a jesus t-shirt

Oswald Chambers originally wrote “My Utmost For His Highest” in 1935. His journal entry today was like a page out of Hirsch and Frost’s “The Shaping Of Things To Come.” For today, Oswald journaled: “If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony with my real desires. I will actually cease from sin, and will find the song of the Lord beginning in my life.” This sounded a lot like the new edge Hirsch and Frost were proposing, which urged the Church to be missional, incarnational, Messianic, and apostolic (pioneering). Perhaps what “The Shaping of Things To Come” actually reflects is a back-to-basics and back to Jesus approach that’s really not new at all… just forgotten or seriously neglected. If the medium really does reflect the message, what message is the church sending that either remembers the basics or has simply become too smart and self-sufficient?

I wondered what message I was sending as I walked down the beach this morning with some Delirious on my ipod and Jesus on my chest. I sported a nifty Jesus t-shirt. I got lots of looks, but absolutely no conversions. Isn’t this what Jesus t-shirts are supposed to do? Don’t we wear these so that lost people will be saved and become like us? I noticed most people were running, talking, sun bathing, playing, swimming, fishing, and enjoying the many grace gifts of God that caused pleasure. I don’t think anyone who saw my Jesus T wanted to stop what they were doing to become like me. Jesus maybe, but not me. I think there were glances at my t-shirt because, perhaps, they like Jesus… but not the suggested message that you have to walk up and down the beach with a billboard on your chest to convert heathens enjoying life too much. Jesus never wore a billboard of himself. He simply and powerfully grabbed onto life as his mission. It all reminded me of a quote from yesterday’s blog: “…one day we will all stand before God and He will judge us for all the possible pleasures He gave us to enjoy, but we failed to enjoy.”

Without relational investments, intentional & incarnational mission, and grabbing life Messianically… a Jesus t-shirt probably gives the wearer a very false sense of evangelistic security. However, I’m not sure it doesn’t do anyone else any earthly or heavenly good.

But… Lucy didn’t seem to mind — the t-shirt that is. Before my Delirious, Jesus t-shirt walk, I had ventured out to the beach early seeking Miss Lucy. I brought Sherry and Michael along as I had promised Lucy the day before (Morgan was out cold and couldn’t be awakened or shaken).

Right on the nose, Lucy strolled past our place at 7:15 a.m. Sherry and I walked towards her, and I introduced my lovely bride and son. Later Lucy would ask for Sherry’s name remembering that I had only introduced her as my lovely bride. This is a very sharp 85 year-old.

We talked for about 45 minutes. Lucy said she wasn’t feeling good getting up this morning, but our appointment coerced her to roll out and walk. She volunteered so much information during our impromptu beach side gathering. Lucy is from Tennessee. She moved to Florida in 1981 with her sister. Her sister was killed in a bicycle accident in 1987. Lucy misses her sister. She doesn’t have family that comes and visits. I now know the complex Lucy lives in, and ironically, I’ve tried to book this same place since 2001 when Sherry and I first started taking our study breaks here in Sarasota. Amazing. I’m going to make that specific booking happen next summer.

Well into our conversation, Lucy asked me about the church I led. I had written down my address, email, and cell phone number on a May 30th bulletin from Cumberland. I told Lucy I wanted to give my contact information in case she ever needed anything… and that my church information was riddled throughout the slightly dated bulletin. She said, “I was thinking the same thing,” and pulled out a small tablet she had packed so we could exchange contact info. Amazing. Now I know Lucy’s last name, and I have her email address. How cool is that?

After our 45 minute plunge of life was closing, I asked Lucy if I could pray for her. She agreed, and I was able to pray and bless Lucy as the morning sun began to reflect light and glory off the sand and water. What a great morning. I felt vindicated from the sense of failure I had stomached yesterday. Thank you, God.

I’m still processing what I’ve learned this week from my God appointments (and missed ones) with Lucy. Here’s just a few thoughts thus far:
1. Go. Get outside the norm of church world and contextualize Jesus in people’s environments. Invade with love and sensitivity… and this could take time.
2. Be intentional and missional while embracing a sense of life and living.
3. Relational investments will raise levels of expectations that must be carefully navigated… and met as best possible.
4. Don’t give up. There is a battle involved when eternity is at stake. The fight is not against someone or yourself as much as it is dark, spiritual authorities.
5. Be patient and trust God with the whole matter.
6. The best to come may not look like the best to come in my mind.
7. My passion, mission, and intentionality needs to be consistently lived out with pre-Christians wherever I am… with someone’s eternity fueling and driving me.
8. It doesn’t take much to make an impact.

It’s been a good study break. Our friends, the Clarkes, from Indiana were able to visit a bit. Peter Ngunyi came down and visited, and then took the two oldest girls back to Atlanta for their concert.

During study break I met with my discipleship group twice via Skype — for an hour and a half each time! I’m glad God has put four men around me who are that hungry to grow!

I completed five books. 1) Leading On Empty; 2) Vintage Church; 3) Castaway Kid; 4) The Hole In Our Gospel; 5) The Shaping Of Things To Come.
I studied through the book of Ephesians. As Hirsch and Frost suggest, Ephesians is a “primary tract on the nature of the Church itself and the nature of the ministry of the Church. Ephesians is a fundamental description and prescription of the Church in all ages.” I can definitely see a teaching series going through Ephesians in 2011 to gain a renewed sense of wonder for the Bride.

Time with Sherry was really, really good. Walks and talks have filled out tanks back up. Sherry did some reading, but we really didn’t talk that much about her enlightenment. She read five-inch novels, but I think she also read one of my blogs where I was a bit negative towards this. Consequently, she didn’t share much about her reading. I’m actually OK with this. (smile)

The kids did great. They know study break is for them too. We ask them to take a break and build into themselves as well. We always give them assignments. Brooklynn read all of “Red Moon Rising.” Lauren read 10 chapters of “Red Moon Rising,” and a novel called “Bathsheba.” Morgan read “Hear No Evil.” All four kids memorized 12 scripture passages — Philippians 4:12-13; Philippians 4:8; Mark 9:35; Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 37:4-6; I Corinthians 10:31; Isaiah 26:3-4; Zephaniah 3:17; Psalm 95:1-4; I Peter 1:24-25; John 8:12; and II Corinthians 5:17.
Jen Overly and Todd Graham gave us a fun resource for memorizing verses with their “Seeds” CD’s. We all enjoyed learning these verses in the car and on our ipods. (you know, Todd & Jen are absolutely the best)

And so… study break closes for another year. I’m ready to get back to Georgia. I’m excited to start my correspondence with Miss Lucy. I’m anxious to share with staff on Monday morning. I’m anxious to preach. Maybe I’ll wear my Jesus t-shirt. Lucy seemed to like it.

Posted in

Recent Articles