Friday, October 19, 2012

an open letter on Youth Ministry:

a lot of these come directly from a letter GROUP publishing and the Simply Youth Ministers Conference 2012 put out, then a few are tweaked and several more added.  Enjoy.     Youth ministry is not a job.  It's not a 9-5.  It's not a paycheck.  It's a life.  And it's not about you, or me for that matter, it's for "the glory of His name's sake" and for every kid we get the priviledge of coming in contact with.

"So your job is to play with teenagers one day a week?"

Prep lesson, write message, fix church van, lead kid to Christ.

"are you ever going to BE a Real preacher someday?"

Scrape jell-o off celing, lead Bible study, recruit and train volunteers... again.

"You're not a parent of teenagers yet, so you STILL can't really understand kids"

Organize mission trip, brainstorm new game, take students to lunch.

"I forgot to bring my permission slip, my money, AND my Bible"

Plan fundraiser, write newsletter, write blog, write email, crush the stinky kid in dodgeball

"We KNOW it's your one day off, but the senior preacher needs to see you"

read text from kid who finally gets it.  pray with parents at their child's funeral.

"You'll need to use your vacation time to go to THAT camp"

host family intervention, conduct divorce counseling, survive overnighter and attend 8am staff meeting.

"Because of you I AM studying youth ministry - and it looks so fun and easy"

turn in budget reports, listen to the voices of students in worship

"You made a difference in my life and showed me GOD is real"

talk with angry parent, reupholster church pew, visit student in the hospital

"Can you pick me up?  I think my mom is too drunk to drive me home"

pain youth room, plan retreat, endure middle school band concert

"Why does it smell like something died in the church van?"

find lost student during scavenger hunt, be the entire church's full time IT person

"Sunday counts as a work day for you?!"

Wife is hurt because you're never home, secretary is mad because you aren't in the office as much as them, parents are mad because you didn't have a lock-in

"Must be nice to not have a Real job"

40 hours a week in the office, while all of the people you're supposed to minister to are in school, so then another 40 hours out of the office at meetings, dinners, bonfires, interventions, concerts, sporting events

"you really think you need to leave 20 minutes early just because you have a 3 hour youth event tonight after hours...."

Cry at graduation.

"You know, if you ever decide to get back out there in the real world again, I hear Food City is hiring"

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The double standard of Christianity

This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to preach a sermon on John 8 and 1 Corinthians 5.

To make the connection, we were wrestling with being judgmental, tolerance vs. Gospel living, and exploring whether there was a double standard in Christianity, and what exactly that meant for us.

So we started with John 8 (previously explored in the post "Chick-fil-a and what it Really means") and the story of the adulterous woman being brought before Jesus and how he responded... his deep, profound, life changing response that I believe is to shape all of our encounters as Christians.  We then took a hard look at 1 Corinthians 5 where Paul writes to the church at Corinth seeming to Judge them and ends with a very, very important statement:  "12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?"

statement How do you (we) rationalize not being judgmental (judge not lest ye be judged) and examining the 2x4 in our own eye before gouging at the spec in our brothers And "are you not to judge those inside?"?

Well, there are 2 main points:
number 1:  When Jesus made the statement "whoever is without sin, cast the first stone" the rest of the crowd left, leaving only Jesus and the woman.  What must be noted here is that the crowd left because they all had sin.  Jesus didn't.  So by Jesus' own statement, He could have, in fact, cast the first stone.  But he didn't.  See, the crowd wanted to condemn the woman but couldn't.  Jesus could have condemned the woman, bud didn't.
number 2:  Paul's statement "What business is it of min to judge those outside the church?"

Ever take your kid to practice and some other kid on the team is acting the complete fool?  What do you do?  nothing.  maybe roll your eyes, make a comment under your breath to your spouse.  But then at that same practice, your child does something small, approaching whatever the other kid was doing.  Now what do you do?  You grab them up, sit them down, talk to them, time-out, whatever.  The child's response?  "why did I get in trouble and not them?" "they were doing the same thing, how come you're yelling at me?"
We all know the answer... because they weren't your child - they weren't yours to discipline.  But yours was.

