Friday, February 25, 2011

Mountain Tops

Mountain tops are always a blessing.  Those times where you feel like Peter, like you are in the very midst of God - the awe and splendor are overwhelming and you feel as if you really could move the very mountain you are standing on.  Those experiences are also, for the most part, few and far between.

When I find myself on a mountain top (incidentally, my mountain tops at times occur at places like Winterfest, Gulf Coast Getaway, powerfully emotional conferences - but often times, probably due to my inherently introverted nature, my mountain tops come when I'm completely alone), I usually feel like Peter also in the fact that I want to build God and myself tents to stay right there and never come back down in to the reality of this world.

Mountain top experiences are great, powerful, and life changing.  They renew us.  However, our faith can not be propped up on those experiences.  See, the danger of mountain tops is that eventually, we all have to come down.  Too often, when people lose that spiritual clarity and simplicity that they felt on the mountain top (and we all do) they begin to question God and their own place within Him.

Ever felt that?  Have you ever gone from feeling like you could stretch out your fingers and touch the very hand of God one day and then the next week when you didn't feel that close you weren't sure if God was even listening?  Mountain tops are so high, and this world is so low, we must focus on maintaining our faith in both places.

For the next several entries (the next one will come on Tuesday) we're going to explore 'faith':  what is it, what is it based on, and what is our role in it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

309 — Does “Christian” Mean “Naive”? - Patrick Mead

Below you will find a blog entry by Patrick Mead.  I know several of you already follow Patrick's blog(s), but this one struck a cord with me and I thought it was worth sharing.  Read it with an open mind, considering all sides, and take in the information.  As always, what he says (and why he says it) is exactly on point makes all of us think.

Tomorrow I will resume this blog with a new entry of my own.

February 17th, 2011 by patrickmead

I normally try to edit out material in questions that might conceivably identify a congregation, but I am not sure I succeeded this time. This is a question which, on first blush, might seem rather narrow but it is really a HUGE question that Christians need to discuss… before a tragedy strikes.
I have a question for you. At our church, we have a family with two older teenage (17 and 19, I believe) sons. The oldest one has some mental challenges. His parents allow him to wander around during Sunday school and during services. Several of us with children are uncomfortable letting our kids even go to the bathroom alone because of this. My husband raised the concern with our elders, but so far all they seem to know to do is to have someone “keep an eye on him” when he does leave services. Are we overreacting by being concerned? How do we as parents protect our children without making unfair judgments? His father does not have all his mental faculties, either, but should we have approached his parents directly? How would you suggest we and/or our elders handle the situation?
Some will knee jerk here and say in their hearts that this questioner is just being paranoid and that his/her attitude is unChristian. Everyone who reacts that way should first hit their knees and thank the Lord that they have been so blessed, so protected in their lives. You see, sometimes our version of Christianity places us in real danger for no Kingdom purpose at all.
I happen to live in the Detroit metro area. We know a little bit about crime here. We are not the worst place to live in the country. We know we share our lot with those in Camden, NJ or St. Louis and Houston. You learn things by living in these hot spots. People aren’t mugged in the choreographed way you see on TV. It usually goes this way: a man is walking toward you, not paying attention to you. And, ladies, most of you live in “condition white” where you are not paying attention to threats. Without warning, a word, or even a look the man throws his entire weight behind a punch into your gut or face. You will have broken muscles and bleeding, if in the gut. If in the face, your nose, teeth, cheek bone, and jaw are broken. You will probably have a concussion from the way your head struck the concrete. He’ll stomp on your stomach or head a couple of times, take your rings and purse, and walk off.
Sometimes, women are in “condition yellow.” That means they are watching where they are going and noticing who is around them, but they are not alarmed: they’ve walked through this parking lot or on this street a hundred times before without incident. Then, a man will say “Excuse me, can you help me?” while holding a map or shaking a presumably dead cell phone. The woman stops — because her innate Christian kindness tells her to help this person. And she is attacked.
Criminals have long known that you can use people’s Christian sensibilities against them. Knock on their door and they feel compelled to open it. Ask them for help and they feel compelled to stop and draw near to you. If you mumble, they will get closer so that they may understand how they can help you. And… boom. Sadly, I had to explain all of this to my wife and daughter so that they would fight their instinct to be nice. They wouldn’t be embarrassed to lock their car doors when they saw someone coming close. They would look at someone in the eye and cross the street, letting the person know they had been seen and creating distance between them — just in case. It was hard for them to do this… but on more than one occasion it turned out to be the smart move.
Churches are under pressure to let their guard down and “be good Christians” when they are really being asked to be naive. Some churches openly welcome those who have served time for sex crimes but most of them set in place restrictions on what those individuals may do, what places in the building they may enter, and the churches supply security to protect the little, innocent ones. We’ve looked at that in an earlier blog and seen that there are a variety of ways to do this intelligently. Do it in a naive manner and tragedy will result.
When it comes to the questioner’s situation, I would like to know more about it — and a bit more knowledge might change my answer — but my instinct is to say that the elders’ response has not been enough. No, we don’t want to offend anyone and we would absolutely not want to drive people off… but we also don’t want visitors scared, kids terrified, or parents made anxious. It seems that the possible needs of the two in this congregation outweigh not only the needs of the rest of the congregation but also blunt the mission of the church; for having people roam around during worship is a good way to scare visitors… at a minimum.
A special “class for one” could be created so that someone was always with this young man, keeping him busy, teaching him what he is able to learn while the others are in worship. If he needs to go to the restroom or water fountain, there needs to be someone who is with him. If the family gets offended, they need to be brought in and talked to about the need for security and peace. In our congregation you go through a background check before you can teach children. You cannot take a child to the restroom alone. You cannot just enter the children’s area — there is a tagging process done and access is strictly limited. And we have a team of men, most with military training, who take turns walking the halls and checking rooms that are supposed to be empty. When a mentally challenged individual wants to help pass out bulletins at the door or greet visitors, they are assigned a partner who makes sure that visitors aren’t frightened or confused.
Some parents quit coming to Rochester when we instituted the system whereby kids had to be signed into the children’s wing and parents had a tag allowing them to come get the child. As strange as it sounds, they felt this was an unnecessary hassle. And it is. Until the first child goes missing, is collected by a non-custodial relative, or is molested. THEN… all the security precautions in the world seem like too few, too little.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you check your brain at the door. Jesus said “watch and pray” and he also made sure some of his disciples were armed. (my pacifist friends hate it when I bring that up. They try to make Jesus’ statement metaphorical but when one apostle revealed that he had two swords Jesus didn’t say “Whoa, dude! I was being metaphorical!”)
So, I don’t pick up hitchhikers and I don’t stop for broken down cars. But I do get on my cell phone and alert emergency services that there is someone broken down or someone out there walking for gas. Sometimes I break that rule and stop for them, but only when I am alone or with another capable male. And it doesn’t hurt to have a sword or two along just in case.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


