Friday, November 22, 2013

Blogging is Stupid

Blogging is stupid. Yes, I said it. Yes, I realize the irony of saying this on my blog. 

Please notice that I did not say bloggers are stupid. While I may be stupid, I certainly do not think you are stupid because you blog. I may think you are stupid for other reasons. (Of course I don't mean you, but let's keep that between us.)

But yes, blogging is stupid. I agree with the demotivational poster which once described blog in this way: never before has so much been read by so few. 

Ouch!

When one thinks about this, they'll realize that there are 7 billion people on this planet and 9 billion blogs. Most of them, mine included, are a secluded wasteland of one person's thoughts. I think there are probably 8 blogs in total which generate conversation. Half of those are primarily written in order to start the argument about to begin in the comments section. Go Internet!

But at least they begin a conversation of sorts. Everywhere else consists of people, like me, talking about what I want to talk about. Sometimes it makes me wonder why I don't just call a friend and tell them what's happening in my day. Maybe it's so I can label myself stupid and now prove myself lonely. 

Actually, I just wanted a creative way to say that I fully acknowledge how much blogging can lead one to think life is all about them. That, and what you can learn from me. But I will continue to remain true to my overall stated purpose on this blog, seeking insignificance. 

To that end, I am taking a break. You've got Thanksgiving food to eat and Christmas shopping to risk, so here's to a week off from reading me. Go read past posts if you'd like and boost my traffic. But I'll be back after next weekend for some more random thoughts, more random rants, some jumps into the Bible and perhaps a few new twists in focus as I continue my search. 

Thanks for keeping up with me and for not thinking blogs, bloggers and blogging is stupid. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dad is Fat


I want to thank Jim Gaffigan for being the sole source of joy in an otherwise dreary day. My apologies to anyone who might do the math and realize that they were with me on the day I listened to this book. But I'm not backing off my words.

Jim Gaffigan, who you may know as the 'Hot Pocket' comic, did everyone a favor when he read his own book. Because now his book became a longer version of his stand-up shows. I, for one, am a big fan. Jim is mostly clean (warning: there are a few spicy parts that I could do without). He avoids the pitfalls of many of today's comics while actually being funny.

I don't want to overstate this, but give credit where credit is due. The fact that so many comics seem incapable of being funny and clean must make Gaffigan a genius at his craft.

Dad is Fat is great parenting advice, which is to say there is very little you, as responsible parents, should try to implement. However, if you appreciate the fact that parenting is likely the hardest thing to do well, and if you are attempting to do it well, then you will appreciate hearing from Jim on his parenting adventures.

Jim waxes eloquent about feeding kids, having kids (he has 5), getting kids to sleep and dealing with parents of other kids. All the while he does so in his classic comedic nature, using multiple voices and self-deprecating throughout.

I don't know how much I'd be able to use this book as material for sermon illustrations. After all, quoting Jim Gaffigan might not have the same punch as quoting Jesus, although Jim attempts to do so throughout the book. But the advantage in listening to the book is realizing you are definitely not alone in this crazy adventure we call parenting.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hold On

So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. ~Hebrews 4:9-10

There are certain times of the year where particular verses mean more. For me, it's after all of the freshness of a new school year has wore off. It's when every reason you had at the beginning for thinking this might be easy is gone. 

But whoever said we wanted what was easy? Whoever said that our goals should be handed to us on a silver platter? It wasn't me. I don't use phrases like that, except when asking questions not really meant to be answered.

Does all this sound a bit dark and brooding? I know, that's not really my style. Forgive me, I just watched The Dark Knight movies again recently. You can read my latest book review to see what made me do that. 

But Hebrews 4 does bring me a promise I hold to closely. Because life isn't always easy. But when you're part of a team that doesn't belong to this world.... part of a team that has enemies who run rampant in this world... part of a team that doesn't believe this world is the end game, then you are bound to have troubles. 

But let's be clear about something. You are a people of God. Your identity is secure. Therefore, there is a special rest still waiting for you. 

Hold on!

