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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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there are some core values we’re trying to establish lately:

the first one we’ve been talking about a lot recently in teaching times & that’s the fact that love is the highest value.  i’ve written about this before & you can find it through this link.

another part of this value system is that God is present.

i know, that’s not exactly ground breaking info. for a church, that we would want God to be present in what we’re doing.  but if you hang with this for a minute there might be something good.

in genesis 28:16 jacob, waking from a dream where God is speaking to him, he says; “God was here & i didn’t know it.”  now that’s significant, because he has this encounter with God & then realizes that God was present.

a little theology:  God is everywhere all the time.  that’s what we know as omnipresence – everywhere at all times.  so everywhere we God is there, because that’s His nature…to be there – wherever there is.

so when we say, as a church, that “God is present” [that’s one of our core values] we aren’t claiming that God is at our church & you’ll not find Him at the church down the street.  not at all.  the truth is about the church down the street; i know those men & women leading those churches, & i like them.  they’re doing great things in the name of God & wanting more, than anything, to bring glory to Him.

the thing that we’re trying to acknowledge is that not only is God here – & everywhere – but we’re going to do our best to make sure that we see Him.  because if it was possible for one of the “hero’s of the faith”, jacob, to be in a place where God was present & he missed it, didn’t realize that God was there; if it’s possible that God was missed then & there, it’s possible that we could miss Him too, here & now.

so when we gather as a church; & we sing, pray, love one another, open His word, share the struggles of life, celebrate, and on the list goes…

when we do these things we’re going to pursue the presence of God above all other things.  and in the pursuit of Him & His presence mighty things will happen.

that, i think is key:  as we pursue Him, we find Him.

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.

so i have recently have been surrounded by a number of conversations about community & our involvement/connection to the community.  God has placed something inside us, at the root of who we are, to desire connection with others.  and we know this is good for us.

within community we realize that we’re not alone in our struggle.  in community there is a shared love & support.  within community we have the opportunity to see new parts of God & what He has in mind for us.  by the way, this part about seeing God in community, this is true in communities that celebrate God and those that don’t.  togetherness is a Godly pursuit weather we recognize it or not.

[but that’s probably another discussion]

broken community

a couple of observations about what we want from community & what we’re willing to do for community

we want the community to mostly come to us

“well, why didn’t let me know about…”

“i don’t feel included.”

here’s a hard truth, & saying this carries with it some risk of you not liking this, even that you may stop reading.  but here it is:  it’s not my job to make sure you come to & are connected to a church that you say is your home church.  if the church isn’t communicating an upcoming event or dates & times are very last minute that’s on the church.  but if you don’t know about something simply because you haven’t been around; i’m sorry, but that’s on you.  if you’re connected to the community then you’re going to know what’s happening because you want to know what’s happening.

no church worth it’s salt is going to beg you to be a part of what it’s doing.

we don’t always want to exert effort within the community

let’s be honest.  it’s easy to walk into a place that has everything just hummin’.  when the programs are awesome, when the crowd is big enough that no one will notice when i’m not there.  when nothing is expected of me.  when we’re honest with ourselves we should be able to say, “yea, that’s easy.  slip in, slip out.  get my church-fix & move on with the week.”  on the other hand it’s hard to join a community that doesn’t have all its ducks in a row.  a group that’s in process on a number of fronts.

now let’s be additionally clear about something.  i know plenty of pastors that are leading big churches & the problems, issues & hang-ups are present as well.  so i’m not bangin’ on the big church at all.

the larger, more important truth to all of this is about us, it’s not really about the community itself; large or small.

we know that community & connection to a healthy group of believers is good for us.  there are times in our lives when, for a variety of reasons, we simply don’t engage in it like we should.

but let’s track back to the beginning of this writing:

we’re not alone in our struggle

this, i think is one of the biggest lies that satan tells us: that we’re alone in our struggle.  “surely no one would understand this about you.  if you talk about this kiss goodbye any influence & trust you have.  you’re alone in this, and that’s the way it should stay.”

we know this is a lie simply reading the dysfunctional, broken, jacked up stories in the bible.  men & women who are called by God but seem to choose to mess up the response the call at almost every turn.  go ahead, check it out, i can’t do your homework for you.

shared love & support

when community is right, and there’s not shortage of communities that aren’t doing it right.  but when it’s right there is a sense of shared experiences & joy, as well as hurts & walking together through tough times.  but the bond that’s forged in tough times is a bond that lasts.

seeing new parts of God

something my wife has said, & have stolen it & now say it: “being part of a church forces me to spend time with & get to know people that i may ordinarily never have known…and that’s a good thing.”  when i’m with people that i may not have chosen to be with lets me see God in new light.  i end up hearing the stories of God activity in different ways.

community is a part of our holy dna

several years ago a group of us were having one of those highly spiritual conversations; what would you do if zombies really attacked?  how would you survive?  would you try and get together with a group of people, try and create a civilization?  or take off into the woods & try to make it on your own?

the answer from someone whom i have loads of respect & love for surprised me.  they said, “i’m out!  gotta’ go off, just me & my spouse; try to get as far away from people as possible!”  now the truth is that i don’t know if this person, who is very funny, was making a comedic comment or not.  and it could have been just that; comedy, not to be taken seriously.

but it did get me thinking about how God created us to NOT be alone.  God put a desire for us to be together, to be stronger when we come together.

