The Squeezings of my Brain Grapes.
How Do I Know When I’m Serving Too Much At Church?

Anonymous asked:
Where’s the line between self-sacrifice and self-respect?

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey my friend,

This is a great question.  If you’re open to it, let me rephrase it slightly.  I think what you’re asking is:

“How do I know when I’m giving of myself in a healthy, constructive way, versus when we’ve crossed the line into other people simply taking advantage of me?”

This is an important question for Christians to be clear on, because, unfortunately, there are a lot of churches and church groups out there that will run through that line at top speed, and hope no one notices.

I think there are three parts to your answer. 

1) “Is This Sustainable?”

Healthy living, and healthy service, are both, by definition, sustainable.  In other words, you can keep doing them for weeks and months and years.

So, the immediate test is to ask, “If this situation continued as-is for the next week or month or year, would it drive me into the ground?”

If you’re existing on 5 hours of sleep a night with no exercise, no time for yourself to relax, and chiefly eating the left-overs from the potluck dinner, then, no.  This is not sustainable.

2) “Would I Want To See A Friend In My Position?”

Christians often fall into the trap of being OK with things happening to themselves that they would never be OK with happening to anybody else.

So, if one of your friends was being treated the way you are, would you be ok with it?  If not, then you shouldn’t be ok with it for you, either.

3) “Is This What God Wants?”

We need to remind ourselves that God does have an actual will and plan for your life.  And that the fact that your church would like you to do something doesn’t mean that God wants you to do that thing.

It’s a very good idea to get into the habit of praying – and listening – to God about the service opportunities in your life.  And not just before you start them.  I’m talking continually, throughout.  Plenty of things start good and take a wrong turn along the way.

One final note.  It’s sad to say this, but, in general, you should not rely on a leader in your church or organization to cue you on when you’re doing too much.  Unfortunately, they’re just not going to do that.

No, you need to decide for yourself if something is healthy.  And have the courage to step away when it’s not.

God has your back.  And so do I.

If I Had Been There, Things Would Be Different

I think it’s part of the natural response to hearing about injustice to wish you could have been there, to wish you could have done something to stop it.  To think, “If I had been there, things would be different.”

We all feel that way.  A desire to make the wrong things right, to stand up to that injustice.  Former President George Bush once listened to a report about the genocide in Rwanda, and wrote in his notes, “Not on my watch.”

But the thing about tragedies is, it seems we’re never around for them.  We only hear about them after the fact, in news reports and tumblr posts and Sunday sermons.  And no matter how much we wish we could go back in time and wrestle the weapon from a murderer’s hands, we can’t.  Because time doesn’t work that way.

And, so, again and again, we’re powerless, wishing we had been there. That we could have done something.

But the truth is, there are injustices going on – right in front of you – all the time.  You just have to learn to see them. It’s a crazy thing, but, whatever strikes you as commonplace also strikes you, on some level, as OK.  That’s true for all of us, and it’s how injustice devolves into tragedy.

You know the kid at school that everyone either ignores or calls names?  That is a terrible injustice.  And you are there.  Do something about it.  Make it different.  Stand up for him.  Stand with him.  Be an advocate for him.  Be a friend to him.  Stand.

You know the families in your town that put their children to bed hungry at night? Trust me, there are many of them.  And that is a terrible injustice.  So act.  Go volunteer at the local food pantry.  Convince your youth group to throw a car wash and give the money to those in need.  Talk to your pastor about hosting a community dinner at your church every month.  You are there, and something tragic is happening.  Wrestle that injustice to the ground.

This is your moment.  Everyone wants to have a moment, to stand tall, a man apart, and act, and make the wrong things right.  This is that moment for you.  I know this, because, in fact, that moment comes for each person, every day. 

So stand, beloved.  Stand and act.  You can’t change the terrible things that have occurred in human history.  But you can change what happens today.  You can change what happens in a way that will echo for all eternity.  You can change this world.  You are here; make it different.

