Thursday, August 27, 2015

God for the Rest of Us

I'm really excited about the new teaching series we're starting Sunday at Hub City that we're calling God for the Rest of Us

I was inspired to do this series by a book with the same title written by Vince Antonucci. I had the chance to spend a few days with Vince before we launched Hub City and was impressed by his hospitality and humility. I've read everything he's written. I think this may be his best book yet.

It's a book written to both those who aren't Christians yet to illustrate that God is for them, not matter what they've done, and to those of us who are Christians, to remind us that God's not just for us.

Over time we start to think misguided thoughts that Jesus is just for us. But he's not. He's for everyone. This book is a great reminder of that, as well as a great resource that could help us communicate the amazing love of God to a lost, hurting and dying world.

It would be a great book to read as a supplement to this series. I encourage you to get a copy.

A friend of mine asked me if our series was based on Vince's book. He didn't want to come to church for a book report. I don't blame him. I told him that it was "inspired" by the book, and that I'll even use it as one of my resources during the series. 

I'll also use other resources. If you're there on Sunday you'll notice that I'm going to use Dr. Seuss. Later on I'll use a TED Talk. One week I'm going to use Mumford and Sons. I'm even going to use Ashley Madison (the "Life if short, Have and affair" website). 

I like to use all kinds of resources.

But the series is "based" on the God who reveals himself in the Bible as the God who is for the rest of us.

So if you're someone who'd been turned off by church or by Christians, I want you to come and discover the God who is not turned off by you. 

If you're a part of the Hub City Family, do WHATEVER IT TAKES to bring one of your friends, neighbors, or coworkers, to introduce them to God for the rest of us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Everyone did as they saw fit

I just finished reading through the book of Judges in the Old Testament. If you want to read a weird book of the Bible then read Judges. It shows the downward spiral of the nation of Israel as they fall away from the true God and instead worship man-made idols.

Honestly, it's a pretty depressing book and nowhere is this more evident than in the final verse.

Judges 21:25
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

There was no leadership. No one was giving direction to the Israelites. No one was there to provide any sort of moral or social compass to follow.

So everyone did as they saw fit. Another translation says that "everyone did whatever he wanted."

I think we might all agree that this statement is just as true in our day as it was in the days of the Judges.

But something jumped out at me this morning when I read that verse. See if you notice it: Who were the people who did as they saw fit?

It wasn't the pagan nations that surrounded and lived among the Israelites. It wasn't the Egyptians or the Babylonians or the Caananites or any other of the "ites." 

It was God's chosen people, the Israelites, who did as they saw fit.

That got me thinking about those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. I fear that we might be just like the Israelites at the end of the book of Judges. 

Isn't this why we church hop? Isn't this why we're so inconsistent in the activities of faith like reading our Bible, participating in corporate worship, or connecting relationally in small groups? Isn't this why we think our interpretation of certain passages is the only right interpretation? Isn't this why we're more "us vs. them" than "us for them?"

At the root of doing as we see fit is a lack of authority over us. We all have authority issues, don't we? We're inherently rebellious. 

But as Christians, submission to authority should be what characterizes us.

First and foremost, we must submit to the authority of Scripture. We're never told we need to like everything the Bible says, or even agree with the way God set things up. But we do need to submit to its authority, even if we don't agree with it.

Second, we need to submit to whatever authority God has placed over us. This could be governmental authority or spiritual authority (like pastors or elders). I know this is tricky, but in our rebellion and disagreements with authority we are being disobedient to the commands of God about this issue.

Finally, we need to submit to one another. Doing as we see fit is self-centered. It's all about us, which is really a problem of pride, or the idolatry of self.

If someone were writing a book about us to go in the Bible (I know that we don't add or take anything away from Scripture, but just imagine), if someone were writing a book about us, how would it end?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Our yard rabbit

We have a new pet around the Everette home. Actually, he's probably been around for a while, but we only started seeing him/her a few weeks ago. He/She is our yard rabbit. 

At first I wanted to shoot him because I thought he was eating my garden. I even told my boys I'd pay them $20 to kill him. But come to find out, some pesky birds were responsible for my garden nibbling.

So now I'm happy to let him live.

And this is a good thing because every time I see him hopping across my yard I pause for a minute because he makes me smile. 

I think the pause is an overlooked spiritual discipline in our busy, non-stop world. 

God is at work, showing off, all around us... and we miss it most of the time.

So maybe we should learn to pause, and during that pause thank God for life, rabbits and whatever else of his extravagant grace you might see.

Monday, August 10, 2015

It's Not About You

My favorite first line of a book comes from Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life. 

It's not about you.

That hurts, doesn't it? 

Most of the time we make life all about us. 

But having an attitude and motivation that is all about us is deadly for our spiritual growth as Christians.

A significant change is supposed to happen as we mature as followers of Jesus. We're supposed to have a shift from being "me-focused" to being "other-focused." A "me-focused" person makes a lot of "I, me and my" statements. 

The Apostle Paul says it this way in Philippians 2:3-4:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

So, is life all about you? Do you make decisions by thinking of yourself first? 

Most of us wouldn't admit that life is all about us, but don't lie to yourself. Be honest with your motivation. 

I believe that "me-focused" thinking is quite possibly the biggest hinderance for Christians in our day. It's a sign of spiritual immaturity. 

It's not about you.

Friday, July 17, 2015

I'd love your input

I'm thinking of sending this in next week to the paper for my article. I'd love your input/opinion. This is my rough draft.