“a chord of 3 strands…”

“a son shall leave his father & mother…”

“do not forsake meeting together…”

and here’s the beautiful thing about community, it’s never too late to join, to re-connect.

so if you made it all the way to the end of this article, you didn’t stop and swear off reading anymore from this author, and you’ve recognized that your connection to a local church community is waning…it’s not too late.

God has things for you to do, but some of those things are tied to your connection to the community of God.  so get plugged. the community needs you in a similar way that you need the community.

white-flag-brooklyn-bridge-4

recently we  have begun a discussion on what it truly means to follow Jesus, what it means to be called “Christian”, what it looks like to be a disciple.

then, as i was catching up on some reading i stumbled onto an article from the “storyline” blog; the whole article is found here.  it’s some commentary on the white flags being posted on the brooklyn bridge in NYC.  here are the last lines:

“May we raise the white flag of surrender—even if it is hard or scandalous.
May we remove our hand from the panic button, even if everyone else is pushing it. May we think before we tweet our reactions or call people names on social media.
And may we embody the Love of One who was loud in His silence, and thus be known by our love and our strange-loving Christ.”

part of our discussion last sun. centered on the idea that the foundational thing that God is asking us to do, as a disciple of His, love each other as He has loved us [jn.13:34].  and the reason that this is harder than most anything else we would do is because of the last lines of the article by john sowers above; it’s “hard & scandalous” & a thousand other words that we could place here.  and yet, it’s the very thing that God invites if we are to be known by others as one of His.

so consider the way you love this week.  not for personal gain, not for fame & recognition, not for the returned love of others.  but love out of the context that He first loved us, and then be known as one of His followers because of that love.

4478910885_2f984019fa_zin our day & age to be reminded, or maybe notified, that our time here on earth is very short in the grand scheme of human history.  it’s even smaller when we consider the eternal existence of God.  in our life-times it’s easy to believe the hype that we know all we need to know, that our judgement is darn near perfect, & our decision-making, and that our understanding of the circumstances is well in-hand.  and to boot, when situations don’t turn out in our favor or the way we would have chosen we are tempted to rail our fists at the heavens & say, “hey God, what were You thinking allowing that to
happen?!”
 
this is what we see with habakkuk the prophet when he complains to God.

“why do You force me to look at evil,

stare trouble in the face day after day?

anarchy and violence break out,

quarrels and fights all over the place.

law and order fall to pieces.

justice is a joke.

the wicked have the righteous hamstrung

and stand justice on its head.” [hab.1:3 & 4, msgB]

seems like i’ve said those words to God before.  but God is gentle with habakkuk here & simply says, “i’m not passive or bro.  i’m going to do something about all of this.” [my paraphrase].  in the story of job God also receives a complaint about the conditions of life and here God responds a bit more direct.  God monologues for 4 chapters on how little job [and we] know about the universe.  and then God says this:

“surely you know, for you were already born!

you have lived so many years!”  [God from job 38:21]

i just love the way God speaks to one of his sons here.  what he’s doing is reminding us who He is, and simultaneously reminding us who we are.

the real question is this; are you, am i, willing to trust God even when i don’t understand how He’s rolling things out?  the things that go on in my life, the things that happen in my country, in the world at large.

it’s easy to point the finger at all that’s wrong & suggest ways to fix it & make it right.

just an aside, i think it’s important that as followers of Christ we do long for the redemption of ALL His people.

but God also gave us the freedom to choose.  and in the midst of that things will be broken, lives will be wrecked.  the scope of what i see is limited to right now.  even as i look backward my vision is cloudy & i don’t see things as clearly as i think i do.

the revolution to spend less

first, a little latin…

religio: the state religion, connected to greek mythology in the 1st century.  participation was mandated

superstitio:  a provision made by the government to worship freely, anyone or thing you like, but hold to the state religion.

cesar agustus calls himself a god & uses god-like language, creates coins & has them stamped:

“salvation is to be found in none other than augustus”

 “there is no other name given to men by which men can be saved”

this is on a collision course with the followers of Christ

acts 4:12 – peter

“salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

peter sticks Jesus’ name in that phrase

important point:  people don’t get killed because of their superstitito

they get killed because they won’t participate in the religio

the people of “the way” were starting to say, “we’re not in”

in that, they were then beginning to undermine

the economy, the balance of power, and seen as unpatriotic to rome.