The Holidays Are Over. What Now?

January 2nd can be one of the most confusing days of the year.  See, you had all the magic and wonder of Christmas, with a lot of good thoughts about “the reason for the season”.  And then you had New Year’s, with it’s built-in cause for reflection on the last year and our hopes for the future.

But now it’s January 2nd, and you wake up, and you’re still…you.  (I have the same issue.)  The problems that we set aside for December so we could have a nice Christmas are still here, and, as much as we’d like to change, and see 2012 be different from 2011, we’re still the same people.

So what now?  How do we take all of the goodwill of Christmas, and the good intentions of New Year’s, and keep it from becoming a part of an annual self-deception?

I think you need a mission.  And your mission should be about hooking other people up.

See, here’s what happens with New Years Resolutions.  You say, “Dang, I’m out of shape.  I’m gonna go for a 20 minute run every morning.  Yeah.”  And you do, for about three days.  And then a funny realization hits you…”I was unhappy about being out of shape, but now I have more unhappiness about making myself go running than I did about being out of shape in the first place.  Forget this!”  And you stop.  The major problem here is that – top to bottom – your decisions were all about you, and your comfort-and-happiness in any given moment.  And that tends not to work well.  (Just ask any celebrity.)

In lieu of that, let’s get the focus off of us, and onto other people.

I think you should start 2012 by praying this:

“God, in 2012, I want to serve others.  Would you give me a burden for that?  Help me to see what other people are going through.  And, as I see their suffering, and see the needs that they have, would you break my heart for them?  Lord, would you bother me in a way where I simply can’t turn a blind eye to their distress, where I simply have to do something about it?  I want to serve you by serving others.”

And then, open your eyes and start looking around your community – your job, your school, your church – and search for people that are left-out, neglected, and in need. 

Now, pick one.  You don’t need to wait for a burning bush.  Seriously.  Just pick one.  And ask yourself, “How can I practically alleviate this person’s suffering?”  That may be hanging out with them. That may be cooking them a meal.  That me be leading worship music for their nursing home or drug rehab or prison chapel service.

Then, you simply do that thing.  And I have a bet that, after you’ve done it, you’ll feel this still small voice inside of you saying, “That was pretty awesome.  I think we should do that again.”

Listen to that voice.

You should listen to that voice, because, the next time you do it, it’ll actually be a little bit more awesome.  And even more-so the time after that.

You’ll begin to see that person or group of people change.  Which is incredible.  But, perhaps even more, you’ll note a change in yourself.  A lot of stuff you were hung up on before you just don’t care about anymore.  You’re on a mission, and you have better things to think about.

In fact, if you invest yourself in serving others, I bet you’ll hardly notice how quickly 2012 goes by.  And in December, when people are talking about how they’re gonna lose weight or read more books or whatever, and they ask you, “What’s your resolution for 2013?” you can smile and say, “I’m just gonna keep on changing the world.”

How Do I Stand Up For My Christian Beliefs?

This question was posed to me recently – how do I stand up for my Christian beliefs?  It’s a great question, and a pertinent question, and an easy one to get wrong.

If you want to stand up for your Christian beliefs, start by sitting down.

If you want to be a great lion of the faith, start by sitting down with a hurting person and asking, “Tell me your story.”

If you want to be a celebrated defender of God’s truth, start by sitting down with a hungry person over a generous meal that you have paid for.

If you want to be a champion for orthodoxy, start with orthopraxy.  Sit down with a woman in a nursing home, a man at a homeless shelter, or a young person at the juvenile lockup.  Sit down with them and love on them.  Make sacrifices to live that love out.

And why should you do that?  Why does standing up for faith start by sitting down?  Because the world is watching.

We have all, I suspect, heard stories about a Christian who’s life was on the line, and their aggressor demanded: “Do you believe in God?”  What few of us contemplate is that the world at large is constantly demanding that same question of you and I. 

Every day when you wake up, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers and classmates are looking at you and asking, “Do you believe in God?”  Your life is the answer that question.  Your words don’t actually get a say.

