Category: community


forgiveness and more

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recently thinking & talking about what it means to follow Jesus.  i think the church has done a more than through job of communicating the need for the forgiveness of sins in order to come close to God; we must seek Him out, ask for & desire His forgiveness in order to come close.

but beyond that, what happens?

what needs to happen?

why do there seem to be so many people, at different points in their lives, that used to have some sort of relationship with God, then at some point turned away;  decided it was no longer for them?

those who hold that position seem to have lots of company.

in this recent conversation i was having i inadvertendly; or God-designed, seemed to have landed on something we don’t talk about too much.
LORDSHIP

this is a big issue; and this is the issue that so many other things stand on, including forgiveness.
if forgiveness it to truely take root in our hearts, and we begin living differently, that means that we’ve given our choices & decisions over to something or someone else. we’re realized that our way of doing life of the things of life don’t work for very long & we must seek out a new path.
so when we seek forgiveness from God we need to be sure we’re after what He offers.

God is not just offering a way out of sin, He’s offering a new way to live.  but for some reason we’ve come to believe that seeking forgiveness is about just getting the offence taken off our records.

an understanding of the mission & existance of the church is found if this statement:

a place where God is present, love is found, help is received & friendship for the journey is found

i’m all for the kind of help that address the physical needs of a group of people, the kind of help that those who are in need get some legitimate help; help for today, the kind of help that leads into tomorrow.  there are tons of ways to do that & be effective at it while allowing your heart to remain soft & not see people as projects, but as sons & daughters of God.

but the primary help for people; both those who have physical needs & the ones whose physical needs aren’t as great, comes in the ultimate form of LORDSHIP.

this is where we, as finite & limited humans, recognize our need for what God offers – a life with Him.  and that life is better than anything we could imagine.  within this LORDSHIP issue comes an admittance that on our own we will make a mess of our lives.  this might be a hard point for some to wrestle with but humanity is full of examples of humans making a mess of things.  and this is really the core of the gospel:

sin doesn’t make us bad it makes us dead

Jesus doesn’t come to make us better, He comes to give us life

faith in Jesus delivers that life

that’s basically romans 8 in 3 statements

this is the beginning point of LORDSHIP & it’s something that we, as a church, desire to walk in with any who would join.

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shame

recently saw a TED talk with monica lewinski…yea that monica lewinski. very interesting piece on shame & our on-line culture.  here’s the link to that talk if you’re interested; it’s worth the watch [22.5 minutes of time].

as i was watching i was reminded of how much our world has changed & the way shaming plays such a huge role in our culture; not american culture but human culture.

in today’s world if you & i do something wrong, even at a low level of “no harm, no foul” kind of wrong; chances are someone is going to hear about it.  the post, tweet, pic, ‘gram can happen in an instant & the world can know right now.  this can create an angst in us, especially if we’ve been burned by the social media machine before.  we will be tempted to live ordinary, uninteresting lives; unwilling to stretch & try new things.  fearing that someone will find out if/when i fail & land on my face.  caveat – this can create a different kind of response; with a desire to be famous for the sake of fame alone…but that’s a conversation for another time.

the way we use the inter-webs is an interesting one.  we can learn almost anything we could even think of, and learn of some things that we did not even know existed.  i recently needed to change the brakes on my vw & wanted to make sure it was within my abilities; and that bar is pretty low.  turns out, there are a number of videos to walk me though the process with lots of helpful commentary.  but one thing that continues to happen is we’re all to willing to use it as a way of propping ourselves up as the expense of others.  shaming someone else because of the way they live, vote, dress, whom they love seems to be be a very common thing right now.

and this really is the hing-point of this writing…IDENTITY

how we identify ourselves is key to weather or not we see the thoughts & opinions of others completely guide our lives.  the immediate response to that statement is, “well, i never let anyone’s opinion completely guide & rule my life.”  but to suggest that it doesn’t have influence & impact simply isn’t true; we care what others think of us.

