Saturday, July 19, 2014

Quote of the Day

Once we know that we’re forever loved by Jesus, we’re free to love others regardless of the risk, because our deep need to love will be satisfied.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 160). Crossway. Kindle Edition. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Are these words still true today?

So there’s such a thing as running from God in our obedience as well as in our disobedience. Even when Jonah obeys God’s call, it becomes clear that his heart’s not in it. 

It’s possible to do the right thing with the wrong heart—and when we do that, it proves we don’t know the heart of God.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 122). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

This speaks to me today. I really don't want to go into why. But just the idea that we are justified because we (fill in the blank), God is pleased is so ridiculous. It reminds me of the parable where a father sends his two sons to go and work in the field.

Matthew 21
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work inthe vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Imagine the reaction of the listeners. It is likely that the chief priests and elders were among the crowd. Surely they thought that Jesus was full of himself. Imagine saying that tax collectors and prostitutes would gt into the kingdom of God before them! Wouldn't most of us be just as indignant if we heard words like this today? But has the nature of man changed so much that the same words are not still true?

True obedience in the Bible never means mere external compliance to God’s rules. Obedience that honors God flows from a heart that loves him and wants nothing more than to please him by doing everything he asks. 

And yet, although Jonah’s obedience was so flawed, God still used him to accomplish his purpose in Nineveh. That should continue to encourage us.


Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 123). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

And yet there is hope. I wonder what ever happened to Jonah. Did this experience change him? Did he finally get it? There is always hope.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Quote of the Day

Both the Bible and church history show that God does everything through those who understand they are nothing, and God does nothing through those who think they are everything.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 102). Crossway. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Trade that window for a mirror, and maybe you'll see things differently.

Tullian quotes Keller:

Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted do not bother coming to our churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 150). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Is it no wonder that in today's world of American Christianity, there is little difference in the statistics on divorce and etc. when compared to the secular world. Would not the very words of Jesus, if spoken today by Him to us in the manner that they were spoken then offend and turn many away? But, of course, we don't hear them like that. We apply His words to others. To those outside the church. To that other denomination that is so wrong. To the guy sitting next to us because we know what he really did last night. But not to me.

So how do we fix this?

Friday, July 11, 2014

What is true repentance?

Bible teachers often distinguish between two kinds of repentance. The first kind is what they call attrition. It isn’t heartfelt sorrow for wrongdoing but a selfishly motivated response to potential punishment. This could well be Jonah’s response. His willingness to go to Nineveh now in order to avoid further discipline can be seen as an act of attrition—external, self-preserving, and even self-centered. 

The second kind of repentance Bible teachers talk about is contrition. Contrition is true repentance. It entails heartfelt sorrow for offending God and others. It involves not just turning away from disobedience, but also turning toward obedience. It’s an external change motivated by an internal change. It’s self-sacrificial. It’s God-centered. 

False repentance, or no repentance, leads to bitterness, anger, and unwillingness to acknowledge wrongdoing. Until we can recognize our own wrongdoing, we’ll continue to be mastered by this self-centered bondage. Our relationships will continue to be strained and frayed. Freedom comes only with true repentance.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 106). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

To pray, or not to pray. That is the Calvinist's question.

“Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?”

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 99). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Why do Calvinist's pray? So many mistakenly believe that Calvinism is fatalistic, that if God has already decided you fate, why try to do anything about it? Why not just live as you please, because God has already
sealed your fate.

Consider David here for a moment. God has already told him the child will die. David has no reason to doubt this. But he hopes. He hopes that God might be gracious in this one thing. Yet he accepts. He accepts that God may not.

So we pray. We work out our salvation "with fear and trembling." I believe one of the reasons we do this is because of all the people who can fool us, we are the one we need to be most wary of. We worship and trust. We don't take God for granted.

So what does David do when the child dies? He worships God. And those around him think he is crazy for doing it. But David knew what he was doing. After all, he was a man after God's own heart.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What do you think?

Equally significant here is how Jonah says it was God, not the sailors, who cast him into the deep.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 67). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

I think a lot of people struggle with the idea of God being responsible for evil. I guess I have my own take on this whole idea. Here goes...

Evil was not created by God. Evil exists because good exists. Good would not be recognizable without evil, like high and low, or near and far. They are opposites, and help define each other. They are adjectives in this sense, descriptive words that define something. God is good. God is not evil.

So, used as an adjective, they describe things. In this case it is an action. God sends Jonah into the sea. An "evil" action, because it causes Jonah to suffer. Like sending His Son to the cross. Or sending a "harmful" spirit to Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). And we don't like to think of God as doing harmful or evil stuff.

But God is sovereign. He is in control of everything. Even the evil stuff. Thing about God is, He can use that evil for His own good. Like casting Jonah into the sea to be swallowed by a huge fish to be vomited up on land...you know the rest of the story. Or sending His Son to die on a cross. God is not exempt from the suffering of evil. To me, that does not make Him less God. And Scripture teaches it is because of this very fact, that Jesus did suffer, that He can fully identify with us.

Consider Job for a moment. Satan asked to have a go at him, and God granted his request, but put some limitations on it. So who is in charge? Is it Satan who requested it, or God who granted it? So when I read, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" I can trust that statement, because God not only knows me, He knows suffering and temptation.

Sometimes it is hard to see the good that comes out of evil things. The book makes it clear that sometimes the things we want to change do not change. A person dies of cancer. A child starves. Horrific events claim untold lives. I don't always see the good. Consider Job. Even having more at the end than at the beginning does not take away the pain of losing his children, does it? But God was there throughout. Not giving explanations or accusations. He was just there being God. And ultimately, that is what Job needed. It is what we all need.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Quote of the Day

The gospel doesn’t make bad people good; it makes dead people alive.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 56). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What is the weather like for tomorrow?