This weekend I'll be taking a group of 40-45 people to Gatlinburg for Winterfest.

It presents a unique and very powerful opportunity.  Are their distractions?  lots.  Complications? sure.  But it provides a mountain top experience for both our teens and all of us adults in attendance.  If you've never been, it's hard to describe the power of being surrounded by 14,000 teenagers crying out to God... just thinking about it gives me chill bumps!  It is awesome.

The kids can be reached in a way that they are not use to and challenged in ways they do not expect.

Please pray for all of us, our kids, our adults, the speakers, the worship leaders, and the 14,000 + other kids and adults in attendance that God and His good news would overflow that convention center and send those 14,000 people, on fire, spilling back into their communities around the country

Friday, February 11, 2011

Self Worth:

Recognize your worth!

So many people, young and old, male and female, go through life filled with self doubt (if not self loathing).  They constantly beat themselves up and question their own self worth.  "Am I good enough/smart enough/skinny enough/popular enough/successful enough/athletic enough/wise enough/" etc - "Who could like me/no one loves me/" People drown themselves in negative self talk and allow themselves (yes, allow) to be over run by the media, magazines, and 'friends' around them.

But here's the thing - You don't have to wonder about or doubt your self worth.

Consider this:  What is something worth?  The economist in me answers that the value or worth of something is determined, quite simply, by the price last paid for said item on the open market.  /economy talk over.

Now, if something is worth the price paid for it, then you KNOW how much you're worth.   See, you can Know your value because you Know what price was paid for you - "This is love:  that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".  God Loves you with the same fervor and passion that He loves Christ with, His one and only son, to the point that before you knew Him, before you wanted Him, while you seemingly weren't worth anything, before you ever even had the chance to fail at earning anything, God bought you with the blood, the pain, the suffering, and the death of His very son Jesus Christ.  THAT'S how much you are worth, THAT'S your value!  You are worth much more than gold or rubies or the sparrows in the air, you are worth the precious blood and life of God's own son!  Jesus Christ died on the cross for you so God could purchase even the Chance to have fellowship with you - YOU the one that He deeply desires and passionately pursues beyond the ends of the earth and into the very depths of hell to reach you.

God paid so much for you!  And let's be honest... we, by our own standards, weren't worth buying!  Yet, He did it, and the thing is, God knew you even then.  God knew your short comings, your faults, your struggles, and all the darkest deeds you would do and all the dirty secrets you would ever have, He knew them ALL, and HE STILL PAID THAT PRICE FOR YOU.  Even with all that knowledge, even though God intimately knew you before you were ever formed, He judged that you were WORTH IT, you were worth it all, and He sent His very son so that Jesus could truly pay it all.

