Monday, October 25, 2010

The Problem with Church - Randy Newman

This is a link to a great post by one of my good friend's dad.  Check it out and I hope you are encouraged by it.

http://integrationpoints.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/the-problem-with-church/

Thursday, May 20, 2010

CNN: I'm a Criminal

Interesting article

Putting the article's political agenda aside, this article made me think a lot about how I view sin in my life. Also how when she confronted people with the "So are you" statement, that most people don't view themselves as sinners. I am a criminal. A criminal saved by Grace, and redeemed, but a criminal nonetheless.

It also made me think about how we view people in jail or homeless people, or whatever. We tend to view them differently, just because the effects of sin on their life are more "visible", when in fact we all have sinned. For example, using the drugs scenario from the article. How many of us know people who have done drugs in the past, and are no longer users? There are probably some very important people in our lives that fall into that category. How do we treat them? We love them despite their past, don't we? Then think about how we would react / treat someone who we knew went to jail for drug possession. Granted, perhaps they got caught because they used a ton more drugs than those people we "care" about, and that's why they maybe got caught. We do tend to treat them differently, don't we? This same way of thinking can be applied to any kind of sin, not just drug use.

I'm not saying things should go unpunished. I am 100% for justice and a legal system here on earth. But ultimate judgement lies with God. The point is: God calls us to love all sinners, not loving their sin, but to show the Gospel to everyone. The Gospel is more than just a 4 laws booklet, Romans Road, or whatever kind of evangelistic tool we can use. The Gospel is God taking our punishment upon himself, conquering sin forever, and then LOVING (emphasis on verb) us despite our sin and freeing us from sin's bondage. God calls us to LOVE others as He LOVES us. John 13:31-35

Thank God for his Spirit to show us our sin, that we can repent of them and be changed, and for his son Jesus that we are forgiven!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

No Confidence in the Flesh

A number of years ago, I came across some sermons that changed me, and of which I need constant reminder. In the 80's and 90’s, Pastor Lon Solomon of McLean Bible Church taught on living by grace. I have an old cassette tape album called “Living By Grace” which includes the message “No Confidence in the Flesh”.

In “No Confidence in the Flesh", Lon Solomon says that most Christians are saved by faith, but live by works. This describes much of my Christian life. And I’m sure others fall into this as well. So here’s an outline of Lon Solomon’s message ...

----------
Phillipians 3:1-7 (NIV)
1Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
2Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

Summary: “God’s plan for believers is that we lean on his grace and not human resources.”
Many Christians have lost what means to simply walk hand in hand w/ Jesus.
The grace of the God is his desire and ability to meet your every need.
• v. 1-2 is a warning - watch out for false teachers that put confidence in human resources.
• v. 4-6 is a testimony - Paul had every human resource that you could possibly have.
• v. 3 & 7 is a declaration - Paul threw it all away to simply rely on the grace of Jesus.

Phillipians 3:3 “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” (NIV)
In verse 3, Paul gives 3 marks of what it means to live for God …
• Fully depend on the Holy Spirit.
• Fully focus on Jesus.
• Put no confidence in human resources.

Phillipians 3:7 “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (NIV)
Why did Paul consider all of his human works to be a loss? Because they distracted him from living by faith.

If we are fully depend on God, does that mean that we do nothing? Does that mean that Christian practices like bible study, prayer, fellowship, witnessing are useless? No, Christian practices are useful. God can use them and the work we do. But we can’t trust in those things – they are not an end in themselves.
----------

If you’re like me, you’re easily distracted. You were saved by faith, but somewhere along the way you began to think that your Christian life is all about the things you do. Paul reminds us what we need to do have the abundant life the God offers us - depend on the Holy Spirit, focus on Jesus, and put no confidence in human resources.

Other related verses that I keep coming back to …
• Romans 1:16-17 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (NIV)
• Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)
• John 15:4-5 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’” ( NIV)
• Luke 10:41-42 “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (NIV)
• John 10:10 “... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Follow up on why celebrate Good Friday

This is a post by Bob Thune of Coram Deo in Omaha, Nebraska. I really like this reason for celebrating Good Friday and the idea of fasting between Good Friday and Easter. The blog can be found at http://www.cdomaha.com/blog/

Lamentation Before Celebration

It seems that American Christians are all about celebration. In fact, some churches have intentionally chosen the adjective “celebratory” to describe their worship style. Everything has to be upbeat, positive, encouraging (“Positive, Encouraging K-Love…”). After all, life itself is discouraging, depressing, and difficult enough; shouldn’t church be uplifting?

