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?