So the next time you have a fleeting thought about how much you're worth, just remember that somebody who you didn't even know at the time gave their son's life to purchase you - look to the cross and see never ending, incomprehensible, unconditional, passionate love....for you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Experiencing God

Sunday before last we started a new class on Sunday afternoons for teens and their parents using the Experiencing God study.

The study follows Moses and his journey and relationship with God to illustrate how God works through us and how God interacts with us, his people.

The defining principle behind the study is that God's will is ever present around us and that He wants us to know what His will is.  It's not supposed to be a cosmic secret from a distant being, but a shared plan (NOT in whole, but in direction) with those He loves (us!).

Consider these 7 realities of Experiencing God (the italics are my commentary):

  1. God is always at work around you.  God's plans aren't sporadic thoughts separated into single events.  God's work is the intertwined lattice work that weaves through every event of every life.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.  God Love you.  God loves YOU, messed up, imperfect, stressed out You.  Not only does He love you for you, He loves you just as much and in the same way that He loves Christ, His one and only son - someone with that kind of love doesn't desire to stay at arms reach!  God's desire is for a deep, meaningful, love relationship with you!
  3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.  The most important thing to take from this is that it's Not the other way around!  God invites You to become involved in HIS work - you can't come up with the plan yourself and then ask God to bless YOUR plans!
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.  This is big... "God speaks" - do you believe that?  Because He does.  I know this because He tells us He does.  I hear at times that God USE to speak through dreams and visions, burning bushes, etc. but not anymore (that was then, this was now).  Consider this:  God often used those tactics in the Old Testament.  Then early in the New Testament times God used Christ on earth to convey His message and His will.  And then after Christ ascended... then what?  God didn't simply stop talking, no!  Perhaps He doesn't use dreams and burning bushes, but do you know why?  It's no longer necessary.  In the Old Testament this was a necessary means of communication (God needed to talk to His people but His people [with Very few exceptions] can not look directly on the face of God), however, after Jesus' death upon the cross, we were sent God's very spirit to live within us - our advocate/counselor/guider/Holy Spirit [John 14:16-21].  We now have the Holy Spirit living inside us that guides and directs us, that communicates with us, it is that still small voice inside that speaks to you through God's Word, that feeling inside that people often mistake as 'conscience' or the 'good voice'.
  5. God's invitations for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.  When God calls us to something, He asks us to DO something.  When God met with Moses in the burning bush, God called Moses to Him, to a place where men did not go and live to tell about it!  When God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, God could have met Moses in his tent for breakfast, but instead, God asked Moses to come to God - Moses had to move!  When God told Moses to go get His people out of Egypt, did Moses leap at the opportunity?  NO!  Moses made all kinds of excuses:  he didn't speak well, they wouldn't believe him, he stuttered, God had the wrong guy.  God didn't pick Moses for his attributes.  God picked Moses and THEN fitted him to God's purpose.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.  See #3.  YOU must make the adjustments to be on the same page as God.  You can not lasso God with your prayers and drag Him on to Your page.
  7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him, and He accomplishes His work through you.  You can't truly begin to Know God until you obey Him.  And you can't have truly obeyed Him until you have made major adjustments in your life to to join Him.  And you can't have truly made major adjustments in your life to join him until you have faced a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.  so.... have you?   Think about it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I know several people have asked about Sundays service not being on the website yet - it will be up soon, but below is a direct link to the video (it may play an ad at the beginning).

The video is the entire service, so you can see Mike, Torey, Kevin, Tyler, and everyone serving on the table as well as Danielle's baptism.  The actual sermon begins at 32:45

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What a day!

Wow... what a day we had on Sunday!  God is truly at work and moving here at Highland View!  In the youth, we had 20 people in Sunday School, a packed house in church full of visitors, a classroom full of toddlers, Danielle's baptism, a Huge crowd at the Love Bear workshop, almost 30 people in the new Experiencing God class, small groups, and more - just an Awesome day to be apart of!

As promised on Sunday, I want to list all of the scriptures below for everyone's reference.  For the sake of brevity I will cite book, chapter, and verse this time (instead of typing out the actual verses) as otherwise it would spread over to several pages.

This first group of passages deals with Unity - unity being addressed and defined by Jesus, John, Paul, and others.  Remember, the scriptures speak of UNITY, Not Uniformity.  Unity is present when people Want to obey and when they submit to the ever present focus of the group - our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

John 17:20-23 

Romans 14:1-19 
Romans 15:5-7 
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 
1 Corinthians 3:3-4 
1 Corinthians 10:23-33 
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 
Galatians 3:28 
Ephesians 2:13-18 
Ephesians 4:1-7 
Philippians 2:1-14 
Colossians 3:12-15 
2 Timothy 2:23-24 

This next set of passages contains the "new command" given by Christ - Love.

John 13:34-35 
1 Corinthians 13
James 1:19-21 
Micah 6:8 
John 17:20-23