Monday, June 13, 2016
This Past Sunday, June 12, was a big Sunday for Hub City Church. We talked about where we've been, where we are, and where we're going as a church. It was exciting to look beyond-the-horizon at where God is leading us. Some of our regulars missed hearing, but I don't want them to miss out, so here is my manuscript. Let me know your thoughts and/or questions.
Vision Talk 2016
This morning, I hope to paint a picture of what I’m calling the beyond-the-horizon vision. I want us to take a look to the horizon at what God has for Hub City and imagine and dream about how to get there.
As most of you know, Hub City is a little over 7½ years old as a church. Our mission has always been to make disciples who make disciples. We got that from Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
We want you to grow as a disciple who in turn makes disciples. And remember, we define a disciple as someone who hears from God and does what he says. A disciple is someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus and committed to the mission of Jesus, which is making disciples.
But mission is different from vision. Mission is focused on what we’re to do. Vision is a picture of a preferred future. Mission never changes. Vision is fluid because the horizon keeps evolving. Vision is like one of those old Polaroid pictures that becomes more focused over time.
When we started Hub City, the simple vision was to start a church. And that is what we’ve done. So, what's next?
About a year ago I started asking God what he might have next for us at Hub City. For a long time I didn’t hear anything. And then about six months ago some things started to take shape. This phrase came coming to mind: Be the Church.
Our first vision was to plant a church. We did that. Now it’s time for us to be the church. But what does that look like?
I want to show you a map. This is a map of Spartanburg from 1887. This map shows how Spartanburg became the Hub City back in the late 1800s. There were seven train lines that fanned out from the city like spokes on a wheel making Spartanburg a major transportation hub with passengers, goods, textiles, peaches and other produce passing through Hub City to nearly every corner of the country.
This history not only has a direct link to our name but more importantly to the be the church vision that God has for us.
I believe God is calling Hub City Church to be a training, equipping and sending hub, so that we can be the church in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and around the world as salt, light and ambassadors for Jesus.
See, we are at a crossroads in the life and history of Hub City Church. We have a choice to make. Are we going to just do church, or are we going to be the church?
See, over time churches, really all organizations but specifically churches, overtime, turn inward. We become all about us. And instead of being the church we’ll just be all about doing church. As time goes on we just keep trying to do church better, hopefully better than the other church down the street. But that’s a problem because we aren’t called to do church, we are called to be the church. The truth is that it would be so easy for us to fall into this pit. It’s easier to do church that to be the church. It’s easier to do church where it's all about its Sunday services. It’s easier to do church in a way that’s directed and defined by our preferences and desires as insiders.
Of all the organizations in the world, the last that should be inward is the church. The church as an organization, and it’s not even an organization, it really is a living organism, the body of Christ, but the church, as the body of Christ, at its core, exists for those who aren’t yet a part.
That’s why we don’t exist to do church. We exist to be the church.
But what does that look like? What will it look like for us to be the church? As I’ve asked this question and prayed over this question God keeps bringing me back to Jesus’ final words before his ascension into heaven. This was Jesus’ be the church vision for the future.
Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Notice there are two parts to this verse: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and then you will be my witnesses.
The first part is about having the Holy Spirit infill us and transform us from the inside out. This is about having a healthy and growing relationship with God.
We can’t force the Holy Spirit to come, but we can do our part to position ourselves and create a heart and an environment for the Holy Spirit to move. We do that through prayer, confession, meditation on God’s word, letting him transform us, and obeying him.
This is about our relationship with him. That’s why the first step in being the church is to have a growing and healthy relationship with God where he is speaking to us through his word and through his Spirit. It begins on the inside of us.
But there's a second part to being the church. It says: Then we will be witnesses of Jesus. When you see that word “witnesses” I want you to think of being salt, light and ambassadors of Jesus.
Jesus tells us to begin in Jerusalem. Let’s talk about Jerusalem. Jerusalem is your world, where you work, where you live, where you play. I want you to think about your world in terms of the domain in society where God has you. Each of you lives, works and plays in one of societies’ domains. This is your Jerusalem.
I want to show you a graphic. It shows the domains that make up our society. Now looking at that graphic, what is your domain? Write it down.
What Jesus is telling us is that we are to be salt, light and ambassadors of Jesus in our domains.
Imagine what it would look like for the church to weave itself as a disciple-making force in each domain. Where we are a subversive presence of salt and light, where we are outposts of ambassadors, where we are making disciples in whatever domain we find ourselves in. And as a result of our presence, over time, each domain will be transformed from the inside out. That’s what it looks like for us to be the church.
