Tag Archive: Jesus


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.

gracerecently i had a very interesting conversation with some people about grace & its activity in our lives.

i think that we often define grace through it’s rescuing nature.  that the grace of God shows up in times of our great need & delivers what we need when we need it.  and this understanding of grace is apt & accurate.  we love the pictures of a rescuing God & doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  so the understanding of Jesus on the cross for our sins is the greatest demonstration of grace [among other things] we have & is the thing that all of humanity hinges on.

but there is another aspect of grace that i think we don’t always consider.  that is that grace isn’t always rescuing…

that is to say or clarify, grace shows up in the desert, the wilderness & simply delivers the ability & strength to continue to walk on.

there are loads of examples of this kind of grace in the bible.  one we could look at is that of moses.  he’s called by God to lead the people.  but before all this he kills an egyptian because of how he was treating some of his country-men.  so he does what many of us would do, he runs away to escape certain punishment, ridicule, maybe death.  in his time away is when God speaks to him & calls him into a place of leadership.

this is the instance of grace that we sometimes read past.

tim keller once defined grace like this:

it’s when you’re welcomed into a place you don’t have a right to be

&

it never given out of obligation

before things were right with his fellow hebrew people, possibly before even things were right between moses & God…

yet God calls moses out of his wilderness.  grace shows up sometimes in the place where rescue hasn’t shown it’s face yet.

IT’S ABOUT JESUS…

something else about grace – it’s rooted in personal relationship with Jesus.  if we don’t have this relationship as a guide for life the offering of grace to others is going to be impossible & the receiving of grace will be equally difficult.  because grace is when you stand in a place you don’t have a right to be & it’s never offered out of obligation.

COMMUNITY MATTERS…

and here’s the last part of this discussion;

there isn’t a person on the planet that doesn’t want something about them to change.  we can look at our weight, our eating habits, our job, our family situation, etc. & say; “i wish that were different.”

some of us take steps toward that difference & some of us just wish.

when we talk about wanting different things that is a conversation about transformation.   the desire for transformation is a part of our humanity & the kind of transformation that lasts is done in community.

when we have others around us pushing us on to higher goals & talking through the struggle it is easier to achieve those goals.

i know this though the simple fact that recently i was getting back into the gym & there was a guy that i bumped into as i was leaving & he was coming in.  we talked for a little bit & decided that we could adjust our schedules & start meeting a few times a week at the gym.  we did that for about a month & his summer schedule got crazy busy & he hasn’t’ been able to make it recently.  you know who else hasn’t been going?  me…

grace & transformation are linked & cannot be experienced alone.  the beginning of true transformation is when we admit that something needs change, that requires a willingness to be honest about what’s broken in our lives.  when we admit that we’ve got some broken pieces to our lives that opens us up to judgmental attitudes, or  a lack of grace.

my hope is that the churches i’m leading, as we talk about grace, that it’s not just a conversation about what we “ought” to do.  but it’s a reality that we’re really doing something significant.  that we’re the kind of people that exhibit grace, that we’re a group of people that are experiencing transformation, that we’re a community bonded together through Christ.

relational currencylately there have been several things that have been swirling around in my head & conversations i’ve had…

being a sports fan & originally being from indiana i’ve been watching the nba playoffs & in particular the pacers.  my, how they’ve fallen.  back in february they made a trade of players in an attempt to shore up their line-up & make a run at a championship.  in short, it’s not working & they’re in jeopardy of getting bounced from the playoffs.

in other conversations with teachers & parents the gist of the discussion has been surrounding the struggle of budgets & programming offered at public schools along the lines of, “we can’t afford to do what we once did.  oh, and we can’t pay for the labor force to teach what we once did.”  this issue has far reaching implications beyond what i can discuss here & beyond what we even currently know.

a lot of times when we’re confronted with a problem or a difficult situation we’re tempted to “out-think the room.”  believing that the solution to this problem must be complicated; at least as complicated as the problem itself.  i believe that at the root of the issues we face begins with something relatively simple, and it almost always begins with the same thing.  true, when things bloom & become this complex hairball of difficulty the problems then are complex; & fixing them takes time.  but i’m going to assert that the root issue is just one thing…relationship with people.  here, we’ll call it relational currency.

with the pacers the problems with how they’ve slide seem to be many & getting out of the hole they’ve dug is going to take time.  but i believe that it all began with a particular player being traded away; danny granger.  he seemed to be the glue of the locker room that’s now gone.  he was the guy that could remind everyone what they were supposed to be doing.  true, he didn’t get a lot of playing time, but he was greatly respected by the players & he was a voice of maturity for that team.

this basic premise of relational currency plays out with schools as well.  there has been a recent move in michigan with an animosity toward teachers in the name of dollars & cents.  so many things are veiled in “we can’t afford to…”  and those that primarily suffer are the students & their teachers.  i’ve been saying for a couple of years now that there will be a day, probably when my kids have kids, that we’ll all look back at this time in history and wonder aloud, “what were we thinking, treating kids & schools & teachers that way?!”