The Bible does indeed encourage us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). However, true celebration takes into account the gravity of mourning and suffering. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that lamentation is good for us: “The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure” (Ecc. 7:4). And the Apostle Peter reminds us that suffering is crucial to proper rejoicing: “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13). To put it another way: Redemption and Consummation ring hollow without a realistic assessment of the Fall.

We want to celebrate exuberantly on Easter Sunday. To that end, we gather first for a somber and melancholy observance of Good Friday, this Friday at 7 PM at Suckau Chapel. Our Good Friday worship gathering will indeed be worshipful… just not in a celebratory way. We’ll reflect on the gravity of sin, the seriousness of God’s wrath, and the dark reality of that beautiful, scandalous night.

The early Christians used to fast between Good Friday and Easter Sunday as a way of identifying with the hopelessness, grief, and pain of the early disciples. Perhaps you would find it worshipful to do the same. Whatever you do to mark the weekend, I hope you’ll not attempt to muster up a joyful spirit on Easter Sunday without embracing the fear, darkness, and lamentation of Good Friday. It’s the biblical path to true, joyful, gospel celebration.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Good Friday....Easter

Well I am a few days late with a blog post but I decided I would still write one.

We have an opportunity to share our personal thoughts about life, God, church, etc on this blog. Please understand that this post is not supposed to come across as complaining or wanting to cause an uproar....this is my own humble opinion and I will continue to submit to the direction and leadership of the church. (now you may be excited to see what I write)

Lets start with Good Friday. This is very special day in our Faith. This is the day that our God whom we worship was murdered on a cross. This moment changed history FOREVER! Jesus' death paid for the sins of the world and so much more. (On a side note, I am reading Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper. My goal is to read one reason a day from easter to Pentecost, the birth of the church.) I think we should celebrate this with a special service on Good Friday, much like a Christmas Eve service. It would be an opportunity to focus on the cross, the horrible nature of our sin, the humility of Jesus, and the sacrifice of God. It's a time to think about a perfect relationship, that our minds cannot comprehend, being separated - God the Father having to turn his back on God the Son. Maybe it is a special communion service.

Now to Easter, please try to understand the point of this is a desire for people to come into a relationship with God. I will admit I was not at the Easter service this year so some of my thoughts my be based on stereotypes. I don't understand why a church would have an Easter cantata. This is one of the two days out of the year that people go to church, Christmas being the other. Those two days should be the most "seeker friendly" and by seeker friendly I do not mean watered down. I know there are people that need to have their traditions because they either know someone or have personally been effected by a certain tradition (this one being an easter cantata). I also know that during this past Easter cantata at least one person was moved to tears and desired her brother to hear it, so I do understand that God uses what ever he wants to get His word out. Also people want to use their gifts and talents to glorify God (i.e. singing).

Its one thing to point out "problems" or "issues" but it is important then to provide a solution. For those people that need to have a cantata, why not a Palm Sunday cantata. That is a special, joyous occasional as well. Hosanna to the King as he makes his way into Jerusalem. Okay, so what do I mean by "seeker friendly" then. I will share some personal thoughts and some ideas that came from Mark Driscoll's post about Easter. Driscoll had six points: Keep your message short, keep it simple, keep it invitational, keep it special, keep it personal, and keep it biblical. I will build off of those with a few of my own thoughts. Most of the time when people share the gospel they focus on the cross and what it did to pay for our sins but with out the resurrection it would not have any power over death. The resurrection seems to get pushed to the back of the shelf but I don't think it is intentional. I love Easter for the reason that it pushes the resurrection into the limelight. It would be really cool to have a baptism service as part of the easter service demonstrating the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. The gospel should be at the center of the message and people should have an opportunity to respond. People, both Christian and not, should be challenged to confess their sins and repent. The power of the day/weekend should be magnified. This is getting long enough and I think you get my point.

We worship an amazing, living God!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Networking

I came across an extremely though provoking quote in an article regarding the prostitution of underage girls in Phoenix, Arizona. I will let the quote speak for itself.

"I've always wondered why the criminal world can network so well, and we can't. You see the government agencies doing their stuff autonomously, churches and parachurches doing their stuff autonomously. What if we could network as well as the criminal world? We would be awestruck at what God would accomplish."

-Pat McCalla

Churches within the Phoenix area have been working with each other and local government to protect these young girls. It is not everyday that you hear the call for the church to emulate organized crime.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How often do you say, "I'm tired"

If you are like me, then you probably say it a lot. I think there are several factors that play into this: I don't exercise like I should, I don't eat the right food, and I don't have a regular sleep pattern. I sometimes pray, "God give me the energy to get through this day." I often wonder if I should really pray that since I am not taking any steps to be disciplined in my physical habits to improve my energy levels. In some sense I am humbling myself before God and admitting that He is the only way I am going to have the energy to get through the day but I still feel like I should back up my words. I think that I don't deserve for God to sustain me through the day if I don't take any action. But then I am reminded of God's grace. Its true that I don't deserve it, in fact no one does and that is the beauty of God's grace. Even if I did eat right, exercise, or had a regular sleep pattern there is no reason why I should have good energy levels, its all in God's hands.