Check out the sermon and share your thoughts - what do you think?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

the baby roller-coaster

Hey all:

I want to thank you all for the patience and the prayers as there's been a hiatus from the already irregular posting on here.  I want to thank you (for those of you who also follow me on facebook and sent notes, comments, likes, etc.) for all the support over the last few weeks with the baby roller-coaster.

My wife and I have been trying to get pregnant for about 8 months, with our second.  A few weeks ago, she tested positive!  Not long after, doctors held her hand and explained to her that she could die (ectopic/tubal).  The very next day they called back and said that no, now they thought she was fine, but that the baby was gone; that my wife had miscarried and it was over.  They told her to start taking pain narcotics that they would prescribe and to stop taking her progesterone (which she Has to take to sustain a pregnancy).
We were devastated.  We wept, we held each other, we locked ourselves away.  And then... something just didn't feel right.  Hope, as a Christian, is one of our most precious commodities, and we found it.  Erin never took a single pain medication, and she did Not stop taking her progesterone - she ignored the doctors and never skipped a dose.
We began to pray, and have our friends pray, their friends pray, our church pray, our family pray.  We didn't have 'faith' that God would save this baby, because He had never promised that, but we had Hope... because we knew he Could.  We were praying for a miracle.

A week later (a long... agonizing Week) the doctor's office called back and said her next set of blood work (which was to show whether a D&C would  be necessary or if her body would just take care of things naturally) registered... perfect.  Mom and baby were fine.

We're not promised tomorrow, none of us.  Not me, not my wife, not this unborn baby.  But for now, we have just witnessed a powerfully undeniable miracle from the Living God, and we could Not be more excited or more thankful.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Psalm 73

This speaks to us all, for sure, but I post this today with all of the kids going back to school this week - Don't doubt your resolve, don't doubt God's goodness - 
This is Psalm 73 from The Message translation: 

1-5 No doubt about it! God is good— good to good people, good to the good-hearted. 
   But I nearly missed it, 
      missed seeing his goodness. 
   I was looking the other way, 
      looking up to the people 
   At the top, 
      envying the wicked who have it made, 
   Who have nothing to worry about, 
      not a care in the whole wide world. 

 6-10 Pretentious with arrogance, 
      they wear the latest fashions in violence, 
   Pampered and overfed, 
      decked out in silk bows of silliness. 
   They jeer, using words to kill; 
      they bully their way with words. 
   They're full of hot air, 
      loudmouths disturbing the peace. 
   People actually listen to them—can you believe it? 
      Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words. 

 11-14 What's going on here? Is God out to lunch? 
      Nobody's tending the store. 
   The wicked get by with everything; 
      they have it made, piling up riches. 
   I've been stupid to play by the rules; 
      what has it gotten me? 
   A long run of bad luck, that's what— 
      a slap in the face every time I walk out the door. 

 15-20 If I'd have given in and talked like this, 
      I would have betrayed your dear children. 
   Still, when I tried to figure it out, 
      all I got was a splitting headache . . . 
   Until I entered the sanctuary of God. 
      Then I saw the whole picture: 
   The slippery road you've put them on, 
      with a final crash in a ditch of delusions. 
   In the blink of an eye, disaster! 
      A blind curve in the dark, and—nightmare! 
   We wake up and rub our eyes....Nothing. 
      There's nothing to them. And there never was. 

 21-24 When I was beleaguered and bitter, 
      totally consumed by envy, 
   I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox 
      in your very presence. 
   I'm still in your presence, 
      but you've taken my hand. 
   You wisely and tenderly lead me, 
      and then you bless me. 