The road may seem long. Your strength may feel nonexistent. But hold on. For when the job is done, you will hear the words, coming from the lips of our Heavenly Father, saying well done. Then you may enter that rest, long prepared for you. 

Then you can rest assures in a job well done....the job God gave you. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

God on the Streets of Gotham


Holy good reads, Batman!

Paul Asay has written a great book for growing Christians and avid Capped Crusader fans alike. Seriously.

God on the Streets of Gotham is a page-turner for anyone who has followed Bruce Wayne for any number of years. While I have never met Paul, I can only assume he is a huge comic book fan, or is incredible at research. I suppose it could be both, but my guess is that his fanboy personality leads to the drive to be thorough.

'No honey, I must watch the movies again for that book I'm working on....it's for Jesus!'

Paul covers everything from the original comics and the days of Adam West all the way through the Christopher Nolan series of late. He even shows himself to be true by calling the George Clooney version 'regrettable.' Good call, Asay!

Along the way, he writes about Batman's origins, his call and his armor, even referring to the Bat-Belt of Truth.

As I am also a big fan of the Bat, I believe Paul does a good job covering the multiple dimensions of this comic book character, capturing the difficulties of calling Batman a hero, analyzing his struggle and his sacrifice.

Asay covers the character thoroughly, quoting from every Bat-source available. I recommend this for anyone serious about their faith and their superheros.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I'm a Youth Pastor

I'm a youth pastor. I play a part. Every once in a while, it's good to be reminded of that. Here are some great thoughts from Adam McClane over at adammcclane.com.

Rick Nier says Woo!

double-edge-sword
One the one hand, youth ministry plays a critical role in the faith development of teenagers. It’s incredible to be part of life transformation at such a defining point in their lives.

On the other hand you are only reading one chapter on a teenagers life.

You get– Chapter 3: The Teenage Years.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Expectations Are NOT Met

I am experiencing a change in how I spend my time this week. For the last 2 months, I had been spending large amounts of time preparing for a 6-week sermon series while my senior pastor was away. 

You could say I did a few things....uhhh....differently. 

As a finale to the series, I organized the entire worship service backwards. That's right! I put the sermon at the beginning and the singing at the end. You can go here for part of the why. A lesser reason for doing so was to keep people guessing.

I wouldn't do something drastic just for kicks and giggles, but it is interesting, to say the least, to see people deal with change. Here's a few of the things that happened. 

Our church has a bulletin. We print the order of service each week. Truthful to my plan, I printed the service order backwards. I had no less than 4 people come to me before the service, bulletin in hand, and ask if we were starting at the bottom of the bulletin. I corrected them and said we would go in the printed order. 

This is interesting to me because people assumed the most crazy thing we might do is mess with the printed order. We wouldn't actually do a service backwards, would we? We understand that the Holy Spirit only works when we sing first and then preach, right? Oops!

To add crazy to kooky, when I began the sermon, I started from the back of the sanctuary. If you're ever looking to raise the blood pressure of people, camp yourself in the back of a church, where people assume they'll have a bigger buffer between themselves and the preacher. I found out one lady showed up a few minutes late for the service, saw me preaching in the back, and left, assuming she had missed the entire service. 

When do we turn our clocks again?!?

People are funny. 

Well, it's done now. The only interesting aspect left for me will be to see how the quirky aspects of a 6-week series impacts people to their mission and calling. After all, living any other way but with purpose would just be backwards. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shaped By The Story



How do you teach people the Bible? It's an important question. After all, we're not dealing with how to make a chicken pot pie. We're discussing life and death matters as people learn about...well....life and death. So it matters.

So when my friends at Youth Worker Journal offered me a copy of Michael Novelli's book Shaped by the Story: Discover the Art of Bible Storying, I grabbed it.

Michael is quite open about his connections to Sparkhouse and Echo the Story and how resources are sold with his name on it. But he doesn't come across as writing a long advertisement. He writes about his journey, how he has taught and the several stops on his own journey that have led him to where he is.