Until we see God-sent storms as interventions and not punishments, we’ll never get better; we’ll only get bitter.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 57). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

When thinking about grace, it is hard to see suffering as an act of grace. But think about being a parent. Sometimes a parent must discipline a child so that the child can learn truth. We intervene by taking away or not allowing computer privileges so that the child will not be in danger from predators. "But Johnnie's parents let him have his own laptop with full internet access." Do we take away their pain and expose them to danger?

Of course, if you read the whole book, it's not just about getting better, it's about getting better through understanding who we are in God's eyes, and how He is with us in the storm.

I wonder what the forecast for tomorrow is.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

When will the world see that we need __________.

In The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes this:

If you’re avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless you and save you, then you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model, and helper, but ironically you are avoiding him as Savior.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 56). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

I love Tim Keller's writing.

It's that whole house on the sand theme that started 2 posts ago. It's that whole Gospel theme that men like Keller, Tchividjian, Chandler, etc. seem to never let go of.

We need more of Jesus, not more of our own effort. Until we see that, we are just spinning our wheels. The answer to the blank in the title is Jesus, not more effort!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Fool me once...

Jonah thought that running from God would make him free. Instead it made him a slave.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 53). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Marathon Man

Running from God keeps you from “breathing” and living the life he intends you to live. You thereby rob other people of the blessing God intends to give them through you, because you’re less than you’re meant to be.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 44). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

It's all about all about grace. People should see me as a vessel of God's grace. But if I don't understand that grace, or embrace it, I will not look like the vessel that I should, and people will not see Christ in me.

The odd thing about this, is we can be running from God even while some of our actions say otherwise. Is everyone in church living and breathing the life God intends? I think of a family that attends on Sunday, but Monday Sunday afternoon through Saturday Sunday just before church, there is an anger and/or violence that is hidden from the church-going crowd. One that causes the rest of the family to cower in fear and shame. You'd never know it from their countenance on Sunday morning.

And so, the family does not receive the blessing that God intends. Instead, there is fear and shame and a real lack of even being able to comprehend what grace really means at all. A house on the sand, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

But I thought...

“If we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.”

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 38). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

I know that it this quote might seem out of place, because many times people who focus on the gospel are seen as "antinomian" (against the law). But that should not be the case. Ours is just a different perspective on the impetus that drives our obedience. Rather than seeking to draw approval to ourselves, we respond because of a deep vision of the beauty of the grace of God through Christ.

So we seek to obey. On the outside, it looks the same as anyone else's obedience. Much like the two houses in Christ's parable of the wise and foolish builders look the some on the outside. But while one seeks to draw approval (the house on the sand), the other clings on the grace and mercy of the cross, knowing that no amount of works will justify us or curry any favor from above (the house on the rock).

And I thought those sand houses were always full of non-Christians. Yet if they were, the houses wouldn't look the same on the outside, would they?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Clearly stated

Real change does not and cannot come independently of the gospel, which is the good news that even though we’re more defective and lost than we ever imagined, we can be more accepted and loved than we ever dared hope, because Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for sinners like you and me.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (pp. 16-17). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

The answer isn’t to try harder in the Christian life but to comprehend more fully and clearly Christ’s incredible work on the cross, and then to live in a more vital awareness of that grace day by day.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 17). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Yeah, I can't say it much better or clearer than the second quote, so I won't even try.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Do the math...

I came to grips with the fact that the gospel is not just for non-Christians but also for Christians.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 15). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it.

Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-04-23). Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (p. 16). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

I think a lot of evangelicals see conversion as a one time even. Dunk 'em and count 'em. Then we move on to the next victim prospect. And somehow in the midst of this madness, we think we curry God's favor.

But this type of thinking is actually counter-gospel. It is the religion of the Pharisees. You know, the one where our converts are "twice as much a child of hell" as we are. (Matthew 23:15) How does that work out over time, you know, mathematically?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Next book

Having finished "Creature of the Word" by Matt Chandler and friends, I want to go back to the book I had read just prior to that one, but did not blog about. The book is by Tullian Tchividjian, who happens to be a grandson of Billy Graham. He is also a Presbyterian minister at a rather large church  in Florida. It is called "Surprised by Grace."

This is not the first book by Tullian that I have read. I also read "Jesus + Nothing = Everything." This is the story of the struggles he went through as he became the pastor of this church, following a strong leader who had been there for many years. And if you know anything about churches and church politics, there were those who not happy with his selection and the "changes" that would come. It is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it.

So here we go...off on another journey.





Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I'll have a side of Floundering

The Church will thrive despite the floundering of some churches.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 236). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The church will thrive because Jesus said it would. He said it would prevail against the gates of hell. But he
did not say that about me. He did not say that about my specific church.

Some will flounder. Some will fall. But God will not. None of those given to Jesus will fall, except the one who was destined to fall, Judas.

This is humbling. It makes me want to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. There are no guaranteed tickets. No prizes inside the chocolate bars ala Willy Wonka.

Floundering does not always mean failure. Peter floundered. A lot. Floundering is not the end. God is in charge, and he will help those whom he has called.

My prayer is that he has called me.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Can you hear me now?

Sometimes, He is silent. But His silence must not be mistaken for absence.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 236). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

One of my favorite songs was by a group called Out of the Grey. The chorus goes like this...