We live in a world of professional pundits and talking points.  Whether your political persuasion is left, right, or center, when you turn on your news channel of choice, you hear commentators saying things that we all know they don’t mean.  The words they say have ceased to count for anything.

But action matters.  Your actions matter.  This world – our world – is not looking for and does not need another great talking head.  But we do need men and women of action, men and women who will sacrifice and put it all on the line in order to love people the way Jesus did.

A number of years ago now, when President Clinton was still in office here in the U.S., Mother Teresa was invited to give a speech for a religious gathering in Washington D.C.  She used the opportunity to deliver a scathing rebuke about abortion, and a particularly stern reprimand to the policies of Bill Clinton, who was sitting in the audience.

After the program, a reporter asked President Clinton what he had thought of Mother Teresa’s address.

His reply?  “It is very hard to argue with a life so well lived.”

See, before Mother Teresa had tried to stand up for her faith, she’d started by sitting down, for decades, with the lepers and outcasts of Calcutta.  And her sacrifice and service were her credibility.

So it is with us.  We are called to always be prepared to give a defense for the hope that we have – to be able to stand up for our faith (1 Peter 3:15).  And the start of that preparation, the beginning of that standing up, is as simple as sitting down.

Self obsession and self pity do not lead to self discovery. They’re just an endless maze. The lives of the people we impact is the only mirror in which we can truly see ourselves. God set aside a purpose and a destiny, then He created you to fulfill that destiny (Ephesians 2:10). Do that good work, and you’ll know yourself. Your essence, your purpose, the full true meaning of your existence.
Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

How Do I Stop Thinking About Sex?

Anonymous asked:
I feel like i’ve always had a thirst for Christ but right now my thirst has been weakend. More than ever I am having problems in which I constantly think about sex. I feel like a thirteen-year-old-boy. I’ve come to realize that my lack of romantic relationships might be God telling me my heart isn’t ready yet, and I accept that now more than ever. But I don’t know how to stop thinking all of the things I do and wanting to do some of them. I am driving myself crazy keeping all of this bottled inside and knowing that it’s wrong. I want my old relationship with Christ back but I don’t know how to do it or even where to begin. [edited for length]

Jed Brewer replied:

Let’s do a test.  For the next thirty seconds, no matter what, do not think about a bright red sports car.

You can’t do it, can you?  And the reason is…it’s dang near impossible to “just not think about something.”  As it turns out, that’s not the right approach here.

It’s part of being a young person – and, especially, a single young person – to want to think about sex nonstop.  That’s normal.  You don’t need to beat yourself up over it.  And God is not threatened by the strength of your sex drive.  (We talked about this recently.)

Yes, our thought life in regards to sex can go to places that are unhealthy and sinful.  However, a certain amount of your thought life should be devoted to sex.  Questions like: what does God want sex to be like?  Once I’m married, how does God want sex to fit into our lives? What do I need to be working on today to be ready for that?  Those questions are critically important, and require real thought, time, and attention. 

But I hear you saying that you just need a break.  That’s no problem.

You need something compelling to think about, and my suggestion is: do something crazy to serve other people.

Wherever you are, find the people that are forgotten, neglected, castoff, and ignored.  And then, use your imagination, and find a way to hook them up.

So, for example, if you live in a place with a large immigrant community, look into teaching English classes, and focus on vocabulary related to social services.  Make sure these folks know how to get food, medical care, shelter, and educational opportunities.

If you’re in a place with a large gay community, go volunteer at the AIDS hospice.

If you’re in an area with a lot crime and gang violence, figure out how be a part of the chapel service in the county jail.

Get into the mix of serving other people, and look for something that might get a little crazy.  Part of the whole sex thing is wanting to feel raw and alive.  Well, darling, sex ain’t the only way to do that.

You mentioned wanting a deeper intimacy with the Lord.  The truth is, if you gave yourself a horniness lobotomy so that you could never again think about sex, you wouldn’t have any greater intimacy with the Lord.  It just doesn’t work that way.