See, our mission hasn’t and will not change. It can’t change. Jesus told us to make disciples. It’s what he did. It’s what we are to do. But I want us to be a disciple-making force, transforming this county. And as we’ve said before, you are where you are on purpose for a purpose. That purpose is to be salt, to be light, to be an ambassador for Jesus, making disciples in your respective domain.
And then he says “in all of Judea and Samaria.” Judea and Samaria represent places that are near us but people who aren’t like us, or places that are far away from us and people who are like us. We are to be witnesses in all of those places.
Let’s be honest, we can’t do that, but what we can do is partner with and plant churches so that that happens. We don’t know exactly what this will look like. What we do know is that we can’t transform this community and our state and our country on our own. We need more disciple-making churches to grow out of us to connect with people we can’t connect with and further extend what we are doing beyond what we can do. We can be the church by planting more churches to be the church. And we want to send some of you out to do that. This also means partnering. Partnering and planting is how to reach all Judaea and Samaria.
And then we will be witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth. The ends of the earth for us is a village in Haiti that nobody wants to help. It’s a village that’s an hour and a half hike up into the mountains. It’s the village of Viello.
Over the next 5 to 10 years God is going to use us being the church to transform that village. It’s going to begin with sponsoring and educating the kids in the village. We’re going to talk more about this next week when our team that’s in Haiti today gets some more information to share with us.
All of this comes back to what I said earlier about being the church: I believe God is calling Hub City Church to be a training, equipping and sending hub, so that we can be the church in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and around the world as salt, light and ambassadors for Jesus.
My Be the Church Dream:
This is what it looks like for us to be the church.
All of this is going to require a step of faith, or should I say, a leap of faith for each of us. Because if you’ll notice, this vision isn’t dependent at all on us meeting in the theater. It’s not dependent on me as the pastor. It’s dependent on each us being the church.
Which means my job is to equip you to be the church. My job is to do what I can to help you grow as a disciple and in a relationship with God so that you can impact your domain as salt and light and as an ambassador of Jesus. My job is to stretch you and maybe push you out of the nest.
God is calling Hub City Church to be a training, equipping and sending hub, so that we can be the church in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and around the world as salt, light and ambassadors for Jesus.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Thoughts on this week's The Walking Dead episodeLiz and I are big fans of The Walking Dead. We have watched it since the beginning. It's such a great show. But I think this past Sunday's episode, No Way Out, was the best in the history of the show.
If you haven't watched the show yet then feel free to stop reading because there will be spoilers. If you don't watch the show at all you are missing out, but you can keep reading because there were some incredible illustrations in this week's episode.
Before you read further I want you to watch the show and think about it's implications for you personally and for the church.
First observation: The show began with everyone as victims. Darryl and his crew were victims to the biker gang. Glen and the teen girl (who's name has left me) were victims who couldn't get to where they wanted to go. Rick and the rest of Alexandria were victims to the hoard of walkers who had invaded Alexandria.
As victims they acted like victims: Scared, sheepish, hiding, cowering.
They covered themselves in zombie body parts so as to blend in and not be noticed.
And if you watched the episode you know that fear lived out led to death (I was very sad about this because I thought Rick had finally found love again) and to Carl getting his eye shot out.
As a result, Rick threw his fear and safety aside and decided to do something about the problem. He took off alone to take on a million walkers.
But something happened when Rick had the courage to take the first step. Everyone followed. There are huge ramifications and implications of this kind of courage in our own lives. We need to be people of courage.
This courage was also displayed by Darryl when he took out the bikers with the RPG. That was so awesome I almost stood up and cheered.
Another observation: They didn't go after each other. They went after the walkers. It reminds me that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the ruler, authorities and powers of this dark world. We have an enemy. It's not each other.
Another observation: We can do more together than alone. They had a major team building experience. They needed one another. They figured that out by working together, fighting together.
I could write more but I don't have the time. And to be honest, I wrote this mainly for myself. I need to remember how important courage is. Be the one to risk for the sake of a cause that's bigger than me, even with death/failure on the line. I have an enemy and it's not the other human beings that share the planet with me. Make sure I'm fighting the right enemy. I need community. I need others.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Two books you need to readI want to recommend two great books as follow-ups to my sermon this past Sunday about us being Salt and Light.
The first book is Bob Roberts', Bold as Love. I have had respect for Bob since he spoke to my evangelism class in grad school, and my respect for him continues to grow. If you're not following him on twitter, you should be. He's doing incredible things to represent Christians and Jesus well around the globe, especially among Muslims.