Through it all, we see the heart of a youth pastor, wanting to ensure that teens not only hear the word, but retain it enough to live it out. Divided into sections, Michael begins with his own story, then continues to theories of why stories make a difference in teaching. In one spot, he remind us "stories invite us into their reality by capturing our imaginations and invoking our emotion and empathy."

It makes sense, then, why Jesus taught using stories. As Michael does teach this throughout the country, he offers testimonies from youth leaders and students at the ends of each chapter. Then Novelli ends with an explanation of how to use this method for teaching.

Many books are read, but this is one to be thought through and applied. I haven't yet had opportunity to try this method on my own youth group. Posts in the future will likely reveal what I've seen firsthand. For now, I would recommend you picking this book up and seeing how it can make an impact in your own ministry. I believe this would be a strategy to attempt for any age, not just youth.

After all, we're talking about life and death matters.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Don't Tell God What He Can't Do!

Here is the heart of my sermon from this past Sunday, taken from a great Old Testament story.

Elisha replied, “Listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord says: By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, five quarts of choice flour will cost only one piece of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain will cost only one piece of silver.” ~2 Kings 7:1

I’m not an expert in exchange rates, but Elisha is stating a miraculous thing, that prices will drop…drastically.

The officer assisting the king said to the man of God, “That couldn't happen even if the Lord opened the windows of heaven!”
But Elisha replied, “You will see it happen with your own eyes, but you won’t be able to eat any of it!” ~2 Kings 7:2
Here is the first truth;

Our view of God makes a difference. (7:2)

The messenger of the king said it couldn't happen even if the gates of Heaven opened up. It is one thing for us to doubt our own strength and power, the power of man or governments but when we start doubting what God can do, we reveal what we believe. What we really believe.

Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates. “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” they asked each other. “We will starve if we stay here, but with the famine in the city, we will starve if we go back there. So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army. If they let us live, so much the better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.”
So at twilight they set out for the camp of the Arameans. But when they came to the edge of the camp, no one was there! For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching. “The king of Israel has hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack us!” they cried to one another. So they panicked and ran into the night, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and everything else, as they fled for their lives. ~2 Kings 7:3-7
Here is the second truth.

We are sitting in want while God has provided everything we need. (7:5-7)

The Israelites were starving, but God had scared off the Arameans and left all of their food and riches behind. How often do we scrape by on what we are able to provide for ourselves when all along God has an abundant supply to care for our every need?

When the lepers arrived at the edge of the camp, they went into one tent after another, eating and drinking wine; and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and hid it. Finally, they said to each other, “This is not right. This is a day of good news, and we aren't sharing it with anyone! If we wait until morning, some calamity will certainly fall upon us. Come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.”
So they went back to the city and told the gatekeepers what had happened. “We went out to the Aramean camp,” they said, “and no one was there! The horses and donkeys were tethered and the tents were all in order, but there wasn't a single person around!” Then the gatekeepers shouted the news to the people in the palace. ~2 Kings 7:8-11
And now we arrive back where we began, proclaiming the third truth, the one we already know in our hearts.

The riches should be shared. (7:9)
The four lepers were plundering and realized the good news needed to be shared. We can’t keep it to ourselves, right?

Here is where the story takes some interesting twists. First, King Joram assumes it’s a trap by the Arameans. In fact, that’s exactly what he says. ‘It’s a trap!’ I think many people feel that way about giving themselves over to Jesus. This is what I was talking about weeks ago when we discussed how God knows us. To some that brings relief, to others fear. To some we bring the aroma of life, to others the stench of death.

The Israelites end up sending some men to go check it out. They find it exactly as the lepers said, riches and food and clothing waiting to be plundered. When they share the news, the people stampede out the gates to go and collect the spoils. There’s so many of them and their desire so great, they actually trample one man to death at the city gates.

The man who died was the very officer assisting the king who said even God could not lower the prices of barley and flour. Elisha said this officer would see it, but not eat any of it.