I'm Sorry
A recurrent teaching around my house is “how you say what you say is just as important as what you say.” I repeatedly tell my boys that you can be right in what you say, but wrong in how you say it. You need to say the right thing in the right way. This involves respect for the person you’re speaking to, tone of voice, tact and kindness.
 Over the past few weeks I’ve been a little embarrassed by my fellow Christian brothers and sisters because of how we’ve said what we’ve said. We mean well, at least most of us do, but we haven’t been all that Christ-like with our words. At times, we’ve been downright jerks. And I want to apologize.
 We’ve let those who disagree with us, issues we feel passionate about and our emotions trump our obedience to the teachings of the Bible.
 We seem to have forgotten that Jesus said we would be known by our love for one another (John 13:34-35). I’m sorry.
 We have ignored the subtleness of being salt and light. Instead, we have been an obnoxious bullhorn (Matthew 5:13-16). I’m sorry.
 We’ve been more focused on making a point than making a difference (1 Peter 2:12). I’m sorry.
 We’ve forgotten Paul’s admonition to not let any unwholesome and unhelpful talk come out of our mouths (Ephesians 4:29). Paul is clear that our speech should be helpful and it should benefit those who listen. We’ve not been helpful or beneficial lately. I’m sorry.
 We unfairly ask, or in some cases demand, that everyone agree with our standards of morality when not everyone has signed up to live according to those standards (1 Peter 3:15). I’m sorry.
 The fact of the matter, which we’ve made painfully obvious over the past few weeks, is that we do have deeply held values and beliefs. Most everybody does. The reason we are so passionate is because we believe the Bible is true and tells us how we are to live as followers of Jesus. Also, we’re taught throughout the Bible that rebellion against God and his standards comes with serious consequences. We can’t and shouldn’t change what we believe. But we can, and should, change how we respond.
 We should know better. Jesus set a great example for us to follow. When Jesus was arrested, falsely accused, beaten and crucified he responded with these words: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
 If you’re not a Christian I can understand why you might not want to become a Christian. That breaks my heart. It’s why I’m saying I’m sorry. Don’t let our shortcomings keep you away from Jesus.

Monday, June 15, 2015

This will not be in Sunday's sermon

I'm preparing for this coming Sunday's sermon on Jesus' parable about the wheat and the weeds. You should read it and show up on Sunday as we talk about it. It's one of Jesus' "Kingdom Parables," stories he told to illustrate the mysteries of the kingdom.

I came across some commentary that I'm not going to include in my sermon, but that's too good to keep to myself. Enjoy:
The parable of the wild wheat is unique to Matthew (cf. Matt. 36-43). Here is an interesting paragraph from New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDOTTE), vol. 1, p. 299. 
"The idea of the invisible church is found in Augustine, City of God; Wycliffe, De ecclesia; Luther, Preface to Revelation; Calvin, Institutes IV 1 7; and many other writers (see edition of Calvin's Institutes, ed. J. T. McNeill, 1960, II 1022). The thought that is uppermost is not to minimize the importance of church membership, but to recognize the possibility of hypocrisy and deceit. In the last analysis, those who belong to God are visible to God alone. Membership of the true church is a fact which is not visible to man. The idea recalls the statement of 2 Tim. 2:19; 'The Lord knows who are his.' It extends to the church what Paul says of Israel, that they are not all Israel who belong to Israel, but only 'the children of promise' (Rom. 9:6 f.). It recognizes the danger, which church members are warned against, of reaping corruption through sowing to the flesh (Gal. 3:7; cf. Rom. 8:12 f.). Paul recognized the need for discipline in his own life lest he should become a castaway (1 Cor. 10:27; cf. Phil. 2:12, 19). The possibility of church members falling away is one of great themes of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 2:3; 3:7-4:14; 6:1-12; 10:26-39; 12:12-28). It is also suggested by the parables of the weeds (Matt. 13:24-43) and the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46) and the example of Judas (Matt. 10:4; 26:14, 25, 47 ff.; 27:3; Mk. 14:10, 43; Lk. 6:16; 22:3, 47; Jn. 13:2; 17:12; 18:22 ff.; Acts 1:17 ff., 25)." 
These warnings do not jeopardize security, but give a balance to excessive confidence in an initial decision and ignores the mandate of discipleship and perseverance.
I put the last sentence in bold because for too long in the American church we've put "excessive confidence in an initial decision" to follow Jesus. But following Jesus is more than praying a prayer. It's about following him for a lifetime. 

Hope that inspires some thought on this Monday morning.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Let's all get circumcised...

I've always said that Genesis is one of the "R" Rated books of the Bible. This morning I was reading out of chapter 34 and it's a bit sketchy.

You should read the chapter for yourself, but in the meantime, here's the summary: Jacob's daughter Dinah is raped by a man named Shechem. He then wants to marry her so he gets his dad to go to her dad to work out the marriage details. Dinah's brothers get involved and come up with the price of the marriage, which is really just an attempt to get revenge on Shechem for defiling their sister. The price is that every man, not just Shechem, but every man in their village/area had to be circumcised. Surprisingly, Shechem, his dad, and the men all agreed to this price.

Now let me ask you: What kind of influence would you have to have to talk all the men of an entire village into circumcising themselves?

During their "recovery" time, Dinah's brothers came in and killed all of the newly circumcised men and plundered the village it get vengeance for their sister.

It was greed that motivated these men to undergo an embarrassing and painful surgical procedure to a very private body part... the lengths we'll go to for power and money.

I would like to think I would have opted out of this deal, but this got me wondering: Who is influencing me? What voices am I listening to? Who am I allowing to speak into my life? 

In Proverbs 13:20 Solomon writes, "He who walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm." 

All of us are listening to somebody and something. Most of us don't even realize the influence those voices are having on our lives. 

Be careful who you listen to. Walk with the wise. 

I think I need to share this story with my boys tonight. Male body parts are common topics at our dinner table. Now I have a story with a male body part to leverage for good.