After a quick biblegateway.com search for rest, I found this passage in Exodus 33 to be interesting...

13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."

14 The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

I find it interesting because Moses is wanting to learn His ways and continue to find FAVOR with the LORD. That FAVOR, I'm pretty sure, is the same thing as GRACE. So for Moses to know God and experience His grace, God is going to go with him and give him REST.

Now I do think we should do things like eat right, exercise, and have a regular sleep pattern but whether we do or not we should focus on Gods grace. When we are tired we should rely on God's grace. When we are well rested we should thank God for His grace.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Liar Liar Pants on Fire - The Centralization of Authority Part 1

Acts 5

I need to be honest the beginning of Acts 5 confuses me.  The church has been growing super fast, people were being healed, the gospel was spreading.  Then God decides to freak everyone out by killing someone who gave money to the church.

I should be clear here, Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to gain favor in the fledgling church by appearing spiritual in an act of giving.  They decided together to sell some land and give part of the money to the apostles and make seem as though they had given all the money they received.  Peter being full of the Spirit knew they were attempting to deceive the body of believers and, more importantly, God himself.  Peter called them out and both were struck dead.

This strikes fear in my own life because I feel I've committed equally, if not worse, sins against God my savior.  God clearly is the author of life and is sovereign over all, so he can at any point exact his wrath or demonstrate his mercy.  That said, I believe God used this event as an example rather than a norm to establish and centralize the leadership of the early church and further build the church's foundation.  Jesus says to Peter and the rest of the twelve that on them he'll build his church.  If Ananias and Sapphira were able to get away with this, you'd have seen enemies of the church weasel their way into leadership and disintegrate its foundation and credibility.

What God did worked.  People were hesitant to join the believers out of fear, but still received the gospel in droves.  The Sanhedrin, naturally, became jealous and sought to prevent the apostles from preaching more.  A respected leader wisely prevented them from carrying out any capital punishment on the apostles by arguing that if these men were not aided by God himself their movement would die.  God in his wisdom used the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira to ensure that the movement would in fact be completely led by his Spirit.

As we'll see later on in Acts, this is one of many events that God used to ensure the fidelity of this new movement.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

And None Were in Need

Acts 4 continued.

 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

 36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.


How's that for an open hand.  While I won't advocate for some sort of theocratic socialism, I will say it seems that as believers we should hold our possessions a little more loosely.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thank You Lord Jesus

On Wednesday evening, my daughter Sara was playing in the backyard. She decided to go down the slide w/ a metal pole in her hand. The pole hit her one inch below her right eye. We took her to the doctor. Her eye is fine. Thank God!!! (I’m not just saying this as a throwaway cliché.)

I have seen many of these “near misses” in the lives of my children and in my life. These make me mindful of the “common grace” which God grants to all humankind. Though we live in a fallen world, God continually expresses His love for the world through His providence. Colossians 1:16-17 reminds us that Lord Jesus Christ made it all and keeps it all: “… all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Wow! In this life I’ll never know all that God does for me. To my shame, I go through most days taking this for granted. I grumble when things don’t go my way, but rarely praise Him when things go well.

And how much more should we as believers praise Him! For we have been given much more than “common grace”. We have been given “such a great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3)!!! A friend of mine in college gave this word of testimony while his family was in turmoil: "If all that God ever gave me in my life was salvation, and He never did anything else for me, that would enough to praise Him for forever." Right on.

This brings to mind a song we sing at church, “Thank You” …
“For all that You’ve done I will thank You
For all that You’re going to do
For all that You’ve promised and all that You are
And all that You’ve carried me through
Jesus I thank You
And I thank You, thank You, Lord!
And I thank You, thank You, Lord!
Thank You for loving and setting me free
Thank You for giving Your life just for me
How I thank You, Jesus I thank You
I gratefully thank You, and I thank You”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Shaken Room

Acts 4 Continued

After being told to shut up, Peter and the rest of the disciples prayed together for the boldness to continue speaking the good news of Christ's resurrection:

29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

God's response:

31After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Incredible.  What we're finding as we read through these chapters in Acts is that God is doing some very remarkable things to establish his church.  While what we are reading seems to indicate that these things aren't the norm, I can't help but wonder what God could do if we as a group sought to proclaim his name boldly and asked him to help us do it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Succession of Leadership

I guess just to followup on my talk from Sunday on the need for church leaders to train the next generation of leadership. We've all heard the cliche about having 3 types of people in your life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. In other words - a mentor; a peer and a "mentee" or "disciple". We of the Boomer generation have to make a concerted effort to prepare the Millenials for leadership service and we need to start now. That means being willing to release our grip on leadership roles - move into a mentoring role and also release the methods of ministry to a new generation. This goes against the grain because some see these new methods as "not the right way to do things".

