It’s a Stupid Dream…

20140616-152056-55256762.jpg…but I can’t help it. I have had it for years.

Before I tell you what it is, let me say something. You and I, all of us, are notorious for shooting down a dream before it even has a chance. We encourage people to dream, but then, when someone actually dreams a dream, we do everything possible to jerk them back down to the ground. Let them fly for a second, but quickly grab the string. The kite has had long enough.

Afterall, there is work to be done.
Afterall, there are the duties of today and tomorrow.
Afterall, look how limited your resources are (i.e. time and money).
Afterall, what are the chances that you, among others, will be the one to do something special.
Afterall, it isn’t practical.

Goals can be reached with hard work. But dreams? Hard work isn’t enough. Hard work and sacrifice is absolutely required. However, even then, an act of God is required in order for the dream to come to pass.

Quite often a person kills another person’s dream so that in the end, the person will not suffer from a broken, disappointed heart. Little do we know that to not dream at all results in a numbness that is 10x more piercing than a season disappointment.

So here is my dream. What if every mega-church in the United States prayerfully adopted a third world country? Yes, I said country. Now, some of these countries are large and would require multiple churches to partner together. I get that. But remember, this is my dream. When giving yourself some “dreamtime,” do not even consider practicals. Just throw paint on the canvas. Sort it out later. Revise it later. A door unhinged can be taken anywhere.

Would there be logistical nightmares? Yes! Political roadblocks? No doubt. Matter of fact, insurmountable without God’s powerful intervention. But remember, this is dreamtime. So, back to my dream. Details later. We need fire first. We can control it later.

Mega-churches would have to make budget cuts, evaluate the size of their staff, still maintain compassionate care for their local communities, and still offer excellent service in a society that values excellence. I get that. But this is dreamtime.

And then, for smaller churches, there could be an organization in place that networks groups so that resources could be compiled. Maybe a network of smaller churches could be grouped together to adopt/sponsor smaller countries.

Why not? I know two things as a pastor on staff: Churches are going to spend their money on something. Second, people usually do not have trouble giving when the story they are being invited into is deeply significant. I wonder if pastors are having to beg for money in some instances because the vision just doesn’t quite seem big enough for people to let go of hard-earned (and hard to come by in our economy) money.

Maybe people aren’t that greedy. It could be they just need something more compelling. A compelling vision might move people to empty their pockets. They might even do so without the word “sacrifice” ever even surfacing.

Mega-churches…adopt a nation. Improve education. Help create self-sustaining businesses. Provide transportation (e.g. bikes). Help build simple shelters.

Here is a thought. What if a church is buying 10,000 chairs. They want nice chairs. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH NICE CHAIRS. To say other wise is to speak out of a spirit of poverty. But, nice does not mean top-of-the-line. Let us say that the top-of-the-line chair is $75 a chair. $75 multiplied by 10,000 is $750,000. Insane, right? Now, pretend a church picked up this dream and ran with it. This specific local church family would have to make some cuts. In order to sponsor a nation, one of the first steps the church could take could be to buy the $35 really nice chair (though not top-of-the-line) and save $40 a chair. $35 multiplied by 10,000 is $350,000. I hope this just struck you between the eyes. Wow! Just in this one area this one decision would free up $400,000. Digging a well usually cost around $5,000 (it varies depending on several factors). By choosing the nice chair rather than the top-of-the-line chair, this church could dig approximately 80 water wells. 80!!! Or, this church could dig 40 water wells strategically spaced throughout the nation and use the other $200,000 for other purposes. Again, this is ONLY after scaling down in ONE area. Imagine if each mega-church was this intentional across the board in every area of that church’s operation.

Are there political complications? Militias? Certain situations where it just will not work. Sure. But, remember, this is dreamtime, and just because it might not work everywhere does not mean it can’t work in several places.

I have a dream: Mega-churches that empty their pockets for the poor nations of the earth. I bet Jesus would be all about that.

(Note: I am not encouraging churches to go their own way and do their own thing. Great organizations such as Compassion International are already in place to use money responsibly. It would be foolish to not leverage these type Christian organizations that have proven, financial track records and already have the experience, machinery, details, and in some cases, people in place.)

A Professor’s Response to Another Professor’s Classroom Exercise

Earlier today, I read a Facebook post from a friend of mine. It read,

“My World Literature professor just made the class participate in a Hindu ritual. It was about throwing your enemies and people you hate into god’s mouth. Me and one other person were the only ones who didn’t do it.”

I responded thus:

“Good job Shaun Leavines. As an instructor, I believe this goes too far. Here is what I mean. If religion is nothing more than an objective, systematic body of ideas, then what this instructor did was fine. However, religion is something that people, for better or worse, orient their entire lives around. It is an extremely personal affair (this goes for true adherents in any religion). Thus, what this instructor did was objectify religion. He did not take into account that for those who subjectively adhere to one particular religion, that person will not and cannot betray their convictions for an exercise a professor deems purely intellectual. Follow Christ!”