But He is not silent
He is not whispering
We are not quiet
We are not listening
He sends a lifeline
We keep resisting Him
He is not silent
We are not listening

I doubt that God is ever truly silent, is He?

The song ends like this...

We take our daily bread
And after we've been fed
We take our hearts and turn away

Maybe He is silent sometimes.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Have you heard...

The Church must be a place where it is okay not to be okay .

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 231). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I think some people have missed the memo. Pass it on.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Now where did I put that recipe?

We are called to make disciples of all nations, not simply make converts. Discipleship is long, slow, and messy. In short, it’s harder to measure.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 230). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Dern it! Just when I thought I could be finished with talking about our last Sunday School class, I am sucked into it again.

Neighboring. Boundaries. Safety. So we are nice to our neighbors so they might look up to us and see that we follow Jesus. Maybe they will start coming to our church and actually hear about Jesus and see all the swell things our church does for the neighborhood.

Then, if all goes right, the say the sinner's prayer or get baptized or whatever your church requires. Yay! Another convert!

Verses discipleship. This involves real relationship. Time. Maybe money. Maybe a lot of money. Maybe a lot of time. And maybe even some risk. Could all be for nothing.

Think I'll just stick with making converts. Here's a tract for you!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Here I come to save the day!

Our worship services must make clear that we cannot do what needs to be done, that the pastor is incapable of transforming or persuading or bringing people from death to life.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 220). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Amen.

I still think back to our last Sunday School class, about being a good neighbor and setting boundaries. It
seems that so much of the topic focuses on us and what we do. As if our actions can "save the day." Or at least save Sweet Polly Purebread.

That is not the truth, and it is not what we should be teaching, is it?

Yes, we should be good neighbors. But what about the good neighbor who is not a Christian? How are we different than them?

When we gather, should it not be to see Jesus, and what he has done for us? Should it not be to fall at his feet in gratitude, so that as we leave, we are refueled to do what is a crazy, counter-intuitive way of life?

Or, we could just set some boundaries.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sail on

The natural proclivity of a church is a drift toward self-preservation rather than the radical abandonment of self. Jesus’ twist on this natural, human philosophy, then, is easier preached than practiced.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 218). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.  

I think I saw this in our last Sunday School class. The teaching was on "The Art of Neighboring," specifically
the boundaries we sometime must set. A lot of discussion was led, talking about the problems that are sometimes associated with reaching out to neighbors and others. A conclusion was reached (guided to?) that we must let the relationship define the boundary. Jesus was brought up toward the end, specifically the parable to the Good Samaritan.

I brought up the thought, "Shouldn't this be the relationship that defines the boundary, our relationship with God?"

I think human preservation is ingrained in us. We want to be safe. But following Jesus is not always safe from a human standpoint. It involves risk. It involves turning the other cheek. It involves obedience.

Yeah, it is easier preached than practiced.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Quote of the Day

The gospel is only for those who realize they are poor and desolate before our holy God.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 194). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Here boy!

The problem with attracting people with bells and whistles is that they’ll only come back for bells and whistles.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 193). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

And while the medium might impress, only the message can transform.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 193). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I go to a church of over 1,000. At least  for now. They have the bells and whistles. Great choir, stage that is decorated to match the current sermon series, count down timer on the screen, so you know exactly when the worship begins, great choir, energetic worship team.

All I have to do is show up.

Or do I? Would I even be missed?

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's a vicious cycle.

There is often deep lamenting and bemoaning from pastors and staff teams about the lack of volunteer engagement in their churches. Often the problem is not with the people but with a faulty ministry culture that fosters low levels of volunteerism and perpetuates an unhealthy dependence on clergy.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 184). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Instead of fostering a serving posture among believers because of the gospel, the typical approach to ministry helps develop consumers.


Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 185). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

You can't complain about not having volunteers, when you aren't willing to let go of the rope sometimes.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Put 'em up!

Authority in the Church is not meant to be wielded as a weapon.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 184). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Fear. It paralyzes. It causes us to do things we might not otherwise do. We feel boxed into a corner and we just want to fight our way out. Perhaps we react first, then think.

Leadership in the church begins with following. Ironic, isn't it? If you don't truly see yourself as a follower first, I question if leadership is for you. Jesus always saw himself as a follower of God first. So even in those times of confrontation, you see a sense of purpose and compassion. I think of his encounter with Nicodemus. How frustrating that must have been for Jesus. For Nicodemus claimed to be a teacher of Israel, but did not grasp the concepts Jesus spoke of. Sure, these were not the concepts that the Jewish leaders understood the Scriptures to teach, but they were apparently the ones God intended.

I think back to my time at University Christian Church in Muncie. As I read some old posts lately, I was reminded of the meeting with the elders. How they dictated everything to accomplish their purposes. Made accusations but felt above the need to verify their accusations. Or even in some cases understand their accusations. It was about fear. Probably fear of another split. Had they chased others out before? Probably, but in different ways. Those who stayed stayed for one another.

Fear. It paralyzes.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Peek-A-Boo

Leaders have the unique opportunity to demonstrate before the ones they are given charge to lead, whether it be their family or their flock, that no healing is available in the shadows. There is no victory in the darkness. Jesus-centered leaders lead from the light of honesty and openness, trusting fully in Christ’s provision—and Christ’s provision alone— to make up for what is faulty in their leadership.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 175). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 


Friday, June 13, 2014

Driving in circles

To fear God is to have a heart that is sensitive to both His God-ness and His graciousness. It means to experience great awe and a deep joy simultaneously when one begins to understand who God really is and what He has done for us. Therefore the true fear of God is not a fear that makes a person run away and flee from God. It is a fear that drives him to God. Love for God and fear of Him are, therefore, not at all incompatible.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 172). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I love my dad. And I also respected him. I knew that if I crossed certain lines, I would be held accountable.
I trusted him, that even when he punished me or did not give me what I wanted, that he always had my ultimate good at heart.