there are a number of different conversations we could have at this point, but the thing that struck me as i watched monica lewinski is that conversations are so much more important than judgements.  as a follower of Christ my first job is that of love.  love always leads to conversations; and that’s what i’m trying to choose.

this, in fact is the path that Jesus chooses.  john 4 is a great example of this “love first, conversation matters” approach to life.  check that out if you’re not familiar & be aware of the social tension that exists in with that situation.

love first – choose conversation…

so in my considerable drive time that i log each week there are times when it’s very ordinary; “look, there’s a deer, there’s a turkey, there’s a whole family of turkeys!”  seriously, one sunday morning i could have taken out a whole family of turkeys as they were just standing in the road.

other times it’s profound; other times i feel like God must be sitting in the seat beside me.

not long ago i was thinking about the group of pastors that i have breakfast nearly every monday & the close bond that we share.  it’s truly an unusual thing for pastors of different churches, different denominations, different ages & experiences to share this kind of closeness & friendship.  i know this because i have seen the other side of this kind of relationship & have heard stories of disconnectedness & competition between pastors.  so i’ve become well aware of the uniqueness of this shared friendship & shared ministry.

one sunday of driving from one church to the other, feeling like God is riding with me, i was thinking about these friends of mine; and then the thought hit me that there are times that i am intimidated by the closeness.

if  someone is too close to me the chance of me hiding the dark corners of me from them goes way down.  i can’t hide as easily as i’d like if they’re too close.  and i don’t really have any deep secrets that i’m keeping from them, but what if i did?  what if there became something i didn’t want them to see?  kind of hard to hide if they’re all a little to close.

let me be clear; it’s not them, it’s me.  more on that in a minute…

just recently i was speaking out of hebrews 11:6

“without faith it is impossible to please God…”

originally had always thought & taught from the angle that this statement would have been a world-changer for the 1st century Christ-follower.  for them, & for us still in many ways, pleasing God was about adhering to the law.  “complete these tasks & God will like you better” was the thought.  and we, in our enlightened way of doing life still live like this to some degree.

Jesus comes along & reminds them [& us] that it’s not what we do that gets us close to God but our belief in Him & belief of His desire to save us…our faith in Him to do these things.

for the record, i still think this is a legitimate way of teaching this passage.

but the monday after teaching that passage, in that fashion & with those points made, the meaning took on a new color for me.

faith, at it’s core, is about a belief that God is going to do something with the future that we can’t yet see.

back to my friends & why it’s about me & not them…

the reason we don’t like to get too close to people is rooted in our insecurity.  we believe that if people saw the real us we’d be out on the street with nothing.

they’d find out that we’re not really all that great,

we’re not that good a friend,

we’re not that good at our job,

we’re not that great a parent,

and the list goes on & on & on…

insecurity about who we are & how we’re defined by others & ourselves can cause great havoc.

this ties to faith & what i believe about God & what He does to & through me.  specifically, my faith is revealed in how close i let people get to me.  it’s a faith issue because of what i believe about what God is doing, that He’s always in the process of refining & reshaping me & my life.

do i have the kind of faith in God that even as i get close to people that really trust, that He’s already been involved,  that and grace & mercy are at work in their lives?

do i have the kind of faith in God that i trust Him for the future in those relationships?

“without faith it is impossible to please God” because, in part, we will try & hold all the details of life in our own hands; trying to control the pieces on the game board so much that we’re not exercising any faith & not trusting God for a future that hasn’t yet arrived.

so in spite of the occasional encounter with turkeys & the struggle to be real with my closest of friends i’m trying to figure out how to let go of my own insecurities through the growing of my faith:

the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen

love as the highest value?love value [blog]

in the non-church world i think many would agree that this could be the highest value to pursue.  i have a working theory that in the world, in america specifically, we care more about money than we care about anything else; but that’s another conversation.

so love, that makes me feel all warm inside, & YES!! we should pursue love above all else.