when people aren’t valued & relationships aren’t seen as the primary asset of an organization weather that be a school, a team, a church or any number of other places to be a part of, to work & make a living; when people aren’t valued, the system is about to crumble.

relational currency also shows up in the life of Jesus.  when Jesus gives “the sermon on the mount” [mt.5, 6 & 7] He’s talking about how there are 2 kingdoms that overlap right now.

one kingdom tells us that we’d better look out for us.  that if we don’t meet our needs, then no one is going to meet our needs.  that life is about you & you need to grab all you can before it’s all over.

the other kingdom tells us that people matter; people other than us matter.  that God has something in mind for us, and that we find that “something” when we give our lives to others.

so ask yourself some questions today:

am i living in such a way that truly values other people?  not valuing them in terms of what they can do for me.  not in terms of how they benefit my life & make me great.  but do i value them as sons & daughters of God?

am i pouring my life into the lives of those around me?  or am i content to take care of me & my needs while ignoring those around me?

colossians week 5

week 5 follow-up to the colossians series.  read – share – grow!

attitude of Christ [handout]

something interesting that has come to the surface as i’ve been working on/prep-ing & walking through the current series presidential JESUS is Jesus’ encounter with the centurion guard in matthew 8.

this has loads of political undertones!  consider the following:

the romans have taken over “the promised land” & the jews are now living in an occupied state.  for any rabbi, including Jesus, to have contact with & bring about an act of mercy; healing a sick daughter, would have brought raised some scrutiny & criticism,

“what in the world is He doing?!  doesn’t He realize that guy’s the enemy?!”

but everything that Jesus is doing in the surrounding passages connects to a larger issue in the activity of Jesus.  it would have been standard procedure to ignore or even curse the roman soldier [after all, He does that to a bush that’s not doing what it’s supposed to].

“let the roman’s daughter die!”

Jesus is talking about a 3rd way to live in a world that is corrupt & broken & ruled by corrupt & broken men & women.  this 3rd way of living revolves around matthew 5:38-40.

“don’t resist an evil person, give your coat, walk the 2nd mile…”

this move is, as Jesus helps the roman centurion, akin to a u.s. soldier being given hospitality from an iraqi during the hottest parts of the battle in iraq.  pretty interesting in how Jesus deals with this conversation & then what it says to us as we deal with the political climate of this country.

so a good question rises to the surface; what is our response to political undertakings, decisions, leaders & the rest that trickles down to us?

is our action that of resisting with all our might?

true, there are plenty of times & places that rebellion is the right action.  but i also believe that those times of grabbing the pitchforks & fire are very limited.

is our political activity one that mirrors the might & veracity of the ones we oppose?

Jesus & the kingdom He spoke of, is one that doesn’t force it’s way in the front door.  it’s one that doesn’t use the might & power at His disposal.  instead it’s one that is a bit more quiet, comes in the back door & is a bit more subtle.

and i think we’re called to a similar way of fighting the powers that be…

secrets forgotten

today i re-opened a book that i had started, put down, & then forgot about.  the forgotten ways by alan hirsch.  good stuff related to the return of the church, or really the NEED for the church to return to it’s roots in the way Jesus related to, connected with, ate, walked & did life with the kinds of people that are on the edges of life, the fringe folk.

one of the premises of this book is that this ability to serve, give of ourselves; the mode of becoming missional, is really wired deep inside us.  but over the course of years of “neglect & dis-use” we [the church] have lost contact with it; though it be in our system.  good stuff, no doubt.

one of the things that the author brings up is that this kind of discussion disrupts the very fabric of “how it’s all done” – that is to say how church is done.  it disrupts the fabric because in order to truly reach out & become “missional” – to care more for others than yourself means putting down the things that you like & love & really, really want to have…the things that make me comfortable.  there, i said it.

as i’m reading i’m reminded of a conversation i had with someone a few years ago.  i was meeting this individual in my office and on my desk is another book, the secret message of Jesus by brian mcLaren.  as this person is walking into my office he says something along the lines, “well, it’s not really a secret at all.  it’s right in front of us, all we have to do is grab onto it.”  ok, that’s true, but i would say that many, many people; including those that have known Jesus almost as long as they’ve been alive, have trouble recognizing what Jesus did while He was on earth & applying it to their lives.  therefore, it’s a secret.  it’s a secret, not because it’s hard to find, but because we’ve lost touch with it.  it’s a secret because we’ve been, for too long, “doing church” and making sure the right people are there and the offering gets collected & the budget is maintained.  let’s be real clear; Jesus never talked about any of that!

here’s some of the stuff that Jesus did do:

ate with the people He wasn’t supposed to

hung out with folks that the religious elite thought were out of bounds

empowered women [a huge issue then & now]

challenged the religious systems that were in place [notice we don’t see Jesus challenging political systems]

only does what the Father tells Him to do [jn.519 & jn.14:31]