 25-28 You're all I want in heaven! 
      You're all I want on earth! 
   When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, 
      God is rock-firm and faithful. 
   Look! Those who left you are falling apart! 
      Deserters, they'll never be heard from again. 
   But I'm in the very presence of God— 
      oh, how refreshing it is! 
   I've made Lord God my home. 
      God, I'm telling the world what you do!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chick-fil-a. and what it Really means.

*Please do not comment or form opinions one way or the other until you have read this entry in its entirety.  If you can not or will not commit to reading every word of this post fully, please don't start reading it at all.*

This is a hard post to write... I've honestly wrestled with whether it was better to respond at all or just let this one go.

We've all seen the news stories of the dreaded "Chick-fil-a" bigots, cast our votes one way or the other, seen the "Chick-fil-a appreciation day" and the counter "Kiss-a-chick" day.  But what does it all mean, where did it all come from, who was right, what was wrong, and what now?

First off, as a constitutionalist, if I separate all of my Christian feelings (which of course I couldn't completely) I stand behind Chick-fil-a's 1st Amendment right to free speech.  There's a reason why that was the FIRST Amendment.  I can't stand hate groups and wish they were all banished from the face of earth (I'm Not talking about Chick-fil-a here, I'm talking about venomous HATE groups), however, they are allowed to speak their minds, I use the term "mind" loosely here, despite how much I Hate what they spew, they are allowed to spew it.

Now that that's out of the way, let's take the next most simple step forward before we actually address the issues.  Chick-fil-a stated, and I quote (a novelty that most news sources have forgotten how to do):

1.  "“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think we can try to define what marriage is all about.”"
2.  "“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. …“We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized. “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”"

Ok, let's look at these two quotes.  Despite what he did say, did Cathy ever say that gays weren't welcome at Chick-fil-a?  Did he ever say gay people couldn't work at Chick-fil-a?  Did he ever say he hated gay people?  Did he ever mention 'hate' anywhere, at all, ever?  no...
Secondly, and this wont matter to some because their passions are too high, but one must also consider the audience.  This would be more offensive and draw a larger attack (should have anyway) had Cathy posted these words on Chick-fil-a's corporate blog or had he hung a sign on every door publicly stating that he felt gay marriage was wrong.  But he didn't, he made the remarks to the Baptist Press, a like minded religious press of which he is a part of.
Also, this Can't Possibly be a newsflash (unless you're the Huffington Post) that Chick-fil-a is a deeply religious company that refuses under any circumstances to be open on Sundays, who operates with no debt, and who conducts vetting on their board to ensure they are all married to their first spouse (no divorcees and yes, all heterosexual marriages).

Keep Reading, Don't stop now!

Now, let's go a little further:
I don't know what Cathy was thinking.  No, really, I simply don't know.  Neither do you, neither does the news, neither does the Christian community or the LGBT community.  We just don't.  We don't know his heart of hearts so I can't decisively speak to his thoughts or motives.  I can only look at facts and expound on what I think
(on a side note - the New's job is to report NEWS FACTS and let viewers on all sides decide what those facts mean - somehow all 'news' anchors are now are dressed up talkshow hosts, and we all know what happens when you put lipstick on a pig...)

Do I love gay people?  Emphatically Yes.
Does God condone homosexuality?  no.  Does he love homosexuals?  Deeply, madly, gracefully - so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for them (and you, and me, and Everyone else - He didn't exclude who He died for so who in the world are we to exclude who He died for?).

Does the Bible say that homosexuality is wrong?  yes, it does.  It also says sex before marriage is wrong, adultery is wrong, cursing is wrong, watching porn is wrong, flipping off the guy who just cut you off in traffic is wrong... cast the first stone.
So wait, does that mean I'm saying it's ok to be gay?  nope, but it's also not ok to have sex in high school, run around on your husband, not be a virgin when you get married, and cuss out referees at the ball game.  Cast the first stone.

Don't stop reading.  You promised.