Mom too. About 20 years before she died, she wrote a letter and put it in with her important papers in a safety deposit box. In the letter she talked about her love for her family, and how she desired to give us everything, even if it meant there was nothing left for her. But also knew that to do so would cripple us, causing an unhealthy dependence on her and dad.

I thank God for my parents.

There are many who drive in circles. Loving God when things are going well, questioning or even deserting him when they don't. But when we trust Him, it is then that we should run to Him. To hug Him because He does not hate us. Ever.

There are philosophers who speak of the problem of evil. That because such a level of evil in this world exists, that it rules out the possibility of a loving God. But to me, that is like saying that down cannot exist, because the height of up is so high.

Evil exists because in order for good to be seen, it must have an opposite. But because of God's mercy, and His power, he can control the level of evil in the universe. Such a delicate position for Him to be in. On the one hand, not wanting us to be swallowed up in evil. On the other, needing us to see the extent of His goodness. Desiring to give us good things without crippling us in the process.

I thank God for my God.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pomp and Circumstance

None of us ever graduate from the gospel to move on to something else; rather, we continue to grow into the fullness of the gospel more and more.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 169). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

My daughter can't wait to be an adult, when she gets to make all of her own decisions.

I hate to tell her, it is not all that it is cracked up to be. With the decision comes responsibility.

But I think this is human nature. We wait for the end of the school year, count down the days. And then start all over 10 weeks later. Or we count down the days until High School Graduation, College, Marriage, a new job, retirement. Because the grass is always greener on the other side.

And then there is church. Where we reach a certain status, and then we can tell others what to do. Maybe it is the teacher telling the student, or the deacon telling the new member, or the elder telling the deacon, or the preacher telling the elder. Wait, maybe the elder should tell the preacher. Oh well. Just shut up and stop asking so many questions.

But the gospel really is the great equalizer. I think it has something to do with stones, and how the first one to throw is the one without sin. No one threw one on that day. Score: Gospel 1, Stoners 0.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Which comes first?

Gospel-driven vision will undoubtedly lead you and your church to tackle weighty causes, but not all cause-driven vision will lead you and your people to the gospel.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 167). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Budweiser hat

The flesh is truly weak, and we are foolish to attempt to live in it. And we are cruel if we teach students they can.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Location 2240). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

If the only thing teenagers learn in student ministry is to “bring a friend and don’t have sex,” they will not weep bitterly when they falter because their hearts will not be in awe of God.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 2260-2261). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 


It is no wonder that so many believe that there is something that we must do to merit God's grace. It has been taught to us for a long, long time.

I remember the youth group talks. Don't do this, don't do that. I remember one of the first trips we took. Now I was not from a church family. My parents were German immigrants. It was not unusual for Dad to have a beer with his dinner. But I never saw him drunk. And I never associated beer with sin. It was just a beverage that adults would drink, but kids didn't because it contained alcohol. I even had a Budweiser hat. I never thought anything about it. So when I wore it on the trip, I didn't think anyone would see it as a big deal. Until I later overheard the Youth Minister talking to another adult about the trip. He mentioned some issues that had happened, and then said, "One of the kids even wore a Budweiser hat."



Two thoughts occurred to me at that moment. The first was, "What was wrong with the hat?" The second was, "If you had a problem with the hat, why didn't you talk to me about it?" But I was learning. Learning through the conversations and the lessons and the sermons that if you were a Christian, there were things that you just did not do because God would not be pleased.

Recently, I heard Matt's take on an all to familiar teenage topic. Sex. He said that teens will frequently ask, "How far can I go before I commit sin?" Great question, right? Matt's response was something that in all of the talks and lessons, I had never heard before. As I remember it, it was something like this, "If you have to ask this question, it shows you already are headed in the wrong direction. It's like asking, 'How close can I get to the line, before I cross into sin?' It is not about what can I do or what I can't do, but it is about what honors the God that I love!"

What a different approach! But one that honors God so much. One that looks at the heart above all else first. One that does not bow to some legalistic ideal, but causes you to consider what it means to love God above all else. I think it is a message that not only teens, but adults need to hear as well.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Beautiful

The essence of sin is our attempt to take the place of God; the essence of the Christian faith is God taking our place.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 2209-2210). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

If this is correct, then legalistic, law driven obedience is sin, for it seeks to put the burden of our salvation on our own shoulders. In essence, it is us attempting to take the place of God. That burden has already been taken up by Christ. He took our place. He did what I could not and cannot do, in that He lived a perfect life and then sacrificed it on my behalf. How do you live up to that?

You don't.

You don't live up to it, but you do respond to it. And in that is beauty.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Time out for a change

A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Location 2100). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

That is a frightening line. I think of our Sunday School class, reading a book about the art of neighboring. Each class seems to begin with 30 minutes of discussion, therapy, or how to, and then we tag a Scripture on the end to legitimize the lesson. So we start with the behavior (because the desire is to grow the church) and end with the Scripture. But what if we started with the Scripture. One like, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38) One that starts with the heart for God, then progresses to our neighbor.