but in the church…as followers of Christ…is this the highest value?

shouldn’t the pursuit of Christ be the highest value?

what about worship to God?

how about correct doctrine & theology, that’s certainly most important?

the list could continue for a while…

while it’s true that sound doctrine & theology are important,

and worship of God & all that He is matters greatly,

and we should always find ourselves in pursuit of Jesus Christ in all we do.

if we simply look at the life of Jesus [dangerous] we see that all He does is motivated by & through love.

the woman at the well…

zacchaeus’ redemption…

His walk to the cross…

i think sometimes that we get concerned about making sure the “whole” story of God is told.  and when we focus on something like “love” aren’t we then leaving out some important details about what God wants from your life & mine?

i think that can happen.  which is why it’s so important that the church you’re a part of is teaching the totality of God’s word.  but a beginning point, a motivating factor & daily, life-long pursuit is the love of God & how that impacts the world we live in.

i’m a firm believer that when we, no matter the station of life we’re in, pursue truth we end up at the feet of Jesus.

if we’re looking for a way to justify our lifestyle, we’re not seeking truth.

if we’re trying to find a way to do something that stands in direct opposition to God’s word, we’re not seeking truth.

 

if anything gets in front of our ability to love, we’ve begun the descent into a life, a church, without Jesus at the center.  we’ve decided that our preferences are of greater value than the people Jesus loves…the people that we’re supposed to love.

so love as the highest value, pursue it!

very recently i was drawn into a conversation that, truthfully, ranged all over.  these are good conversations because they have the possibility of opening doors that we may never consider.

part of the conversation touched on thoughts of what “used to be”; that is remembering a very fond time with a specific group of people & a little of mourning the loss of & disconnection to those relationships.

i was a part of that time in history for this person & i remember those times & those days & i have to concur with the sentiment; those WERE good times!  i remember them well.

drake-hold-on-were-going-home

a phrase i’ve heard before; “you can never go home”

we can physically go back to places we’ve been before, but it always feels a little different, not quite the same.  i remember this walking into my elementary school dropping off or picking up my kids as they attended the same school.  that place feels small now!  it must have shrunk!  it had to have changed, because it doesn’t feel the same.  grant it, it still looks the same, but it’s not the same…at least for me.

obviously we’ve all experienced this, and it’s why that phrase is true; you really can’t go home again.  this is a mental issue much more than a physical issue.  when we remember & recall we’re remembering some very specific things about a specific place in time, many times with some very specific people.  and that moment is calcified in our minds.  so if the memory is good, the calcification is a good thing.  if the memory is bad; well, not as good.

when the memories are good this human condition can also known as nostalgia.  this is when we look back with great fondness on something & little parts of us want to return to that moment.  the trouble with nostalgia is that not only that our memories are built from our specific vantage point, but that they are always in the past.  i know, not a revolutionary thought, and not what you came here for.  no one’s ever said, “i remember tomorrow fondly.

WHAT GOD’S UP TO

one of the things that God does with us, if we’re willing to pursue Him, He’s always drawing us into the future, creating new paths for us to walk, new understandings of Him & what He has for us.

the trouble with nostalgia is that it can take a strong root in our hearts.  yea, our hearts.  when our hearts get involved there is a great possibility to grow increasingly emotional about an event or moment in time or a way of doing something.  this can become problematic because that nostalgia can keep us from seeing a future God has in mind for us, thus keeping us  in a perpetual state of longing for something that will never return.

community is tricky.  it requires a level of transparency that many of us are uncomfortable with.  community, for it to really work well, needs to have some honest, truth-telling.  even truth-telling about the past; “hey, that thing you remember so fondly…let me tell you about it from my perspective, the people involved, the larger picture of what all was going on then.”  done with grace & love for one another, this can be a beautiful thing.