What I keep coming back to is not the verses in the Bible about homosexuality that everyone keeps quoting, I keep coming up with the adulterous woman who was brought before Jesus (Jesus Christ, you know, the whole Author, Alpha-Omega, the One, He who died, He who decided all the stuff that's said in the Bible?  Yeah, Him).  Let me refresh your memory:

John chapter 8.  The Pharisees and Keepers of the Law (ie, the religious people, the scholars, the pastors) brought a woman to Jesus and said that she had been adulterous.  That the Law of Moses (the first covenant-of which the world had previously been under, BC) commanded that she be stoned to death - what did He (Jesus) have to say about that?  Jesus ignored them.  As they continued to yell and holler about her sins and her 'deserved' punishment (sounding familiar yet?) Jesus replied:  fine, whichever one of you is sinless and without blame, start things off, throw the first stone.  Well, as you know, there wasn't a single one of those who had brought her there who was without sin, so 1 by 1 they all left.  Soon, Jesus and the woman were all that remained.  Jesus looked at the woman and said:  hey, what happened?  Where is everybody?  Is no one going to condemn you?
She hesitantly looked around and sheepishly responds, "no one..."
Jesus replies:  Neither do I.  Go on your way and sin no more.

This is so profound, so insightful, so mind blowing, and so deep!
Here's what we need to understand:  everyone in the crowd who wanted to condemn the woman for her sin was guilty, they were all sinners, and Jesus told them only whoever in their midst was blameless should throw the 1st rock.  They all left.  But who was still there?  Jesus.  Who actually was completely blameless and without sin?  Jesus.  So who actually Could cast the first stone?  Jesus.  And he didn't.

You see, the crowd (us...) wanted to condemn, but couldn't  -  Jesus could have condemned, but didn't.  Did Jesus tell her "don't worry about your adultery honey, you go right ahead, I'm good with whatever you do!"  no.  He didn't.  He said "go on your way, and sin no more".  Jesus knew she was guilty, but He didn't condemn her:  He condemned her sin, but not her.

A much better way to put it comes from Rick Warren:

"Our culture has accepted two huge lies: 

The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. 

The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.

Both are nonsense.You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate"

Friday, July 6, 2012

Quick thoughts?

What if we stopped talking about the church and started being the church?
What if we started telling people what Jesus is for instead of what He's against?
What if we started living abundant life and not just quoting it?
What if just immediately prayed for someone instead of just saying we will?
What if we saw a need and acted instead of forming a committee? 
What if we started doing instead of watching?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Haven for Hope

What a week!

We (8 teens and 9 adults) just returned from our mission trip to San Antonio, TX.
Yes, that's right, Texas.

Domestic mission trips may seem strange to some, but it all depends on your perspective and what you're looking to accomplish.  1 thing to remember, statistics show there are more Christians currently in Africa than there are in the USA (chew on that for a minute).  Furthermore, the mission (in my mind) is people - reaching the needy, the hopeless, the lost with the LOVE of Jesus Christ through relationships.  That, my friend, can (and desperately needs to) be accomplished anywhere.

In San Antonio, one of things we did was spend most of the week at a place called Haven for Hope.  Haven for Hope is a 37 acre campus dedicated to serving the homeless in and around San Antonio (and no, that's not a typo - 37 acres!)

I can't call it a 'homeless shelter' because it is so much more!  On the 37 acres sits 15 buildings (expanding right now) consisting of over 1/2 a Million square feet under roof.  Under those roofs is not one autonomous entity but nearly 80 different non-profits and government partner agencies.  On any given night there will be about 900 'semi permanant' residents staying at H4H and an additional 900 or so staying in the overnight shelter; each night Haven For Hope houses between 1500 and 2000 men, women, and children.

Speaking of children, 1 of the most shocking statistics for our group was to hear that the average age of a homeless person in San Antonio (where over 25,000 a year experience homelessness) is 9.  9 years old.