The second book is by Kevin Palau. It's titled Unlikely. I heard Kevin last week at the Come Closer Lunch here in Spartanburg. His story is fascinating. It's about how churches in Portland have come together to serve their city and the unlikely relationships they have made along the way. It's a fascinating book.
There are a lot of books I could recommend, but these two have been challenging and helpful to me.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Live it like a Song - From Jon Foreman
Friday, January 29, 2016
A different way to live as a Christian in a post-Christian cultureI love the book of Daniel. Always have. It has some of the most exciting stories many of us grew up learning. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the blazing furnace. Daniel in the lions den.
It also has some really confusing stuff. The kings of Babylon have crazy, outlandish dreams that mean something and come true. A had appears and writes bad news in some weird language. And then there's all the apocrophal stuff that folks have been arguing over for years.
As I was reading through Daniel this morning, however, I had a thought. I think book of Daniel shows us how to live out our faith in a culture that is post-Christian, anti-Christian and not-interested-in-anything-Christian.
And what we learn is in direct contrast to how many of us are living in our current culture.
Take chapter 1. Daniel resolves not to defile himself with the king's food and wine. He doesn't condemn the king's food and wine. He just makes a decision to not defile himself, and he's willing to suffer the consequences of that decision. He never judges the chief official. He doesn't say it's wrong for others to eat and drink the king's food and wine. He know's it's wrong for him and he lives out his faith. And God rewards him greatly.
Take the fiery furnace story. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego don't condemn the worship of the gold statue. They don't ridicule the king's policy. They just refuse to bow in worship to the gold statue. And they are willing to suffer the consequences of that decision. And God rewards them for greatly.
Take Daniel and the lion's den. Daniel doesn't condemn the king's anti-Jewish-prayer policy. He doesn't speak out against the men who wrote the bill and lobbied for the bill. He doesn't complain that it's not fair. He just continues to pray three times a day, just like he'd always done. And he's willing to suffer the consequences of his decision. And God rewards him greatly.
I think we could learn something from the book of Daniel about how to live as Christians in our current culture. And maybe, possibly, hopefully, God might start rewarding us greatly like he did those four exiled Jewish men.
Monday, January 25, 2016
Identity and priorities - yesterday's sermon manuscriptYesterday's ice-covered-roads prevented us from gathering for worship. I tried to figure out how to self-record my sermon and then upload it, but my tech-handicapped self decided instead to just share my sermon manuscript. Here it is.
Let me ask you a question. If you were to list out your top five priorities, what would they be? Here’s another: If an outside observer were to come and do an inventory of your life, what would they say your priorities are? What about your values? Here’s another question: How do you figure out what your priorities are supposed to be? We live in a culture of misplaced priorities. That’s why it’s so important to nail down our identity, who we are, because what we believe about who we are is going to shape what we do.
We’re going to see that this morning as we look at a story of a guy who knew who he was, and he let who he was impact how he lived, even though it could have cost him his life. If you have your Bible I’d like for you to open to Daniel 1.
Let me give you some background. In the year 605 BC, 605 years before the birth of Christ, God was fed up with the nation of Israel for all their disobedience and rebellion so he allowed King Nebuchadnezzar, who was the king of Babylon, to invade Israel and they pretty much destroyed the nation. Nebuchadnezzar went into Jerusalem and took over the capital city, and as the Babylonians were accustomed to do, rounded up the best and the brightest of the young nobility, the young men from noble families, and brought them back to Babylon.
Now four of the young men he brought out are very famous men, and if you grew up in Sunday school you’ve heard their names before. They are Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So that’s where the story begins, and we’re going to begin this morning reading in verse 3:
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility- 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.
So here’s the set-up. One of these young men, as we’re about to see, is a guy by the name of Daniel. Daniel finds himself in a foreign culture. He’s probably a teenager, anywhere from 13 to 17 years old. It’s hard to imagine. His family is probably dead. He’s been taken out of his homeland, marched across two deserts all the way to Babylon and now he’s a slave. They’ve given him a different haircut, different clothes. They’ve given him different jewelry. They possibly pierced his ear to show that he is a slave. They’ve given him a different name. They’re teaching him a different language, a different literature. All in an effort to change his identity from who God says he was to who they said he was. Culture was attempting to reshape his identity.
5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service.
6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
Now let me stop here because at first glance this looks like a great deal. These guys get to eat food and drink wine from the king’s table. And it is a big deal, just not for the reasons we might think. In that particular culture, the food that was served to the King, was first offered to the idols. With the idea being that since this food was first offered to the gods, that anyone who ate this food or drank this wine, would get the strength and the wisdom of the gods. So consequently, anyone who ate this food or drank this wine, as they rose up to positions of power, the credit was given to the gods for whom these meals represented.