Two things need to happen: 1) we need to identify potential leaders and 2) be willing to support those leaders when they do things different than we would -- after all we aren't doing things the way our parents did.

Above all tho we need to allow methods to change while remaining true to Scripture -- that is the basis of all ministry: how does it stack up against the Bible. If it does then my advice to my generation is: let it go. If it doesn't we need to provide guidance - pointing to Scripture where the issue deviates and recommend other alternatives.

Its time...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Can't Help It

Acts 4 picks up in the middle of a dramatic event outside the temple in which a crippled man regains his mobility.  Peter and John, early leaders of the church and close friends of Jesus, are taken into custody by the authorities at the request of the Sadducees (the Sadducees are a sect of Jewish priests who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead as Peter and John preached - Acts 3:15).  They are held overnight and brought before a group called the Sanhedrin - a word meaning "sitting together" and referring to an assembly of judges in Israel.  Here they were questioned.

During their inquisition Peter and John boldly proclaim the gospel and in so doing "astonish" these educated leaders.  The disciples' boldness and apparent authority are so shocking that the Sanhedrin withdraw into closed quarters to discuss the plan for dealing with these men.  For fear of losing control and favor among the Israelites decide to order the apostles to cease their proclamations altogether.

Peter's response to this demand stands for itself, he says to the Sanhedrin, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

I was challenged by this and I want to point out two things about this:

  • What they had to say they understood as fact
  • We should have a similar sense of urgency in sharing God with others

The Facts

Sometimes I find myself focusing more on philosophical discussions about the existence of God and deeply logical explanations of the Bible's authenticity rather than simply stating the facts.  The facts:

  • The Bible is a book comprised of many literary works
  • These literary works describe a man named Jesus
  • Jesus claimed to be God and brought a message of grace and reconciliation
  • Jesus's closest friends saw him die and live again
  • Reconciliation and grace can be ours

The Bible contains a portion of the works and teachings of Jesus (John says that if everything were written down the world's books couldn't contain it).  The teachings recorded are so radical and unlike anything else that they seem crazy but the facts are:

  • Since my dad didn't exasperate me I know he loves me (Ephesians)
  • I obeyed the authorities and got good grades (Romans)
  • My brother and sister understand grace and forgiveness so they still love me (Gospels)

Share the facts and let those who hear deal with it.

The Urgency

Often when something is important to you it's important enough to share.  When your friends have babies you tell people about it, when you get engaged you let people know, if you liked a particular movie you tell people to see it, if you like a restaurant you tell people to try it.  These things just flow out during conversation as if we couldn't help it.  Our experiences with the church, the Bible and God should probably be similar.  If our experiences with the community of Christ don't impact us then we're unlikely to think they are worth sharing.

Misguided Christian Outrage?

I read this post: http://theresurgence.com/misguided_christian_outrage from the Resurgence blog and found it interesting enough to repost.  Hopefully, I'm not breaking some sort of blogging etiquette.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Imaginary Journey to Africa Day 4 - Your House

YYYAAAAWWWNNN!! Well yesterday was kind of a "day off" because the challenge was to sleep on the floor at night. It was more than just sleeping on the floor though, it was sleeping with no pillow and no blanket. I understand there are some people out there that like to sleep on the floor (i don't mind it if i have a pillow and blanket/sleeping bag) especially when camping but normally you do that when you don't have to wake up early or do anything productive the next day. Last night instead of putting on PJs, I put on some sweats and a sweatshirt and instead of throwing clothes off of my bed, I cleared out a spot on the floor. It didn't really take too long to fall asleep which was a good thing but I remember waking up pretty early in the night because my arm fell asleep (not the kind that tingles like needles but the kind that goes numb and feels like a club). I woke up at like 3:30 probably around the time my dad was getting up for work (i heard the shower a little bit later, and yes he is that crazy). I really wanted to get in bed! I woke up a little bit later pretty cold so I grabbed my robe and laid it on top of myself. I figured it wasn't technically a blanket so it would be ok. Again I REALLY wanted to get in bed! I think I probably woke up again before my alarm went of at 6:50 and almost told myself "you slept on the ground enough, just get in bed." Finally my alarm went off, unlike Greg, I did hit the snooze but I climbed into bed for 10 minutes before getting up for the day. Let me tell you, it was wonderful.

