I Am Second

Posted by Greg Sidders | 2:23 PM

     What is your greatest ambition? What goal do you so want to achieve that just thinking about it burns calories?
     Do you think that ambition is yours alone, or does it feel so instinctive that surely it must be universal?
     On the day I started following Jesus, an ambition was ignited in my heart that has burned so hot ever since I have never second-guessed my assumption that it is a holy fire, kindled by the Spirit of God in in every Christian's heart. It is the ambition to make a difference in my generation. I want to help change the world for the better before I leave it.  But doesn't everybody?
     I'm not so sure any more. I have met a good many Christians who don't seem to be as interested in making an unerasable mark as I am. What's wrong with them? Have their dreams turn cold and gray, or is it possible that they have never gotten heartburn wondering if they are making a difference?
    Or—and I admit that this came to me only recently—am I the one with the problem? Is it possible that the desire to change the world is not necessarily a holy one?  Could it be a selfish ambition?  This looping soundtrack that plays in my head—How can I maximize my impact for Christ? How does God want to use me?—it doesn't harmonize very well with the words of Jesus: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all" (Mark 10:43-44).
     A great person, in the eyes of Christ, is someone who is so others-centered, so self-forgetful, that the question that might burn hot in their heart is, How can I help others be used by God like no one else? Maybe the genesis of true greatness is the realization that it's not about me. Maybe the way God measures the impact of my life is not by the mark I make, but by how selflessly I help others maximize their world-changing potential.
     I'm a slow learner.

Posted by Greg Sidders | 8:08 PM

       At 19, Amy Purdy didn’t have a care in the world.  When she wasn’t on the slopes competing as a world-class snowboarder, she enjoyed her job as a massage therapist. But how quickly everything changed. She came home from work early one day thinking she had the flu, and within 24 hours she was in the hospital on life support. She experienced multiple organ failure and lost circulation to most of her body. She was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, and she was in a coma for three weeks, during which time she was given 26 pints of blood and a 2% chance of survival. Over the course of the next 2 ½ months, she lost her spleen and the hearing in one ear, her kidneys failed, and both of her legs were amputated below the knee.
Amy said that within 24 hours of her double amputation, she made three decisions: she would not miss a single season of snowboarding, she would not feel sorry for herself, and she would somehow leverage what had happened to her to help other people.
She couldn’t find prosthetics that would work for snowboarding, so she built her own, and she was back on the slopes again that winter. At the age of 21, she received a kidney transplant—her father was the donor—and three months later, she won three medals in the national snowboarding championship. She is currently ranked #2 in the world in adaptive snowboarding, she is a model and an actress, and she is the co-founder a non-profit organization that helps young people with disabilities participate in action sports. Within a span of three days in March of 2014, Amy won the bronze medal in the first ever adaptive snowboarding competition in the Sochi Paralympics, then flew to Hollywood to perform the cha-cha in the live season opener of Dancing With the Stars.
Isn’t that remarkable? Why is that some people are leveled by setbacks, and others seem to be launched by them?

How to Follow Jesus in 2014

Posted by Greg Sidders | 10:48 AM

     When people in the first century heard the voice of Jesus saying, "Follow me," it wasn't a mystical invitation. It was a literal one. It involved travel.
     But how do you follow Him in the 21st century? What would it look like to follow Jesus in 2014? Click here for my reflections on that question.

Christianity vs. Christ

Posted by Greg Sidders | 4:59 PM

The nation into which Jesus was born had religious roots a thousand years deep.  Ancient rituals, petrified laws and entitled clergy shaped the culture, obscuring God and suffocating souls. For 30 years Jesus lived under the thumb of the establishment, but one day he walked out the door and into the Jordan River, and when he came out the world was wet with change.

Water reddened to wine.  A whip scoured a temple. Bodies regrew limbs.  Blind eyes beheld rainbows. Deaf ears heard canaries.  Dumb tongues recited poetry.  Atrophied legs leaped. Caskets flew open.  Corpses awoke. Hypocrites seethed. Power shifted.