So Daniel, in his teenage mind, is faced with a dilemma: He can either do what he feels like God would have him do as an Israelite, which would be abstaining from the King’s food and wine, or he can do what he feels like the king would have him do. But he can’t have it both ways. He can say, “God, I realize that to eat this food is to defile myself, go against who you say I am, and to refuse to recognize you as God, but I’ll tell you what. I’m going to go ahead and eat it anyway and ask that you give me grace and forgiveness.” His other option is to say, “I’m going to obey God and hope that the king will be gracious and forgiving.”
Now which way would you go? I mean where are you more likely to find grace and forgiveness? If you opt to obey God there could be an immediate consequence to your decision. The king, as we’ll find out in a minute, could have your head for disobedience.
But if you go ahead and obey the king and ask for grace on God’s side there may not be any immediate consequence. Nothing may happen at all. God may never bring it up again. You might just go on my merry way.
So here’s his dilemma. Daniel had to decide, in light of who he is, what is he going to do, who was he going to be loyal to? Who was he going to prioritize: His heavenly father or his earthly king. He couldn’t have it both ways. That was his dilemma. Look at what Daniel does:
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
This is an incredibly bold action. Daniel draws the line and says that’s it. That’s as far as I go. You’ve tried to remove everything Hebrew from me. But I know who I am and you are not going to take away is my commitment to my God.
Now why would Daniel make this decision? Why would he resolve not to defile himself this way?
I think it’s because Daniel knew who he was. He also knew who God was. And he knew who he was in light of who God was, and that impacted every area of his life.
There are three things that come out of this story that I think have incredible applications to us as we set priorities to live out who we are. The first one comes from verse 8. Did you notice what Daniel did up front before he knew how the story was going to work out? Before he knew that everything was going to work his way? Before he knew if he would even survive physically? The Scripture says that Daniel resolved, he “made up his mind.” That means he decided up front, “I am not going to compromise who I am for the sake of pleasing a pagan king. I’m just not going to do it. I don’t know how it’s going to work out. I don’t know if I’ll survive. Before I know any details. Before I know how the story is going to end. Before I even know how I’m going to approach this.” It says he “resolved in his heart, he made up his mind, I will not defile myself.”
1. Decide up front who you are and what your priorities are going to be.
You’ve got to decide that you’re going to let who God says you are define your priorities. That takes courage. Either you decide your priorities or someone else will.
There’s something else that comes out of this story and this is the part that we can’t factor in. Look what happens after Daniel makes up his mind. Start with verse 8 again.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
So he goes to the chief official, the guy that’s supposed to train him and says, “Um, I’d like to be an exception. I mean I know you’ve been doing this for years. I know you’ve herded hundreds of people through this program, but could I have a pass.” Imagine the fear going in to that conversation. Verse 9: Now…. What’s the next word? Now…God. Isn’t that great? Now God…. Not before.
9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.
2. Now God…. You see, what you don’t know is what God is able and willing to do in your life once you get your priorities straight. Now God. When you get your priorities straight you open the door for God to work supernaturally on your behalf.
The last thing that comes out of this story is very practical. Look what happens next:
Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you."
This is a life and death issue we’re dealing with, but look at verse 11. This is brilliant:
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
You know what the third thing is I love in this story?
3. Trust God enough to put him to the test.
They said, God, we trust you so much that we’re going to put you to the test. I know they were talking with Ashpenaz, but they were really exercising their faith.
If you were sitting across the table from me and you were to tell me your story and you’d tell me I couldn’t really understand this, I’m just a pastor, here’s what I’d say to you. Why not put God to the test? Give God a month. Just a month. Take 30 days and say for 30 days I’m going to let who God says I am define those priorities and rearrange my life accordingly. Then at the end of the 30 days evaluate. I dare you.
So I want to challenge you to give him a month. That is for one month you let who God says you are determine your priorities.
I believe God will show up in your life. And that’s exactly what happened with Daniel and his three friends.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service.
Now God. We’re dealing with God. This isn’t luck or hocus pocus. This is a principle. And God honors those who honor him.
So where do you start? It begins with you determining your priorities. And here’s how I’ve done it.
1. My relationship with God.
2. My relationship with Liz
3. My relationship with my kids.
4. My physical health.
5. My job.
So here’s your homework: Set your priorities according to who God says you are, and then live by those.
A resource I would highly recommend is Andy Stanley's book, Choosing to Cheat. It's an easy read that is immensely practical.