Monday, March 31, 2014

Complainers

Part of my Bible reading plan currently has me going through the book of Numbers. I highly encourage everybody to have a Bible reading plan, even if you don't believe the Bible...But that's another post.

All of the Old Testament is fascinating. If it were made into a movie I am sure it would be rated R... maybe NC-17. But right now I'm in Numbers. There is such great content in the book of Numbers. God spoke to me the other day through the chapter on Korah's Rebellion. You should check it out.

But almost every time I've done my Bible reading the past few days a reoccurring theme is jumping off the page.

The Israelites are wandering around in the desert. God is leading them. God is feeding them. God is protecting them. God is being gracious to them. 

But over and over again we find them complaining, either against God or against Moses. They complain all the time. 

And over and over again God disciplines them for their complaints. He sends plagues. He sends snakes (which would immediately cure me). He sends a giant sink hole. 

The point being: God, who is slow to anger and abounding in love, gets fed up with constant complaining and takes action to stop it.

Makes me think twice about complaining. Doesn't it you?

We live in a culture where complaining is one of our national pastimes. Some of us hold advance degrees in complaining. 

It's good to remind ourselves that complaining is offensive to God. Contentment, however, is pleasing to him.

Let's be content people, not complainers. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Where I belong

In honor of my grandmother, Mommahaze, who left this life for eternity this morning:


This skin and bones is a rental
And no one makes it out alive

This body's not my own
This world is not my own

On the final day I die
I want to hold my head up high

And when I reach the other side
I want to look You in the eye
And know that I've arrived
In a world where I belong - Switchfoot, Where I belong

Monday, March 24, 2014

Without pride and without hate

Back in graduate school my favorite classes had to do with Church History. One of the groups we learned about was the Huguenots. You've probably never heard anything about the Huguenots.

You're not alone. I haven't heard anything about the Huguenots since seminary until I came across the following story in Malcolm Gladwell's book, David and Goliath:
The local Huguenot pastor was a man named Andre Trocme. He was a pacifist. On the Sunday after France fell to the Germans, Trocme preached a sermon at the Protestant temple of Le Chambon. "Loving, forgiving, and doing good to our adversaries is our duty," he said. "Yet we must do this without giving up, and without being cowardly. We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the Gospel. We shall do so without fear, but also without pride and without hate."
I love what he says. In fact, I think that this is the reason Christians in America are losing the culture war (I hate that phrase, but it really is a war). We are not without pride nor without hate. At least we're not perceived to be without pride and without hate (and perception is everything).

But can you imagine the difference we could make in our culture and society and world if we would get rid of our pride and our hate, and instead love, forgive and do good to our adversaries? We would change the world.

So how about you start with you? 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Living

I've been writing a funeral this week. My grandmother, we call her Mommahaze, turned 95 years old on Wednesday, but she is nearing death. Every time my phone rings I think it's going to be my dad letting me know that she's moved from here to there. We're all surprised she's still here. Soon and very soon she'll be there. 

There's a weird pressure in writing a funeral for your grandparent. I've written three funeral sermons for the service over the past two weeks trying to figure out what to share and think I've finally settled on what I'm going to say.

But there's something I'm not going to say that needs to be shared, and I thought I'd use this blog as the platform for the sharing.

The Dr. came in to see Mommahaze last week and made a very profound statement to my dad: There's a difference between being alive and living

Mommahaze has been alive for the past two months, but she really hasn't been living. She's been dying. Death is a process. She's close to the end of the process. 

I was thinking about that idea and have come to a conclusion: There are a lot of people alive on planet earth, but there's not a lot of living going on.

There's a lot of "going through the motions" going on. There's a lot of "substitute living" going on. But there's not a lot of "living" going on. I think that's because too often we attempt life apart from the author of life.

Jesus tells us that he came to give us life, and not just any life, but abundant and full life. 

Real living starts with Jesus. Life apart from Jesus is just a poor substitute for the real thing.

I encourage you to commit your life to the one who brings true life. It would be tragic to get to the end of your life and discover that while you've been alive that you missed out on living.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

You're not good enough

This Sunday at Hub City I'm going to attempt the impossible. We're going to cover the entire Sermon on the Mount (minus the Beatitudes) in less than 25 minutes.

And here's what we're going to discover: Over and over again throughout the Sermon on the Mount Jesus sets a standard that is impossible for anyone to keep and expects us to keep it.
 
Sounds encouraging doesn't it? 

Actually, it's more than encouraging because it points us to grace. It reminds us that we can never be good enough to gain God's favor or to earn our way to heaven. It reminds us of why we need Jesus.

But does that mean we should just toss Jesus' words from his most famous sermon into file 13?