But, if you’ll get into the flow of serving the least of these, I guarantee you, I absolutely promise you that you will encounter Jesus in new ways.

In Matthew 25, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Part of what Jesus is saying here is, “You will find me amongst the poor, the forgotten, and the abused.  If you want to encounter me, that’s where you should look.”

Stop beating yourself up about wanting to think about sex, and go serve people in a crazy way.  You’ll feel alive, satisfied, and closer to the Lord in ways you never thought possible.

How Do I Convince People To Become Christians?

Anonymous asked:

A lot of the times when I try to minister to unbelievers, they pull out the “What proof do you have that Christianity is the right one? Every other religion in the world claims to have proof that they are correct.” I trust in God because I feel His presence daily, but people respond to this by saying, “What about people of other religions? They feel the same thing.” I just don’t know how to respond to this.

Jed Brewer replied:

Anon, do you know I don’t ever debate anyone about anything?  I don’t argue with people about Jesus or Christianity, ever. Know why?

‘Cause it doesn’t work.

In the long history of the world, I don’t know that much of anyone has ever been debated into believing in Jesus.

And while we’re spinning our wheels quoting Descartes’ Ontological Argument for the Existence of God, there are loads of people who are lost and hurting and ready to embrace the truth of Jesus Christ right now today, and they are not getting ministered to, because our time’s being wasted trying to refute Richard Dawkins.

Let’s not do that anymore.

Here is a ministry strategy that works every time, without fail.  Wherever you are – school, work, etc – find the outcasts.  Find the people who are rejected and forgotten.  Find what Jesus referred to as “the least of these.”  And then, serve them.

That kid at school that no one likes?  Go sit down by him and just talk.  You don’t even need to talk about anything spiritual.  Just get to know him.  Be a friend to him.

That guy at your job who’s going through a messy divorce and looks like he’s been run over by a truck?  Tell him it’s double-bacon-cheeseburger-o’clock, and you’re buying.  Give him a safe place to vent.  (He needs it, I promise.)

These conversations will eventually turn to something spiritual, and, when they do, you’re in the exact right place to say, “Well, bro, I don’t know much, but I do know that Jesus loves you.”  And that person will be ready to receive that from you, because you’ve earned the right to be heard in their life.  You’ve earned that right by demonstrating that you love them.

And then, two crazy things will happen.  One, you will watch peoples’ lives change, and you will realize that you love doing ministry.  It isn’t this scary, awkward, bizarre intellectual shouting match.  No, it’s seeing people who don’t know that they’re loved, and fixing that.  It’s getting to play a part in God turning a suffering human being’s whole world upside down.  It’s watching people be set free.

The second thing that will happen is that you will begin to have credibility.  If you’re making sacrifices of time, money, comfort, safety, etc to serve people who everyone else has forgotten and rejected, people notice.  And those non-Christians that you’ve been arguing with?  They will have respect for what you’re doing.  That doesn’t mean that they’ll want to stop reading Sam Harris and start going to church.  But when they look at you, they’ll see a dude who practices what he preaches, a dude who lives out what he claims to believe.  If you ask non-Christians what a Christian is supposed to be doing, they will almost universally tell you that Christians are supposed to be helping the poor and the hurting.  And they are right.

By you showing that you are, in fact, that kind of Christian, you’re earning a spot in their life.  When they’re ready to talk, for real, about this Jesus thing, they know that you are the guy they want to talk to.

And you should know that that day will come.  No one’s life is immune from sorrow.  Houses burn, markets collapse, jobs disappear, and people pass away.  When those things happen, Ayn Rand and Daniel Dennett don’t have any words of comfort.  But you do.  And, on that day, they will find you.

So, no, my friend, don’t bother with the arguments.  Instead, find the lost, hurting, rejected, poor, disenfranchised, abused, neglected, and abandoned. Serve them in love.  The rest will follow.