end of the world. I needed to give it up because I wasn’t sure if I could.

Fat Tuesday and Skinny Wednesday

All the major world religions have an element of self-denial at their core. Jews have Yom Kippur.Muslims have Ramadan.Christians have Lent. 

In a world filled with clutter, noise, and hustle, Lent is a good excuse to step back and rethink how we think and live.In a world of instant gratification, it’s a chance to practice delayed gratification – to fast -- so that we can truly appreciate the blessings we have.In a world where virtual friends are replacing real ones, it is an invitation to turn off TV and computer screens so we can spend time with real people again. 

It’s an opportunity to give up something that is sucking the life out of us so that we can be filled with God, with life, with love again.

The Morning News: Monday Nov. 14, 2011

 Cain: God Convinced Me To Run For President. OpEd: Whatever Happened To Discipline And Hard Work? Bob Jones III Unplugged. GOP Candidates Hammer Obama On His Iran Policy During South Carolina Debate. Jon Huntsman Blasts "Sound-Bite Campaigning." OpEd: Christian Politics Create Unholy Alliances. Would Cracking Down On Illegal Immigration Really Cut Unemployment? And the Poor Are With Us, However You Count Them.

Awakening Creativity in Prayer

Each moment is pregnant with new possibilities waiting to be born, alive with new beginnings, God's secrets not yet heard, God's dreams not yet fulfilled. These were the thoughts that lodged in my mind as I meditated on Isaiah 48:6-8 this morning. So many good Christian people I talk to are afraid that their prayer life will become stale, their spiritual disciplines empty rituals. Some make this an excuse for their lack of discipline in prayer. And prayer does become stale and meaningless if we don't know how to stir our imaginations and awaken our creativity to new thoughts, new patterns and new possibilities for prayer.

Tools for prayer are creative opportunities not formulae for success

One of my greatest fears as I continue to share these tools for prayers is that some of my readers will see them as another formula that will make them more successful and more prayerful. Of course that is possible, but what I hope is that we will all see these as tools as ways to stir our imaginations and open our minds to new ways to express the prayers God has placed in our hearts, stimuli that awaken our creativity to the brand new possibilities of ways that God can speak to us, in us, and through us.