Well, I guess you'll just have to come Sunday to find out. 

See you at 10 AM at Spartan 16 Movie Theater. Bring a friend with you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You are where you are for a reason

Do you believe you are where you are for a reason?

I do.

I know some of you may not like where you are. You don't like your job, your house, your apartment, your relationships... and I get that. It may be stressful. It may not be where you hoped you'd be by this time in your life. 

But you are where you are for a reason.

Some of you love where you are. You love your job, your life, your family, your financial status... you even love those weirdos you work with.

I just want to remind you: You're not there by accident. You're there for a reason.

One way I like to say it is this: You are where you are on purpose for a purpose.

If you are a Christian, then God has you where you are because he wants you to make a difference. He wants you to change your world. He wants you to influence your circle of friends to at least give Jesus a chance. (Which is why, if you are a church person, you need to do whatever you can to get your non-church-person friends involved and hanging out with some other church people.)

You are where you are on purpose for a purpose.

We all need to be reminded of that often.

So where are you? You're there for a reason. Don't waste your opportunity.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In honor of St. Patrick

I love the text on the bottom of the stained glass: Pray for us. Don't we all need that?

In honor of today's celebration of everything Irish I thought I'd post my favorite history of St. Patrick. Yes, it's the Veggie Tales version, but it's so good!



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jesus' one-liners

Now, I know that "Jesus" and "one-liners" don't seem to go together in your mind, but Jesus was the master of one-liners. We call Jesus' one-liners the beatitudes and we find them recorded in Matthew 5:3-10.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Back in college I memorized all of these, so they've been rolling around in my head for years. Even so, these eight one-liners are constantly challenging to me. 

They form the introduction to Jesus' most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. They are not only attitudes that should "be" in our lives, but are the foundation of how to do life as a follower of Jesus.

This Sunday at Hub City we're going to talk about what they mean and how they are both a mirror and a standard for those of us who call ourselves Christians. 

I hope to see you on Sunday at 9 or 10:30 at Hub City Church.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Problem vs. Promise

I was listening to a radio broadcast today from Chip Ingram and he asked a question that immediately grabbed my attention.

Are we praying problem-based prayers, or promise-based prayers?

Most of us pray problem-based prayers, don't we? We come to God with our problems. It's usually a long list. And we spend our entire prayer time complaining to God about our problems. I know I'm guilty of doing this. Most people I know pray this way.

But what if, instead of problem-based praying, we were to start promise-based prayers? Promise-based praying forces us to trust God's promises. It forces us to trust that God is who he says he is and that he'll do all he promised to do.

That's exactly what King David did in 2 Samuel 7. When you read David's prayer it seems awfully bold. But he's just asking/telling God to live up to his end of the bargin, to do what he promised to do.

What if you started doing the same thing? Pick a few things that God has promised and make those the focus of your prayers. Boldly ask God to do what he's said he would do. 

I am confident that changing our prayers from problem-based to promise-based with change our lives.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Subversive Kingdom

I thought this excerpt from Ed Stetzer's study, Subversive Kingdom, was a good follow up to what we talked about at Hub City Church yesterday during The Jesus I Never Knew.

Jesus' birth reveals the surprising nature of the kingdom of God. It's not a political domain but a spiritual kingdom. It wasn't brought forth by a conquering general but by a wandering teacher. And at His birth the angels announced that He is the Chosen One who will save their people from their enemy. The enemy from which he saves, however, is sin, not Rome. The oppression from which He delivers is the Devil's, not Caesar's.
Tragically, the very people who should have been the first in line to greet the coming kingdom were those who missed its advent. Many people during the days of Jesus were so committed to their opinions of how God should work, how His kingdom should function, and what form His deliverance should take that they missed the Son of God in their midst. They saw, heard, and touched God in the flesh, yet did not recognize him.
Could it be possible that the same thing is happening today? Could it be that we are missing the good news of the kingdom of God because we are committed to our version of that kingdom rather than the biblical one?
All around us, there are conflicting messages about the nature of the kingdom of God. Some argue that it's about being healthy and wealthy. Others say it's already come and gone. And some say it will only be seen in a perfect reign of Jesus someday long in the future.
The danger we face in looking at the kingdom is the same today as it was in the past: We might be so committed to the conquering general that we miss the baby in the manger.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Don't Forget!


Thursday, March 06, 2014

This Sunday at Hub City Church



I think the decision of what you do with Jesus is the most important decision you could ever make.

I’ll go so far as to say that it’s a decision with eternal consequences.

This Sunday, at Hub City Church, we’re starting a new teaching series called The Jesus I Never Knew.

My desire is for you to experience Jesus in a way that changes your life forever.