So here I am a little bit tired at work on my lunch break eating rice (more on that tomorrow) and struggling with my attitude all week. I feel like I have a "poor me" attitude and a very "me" focus even though I should be thinking about the poverty that is affecting much of the world. I don't think I am praying enough and thanking God for all of the things he has blessed me with. Its been kind of bothering me.

Todays passage is Luke 9:57-62. Here we are told that if we want to follow God, He must be our only concern. We must have faith in the promise that he will not give us a "stone" or a "snake" (different passage), it might not be what we ask for when we ask for it but God loves us enough to send His Son to die for us while we were still his enemies. We must not be concerned about where we will lay our head or say we will follow Him when we get our lives in order. Christ is sufficient. Even for providing the energy to get through a day after sleeping exposed in a cold room on the floor. He may give you a stiff back to make sure you think about him but He is enough.

So Day (or Night) 4 is complete.

Running Alongside a Chariot

Many of us are obsessed with determining God’s will for our lives. Myriads of books have been written, sermons preached, speeches given, Bible studies pored over, all in an effort to discover God’s plan for our future. This is understandable for two reasons. One, the Scriptures are obsessed with discovering God’s will. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:17: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Second, everyone desires a purpose for their life.

I believe that this commendable desire to discern God’s will or purpose for our lives becomes a dangerous combination with the busy schedules and oodles of leisure time that belong to wealthier societies. Many of us have so much on our plates that we don’t want to take the time to wait for God to show us his way. We have so many other activities to occupy our time with we get easily distracted from waiting on the Lord. We come to expect that God will slot his map for our lives into our hectic schedules, much like a repairman, “between 2 and 4 pm on Wednesday.” When he doesn’t show, we move on to the next bullet on our schedule and get on with our lives.

This brings us to the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch found in Acts 8:26-40. Philip finds himself in an odd situation: Knowing where God wants him to be but not knowing what God wants him to do. Philip had been evangelizing in Samaria and doing miraculous signs. One day an angel of the Lord tells him to go down to the desert road. That’s it, nothing more nothing less. Now, being a desert road, I am sure Philip did not expect to find much going on. God simply tells Philip to be in a place. Have you ever heard a fellow brother explain that God had commanded him to go somewhere? “Why?” you may ask. “What will you be doing?” “I don’t know,” he replies. “God just told me to go there.” You would think that he needed a few more lessons in determining God’s will in his life.

So Philip goes down to the road and on his way meets the chariot of the Ethiopian. Remember, Philip has no idea why he is there. He may have observed several groups of people traveling the road. He may have walked north than south than north again. When the Ethiopian comes in sight, however, God gives him a most unusual command. “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Weird, huh? I know. God tells Philip to run alongside a chariot. The great evangelist and miracle worker is told to run alongside a chariot. Again, no reason why. Put yourself in Philip’s sandals. Think about how you would react in this situation. I know I would probably peel off at a hundred yards or so to go get homework done. I would ask God to clarify his will for me.

Apparently Philip is more patient and obedient than I am. He runs alongside the chariot for who knows how long. The Scriptures do not say. It explains that Philip heard him reading a passage out of Isaiah and asked whether the Ethiopian whether he knew what it meant. Again the facts are sparse. I like to think that Philip was running along listening to the eunuch reading out of Isaiah. When Philip heard the Ethiopian get to the particular passage quoted in Acts, he recognized his opportunity and took advantage of it. It was an opportunity available only because Philip had taken the time to run alongside the chariot.

I like this story because God never told Philip what to do. He only told him where to be. As a Christian, Philip, like the rest of us, knew how to behave and how to treat others. Yet we still desire God’s will for us perfectly spelled out. Philip didn’t need that. He only needed God to tell him where to be. His Christian attitude towards others took over when the opportunity presented itself.

So the next time you are impatient with where you are in life and are seeking to discover God’s will for your life, try running alongside a chariot for awhile. As a Christian immersed in the Word, you’ll know what to do when the opportunity arises.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Imaginary Journey to Africa Day 3 - Water

Wait right there! Before you stumble into that bathroom of yours, ask yourself this question, what is the longest you've gone without a shower, and why? I went a week once when I was at the beach. I figured the ocean and the pool water did enough cleaning for me. So as you can see the challenge for Day 3 is no shower. My initial thoughts about the challenge were "no big deal" and "I do this often" (maybe more often than I should) but then I remembered that just las week I said that I needed to make sure I showered everyday (I notice that I start to smell a little bit by the end of the day if I don't) so this was kind of funny to me. This challenge was hard for me to think about during the day but was reminded of it later in the evening after I had a full days wear and tear on me. I did end up putting on some cologne in the morning to help compensate which I normally don't do. I would feel bad if I made people around me uncomfortable because of the way I smelled. I wondered if everyone didn't shower would we notice the smell on each other. I am sure the answer would be yes.