WHEN DOES NOSTALGIA BECOME A HINDRANCE TO TOMORROW?

at the risk of being vague or providing no real handles for us today, i do think it depends on one thing…you.

if, in your remembering, your longing for what once was is greater than your hope for the future…

if you remember yesterday with fondness & angst or frustration or even anger for the future…

if more of your conversation revolves around “the good old days”…

if reasons for not venturing into the new are “we’ve never done it that way before”, or, “i don’t think i’d like that”…

if you’re living out the words of the springsteen song, “i hope i don’t sit around trying to recapture the glory, but i probably will”…

if we are surrounded by a community of people that are very much like us this is a trend that will be harder to break.  because this is a trend that will show up in our lives.

if though, our community is diverse in age, race, economic demographic, taste & even fashion our hearts will be soft toward change, the new, unusual & different.  and it is there that God has great freedom to moves us, change our direction & draw us closer to Him.

to my friends that are struggling to connect with a new group of people, to those that find it hard to experience the new, hoping to not forget the past, to those that fell like part of them dies with the advent of new things, remember;

“He is new every morning, great is His faithfulness” [lam.3:23]

meaning that God is already in tomorrow waiting for you…in the new things He desires to show you.

men-holding-ladder-funny-picturesthis idea is something that’s been rolling around in me for a while now.  probably because of the things that are going on around me.

no, this isn’t a call to do things that are just plain stupid or risky to personal health.  and it’s not a  reminiscing of younger days when i didn’t seem to care about life or limb.  but instead, this is an acknowledgement of the calling & pursuit of the things that God has placed in your heart.

so this is probably going to be an on-going series for this blog. it’ll pop up every now-and-then as i’m working out some of the details of what it means to “do the dumb things” God asks of us.

so some definition of the “dumb things”

the definition of these dumb things shows up in the activity i have found myself in; specifically in the activity of church-life.

right now i’m working with two small church, in what’s referred to as a duel charge; trying to help two struggling congregations see & pursue a new future that is missional in mind-set & bent on pursuing God instead of what’s been comfortable for far too long.

in the process of landing with these two churches, and the pursuit of missional thinking & activity, one of the churches landed on an outreach meal as a way of revitalizing our connection to the community, specifically to the neighborhood in which the church is situated.

now keep in mind that part of the reason i’m working with these two churches at the same time is financial.  neither church has the budget to support a pastor full time.  to put it simply, there’s no money.

as we investigated the possibility of hosting a meal at the church, realizing that we had a fully functional, licensed kitchen, and with the financial requirement that it would take to host a free meal once a month it was obvious…if we really felt like God was asking us to pursue this endeavor He would be the one that provides the way to make it happen.

so upon applying for & receiving our first grant we launched supperCLUB.  since that first meal in sept.2012 we’ve served over 5000 meals, moving to twice a month with the meals.

now here’s the dumb thing of doing this:  there is no logical reason for a church of 40-50 people, who haven’t made their small budget in many, many years, who cannot even afford to pastor to be around full time should try and maintain feeding 60-80 people twice a month.  so i found myself saying, “this is a really dumb idea, us doing this thing of trying to feed people in need.  this is such a dumb idea.”

but when not a dime of church funds has been tapped to help make supperCLUB run…

and when each time we have needed a new freezer or refrigerator is needed…

and when the supperCLUB fund has run low…

each time there is a need, God shows up…

a grant coming through to provide funds…

a private individual coming & giving a check for supplies…

…a group that we didn’t even know about, noticing what we’re doing & offering a financial gift…

and here’s the qualifier for “dumb things”:

the are only dumb things

through the eyes of the world

that doesn’t understand how God works

these are dumb things when we try to calculate the loss & expense without looking at the lives that are drawn closer to Him, who can ultimately save their souls & provide a new life here on earth.

we are called to follow a God who created the universe & created us;

have relationship with a perfect God, who wants us even when we’re not perfect;

a God who stays close to us even when we stray from Him;

a God who came to save us before we asked Him to, who told us He would do just that, and then we killed Him;

and even after He was dead, defeats death & instead of turning away from us, still wants us in the same fashion as before…

that all sounds ridiculous, in fact it sounds like a dumb idea; but it’s still true.