During our stay, sure, we did some of the hard work to help out as best we could (literally moving tons and tons of materials in a warehouse, rearranging 300 new mattresses that came in on shipment, sorting clothes, staging the store, scrubbing baseboards, mopping floors, cleaning bathrooms, etc. etc. etc.), but that's not what the trip was about.

Our teens (and adults) found people.  We sat for hours, talked a little, and listened a lot.  We spread the hope of Jesus Christ while receiving more encouragement than we ever imagined.  We met kids, moms, dads, grandparents, college students, middle school students, and babies.  We listened to their dreams, their goals, their hopes, their fears...we shared ours with them, we prayed, we sang, we hugged, and we smiled.   And THAT is needed everywhere, by everyone, and can be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Talents

When was the last time you read the Parable of the Talents?  I knew the story 'very well' having heard it most of my life, but this last week was challenged to unpack it a little more.

Take a quick look:  Matthew 25:14-30

What do you notice?
There were 3 servants.  He gave them all different amounts of money, why?  "According to their ability".  Ok, so already we see 'to whom much is given much is required' (how many talents do you have?)

What did the master own?  The money? yes.  The land? yep.  The servants?  Them too.  Everything belonged to him.

What happened when the master left?  Well, 1st think about this, what would happen if your boss left, didn't say when they were coming back, but it would be a long time.  What would happen?  Want a better example?  Think of a college/high school classroom.  What would happen if the teacher left the room and was going to be gone?  How many students would stick around and do what they were suppose to do?  ('while the cat's away the mice will play')

But what happened?  By those examples, 1 went 'to play' and 2 went to work (do work!).  It doesn't even say what they did, just that they went to work.

Ok, next:  How'd they do?  One buried the money and made nothing, the other 2 doubled-up.

So, when the master came back, how do you think the servants responded?  The one that made nothing, do you think he hid around the back of the room, avoided eye contact, and tried to look busy?  Probably.  Now what about the other two?  Don't you know they were busting the doors down to Run to get an audience with him!

Now, what happened next?  What did the two servants who doubled up have to say?  Not much, they didn't have a need to, they just let their actions speak.  The third servant, the one who didn't make anything, what did he have to say?  He blamed it on the man.  He said, "you see master, it's really YOU'RE fault... that I didn't do anything"  He blamed the master for his inaction.  (how often do we do that....)

Last thing from the text I want you to notice.  Who owned everything again?  The master.  Who's money was it then?  The master's.  Notice the end of the parable, he says take the 1 talent (from the man who had done nothing) and give it to the man who has 10.  So, the man who had 5 of the master's talents and doubled them to make 10 (of the master's talents), still had the 10 talents.  The master hadn't taken them away, he had left them with the servant.  Think on that.

So what's your ROI?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

break bread

This morning I was reminded of the importance of fellowship, the importance of accountability (in more ways than one), and the importance of same sex small groups.

Yesterday I ran into a good friend of mine who told me to meet him the next morning... at 6:00 am.  I admittedly waffled a bit.  His response to my uneasiness was "either I'll see you there at 6, or I'll be at your house at 5:45 blowing the horn to pick you up".  At that, my wife just laughed and told me (tender and lovingly, of course) "Ha!  You met one just like you!"

So, this morning I got up, drove down the hill and met him and about 10 other guys.  It was all guys meeting in a carport.  In age we ranged from about 12 - 60 years old, in athleticism from the ability to do body weight air squats to picking up small automobiles and throwing them over their shoulder.  We had college football players, football and soccer coaches, principles, teachers, students, and physician assistants.  We had sons, brothers, fathers, and grandfathers.  All different, but all united in purpose (2 purposes actually).