The verse (or passage) for the day was John 4:1-26. It is the story of the woman at the well. Jesus tells her that "whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (we should maybe look at this story as if we were the woman at the well instead of an example of how to evangelize just a thought) Water is an amazing thing you should just google some of the facts about it. It has been and always will be relevant to people on this planet. It is imagery that will last forever so God knew what he was doing when he used water to point people to himself. I don't think we really understand this image of a spring of water welling up either. People out in the dessert or remote area looking for water would be so excited and dependent on that spring. What is it like to have a spring well up. I wish I understood that imagery a little more but either way its a great passage.

Those are my Day 3 thoughts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Imaginary Journey to Africa Day 2 - Heat, light, power (no media)

The best way to describe the day would be to take a child put him at a table every day for months and give him a cookie to eat then one day have him come to the table put a cookie in front of him and tell him not to eat it. So this is how my day went (sorry that it is so long but this one was hard)....

...So I woke up today and decided to check the challenge for Day 2 of My Imaginary Journey to Africa before I did anything else (I have 30 minutes each morning to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and get out the door). When I opened up my document and saw that it was no media day (no computer, ipod (zune in my case), tv, radio, phone, etc.) I was a little dissappointed. Today is that day that Jack Bauer saves the world (again) in 24 hours. I need to write my post/update for the Day 1 challenge (I did that anyways but thats it). I need to talk to Becca throughout the day and figure out when we were going to hangout at night. There is a certain anxiety that comes over me when I think about not checking my gmail or searching the internet for stuff or thinking about leaving my phone at home all day. Then I thought about work. The initial thought was trying to make an excuse for why I could not do the challenge for today. I quickly threw that out and decided I would only do work stuff; no gMail, no amazon, no ESPN, no mint.com, no google Reader, no google Docs, no VT email, no twitter, no wedding stuff. I would only get on facebook to write my note for the Day 1 challenge (because I didn't plan very well). I would only send one text message to Becca to let her know it was no media day then leave my phone in my room.

While thinking about all the media I use in a day I remembered that I normally play a game or two of Call of Duty when I get home from work, well not today. I had to leave my Zune at home, no sermon or music on the train. When I got in the car I had to turn the radio off, no Mike & Mike on the way to the train.

It seems like every five minutes of work I go to click on Firefox to check gMail, gReader, or surf the internet (its pretty sad).

Its 11:00 and I really want to get online to see if there have been any comments on my note/blog post from the Day 1 Challenge (its only been up for an hour and a half). I think there is a little desire for affirmation and/or approval.

I want to konw if VT men's basketball cracked into the top 25, the pool probably doesn't come out until later in the day but I would want to check all day (it would be an excuse to go to ESPN).

Whats the weather going to be like today and the rest of the week for that matter. Is march going to be really bad in terms of snow fall?

I want to look at wedding stuff online.

I want my phone to check and send texts (especially to my fiance)

I need to look into getting a passport. Where are the rush offices?

Its lunch time, I would probably check out nbcolympics.com to check the TV schedule and medal count. I would check out the US men's curling schedule and record to see what they have to do to finish well.

So I just decided got around to reading the verse for today Philippians 4:8 and OUCH!! As you can see my thoughts have been on all kinds of trivial things.

The day is going by really slow. I think it is because I am so preoccupied by fighting the urge to get online. Its 12:34 and I just want to go home and go to bed so this day will be over. I know that is really sad. I think it is because I have to sit at a computer (like the child with the cookie) but can't get online and do what I normally do.

I just walked to Starbucks with a co-worker and I started talking about my no media day and the 30 hour famine. I was able to find out that he has practiced some Hinduism. Although we didn't get into a deep spiritual conversation it is a stepping stone for the future. I have wanted to ask him about his religious beliefs so this was good and God is good.

The afternoon has gone by a little bit faster. Its 3:01. There still seems to be some anxiety about not having my phone or checking my email or surfing the web.

Normally on the train I text Becca and see how her day was and figure out what we are doing at night. I tried to remember what it was like before cell phones, I do remember (barely) life before them but I never had a reason to talk to someone everyday like I do now.

I got home and Becca was nice enough to leave me a note letting me know her plans and when she would be by even with some options of some media free things to do.