This story has the gospel written all over it. We live in disturbing and troubling times. What we believe about God will affect how we handle this life. But make no mistake about it. Every Word of God will come about as He has declared. Some will see it and shudder, but the gift of life is freely offered. We, the Church, are tasked with the mission of sharing this good news.

Our news is not lowering prices for food or where we can find earthly riches. We proclaim a bold message of true riches, found only in Christ.

We are to declare as Paul did in Romans 11:33, Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Changing It Up


This last Sunday, I finished my sermon series by doing the entire worship service in reverse order.

Why would we do the entire service backwards? For starters, it keeps people guessing. But it is an image of what we are as Christians. Compared to the society at large, the things we do are backwards, they are opposing.

There is no getting around this truth. Christians don’t act, speak or think like non-Christians. Consider some of the things we see form people in the Church;

Why would people invest every Sunday morning into teaching? Why would so many volunteers invest their Wednesday nights to kidZone, their weekends and vacation times to youth group trips, their afternoon cooking for college students, their evening spent in committee work, their early mornings at prayer meetings? Why would people invest their extra money to projects that may or may not directly benefit them? Why would they invest so much thought and energy into the larger body of believers?

When writing about the men and women of faith down throughout history, the writer of Hebrews wrote;

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. ~Hebrews 11:13-16

Do you want to get excited about something? Expand your view. Increase your horizon. Enlarge your calling and mission to something greater than yourself. The reason why people give until it hurts, spend energy until there is no more and continue to give week after week, year after year and decade after decade is because they are looking for a better place.

Is it going to be a bumpy ride? You bet. It always is when groups of people are passionate about something. Are there going to be struggles along the way? There better be, or what we’re trying to accomplish probably isn’t worth the effort we’re putting in. This is the destiny of people for eternity we are talking about and we have the only Savior to point to for them. We are the Church, called and tasked with reaching out and making disciples of everybody everywhere.

This church, WLFMC, is perfectly positioned to be a church that makes a difference. People sometimes ask me what it’s like staying at one church for so long. The reason I have stayed and continue to stay is because of the vision I share with this church, this body of believers. I still have hope of what can be here, of what God is doing and will do in the future.

We have a team, perfectly poised and ready, and by team I mean more than just our staff. I mean all of us. Do we need more workers? Everywhere! But let’s get our hearts to praying, because Jesus wasn’t kidding when He told His disciples that the harvest was plentiful but the workers were few. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A people, once called…and I mean really called. Called from their own death to life. Called from being a sinner to being a saint. Called from being filled with dirt and grime in the world to being made clean, dressed in the righteous acts of Christ. A people, once called, will clamor for a part in the efforts to bring the whole world to this saving knowledge.

We Make Known a God we know, a God who knows us, a God who has continually made known since the beginning of time.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I Needed This

If you've been following me lately, you know I've had a busy 6 weeks. My senior pastor has been away, teaching in the Middle East. Don't get me wrong, I love preaching. But this schedule was full. Different things kept me going. Here's one message I needed deep into week 5 from youth ministry guru Rick Lawrence.

In case you're wondering, it's the warhorses verse I quoted until my tasks were done. Thanks Rick!

Rick Lawrence
by Rick Lawrence
You’re probably pretty darn good at your job—whether or not you hear that affirmation from your students or their parents or your supervisor. You’ve done some pretty great things under some pretty difficult circumstances—I’m pretty sure of it… And, after all, one of our tacit pursuits is “excellence”—we’re a culture that worships excellence in all of its expressions. We want excellent service at excellent restaurants so we can enjoy excellent conversation with our excellent friends.

Excellence is our holy grail.

But I’m also pretty sure that I’m less than excellent, pretty much most of the time. Ever feel so less-than-excellent that you find yourself whispering this sort of prayer under your breath?

Sorry, Lord. Sorry, sorry, sorry...

Well, I’m well-practiced in this basic lament. And the other day, in the middle of one such apology, I did something I often do—I asked God if He had anything to say to me, and then I waited… After a moment or two I “saw” Psalm 33:13-22 in my mind’s eye. So I turned there, and here’s what I read (italics are mine):

The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race.
From his throne he observes all who live on the earth.
He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.
The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you.
But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.
He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.
We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.