There is nothing wrong with being a good neighbor. Millions of people do it everyday. Some of them even go to church. And that is the point. If someone comes to church because they view me as a good person, then they have come to church for the wrong reason. I am not good, my God is good. And I need Him as does my neighbor.

If my obedience begins with my desire to win my neighbor rather than my love for a great God who has saved me, what have I won my neighbor to? Is it a religion of do's and don'ts, and a pressure to perform? Isn't that exactly what Jesus came to rescue us from? His yoke is easy and his burden is light, because the pressure is gone! All we have to do is love Him from the heart and the behaviors will fall into place.

The best way to overcome the world is not with morality or self-discipline. Christians overcome the world by seeing the beauty and excellence of Christ. They overcome the world by seeing something more attractive than the world: Christ.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 2127-2129). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Quote of the Day

Churches centered on the gospel aggressively go for the heart, not for behavior.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Location 2098). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Now that makes more sense!

The message of the Christian faith is not “God helps those who help themselves” but “God helps the helpless.”

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 2054-2055). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Agree or Disagree?

This is the age of the sermonette; and sermonettes make Christianettes.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Location 2010). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How's that workin' out for ya?

The preacher should not feel as if he is carrying the burden of life change; he merely carries the burden of faithful exposition and the robust proclamation of the text at hand, trusting that God’s Word will never return void

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1836-1838). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

A while back, at a certain church we attended, a certain preacher started preaching about life-change.

He spoke of the need for this change as if it were through his own words that everyone would suddenly get it. He spent the first 4 minutes of the sermon telling the people how great they are. Then he spoke of how pleased God must be with them. In reading the church's new vision statement, he says, What if UCC became known as the church where life-change happens?"

Now life-change is a noble goal, but is it the goal of the church, or the pastor, or anyone? Life-change is not a goal, but should be a result of meeting Jesus. So perhaps if life-change is our goal, rather than tell people how to live, we should first introduce them to Christ.

It seems even Jesus was not successful at telling people how to live. All of the sermons and talks, yet Peter told Jesus that He (Jesus) should not suffer and die. And then there is that whole denying Him 3 times thing. It was not until Peter understood what Jesus must do, in fact, it was not until the Holy Spirit filled him with this knowledge, that Peter got it. Our duty is to plant and water the seeds, it is God who makes things grow.(1 Cor 3:6)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Now what?

If you are frustrated with the lack of gospel-centrality in your current church culture, understand that cultural frustration always precedes cultural transformation. The frustration is good and beautiful if it leads you to long for the grace of Jesus to permeate your theology, philosophy, and practice.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1772-1774). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Okay, the frustration is definitely there...now what?

It is not that there are not "good" people there. It is just that church is not defined by a bunch of "good" people meeting together to discuss their take on how to continue to be good or how to perhaps be a little better. Church is about Jesus, and what he has done for us. It is about the worship and praise that comes from broken, grateful hearts. It is about our need for grace, and seeing Jesus as the giver of that grace.

Okay, the frustration is definitely there...now what?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hit the road, Jack

If the pastor’s face is the logo of a church, there’s a chance that Jesus is not the hero. If programs, creativity, leadership savvy, or innovation is your hero, this is a good indication that the church is not centered on the gospel . Jesus is always the hero of a church centered on the gospel.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1481-1483). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

We attended a church for a while where the pastor did about everything. He hardly missed a Sunday in the pulpit, visited every person is the hospital (and made sure to mention it on Sunday morning), and developed every plan or program that the church had to offer. And most people loved him for it.

So when we asked some questions about his theology, or gave another interpretation of what a passage might mean to our small group, it was not taken well. In fact, if we couldn't completely support the pastor without question, we were told there were other churches we could attend.

This church had been through some rough times, almost closing because of a split prior to this pastor coming on board. The people loved him for seeing them through that. You just might say they worshiped him, because they did. He was their new savior. And he relished the role.

The church was growing, not by leaps and bounds, but maybe 5-10 members per year. And growth means God's okay with whatever you do. At least that was leadership's opinion. It did not seem to matter that people were also leaving at a brisk pace. Turnover was the key. Keep a few more than you lose each year, and everything is fine.

There is a line in their stewardship video that just about sums it up for me. It comes around the 0:56 mark. The pastor states, "...and we probably wouldn't be here now if these facilities had not been built to meet our needs." Perhaps following up with a few lines from one of our hymns. "My faith is built on nothing less than this fine building and self-righteousness." Thank goodness their needs were met. We wouldn't, or perhaps couldn't, have a church if our needs were not met. Faith and trust in Jesus will apparently only take you so far.

So after shaking the dust off our feet, we hit the road.

In the same way, church cultures void of the gospel are empty and worthless. Church cultures, apart from the grace of Jesus, are utterly broken . And just because a church talks about grace does not mean its culture is filled with grace.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1536-1538). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

This is why we fail at life change

If a church declares that the gospel is the most important message the world has ever known , and yet the gospel is not seen as the impetus and motivation for all the church offers, this disconnect is indicative of an unhealthy church personality or culture.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1460-1462). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I find this to be the most powerful and convicting quote I have read this far.

Why does the church exist, if not to spread the gospel? Is there anything that would be a greater priority? But we do things without considering the full implication of the gospel message. We create programs and events to draw people in, thinking perhaps that we are in fact spreading the gospel, when the reality is that the gospel is no where to be found. At least not the dying to yourself and surrendering all to Jesus gospel. And why not? Because we are not making Jesus beautiful, but rather are attracting people to ourselves, our denomination, or our club. No wonder, when persecution comes, people abandon "their faith," because their faith was not in Jesus or His Father, but in the comfort, convenience, or attraction to a building, program, or group. The gospel was never a part of it.