so here we are, in the pursuit of the dumb thing that glorifies God.

so recently, after a series of worship & teaching gatherings at church, someone said to me something along these lines; “i’m just sad for the people thatrotator_0005_community-togetherness chose not to take part in what we had.”  she was telling me, along with a few other people that the recent gatherings we’d had were among the most meaningful in recent memory.

i try to be careful & not hang too much of my ego on these kinds of things, because i can start to believe the hype & begin to think, “i am pretty great aren’t i?”  thin ice, very thin ice!

but as she said those things i was recalling the way we evaluate our attendance at such events & gatherings.  more to the point, the reasons we have for not attending.  and i am in no way wanting to discredit our attending or not attending.  i know that some of the reasons we have are highly legitimate & valid.

part of the struggle comes down to our expectations on what we think will happen at such events.  then there’s the expectation we have on what it will cost us.

at the event/gathering

some of us are so trapped in our thoughts & memories of what used to happen & what was that we can’t see it being any better than what it was or it’s going to be just at bad as it ever was.

the memory of yesterday can be a difficult one to shake.  if you’ve ever had  a bad church experience; well, let’s just say “if you’ve ever been to church for very long at all…” then you probably have an association with a problematic situation, person or event.  and that memory can easily cloud everything else.  just think about names for a newborn baby.  make a suggestion & anyone who’s ever had a “bad association” with that name & you’re going to hear about it.

so our imagination can struggle to keep up with the “reasons why this is thing here, is going to stink.”

so we choose not to attend.

the day of the event/gathering

there’s also the struggle with the energy we have, knowing that it’s only so much.  and when the energy & strength is gone we know we need rest.

it’s so true that we need to be aware of the limited time & energy we have on a given day/week.  so many people have taxing jobs with deadlines & things that must be done & we don’t have much to give or attend to at the end of the day

because of these expectations there is a fall-out.  we don’t end up making it a priority, it never makes it to the calendar & we end up missing out entirely.

those who may also attend

if we’re aware of who else might be there, and we have a difficulty with that person/family/group that becomes the dominant issue keeping us from being a part.

“i don’t like the way i was treated by them.  i’m not a fan of that person.  we had a little blow-up a while ago.”

overall i also believe that we’re trapped into thinking in very limited terms.  

the limitations aren’t confined to just us.  i also believe that we end up limiting God in what He can do for & through us.

we end up thinking & then believing in very human terms.  meaning that our actions are built out of the limited world we live in.  and so we don’t allow the limitless power & scope of God to enter our decision-making paradigm.

here’s how it’s played out in my own life:

“i’m so wiped out tonight, i don’t think i can go.  i just don’t have the energy”

“i’ve been to one of those before & it just wasn’t that great.”

and the list of reasons continues to pile up.

and as they pile up we become more and more convinced that there is just no way that we should be there.  and that’s the human dynamic of this life.  but as people of God shouldn’t there be a supernatural component to our lives, that connection with God that supersedes our humanity.

i’m not talking about something that you make up or play make-believe with.  but the activity of God in your life that reminds you that you’re not in charge & that He’s the one who’s really “got this”.

out of that sprouting a belief that God can meet you in the midst of your tired, weary body & spent emotions;  and restore you so that you end up receiving something powerful.

that in the midst of the failed programs of the past God can do something brand new, and that it might just need your involvement & connection to make it new & beautiful.

a belief that maybe, just maybe God can restore broken relationships.  you can receive healing where you need it.  and that you will have the courage to offer healing to those that are in need of it.  because remember, in broken relationships there are 2 people that have participated to some degree; and you’re one of those people.

it’s critical that we realize that the communities that wed’re a part of need us & that we need them; in all of their flawed, failing, difficult, messy, beautiful & God-revealing wonder.  so get in there, stop standing on the outside waiting for the right moment.  that moment is now…