If “warhorse” is just another way of describing our skills, abilities, and gifting, then the Psalmist is telling us a hard truth—these things are not to be counted on. Our strengths are enticing to us. We are sorely tempted to depend upon our own ability to rise to the occasion rather than throw ourselves on the mercy of Jesus and beg for His strength, His courage, and His “excellence.” How can we remind ourselves of our need for dependence, outside of circumstances that drive us to it?

When I pray, I’ve now decided to do something that’s, well, a little eccentric. But if I practice the same patterns of self-sufficiency in my life, how can I expect my basic reluctance to live dependently to change? And so here’s what I’m doing now. Whenever I pray, whether in a formal sit-down time or whispered under my breath in the chaos of my day, I start by addressing Jesus this way:
Your Excellency…

I wonder what will happen if this becomes a habit rather than an experiment for me. I wonder if I will turn to my “warhorse” far less than I do now, and turn to Jesus, in a posture of desperate dependence, far more often. All of Jesus’ best friends were desperate people. And I want to be one of His best friends…

Thanks for loving students,
Rick
@RickSkip

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Clear Winter Nights

The problem with most theology books is that most people don't want to read them. They find them boring, often because people only think they want to know more about God.

The problem with most novels that attempt to teach theology is the contrived conversation, hardly believable and too easily solved.

But Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax does not have either of those problems. The story and the characters are engaging, real and left unsolved. You can fill in the blanks for yourself on how the journey ends for these characters, much the way you can for your own journey.

This short book is filled with great quotes that will leave you thinking about what you believe about God. I recommend this book for an afternoon of your time.

I was given this book by my good friends at Waterbrook Multnomah, also a great place to find this book.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

God Smell

One more this week from my sermon on Sunday. 

This is when we smell like Jesus.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? ~2 Corinthians 2:14‐16

Yes, Paul, who, other than Christians, are up for causing a real stink? When you look around and wonder, what’s that smell, the best first place to look is Christians and the Church.

That smell is us, the odor of God. For any of you theater-types…We are God-smell.

Later in 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote;

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. ~2 Corinthians 4:5‐6
We see here we are given the light. Much like John the Baptist professed, we aren't the light ourselves. We’re reflectors. We look like God. First we smell like God, now we look like God. And to the Colossians, Paul wrote;
I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. ~Colossians 2:1‐4
Notice what Paul does not say…

I want you to know that I am doing the least amount possible for you, and for everyone I haven’t taken the time to meet. My pipe-dream is that you might feel sort of better, so you may have some sort of an idea, in order that you may guess what God is all about, having something to do with Jesus.

Paul doesn't say that. He is working hard. He is contending, doing spiritual battle. He is praying for peace and unity, so that we can have full riches. Do you want a piece of God? No, I want the whole thing! I want to know God. I want to know Jesus. I want to know the Spirit. 

It’s by knowing God that we find the sorts of treasures that are worth selling everything else for.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bad Stink!

Here's a bit more from my recent sermon, on how the Church should represent Christ. 


Just last week, my kids wanted to go outside. Maybe you have had similar experiences with your children, but I feel like Jen and I have to reintroduce our children to the idea of seasons every year. When summer fades and cold weather comes upon us, one might wonder if my kids have any feeling left in their bodies. All 3 of them attempted to exit the house without jackets. The oldest 2 tried going out without shoes or socks. I corrected that, but then I saw Luke unfolding a pair of socks.

This was suspicious, because Luke doesn't fold socks. When that chore comes around, he suddenly shows me his hands and, to my amazement, he has 10 thumbs. Can’t fold socks with 10 thumbs. So, being the wise parent I am, I knew the boy had previously taken off the socks he wore to school, decided it would be easier to get a new pair (because, after all, there is this magic drawer in his room that makes clean socks) and tried leaving that way.