Offerings are down, we need to grow the church. We need a new gym, time to call people to give sacrificially. There is room for more people in the seats, lets challenge folks to invite their co-workers, friends, and family to church. Ch_ _ ch, what is missing? U R.

C h _ _ c h . What is missing? The gospel. The beauty of a Savior who came to rescue me, at the cost of His own life when I did not deserve it. That is what is missing.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Organic choices abound

Organic multiplication simply happens as people are constantly and continually refreshed with the gospel and reminded of their part in the greater story.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1406-1407). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

There is a lot of call for organic foods and supplements these days. And there are those who say that the organic foods differ little from the processed versions, other than in price. To be honest, I don't know. What I do know is that some people who eat, drink, and exercise "religiously" still die young, while others who don't live long lives. Kinda makes me think that we are not as in charge as we think! But I digress.

Organic means without the use of outside, artificial chemicals. It is real, and not induced by man's interventions. So what about church growth? Are the programs, worship bands, activities and so on just artificial chemicals that do not impact the final product? Or are these non-organic growth models God's means of growing the church today? Tough call, because God can use whatever He desires, and who is to say He wouldn't use such things? And yet, is that really consistent with what we know of the God of the Bible? I have my opinions. Do you have yours?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mere service

A church that challenges its members to live as servants centered on the gospel invites people to serve continually in all the places where they live, for as long as they live. Serving is connected to the gospel and is to be encouraged in homes , neighborhoods, workplaces, and the church.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1192-1194). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

It is not enough to serve or to encourage service. Our service is a response to His service to us. Service
without connection to the gospel fails. If it doesn't, then what is the difference between the message of the gospel and the message of the local Rotary Club? God does not honor mere service, he honors those who are responding to the service of His Son.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ultimate Goal

Serving for the sake of service is not the highest end. We must be careful not to teach people that the ultimate goal of Christianity is serving. Jesus is the ultimate goal, the highest end.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1146-1147). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Have not heard this song in years, but it is still beautiful.

Margaret Becker "Just Come In"

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Call it what you want...

You can do the right thing with the wrong motive, and God will always call it sin.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1138-1139). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Put 'em up!

Jesus was saying, “If you’re not committing adultery because of some sort of white-knuckled ‘I know it’s not right so I shouldn’t do it,’ then you’re not free. I have come to set you free from this. I have come to transform your heart so your actions are transformed, not because of self-will but because of a new spirit.”

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1133-1135). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Freedom from sin, and all the trappings thereof, is such a baffling thing. I
struggle with sin. It seems David struggled with sin. Even Paul appears to have struggled.

Surely David knew what he did was not right. But he didn't white-knuckle not committing adultery, he committed it. He was not free.

Jesus came to set us free, I believe that. But this struggle with sin thing, it goes on and on, it would seem. At least in some areas. Perhaps not in all. I know of folks who have been freed from some level of compulsion, whether it be alcohol, eating, or even just plain old cursing, darn it. But I know of no one who beats it all. We all need Jesus, and somehow our addiction to sin seems to bind us to our need for Him. Weird, isn't it.

Now Paul says that we can't use this as an excuse to live in sin, and again, I would have to agree. There does seem to be a transformation that takes place. But it is not 100%, and won't be this side of heaven. Its a sanctification process. One that does not come from self-will, but from God's will.

Friday, May 16, 2014

To serve or to be served?

The essence of Christian faith is not that we serve Christ but that He served us.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Location 1029). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

That is so counter-intuitive. I want to think that somehow I have earned a place in God's heart. But I have done so much more to not earn that place. Jesus does not need my service, but I most definitely need his.

We serve because Jesus has served us. His service should melt our hearts and cause us to serve others out of sheer gratitude to Him.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 1045-1046). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Anything less is just works, are as Isaiah put it, filthy rags.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Motivation

Since Christ has met our needs, we are motivated to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 972-973). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

We love others because He first loved us. Our motivation, if it is pure, is not based on results in the future, but is the result of what Christ accomplished in the past.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Love is...

The weakest, saddest, most hypocritical form of pseudo love is the kind that sees someone in danger and simply hopes everything works out in the end.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 907-909). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Is heaven for real?

I saw the movie today. Not that I wanted to, but my daughter did. I wanted to see it so we could talk about it.

As far as movies go, it was okay. As far as the message, I guess I am as conflicted as the pastor in the movie.

Burpo wants to believe his kid. So do I. But he is not my child, and I do not know how factual the movie records the actual events. So I guess I am a bit more skeptical than the father.

My wife says, "As long as it gets people talking about heaven, then it is a good thing." But I ask myself, is that enough? Is it enough to just talk about heaven? Burpo has been talking about heaven for a long time. He is a pastor, and has raised his children to have faith. He is apparently a good speaker and has a church that is growing. But when things get tough, he questions God and his own faith. So what kind of faith has he been preaching about?

Heaven is a great comfort. To know that grampa is there, or an unborn child, that would be great. But is that what God wants from us, a desire to be with our loved ones? Or is heaven first and foremost about being with God? When we are told that we must love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, where does the idea of eternal bliss fit into this picture? Why didn't Jesus spend more time using this means to attract followers and converts? Instead, he talked about things like turning the other cheek and going the extra mile and picking up our cross to follow Him.

