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.

Friday, May 15, 2015

My shower epiphany

I had an epiphany this morning in the shower.

I've been reading Eugene Peterson's book, The Pastor, which is his memoir about becoming and being a pastor. He begins the book by looking at how his upbringing shaped him into a pastor. Reading his story got me thinking about mine.

I grew up an Army brat. Maybe it's because I didn't know better, but I loved moving around, living everywhere from California to Germany. Moving 10 times before I turned 18 shaped me in ways that I won't get into here.

My epiphany had to do with attending military chapels. When we lived in Germany we really only had two churches to choose from: The Catholic Mass, or the Protestant service. They shared the same building. My parents were from Baptist and Presbyterian backgrounds so we really only had one choice.

Each Sunday we would worship with people who were different from us, but who had one thing in common: We were Christians who were trying to love and follow Jesus. We didn't agree with everything. Sometimes we had good chaplains. Sometimes we had not-so-good chaplains. But we figured out how to get along. We worshiped Jesus, even if the worship style was a bit uncomfortable. We focused on what we had in common more than what we disagreed about. Everybody tried to do their part to make the chapel a church.

We live a church culture in America that's defined by choice. Consumerism has infected the church so deeply that we think choice is normal. This is a topic for another day, but I think consumerism is going to eventually kill the church in America. It's a disease.

The way church feeds our consumerism is not only by offering all kinds of ministries to meet people's needs, but by changing how we, as Christians, think about church. Now we think we need certain things: A certain worship style, a certain Bible translation/interpretation, a children's ministry, a youth ministry, a women's ministry, a men's ministry, a Christian pre-school/school, a young-at-heart ministry, a ministry to goats, a ministry to (fill in the blank).

Be honest with yourself: How many of you think you need a children's ministry for your kids? How many of you think you need a youth ministry for your teens? How many of you think you need some form of religious goods and services that the church provides for you? 

It's not that those ministries are bad, but do we need them? None of them were available during the first century. Most of them aren't available in most churches around the world. Heck, America is really the only country where "choice" is even an option.

It's ironic that in our land of choice and options that the church is shrinking, but in places where choice isn't even a thought, the church is growing.

My epiphany was that my lack of choice in church in my formative years contributes to my anti-consumeristic approach to church today. It's one reason Hub City doesn't offer what other churches offer. It's why I'm so angered by church-hopping. It's why I'm becoming more and more anti-church-growth (even thought I desperately want to see Jesus grow His Church).

I've heard and I know that we need to swim in the culture we're in. But what if that culture is taking us somewhere we don't need to go? What if Jesus is calling us to a counter-cultural way of living and being church and doing church where consumerism doesn't have a place at the table?

Maybe then we'd focus on loving one another, making disciples and building the kingdom. Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing anyway?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Intimacy with God

One of the major reasons Hub City Church is doing a seven week series on Prayer and Fasting has to do with my number one desire for people. More than anything I want people to have an active, growing and intimate relationship with God. 

Prayer and fasting are essential to that intimacy.

Mark Batterson, in his 40 day prayer challenge, Draw the Circle, says this:
The reason most people don't feel intimacy with God is because they don't have a daily prayer rhythm. They may have a weekly rhythm of going to church, which is wonderful, but doing so in and of itself won't produce intimacy with God. Can you imagine talking with your spouse or child once a week? God wants a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute relationship with you.
I want everyone to have that kind of relationship with God. So how's your daily prayer rhythm?

This past Sunday I said that the only way we learn to pray is to actually pray. Dive in. Start talking with God.

An intimate relationship with your creator is at stake, and there's nothing greater than that.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On the Physical Death of Jesus

This is what's called "Holy Week" on the Christian calendar. It's the most important week of the year for Christians. It's even more important than Christmas.

What's the big deal about this week?

We remember and celebrate Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. 

Christians believe that if it weren't for the death of Jesus we would all be dead in our sin and separated from the possibility of having a right and restored relationship with God. If it weren't for Jesus' resurrection, the fact that he rose from the dead, then our faith would be useless.

This week is all about those two pivotal events.

As I was preparing for this week's sermon (which you can listen to if you come to Spartan 16 Movie Theater on Sunday at 10 AM... shameless invite, I know), I came across a fascinating article that was published in 1986 in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled, “One the Physical Death of Jesus.” 

It's worth your time. I'm going to use some of it on Sunday, but you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing, even if your not a Christian.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Never put a period where God puts a comma

A few weeks ago I heard Mark Batterson say something that I had to rewind and listen to again and again. I'm still letting it sink in. It was both encouraging and challenging. I immediately wrote it down and am using it at the end of my sermon on Sunday, but thought I'd share it ahead of time. May it encourage and challenge you as well, especially those of you who are going through a tough time.
Never put a comma where God puts a period and never put a period where God puts a comma. All of us hit spots in our life when we think our life is over. But it’s not over. Oswald Chambers said, “Sometimes it looks like God is missing the mark because we’re too short sighted to see what he’s aiming for.” Before God adds he usually subtracts. Before God multiplies he usually prunes. Before God brings something to life, something usually dies. There’s a tendency to hit the panic button when God subtracts, when there’s a pruning in your life, when something is dying. But it may be that God is getting ready to do something in your life that you haven’t seen before. – Mark Batterson
For those of you in the Sparkle City vicinity, join us at Hub City this Sunday, 10 AM. Spartan 16 Movie Theater. For you out-of-towners, feel free to listen online next week.