But I stopped him. I asked him where his old socks were. He said he couldn’t find them. Knowing that Luke, just like his sisters, also does not know where to find the dirty clothes hamper, I walked into his room and simply looked down. You’ll never guess what I found. I went out and said, in a very exasperated tone, ‘Son, you had to walk over your dirty socks in order to get to the magic drawer that makes clean socks. How did you not see them?’

That’s the picture I want you to maintain here, one of exasperation, as you read Peter’s response to Ananias and Sapphira.

2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”
5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. ~Acts 5:2-5

You think!?! They were terrified? Wouldn’t you be? Sure, make an example out of him, but I might have figured a time-out would do the trick. No, Peter spoke, Ananias died.

6 Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” ~Acts 5:6-7

This sort of feels like when you come home and your parents are waiting at the table, holding your report card. This is probably not going to go well for you.

“Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.” ~Acts 5:8
Wrong answer!

And if we could picture Peter at this moment, I’m guessing he’s got his jaw dropped and his hands are looking for something to squeeze or hit and he drops the bomb on Sapphira.

9 And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”
10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.
In case you’re wondering, what Ananias and Sapphira did was bad stink for the church.

Monday, November 4, 2013

But I Just Left?!?

I'm almost to the end of my 6-week preaching series, which keeps me writing plenty. So I'm sharing snippets on my blog. Here's part of what I shared just yesterday...


I want to talk about the Church and its purpose this morning. I thought about starting with some bad illustrations of churches behaving badly. It wouldn't have been difficult to find several examples. Google produced over 2 million results when I typed in churches behaving badly.

Then I considered that a bit more and decided against that as an introduction. After all, the Church is not a building, a steeple, a resting place or anything like that. The church is (a people)! Is anybody else hearing the old Sunday School chorus in their heads right now?

I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus, all around the world,
yes, we're the church together!

The truth is that when we hear stories of Churches mistreating people, we are hearing stories of people mistreating people. On the one hand, we shouldn't be surprised. After all, the Church is full of sinners. Saved by grace and filled with the Holy Spirit, sure, but unless anyone here has been granted entire sanctification, then there are probably still moments when we offend others.

For me to share the dirty laundry of others and scoff and act as if I’m not also a contributor would be hypocritical.

However….

We do have a problem. There are many on the outside of God’s grace, unable or unwilling to see it because of the stink the Church has left behind in this world. We can ask God for forgiveness, confess it to our small group of Christian friends, even offer a testimony in church, but our stink remains an odoriferous sensation to the watching, unsaved world, one they are not quick to forgive or look past.

We are not the first generation of Christians to deal with such a problem. Jesus hadn't been back in Heaven very long when Christians started behaving badly. In fact, I imagine He might have just been about to sit on His throne when He looked down and He may have even exclaimed, “What in the world? I just left…?!?!”

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Call to Knowing

We can know God. We can be in relationship with Him. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for God to reveal Himself. There would have been no need to create such beauty and order. There would have been no need for God to do all He has done to establish, correct and re-establish this relationship with us. And it would have been a waste of God’s breath to give us life, to call us to His family and to direct us to His mission.

The Apostle Paul, in Romans 10, asks how people can believe in the one in whom they have not heard. He asks how they can hear unless someone goes. He asks how someone can go unless they are called. I’m asking how someone can hear that call unless they know God. How can anyone share something they don’t have?

The call to a deep relationship, where we not only discover that we’re known and loved, is a continued call where we also learn the many attributes of God. We may only see a poor reflection now, but God has revealed and is revealing enough to keep us in awe and in love and in want of more for all the days we have on this crazy spinning ball in the universe.

We can know God. He has been revealing Himself from the very beginning, through created order, through floods, burning bushes and plagues, through providing sustenance in a desert to showing His power through many victorious battles. Through talking donkeys and mighty kings and crazy prophets.

We can know God. He continues to reveal Himself; through beautiful sunsets and powerful storms, providing us with food and shelter, education and resources. Through hard times we have grown in that knowledge. Through rough seasons our head knowledge has become a heart’s cry.

Yes, we know God. Now what are we going to do with that knowledge?