For about 45 minutes we all, regardless of ability, had our butts kicked in Crossfit hybrid (directed by a special forces soldier, Crossfit certified instructor, and all around Beast) workout of weights, kettlebells, rowing machines, ski machines, and all other manner of torturous devices that we all love.  At the conclusion, this group of men all stood around, sweaty and breathing hard.  Much like any crossfit or bootcamp exercise you might go to.  What made this one different was what happens next.  A mix of devo, discussion, and preaching (this one on the parable of the talents in Matthew 25) followed by prayer.  Powerful prayers from a group of men passionate about The Living God.

Surround yourselves with such people.  The disciples needed each other (even when sent out they were sent 2by2), Jesus had a small group (the apostles) and 3 best friends even within that group.  If the apostles needed it, if Jesus Christ the son of God needed it, we need it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

God is love.

God is Love. 

As such, He can not also be the god of hate. 
Though God may (does) hate the sins that we all commit, that does not translate into a hate for the people committing those sins.  See, God hates sin for what it does to those He loves.  God did not create a bunch of arbitrary rules and "though shalt not"s for the fun of it or to be all controlling and manipulative, or to give us ways to fail.  Every law/rule/command in the Bible is given for our own good - for the protection of His children (you, me, us).  God hates that we can not see the consequences of our actions, that we don't see how much better our lives would be without sin, how much more abundantly we would live if we followed His commands (in place for our protection), but He does not hate any person.

hear me, Hear me, HEAR ME: God does not, will not, can not hate You.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What is church?

When does church start and when does it end?  Does it start after the announcements begin, or after the 1st song, or after the opening prayer?  Does it end after the preacher sits down, after the invitational, or after the closing prayer (even if it's not really at the close)?

What if it's a Sunday Night instead of 10:30am?  What if we meet for a prayer breakfast on Saturday but we're in the auditorium, does that count?  And if it does indeed "count", where do we draw the line and what rules apply?  And what if on Sunday morning the preacher delivering the message is long winded (not at All like me...) and goes past 11:30, does the time override the previous discussed measuring sticks?

Hopefully, though not necessarily, you caught the tongue-in-cheek nature of that paragraph.  Although I am indeed being a bit facetious, the issue is very serious, and very important.

1.  Is there a building that's more sacred than another?  Does the one with pews and extra parking spaces hold greater spiritual significance than my house or yours (or a park bench, or a fishing boat, or a hiking trail, or a restaurant)?
2.  Then, within that building, is the room that's larger than the rest, has the pews and microphones and pulpit in it just another room or is it a sanctuary?

Well, with regards to number one, I resoundingly say no!  What makes a place sacred is not what it's made out of, where it is located, or What's in it, but who's in it.  As for number two, though I believe even those who refuse to call it a sanctuary often do, in fact, treat it as one, I find this notion to be preposterous.

What is a sanctuary?  A consecrated place - a holy place or even the "holy of holies", often used to describe a Hebrew Temple.  And what is a temple?  The place where God resides.  Does God reside in a church building if it's empty?  What about in that inner room with the pews and hymnals?  If no one is in there, is He just hanging out there waiting for us all to show back up again?  No?
Then it's not a temple; it's not a sanctuary.  Is it a temple on Sunday morning?
Yes (didn't see that one coming did you?) BUT only because we're there.  We are the temple, we are the sanctuary, our very bodies.  Therefore where ever we are, the presence of God is there as well - whether that be in the auditorium or the arboretum, the Wednesday night class or the waffle house, the church building or your house, or mine.  It also means that God Is in the church building anytime one of His is there, be that Sunday morning at 10:30, 11:59, or a Tues at 6:45am.

The church is so many things, it is a complex ever changing yet ever constant, living, breathing, divinely inspired entity.   Thinking of "church" in terms of 22 minutes once a week in 1 specific place is severely limiting the Creator of the universe to our huge detriment.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

living for Christ?

Ever get upset by something that causes you to question (based on your own reaction) whether you're truly trying to work for, live for, and impress God or if you're actually basing all your value, worth, and putting all your effort towards pleasing people?