We were busy enough at night for me to stop thinking about doing my media things. The day ended well and will probably be the hardest day this week. I wish I was able to think about and reflect on the reason why I was doing this more through out the day but I think struggling through the day was eye opening.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Imaginary Journey to Africa Day 1 - Clothing

This Friday and Saturday the youth at Calvary Baptist Church will be participating in year 12 of the 30 Hour Famine. This is an event to raise awareness and funds for the work World Vision is doing around the world to provide food, clothing, shelter, water, and the Love of God to the poor and needy of the world. This year Greg Arnold put together a great little week long devotional (adapted from material written by the Arritts (sorry if I spelled that wrong)). The devotional has a challenge each day that will help the students focus on some issues many people in the world are struggling with. I decided I would participate in this challenge and document some of my thoughts each day in the hopes that it would encourage the students to participate or at least think about some of the issues.

I need to keep this short because I ran out of time on Day 1 to actually write this note and the challenge for Day 2 is no media (this is like work and no I did not waste time on here before I wrote this note).

Day 1 - Clothing
Challenge: wear the same clothes you wore yesterday
Bible verse: Luke 12:22-34

I am going to be honest this wasn't too big of a deal to me. I don't care about wearing the same thing two days in a row maybe that was because I could tell people I was doing it to help raise awareness for World Vision. I wonder what it would have been like if I had to do it for a week or what if I didn't have an option. I know that would bother me, I would be self-conscience and feel like people were judging me.

The verse for the day was really good. I especially liked the "Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes." I really liked this in light of what we are doing this weekend. It is just a great reminder that God loves us and will take care of us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Joy

So I will keep with the video clip and John Piper theme, I do so reluctantly though. I don't want to seem like I am "worshiping" Piper but I was trying to figure out what to share and this clip kept coming back to me. (technically it is more CS Lewis than Piper).

Piper recently hosted a conference focusing on Christian Hedonism/Joy/CS Lewis. (christian hedonism can be defined as "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.") I saw a video clip about "smiting morality with the joy of the gospel." The line that challenges me and gets me thinking in this clip is "A perfect man will never act out of a sense of duty." It goes on to say, "He would always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love for God or other people, like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times, but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs, our love, tastes, habits, can do the journey on our own." He closes this clip with "Christian hedonism is the smite on morality, its the smite on religion..." So a perfect man acts out of joy.

This is challenging because I know there are many times I do "things" for God and others because it is just the thing to do. I have said that a lot. Does this have to do with "knowing of or about God" and "knowing God"? I have often struggled with my level of joy. I am not saying I am depressed but I don't think my joy is what it should be.

Another thing that is interesting is "Morality is only good when it is trying to abolish itself."

"The whole point of the Gospel, for Tyndale, is to deliver us from morality."

Well here is the clip...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thoughts on Leadership

This video was part of a talk by Derek Sivers (I don't know anything about this guy, just what he said in this video).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ&feature=player_embedded

I'm particularly intrigued by this video because what the narrator is describing is exactly what I've been hoping to see our church accomplish. What I find to be most difficult in leading is transferring a vision. What I do know is that perseverance is a good thing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Compassion

There have been some lapses of compassion in my church lately.

Let’s be reminded that Jesus was motivated by compassion …
Matthew 9.36 - “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Matthew 14.14 - “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Matthew 15.32 - “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.”
Matthew 20.34 - “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”

Compassion drove Jesus to care for others’ physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Without compassion we can never see people as God sees them.

I believe compassion is cultivated by pain. The most compassionate people I know are those that have endured great personal loss. Experiencing pain enables them to take pause, consider others’ pain, and respond w/ mercy.

And a merciful response is what is required of us in Micah 6:8 - “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

As Bob Pierce (founder of World Vision) wrote after seeing great need in China and Korea, "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."

Lord, may you deal w/ us as you spoke to Israel in Ezekiel 36:26 - “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Grant us compassion Lord.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What to post when you don't really have anything to say?

Too often I think we believe we need to come up with clever things to put in a post. Sometimes you're just blank... The snow has caused disruptions to our routine and there is something to be said about having a routine. Although the government is closed and we are supposed to be on "leave" many of us continue on with our work routine unable to stop. I guess we are wired to be doing something all the time.
That said we were able to come together yesterday as a group of men to clear snow off the roof of the church building. Unfortunately I was unable to get there when the work first started but was able to get there at the end of the day - reminds me of the story of the workers that came to work the fields thruout the day and all ended up getting paid the same - I digress but will come back to it.
We all joined together to preserve the building - enjoying the physical labor and the comraderie. Maybe that was our "pay" - to enjoy the hard work and being with each other accomplishing a mission -- high motivation in guy-land.