 

caesar agustus joked about herod, who is in charge of bethlhem at the time of Jesus birth.

“i’d rather be herod’s pig than his son”

herod: a moderately practicing jew, would never slaughter a pig, but had 2 of his sons killed.

herod wanted to keep his stuff, the control, the power.AC_Spend_ICON

so Jesus slips into this story

and begins a revolution

not the kind they were expecting

            but a revolution that is supposed to live through us today.

there are kings of a sort right now

the kind of kings that fight for our attention

especially during this season

and what if we rebelled against them

THE KINGDOM OF MORE

            this is where we live…

            …dissatisfaction guaranteed

the kingdom of more promises

            that you’ll be happier…

            you’ve gotta’ have this…

and it never tells you about the regret that can show up

the kingdom of more never tells you & i about the later-on emptiness

i’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t give gifts

and it don’t think it’s good to criticize those who spend more

 

BE AWARE

if you and i believe the lie

that a little is good, more is better & a lot is the best

contentment will always be just out of reach

luke 12:13 – 21

the man in Jesus’ story didn’t know why he had the extra

…he just knew he had it

and this, for Jesus, is THE problem

do you know why you have what you have?  are you aware of what God is asking of you in the midst of this season.

for some of us, the question isn’t about our generosity.  we’re generous, we sponsor families in need & we give away a lot.  but we’re still, ultimately, inward focused.  ultimately we end up giving gifts that the receiver doesn’t need; or want.  we just give it out of obligation; “well, it’s that time of year.”

 do you know why you’re doing what you’re doing?  do you have that conversation with yourself?  with your spouse?  with your kids?

Christos for the common man

Jesus Christ-1484461

recently watching and interview between ed stetzer & len sweet i was reminded of how big len’s brain is.  he says things that are amazing & make theology pop & come alive.

here’s the link to the whole interview.  if you don’t have time to watch the whole 1 hour show here’s one of the highlights that i pulled.

len is always deep & he begins this interview talking about neurolinguistics.  yea, that’s where he starts!  this is the study of the weight & definition we place on words based on our history, background & then how we employ those thoughts & words.

so one of the words that he unpacks is Christos = Christ

we understand it as Jesus, the anointed One; “anointed” being connected to Christos.  we then understand “anointed One” being connected to anointing oil, which comes directly from the 1st century.

there were 2 kinds of cooking oil, christos & pistos.  the pistos is more like extra virgin olive oil; expensive, used primarily for royalty.  christos was for everyone, it was the common oil; it was like Crisco.

so when the people begin calling Him Jesus the Christ they are acknowledging that He is the Messiah for everyone.  He didn’t come for the elite & privileged.

the rabble…

dontlikerecently i was reading from numbers 11 – the israelites moving through the dessert as God was providing for them with mana.  and as people tend to get, they got board with the menu & cried out for meat, “fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, garlic” v.5.

the text tells us that as this discontent spread through the camp they stood in the door of their tent & complained to the rest of the camp.  if you can imagine one person calling out to the neighborhood how much they hate the things they’re eating.  that thing they were eating, that they didn’t have to work for [just collect it in the morning], that thing they were eating that didn’t cost them anything, that thing they were eating that just showed up each day – that thing, they didn’t want to eat anymore.

but i saw an interesting thing in verse 4,

"the rabble with them began to crave other food..."

“the rabble” – who were the rabble?

a little research discovers that the “rabble” were people that we not linked to the nation of israel.  they were some of the “tag-alongs” coming out the slavery.  it kind of seems that they just jumped in line with the 3 million or so people that were on their way out of egypt.  so they don’t have the history with God, they’re not as connected to the promise that God had made to the people.  they’ve just heard about the “promised land”, the non-slavery & joined up on the way out of town.

now enough of the israelites were drawn into the complaining that the chorus of “i don’t like this, how ’bout you?” grew to where moses was now hearing it.

then i had this thought; am i hanging with the rabble?  or am i becoming one of the rabble?

the only way to make sure these 2 things don’t happen is to stay connected to the promises of the God.  what has God said to you that you need to keep in the front of your mind?  what are the things that God has said to characters in the bible, things that aren’t bound by time & distance, that you need to be reminded of?

through my life when i have become frustrated with God & His plans & His timing i can look back & realize that i’ve, at some point, become disconnected to His promises made to me or made to others through scripture.  when i reconnect to those promises, though the situation may not change, my perspective shifts.