Work as if you're working for God, live as though Christ were walking with you in the flesh -
don't fear those who can destroy the body (or say hurtful things or give mean looks, or, or, or), but instead focus on the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, He who was, is, and will be and what He would think about you

Friday, April 13, 2012


No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. - C.S. Lewis

How do you feel about grief?

Grief is real, it happens to all of us, and that's ok.  To say that someone shouldn't grieve is preposterous.  
Jesus himself grieved on many occasions, the most telling (I believe) was at the death of his good friend Lazarus, whom He knew He was about to raise from the dead in just moments anyway.

However, it's not the existence of grief that I worry about (I have experienced much grief in my own life - grief that haunted me, even consumed me, for years), it's the nature of that grief... the response to it, if you will.

Grief, fear, pain, heartbreak, loss - all of these things hurt in their own way (with much overlap if we're honest).  But the difference between a believer and a non-believer isn't the absence of grief, fear, pain, heartbreak, and loss; it's the presence of hope.  
Where as a non-believer could in fact have their entire life ruined by the loss of a person, a plan, or an ideal, a believer has an unshakable identity that cannot be squashed by anything (be it the presence or the absence) in this world that we temporarily call home.  See, a Christian's identity is found in Christ, not ourselves, not in those around us.  As such, since Christ is eternal, our identity is eternal, therefore our hope is not propped up on the fragility that is this life but in He who was, is, and is yet to come.

We can have hope because we know how the story ends.  Despite what happens now, however awful it may be, we know the final outcome.  What kind of peace could you have if while playing in a soccer game you were down 1-0, then 5-0, then 10-0, then 20-0, but you KNEW the final score had you winning?  Simple and inadequate as an example as that is, you can see the point (hopefully).

There are lots of wonderful verses in the Bible that deal with grief (and comfort), and I'll share several of my favorites in the next paragraph, but the defining verse for me is this:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (particularly 4:13b)

Do not feel guilt over grief, we are a loving and caring people and grief is natural, it is Biblical.  Jesus wept, Jesus grieved.  But do not mourn like those who have no hope - for our hope is secured and we Know how the story ends.


Additional verses for those grieving:

  • Psalm 46:10
  • John 14:27
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
  • 1 Corinthians 15:42-57
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Psalm 34:18
  • Isaiah 51:11
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13b

Friday, February 24, 2012

Back to the basics

I wanted to share some thoughts this morning on the complicated, convoluted, over thought, exhaustively annotated, and hopelessly expanded version of Christianity that we have today.
It's not.

Let me show you what I mean:

I love research, I love discussion, I enjoy study Bibles and commentaries, and thoroughly enjoy a good debate (a debate - not a fight).  However, none of those things are possible until we have the basics down, and I fear that we are too often times taking new Christians and throwing them from grace 101 straight into hermeneutics (which are wonderful and awesome) and by doing so, casting them into a pit of details that will drown them.

Spiritual gifts, spiritual disciplines, philosophies, and denominational doctrine are irrelevant until/unless you understand the GOSPEL.  Gospel simply means "Good News!"  Taking someone who says they feel the tug of the creator of the universe on their heart and handing them 30 books and papers by Marx and Nietzsche is not the best way to foster a reciprocal love with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hear this: Tells

Luke 15:11-32
Tells the story of the prodigal (or lost) son.  Where the son is us and the father is God.
There are lots of points and lessons to be gleaned from this text, but what's the real (and basic) principal here - the son demands his inheritance.  He takes said inheritance, heads to Vegas, and blows it all, every last penny of it, on all the things that one might suspect a newly rich young man with no inhibitions to spend his money on in Vegas.  After he's been gone, disgraced his name, disgraced his father's name, blew all of his money (which was not really his money to begin with - it was his father's money), and could not get any lower, he returned home.  How does the story end?  What happens when he gets home?  Before he can even get to the house, his father Runs out to meet him, weeping with joy at the sight of him returning home, throws new clothes on him (his clothes), puts a ring on his finger (his ring), and throws a huge celebratory party (the biggest and best they have).  Who met the son as he came crawling back home?  Daddy.