I guess my angst is why we can't come together like that to serve our community and show the love of Christ? Why didn't we go down the street clearing snow just to show we care? Probably 'cause we didn't think of it or if we had said that's what we were going to do how many people would have shown up.

That's our challenge - to get this vision out to serve others with the specific goal of sharing the gospel. The plea went out for workers - an "all hands on deck" call. Guys responded - would we have done that if it had been something else? We've been given an "all hands on deck" call by Christ himself. Who tho, will step up and organize and lead the effort?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tweeting for the Glory of God

Some of you have seen my tweets/facebook updates that are somewhat random like;
"Sat on the train without moving for about an hour...it reminds me of patience and how God is patient with us and our sin" or "it is cold, there is ice, ice is solid like Jesus our foundation"

Now I know that writing is not one of my strong suits but after reading the article below I figured it was not only a good way to glorify God by allowing other people to read some of my posts but it also makes me think about God in unique and creative ways through out the day. The article is from www.desiringgod.org

Why and How I Am Tweeting


By John PiperJune 3, 2009


I see two kinds of response to social Internet media like blogging, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

One says: These media tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.

The other response says: Yes, there is truth in all of that, but instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can.

Together with the team at Desiring God, I lean toward response #2. “Lean” is different from “leap.” We are aware that the medium tends to shape the message. This has been true, more or less, with every new medium that has come along—speech, drawing, handwriting, print, books, magazines, newspapers, tracts, 16mm home movies, flannel-graph, Cinerama, movies, Gospel Blimps, TV, radio, cassette tapes, 8-Tracks, blackboards, whiteboards, overhead projection, PowerPoint, skits, drama, banners, CDs, MP3s, sky-writing, video, texting, blogging, tweeting, Mina-Bird-training, etc.

Dangers, dangers everywhere. Yes. But it seems to us that aggressive efforts to saturate a media with the supremacy of God, the truth of Scripture, the glory of Christ, the joy of the gospel, the insanity of sin, and the radical nature of Christian living is a good choice for some Christians. Not all. Everyone should abstain from some of these media. For example, we don’t have a television.

That’s my general disposition toward media.

Now what about Twitter? I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

To which I respond:

The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet.

So I am not inclined to tweet that at 10AM the cat pulled the curtains down. But it might remind me that the Lion of Judah will roll up the heavens like a garment, and blow out the sun like a candle, because he just turned the light on. That tweet might distract someone from pornography and make them look up.

I’ve been tweeting anonymously for a month mainly to test its spiritual and family effects on me. In spite of all the dangers, it seems like a risk worth taking. “All things were created through Christ and for Christ” (Colossians 1:16). The world does not know it, but that is why Twitter exists and that’s why I Tweet.

By his grace and for his glory,

Pastor John

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Importance of Community

The Importance of Community

So, we've decided to start up our blog again.  There were a few things that caused the slow death and we hope to fix them with these guidelines:

1. 2 posts per week
2. Assigned weeks
3. No topic limit

I think we got a little too excited last time and ended up putting all of our content up as soon as we could.  This new approach should help space out the delivery of our thoughts.  So for those of you reading our blog, expect to see at least 2 posts per week.  Hope you enjoy and please comment.

I've (slowly) been reading through a book called "Kingdom of Couches" which was authored by a a group of friends who run a blog much like this with similar purposes.  One of the author's major themes is the idea and importance of community in faith.

In America today, it seems as though individualism is king.  We live far away from each other, we travel to and from work, sit in front of TVs, read our Bibles for fifteen minutes each day, we eat our meals and don't ever really spend time with others.  The author argues that this not how our Christian faith should be experienced.  He goes on to share several practical examples of how to have community.

I believe his premise to be valid and important.  If we aren't spending time with each other then I think we'll find this life to be a struggle.  My hope is that this blog is one way that we can encourage community.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Baptism

To come out of our blogging hibernation, I decided to post some thoughts about baptism services.

Recently (sort of) our church has moved the baptism service from the Sunday evening bible study to the Sunday morning worship service. I was just thinking about this today and got pretty excited for several reasons:
  • It involves more people (evening service averages 30-40 people and the morning service 250-300 (rough estimates, no idea really but you get the point)).
  • It is a great, exciting, and joyous time not only for the individual being baptized but also for the church body.
  • It is essentially like the announcing of a birth of a baby or the marriage of two people.
  • It marks a healthy and growing church.
  • It could and should encourage people to share their faith.
  • It is an opportunity to boldly and clearly present the gospel during the worship service.
I just hope people can see these things and be excited about it too.