Well, maybe God has changed tactics. Maybe this one will work a lot better. Maybe.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Make me feel better

True Jesus-centered authenticity lovingly nudges believers toward continual repentance —not just a bunch of “nobody’s perfect” confessions but actual, gospel-driven changes in lifestyle.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 896-897). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Ouch! Repentance can hurt, almost as much as those nudges toward repentance.

There is so much I want to say here, but don't know where to start. So many questions come to mind, like, "Is that what my faith community looks like?" and "What is my part in moving toward this type of a picture?" and "What are the challenges and changes that I have been driven to make lately?"

No, this is not safe or feel good. Neither is picking up a cross and following Jesus. I think that is the point.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Driven by grace?

In fact, if your small groups, journey groups, life groups, Sunday school classes, Adult Bible Fellowships, or whatever you call them are not centered on the common need for and common experience of grace, then they are actually doing more harm than good to the gospel movement. If groups are not gospel -centered and gospel-fueled, they are merely a social outlet for people, and they lack the power for transformation.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 860-863). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

The authors continually pound upon the theme of gospel centeredness, and the idea that anything less is not acceptable to God. Grace, and our need for grace is what should drive us, it is the great equalizer. It is what makes the great speaker in complete fellowship with the stutterer, and the ones filled with an amazing gift of teaching in complete fellowship with those who just know that Jesus loves them. It is what binds the elderly man in his white shirt and tie to the young man in jeans who occasionally has to step outside for a quick smoke. It binds the soccer mom to the teen with a little baby. If we are not driven by grace, we quickly become a community divided. Or worse yet, a community isolated.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Choose carefully

we must be careful not to teach people unintentionally that the Christian faith is about our personal resolve and commitments.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 719-720). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I sometimes just think that I need to try harder. That is when I seem to get into the most trouble, and when I
am farthest from God.

When I think I need to tr harder, I remove myself from the gospel and from Christ. I need to depend on Him, on His grace. Not using that grace as an excuse to not try, but seeing His grace more clearly (which means seeing my sin more clearly too) and becoming motivated by grace to love and serve Him more completely.

Self motivation is a whip. It is a cruel master whom I will despise. Grace is a cup of cold water on a hot and sweaty day. It is an undeserved treat when I have failed time and again.

Grace is the the lamp that must lead me. And God's word teaches me about grace.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Heaven is for real

Heaven is not for people who just want to skip hell. Heaven is reserved for those who love Jesus, who have been rescued by Him and who long to praise Him.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 682-683). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Wish I had said that...

“When sin becomes bitter, then Christ becomes sweet.”

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Location 579). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

I need a bigger mower!

They persecuted Me, and they persecuted the prophets. This is what happens when you make a stand—what happened to Me. People get angry. They don’t like you anymore.” Jesus didn’t need the approval of man, “for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2: 25 HCSB)— insincerity, false flattery, selfish interests, the fickle winds of change.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 506-508). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

So where do I fit in? I clearly know that I am not Jesus, so I do not think that I have a Messiah complex. So do I just shut up? Do I join the crowd of those who just want everyone to get along?

I just have such a hard time doing that. I wish I didn't sometimes.

I think I get this Scripture. I am not perfect. I am a fickle SOB at times. But doesn't that describe everyone? Isn't that why we need Jesus in our lives? If being a better neighbor saves me, then I'll just go around and put money in everyone's mailbox, join the Rotary Club, and mow everyone's lawn on my block. I need an excuse to get a big, awesome lawn machine anyway.

But where is the persecution in that? Is that really what taking up my cross means, or are there deeper things that I might be trying to avoid by taking such a course? These are tough questions.

Jesus knows my heart. Even if I look like the greatest neighbor in the world, He still knows that I am fickle. But He loves me, and that is the heart of the gospel, it is what I live by, and it is what gives me hope and motivation to keep on.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Truckin' along

Our motivation to obey the commands (or imperatives) of Scripture can finally become a delight when we see that the reasons (the indicatives) almost always center around God’s love and provision for us in Christ. Through the gospel, the Holy Spirit empowers our motivations so that we are driven with gladness, not guilt, being ever reminded of our forgiveness in the gospel, not our failures in the law. It is God’s ability, not ours.

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 378-381). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

So here is one of my struggles, so much of what is preached and taught in church centers around our actions. If Jesus is lucky, he is tagged on as an after thought. Just last week our Sunday School teacher made a comment in jest, but there was really more truth to it than she realized. She said (about halfway through the lesson) "And let's talk about Jesus too, because after all, this is Sunday School."

The first half of our time together was spent on the law. The rules. Here is what you have to do to be a good Christian...in this instance it was "go out and get to know your neighbors. Now how can we be more intentional about doing that?"

Now I am not saying that getting to know your neighbors is a bad thing. I would even say it is a good thing. Unless I tend to be a jerk or something. Then maybe not. But a desire to know my neighbors it is not what I believe should drive my behavior.

Jesus endured the cross for the pure joy of it. (Heb. 12:2) He didn't do it to be a good guy, He did it because He loved His Father and wanted to please Him. He did it because nothing brought Him greater pleasure than serving His Father. I used to think that His joy came from saving me, but I don't believe that anymore. I believe I am the by-product of His joy, not the cause of it. His joy comes from glorifying God, not rescuing me. He fixed His eyes on God, just as I should fix my eyes on Him. My joy should not come from my neighbor thinking about what a great example I am, but my joy should come from Jesus calling me a faithful servant.

That is what I want to drive me, my love for God and His Son. To be driven by the beauty of my forgiveness rather than my attempts to earn that which is already given. To rely on God's ability, and not my inability.

I don't think I am completely there yet.