John 3:16-17
Arguable the most well known, most quickly recited verse (often times to its detriment) in the Bible.
Here's what matters, this is the most basic principle, this is what everyone needs to know:  God sent His Son, His own Son, His only Son, His own "flesh and blood", from glory on high to a gutter below to give the world a chance at salvation.  God sent His Son to die, not so He could then force everyone to worship Him and follow Him, but He allowed His Son to die just for the chance, the possibility of spending eternity with you.

Romans 5:8
Here's the homerun.  While we were still sinners, while we not only didn't know God, we didn't care of his existence and hated and cursed the idea of his existence, while we were in the gutter, Christ chose to die for us.  God knew we hated him, God knew that even if He saved us many of us would spit in His face, He knew that even those of us who chose to follow him would continue to sin, to fall, and to fail the rest of our days - God Knew our value, He Knew our worth, and He Chose to buy us anyway.

The Bible is history book, but the important part is not the history of the world, it's the history of God; of who God is.  Verse after verse, line after line, we see who God is, how He feels about us, and the lengths that He will go to just for the slightest chance of spending time with us.  The "Good News" isn't a complicated convoluted mess, that's what the people already had, the Gospel is that it isN'T like that anymore - it's simple.  It's God loves you and sent His Son to die in your place so that He could have a chance to spend eternity with you.  It's faith not works.  It's forgiveness.  It's that God is love.  It's Grace.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tim Tebow:

Tim Tebow.  Regardless whether you watch football or not (or even whether you like football or not), you have probably heard a lot about Tim Tebow.

Tebow is taking a lot of flak (huge, enormous, insane amounts) for his ridiculous antics, showy self, flashy attitude, and all around circus.  And by that, I mean, for his decision to pray at every football game, bow on one knee on the sideline of every game, and give all credit to Jesus Christ every single time he gets in front of a TV camera or a microphone.  

The world will persecute you, we know this.  Tebow has received shocking and hateful scorning from the media, opposing players, and seemingly every play-by-play commentator and sports show host in the country.  But what's most shocking is the fact that a lot of his criticism is coming from other Christians.

When in the world would fellow Christians hate on Tebow in such a way ("He's just doing too much", "he needs to drop the Jesus routine", "he needs to do like the rest of the Christians in the league and point up when he scores a touchdown and let that be it", etc. etc. etc.)?

If you've read Francis Chan's book called Crazy Love, I would point you to chapters 8 and 9 (and somewhat chapter 4).  

You see, I believe I know why Christians are so irate over Tebows PDF (Public Display of Faith).  

When we, as Christians, see another Christian doing something huge for the Kingdom of God (living in Africa, selling their home to give to the poor, adopting a house full of impoverished children, quitting their job in order to serve in a homeless shelter, etc) we label them, and their actions, as "radical".  When in truth, 'all' they are doing is exactly what God commands us all to do.  But there lies the problem.  We aren't all doing those things.  So, in order to exist comfortably in our own ______ (fill in the blank:  fear, apathy, hiding, ) we must label what they are doing as radical so that we have an excuse for not doing the same things.

If what they are doing is radical, then they themselves must be fringe radical people.  Crazy people.  Extremists.  Weirdos.  People.... not like us.

So you see, we as Christians villianize Time Tebow for his passionate love for Christ because we feel guilty for not portraying the same passion, for not being as vocal, for not "doing too much".

Tim Tebow IS radical.  Just as we are all called to be.


As an aside, for all the media attention you hear about no one caring about Tebow, the ratings for Sunday’s game, where Tebow led the Broncos’ to a 29-23 overtime win over the Steelers, was the most watched TV program of any kind since last February’s Super Bowl.