Of course, he had to be stopped.  Arrested at midnight, convicted by dawn, crucified, dead and buried before sunset, and that was that—until 36 hours later, when he was alive again, never to die again.

The shift from Judaism to Jesus was tectonic.  How liberating it was to follow a man instead of shouldering a religion.

But, naturally, disciples clustered. And organized.  And over time, the organization once again eclipsed the man. Layer upon layer, the church became the Church, which shaped the world you and I were born into.

Somehow you found Jesus amidst the clutter—or, rather, he found you.  You heard his voice: “Follow me.”  And you followed—right into some kind of religious organization that is part of a larger religious culture that is vulnerable to the same tendency to endanger rather than enhance “the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

I don’t know if the subculture has tried to swallow you up yet, but let me tell you before you get sucked in: Christianity is a poor substitute for Christ. Being a Christian is not about embracing a religion or affirming a creed. It’s not about conforming to a code or belonging to a club. No, being a Christian is about following Christ.

Live for the Line

Posted by Greg Sidders | 10:14 PM

Imagine a line that begins where you are right now and shoots out in front of you like a laser beam. It pokes through whatever walls might be in front of you and extends all the way to the horizon, and further. Past the state line, all the way to where land meets sea. Out into the ocean it continues, and as the earth curves, the line keeps going straight. To the edge of the Milky Way. To the edge of the universe. On and on it goes, endlessly.

How much space on that line does your earthly life take up?

Precisely one dot.

But it’s what you do on the dot that will determine your quality of life on the line. That’s what Jesus taught. He said, essentially, “Whoever wants to save their dot will lose their line, but whoever loses their dot for me will save their line” (paraphrase of Luke 9:24).  In other words, an obsession with instant gratification will cost us ultimate gratification—and, ironically, the secret to a happy dot is living for the line.

The people in Jesus’ day who chose to follow Him were willing to delay gratification, because they didn’t expect it to be a long wait. Jesus told them before he went back to heaven that he was coming back again. Soon. So they knew that the hard moral choices they were making, the intense persecution they were facing, and the painful trials they were experiencing were temporary. Before long they would step off their dark dot onto an endlessly bright line—and those who ignored Christ or opposed Him would also have a sudden and dramatic reversal of fortune.

But then Jesus didn’t come back. Decades passed. Disciples died of old age. And by the mid 90s of the first century there was only one apostle left: John, who was living out his retirement years on an Alcatraz-like island called Patmos, where he had been sent by the powers-that-be because of his politically incorrect loyalty to Jesus. And the Lord didn’t come on the clouds to rescue him.

Where was that line Jesus promised? It was just one long, hard dot—for John, and for the members of seven churches that were close to his heart. Like him, they had taken hits from every angle. Demonic spirits, malicious people, a corrupt culture, and the habits of their old life were all ganging up on them, trying to bully them back into a lifestyle of instant gratification. And it was disorienting. The absence of divine intervention in the face of such unrelenting opposition was causing them to question whether God was as all-knowing and all-powerful as they thought He was. It made them wonder whether a relationship with an intangible God really did make life tangibly better.  And they were beginning to doubt that Jesus would ever come back to right the wrongs they were suffering.

Do you you ever think thoughts like that? Does the seeming absence of God, and the lure of the world, and the unfulfilled promise of Christ’s return make you vulnerable to living a nearsighted life? Does it lower your resistance to sin? Does it cool your passion to help others live forever? Does it tempt you to trade in your new friends for old ones? Does it surface the question, Why should I give up my one and only dot for what might turn out to be an imaginary line?

How can you live for eternity in a world where everything that is high definition tells you to live for today? You need a vision of the future. A preview of coming events. A peek into heaven. And it can’t be subtle. It has to be intense. Bright. Bold. Vivid. Eye-opening. Jaw-dropping. Life-changing. It has to be powerful enough to help you persevere.

You need the Book of Revelation.