See you Sunday, and bring a friend.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Why does the church need me?

Rick Warren sent this out last week and I thought it was worth sharing. If you're a part of Hub City and aren't serving somehow, somewhere yet then we want to help you get involved. Contact Janet Gallman for more information.

“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NLT)

One reason why you need to be connected to a church family is to fulfill your calling to serve other believers in practical ways. The Bible says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NLT).

Your service is desperately needed in the Body of Christ — just ask any local church! Each of us has a role to play, and every role is important. There is no small service to God; it all matters.
Likewise, there are no insignificant ministries in the church. Some are visible and some are behind the scenes, but all are valuable. Small or hidden ministries often make the biggest difference.

In my home, the most important light is not the large chandelier in our dining room but the little night-light that keeps me from stubbing my toe when I get up at night. There is no correlation between size and significance. Every ministry matters because we are all dependent on each other to function.

What happens when one part of your body fails to function? You get sick. The rest of your body suffers. Imagine if your liver decided to start living for itself: “I’m tired! I don’t want to serve the body anymore! I want a year off just to be fed. I’ve got to do what’s best for me! Let some other part take over.”

What would happen? Your body would die. Today thousands of local churches are dying because of Christians who are unwilling to serve. They sit on the sidelines as spectators, and the Body suffers.

God calls you to a service far beyond anything you could ever imagine. He created you for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God.

Talk It Over
  • How are you using your gifts to serve in your church? Why are your gifts important to your church?
  • In what ways can you show appreciation for the ministries — large and small — and ministers in your church?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Lifelong learner

As I type this, Matthew, my 10-year-old, is making his way through the piano music books we have playing each song. It is very loud, but he's pretty good at sight reading music. 

A couple of days ago he told me why he does this. In his words: I'm improving my mind, because my two hands have to do different things. When you do this it improves your mind.

Who knew?!?!

I'm glad he's trying to improve his mind. My hope is that he and my other two boys will be lifelong learners. That's one of my goals as well.

I love reading and learning. Right now I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's new book, David and Goliath. It's fascinating, but I'm not reading it to be fascinated. I'm reading to learn.

I've heard it many times: Leaders are learners. 

But I don't really like that statement because I think all of us need to be learners. So, what are you learning? What learning habits have you incorporated into your daily routine?

For me, it is reading. For you it could be watching some DIY program and replicating what you see. It could be researching and trying out a new recipe. The key is to always be learning. 

At 98 years of age, my grandfather is still reading Popular Mechanics and other magazines and loves learning new things. I hope that's true of me if I make it that long. I hope that's true of you as well.

I'm learning that I need to invest in a good pair of noise muffling ear protection... man, this kid plays loud.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Coming in this Friday's paper

I get to write for the local paper, the illustrious Spartanburg Herald-Journal, a few times a year. I am grateful for the opportunity. Here's my article that will come out in this Friday's paper. It probably won't win me a Pulitzer, but I wanted to share it anyway.

They say confession is good for the soul, so let me confess: I don’t like most Christian movies or even most Christian music. I realize that just typing those words can get me labeled as a heretic in some circles, but let’s be honest: Most of it is just cheesy.
 Frankly, I think those of us who call ourselves Christians can do a better job. We serve the ultimate artist. Our work should be worthy of the God we serve. And as C.S. Lewis is reported to have said: “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”
 This past weekend, a movie debuted that is worthy of the God we serve. Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey brought Jesus to the big screen in Son of God.
 The Hub City Church family had the privilege of viewing this film as a part of our Sunday worship gathering, and it was life-shaping.
 I’d even go so far as to say this is one of those “must see” movies; even if you aren’t a Christian or a church person. Regardless of what one believes about Jesus one has to agree that he is one of the most, if not the most influential figure in all of human history. Which means, no matter what your religious background or belief system, you owe it to yourself to see the movie.
 I love what Roma Downey, who co-produces and stars as Jesus’ mom says about this, “If you came to the movie and you didn’t know anything about Jesus you would really get a sense of the journey of his life. It was our job to make sure that the journey emotionally connected with you. So we told the story on the one hand as a political thriller and at the same time, it is a beautiful love story. There is intimacy to it, and we hope that you’re drawn in, that you are emotionally engaged and that you get a sense that you really know who Jesus is.” That is what I want for you. More than anything, I want for you to know Jesus, and Son of God is a great place to start. But don’t stop there. After watching the movie, crack open a Bible or download the youversion.com Bible app, and read the accounts of Jesus’ life found in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. There are a lot of great movies, but only a few are life-changing. Son of God is one of the few. Thank goodness it passed my “not cheesy” test. I am confident it will pass yours as well.