But I am working on it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bono

Who is on first?

It is the promises of God that make the church, and not the church that makes the promises of God.
~ Martin Luther

Chandler, Matt; Geiger, Eric; Patterson, Josh (2013-11-26). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (Kindle Locations 111-112). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

First line of the first chapter, and they have my attention. God has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, so why are we so worried? Why do we seek to draw attention through gimmicks and fancy everything? God does not need that kind of help. Or to quote Bono, "My God is not short of cash."

He goes on to speak of two preachers, each struggling with their current roles and how their church is functioning. Then he says this: "And what both men need, as well as both of their churches, is a return. They need to return to their first love. A simple, yet significant return to Jesus." (Kindle Locations 150-151)

That pretty much sums up the book. At least the first 67% that I have read. They say it in different ways, and I probably need to hear every one of them.

Oh, the stories I could tell. Stories of churches who forgot about Jesus, who forgot that He sustains the church and not their efforts, forgot that Jesus is the reason not just for the season, but for everything. But rather than focus on hurts or old injuries, perhaps the answer is to focus on the present. What does it mean to "return to Jesus?"

That is going to take some thought.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Glutton for Punishment

I must be a glutton for punishment.

Seriously.

I already struggle with church, and the inch deep relationships, and the digging in the word until it begins to hurt and then changing the subject, and the materialism of the church while it preaches that we live by faith, and...well, you get the idea.

So what do I do? I start reading "Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church" I do this knowing that Matt Chandler is one of the authors, and he is going to say things that will get me more stirred up, all the while knowing how important it is to be a part of a church.

Short of moving to Dallas, this is going to be tough.

So it is time to look at another book. If I can keep from going crazy, I will blog some quotes as I have time.

This should be interesting.

If anyone is interested, here is the site for the book trailer. And by the way, when did books get trailers?

And here is a link to Tim Challies review of the book. So don't just take my word for it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Detached

I am finding myself becoming more and more detached from evangelical Christianity. (See last post)

I don't like that idea, because I know that to Jesus the church is important. But he also spent a lot of time confronting the religious leaders of the day.

I try to look at his example, but need to understand my own imperfection as well. It's that whole thing about worrying about the speck in my brother's eye while having a plank in my own. Problem is, once the plank has been there for a while, you kinda get used to it.

It's quite a dilemma. Wanting to share what I believe the Gospel to mean while not making enemies in the process. I need time to think. To pray.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Love your neighbor?

God has such an interesting sense of humor.

After attending our Sunday School classes dinner at a local eatery last week, I was a little put off by the behavior of a few of the class members. I happened to be facing the other way, so I did not see the sight in question, but the fella opposite me did, and made it a point to comment about. Apparently, the moon was showing in a way that would make a plummer blush on a gentleman who had just gotten up to use the restroom. Comments and laughter continued as he made his way to the door, where he paused a few moments before exiting. But some of the commentors did not notice this and continued making remarks. I wondered if he heard and understood that they were talking about him.

So today's Sunday School lesson was about loving your neighbor. The point was made that this is more than just loving people metaphorically. It was more than just loving people in far away places. It was about what you do right here at home. In fact, our "homework" was to find out our neighbors' names (the ones who live right by you) and something interesting about them.

My neighbor sat at a table in a restaurant. He did not dress as well as some of the others there.

A woman who does not live in our neighborhood was in need. We did not know what to do, so we went to talk to one of the pastors for advice. Their advice was simple, have her call some local government agencies to see how they could help, because we surely did not want to risk our savings or our children's needs to take on this family. How neighborly.

I guess I should be glad that this thing called Christianity is so much easier than the Bible actually makes it seem. But somehow I am not. Somehow it bothers me. But maybe I am alone it that. And that bothers me too.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

To leave or not to leave?

Revelant Magazine recently posted an article, 5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church.

Since I am not stranger to this issue, I thought I would offer some thoughts.

Reason 1: I am not being fed.

Here is the last paragraph of the article:

To leave a church because you’re not getting "enough" is a cop out. Your primary call in the church is to contribute, not just to consume. As a Christian, you shouldn’t require spoon-feeding for the rest of your life. Eventually you need to learn how to feed yourself so that, in time, you can actually feed others. Remember, your call is not just to be a disciple but to make disciples.

 While I wholeheartedly agree with what is said here, I think it does not look at the problem from a big enough view. If you are at a church and believe that you are not being fed, why is that so? Is it merely a matter of you don't care for the pastor's delivery style or is it something deeper? I think what is preached from the pulpit is of ultimate importance, and I think Jesus would agree. Did he not chastise the Pharisees and Scribes for putting burdens on the people that they themselves could not carry? (Luke 11:46)

I believe theology matters. If you feel that you are swimming in the kiddie pool when you listen to what is being taught, what does that say about what others are hearing (and believing). If all that is preached is a moralistic or theraputic message that does not honor the true heart of the gospel, does that hinder or even counter your ability to evangelize others, because eventually they might want to attend your church? Can you even contribute when pastors with low self-esteem are frightened by the fact that you do not let them spoon-feed you their brand of Christianity?

I agree that church hopping is not a good thing. I believe the choice of church is a deep and personal decision. I think this article minimizes the fact that our first responsibility is to God, and sometimes a change is needed. Jesus did not advocate "pulling up the weeds," (Matthew 13:24-30) so I do not believe that it is our job to fix a church by creating disruption. Sometimes a move is the best out. Attending a church is not like being married. I am married to Christ, not a church, denomination, or pastor. He is the only one I will not leave.

Your thoughts?