We live in a very spiritual Universe, and to enter into another religion’s rituals that no doubt are associated (whether one is conscious of it or not) with various spirits, seems more akin to witchcraft than an innocent “intellectual” exercise. Our problem sometimes in the sophisticated, scientific West is that we are naturalists at heart. We do not really, really believe in the spirit world even as Christians. We need our eyes opened. Paul wrote, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

As I like to reiterate every chance I get, “All things are spiritual.”

“Swing the Bat”

20140612-084401-31441706.jpgI put the title in quotations because these are not my words. This last Sunday, my Senior Pastor shared a message with our local church family encouraging us to, “Swing the Bat!” We were all encouraged to get away this week and dream a little.

This morning, I got up early, made my coffee, sat in my usual chair, read a Psalm, and then stopped. I realized that I needed a little variety this morning. So, instead of spending more time in God’s Word, I got out my journal. Since the birth of my my wife and I’s first son, for some reason, I have practically stopped journaling. Journaling sometimes feels so slow and time-consuming. Yet, it is probably for these reasons I need to be journaling more than ever. It is good to slow down. It is good to sit in silence. It is good to be still. It is good to stop looking at a screen. It is good to turn off all notifications. It is good to stare out the window. It is good to breathe deeply.

Psalm 46:10 NKJV
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

As I sat, The Lord finally had space and time in my life to give me a quiet nudge in a particular direction? What direction? A simple reminder that my senior pastor encouraged us to take time to dream. This morning, I did. Then, I took it a step further. I wrote down my dreams! Dreaming is one thing, but once you write them down, there is something in the human heart that takes them more seriously. And if you want to take it even further, then share the dreams of your heart with someone close to you. Say them out loud! If you are like me, if what you share really is a dream, you will feel a little sheepish and stupid. After all, for genuine followers of Jesus Christ, your dream should have at its core the following characteristics:

1. Your dream is ultimately not about you, but the unique, interesting, significant way that you in particular are wanting to bring glory to God. Achieving a dream is not the end, but the means, simply a vehicle for making Jesus famous. This so often is where Americans go wrong. We dream, but it is more about self-fulfillment (an Aristotelian notion) than it is glorifying God. Do not get me wrong, walking out God’s dreams for your life will satisfy you more than any other mission in the world. However, this is a by-product, not the goal.

2. Your dream is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE…in your own strength. There is a major difference between a “goal” and a “dream.” Goals are easily achievable if you are willing to do the necessary work. A dream is also something you must work toward, plan for, sacrifice for, etc. However, a dream is still that thing which no matter how hard you work, it will still require an act (or acts, plural) of God for it to come to pass. Do you have anything in your heart that is still a dream? Or is your soul a mere collection of intentional goals? In other words, is there anything left in you that will actually require faith? Here is another way of putting it: If Jesus disappeared from your life, would that much change? A God-given dream ought to bring a Christian to his/her knees for weeks, months, years, even decades. Get out your crockpot, dreams do not happen overnight (or overweek, overmonth, or even overyear; and yes, I am aware that these are not actual words). A dream requires a Provider who has more resources and connections than you do. Ergo, God.

3. As a Christian, your dream should have at its core something like this: “This is how I want to help people. This is the contribution I want to make both inside and outside the church.”

4. You must be willing to sacrifice money, time, and anything else required to get there. A reorientation is in order if walking out this dream really matters to you. You will have to give up certain things, even really good things, in order to make room in your limited life (all resources such as time and money are limited) to prepare and position yourself to walk out that dream.

5. The thought of it not coming to pass makes your miserable.

6. Patience. God is a God of process. Destiny moments come, and oh how sweet they are, but they are moments. Enjoy getting there. Dream the dream and fight the fight.

To end, I want to share one specific dream I listed today in my journal. The Lord has allowed me in this season to step into one of my bucket list desires. I now teach an Intro to Philosophy and a World Religions course at a local college. The Lord has made it clear to me, “You are My missionary in this environment.” He put that in my heart when I was 20. I am 35 now. It took 15 years of hard work, late nights, and hundreds upon hundreds of hours studying to prepare for this. Now, my dream is continuing to evolve. All God stuff undergoes a process of evolution.

My dream for The Lord is this: I want the day to come, sooner than later, when as I teach, the Holy Spirit shows up (in a “secular” college!) and begins to give me prophetic words for the students in my class. Can you imagine?! Prophecy and words of knowledge spilling out in a secular Philosophy class. I have a hunch that this, to an experiential generation, would be the greatest apologetic! I want to “see” and “hear” things from the heart of Jesus for students who do not even believe in Him.

In the words of Martin Luther KIng, Jr., “I have a dream!”

Psalm 126:1 NKJV
[1] When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream.

Genesis 37:19 NKJV
[19] Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer (Joseph) is coming!”