Tag Archive: missional


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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so this issue, that moral truth is highly subjective & cultural, has been a talking point for people for quite some time.  it’s on the lips of political candidates [when it suits them], it’s water cooler talk [if there is such a thing anymore], &  it can be a dividing point for many people.

but, in a recent article by johnathan merritt, he explores the possibility that it may be, at least for now, in a downward trend [good read, he is a very engaging writer].  his premise is built on the cultural trends in media; movies, social circles & the like.  and i think there’s some verifiable merit to that line of thinking.  but my thoughts went down other paths as i came to the end of the article.

if the culture is bent, for now, on setting the boundaries [to some degree] of what’s good & what’s tolerable, what’s right/wrong or otherwise; that seems like a precarious situation.  my belief is that when God isn’t involved in that process it can lead to some pretty dark places.

one caveat to put out there – when we seek the unadulterated truth for the sake of truth we end up with God at the center point.  if, on the other hand, we’re seeking something that looks like truth to simply validate our line of thinking or behavior then we’ll concoct any belief system that props it up.

now back to the larger point…

as a follower of Christ i firmly believe that love is our greatest asset & the one that Jesus uses consistently in His life on earth.

so if the world at at large is beginning to rejoin the moral truth conversation again, i know that i must be very careful to not react too harshly toward their desire to reconnect to the unchanging truth of what truth is; God-mandated, Christ-centered, relationally-bound, and a host of other hyphenated words we could list here.

i’m convinced that if i, as a Christ-follower respond with the love of Christ that eventually people will find God at the end of the road.

yes, there are times & places when the truth is spoken in louder tones.  but it is never spoken with hate & discrimination as it’s fulcrum.  there are times when love is confrontational.  but never at the expense of someone’s dignity, devaluing them as less than whom God-created.

this premise of mine, love as the highest value, is one that i’ve written about before & firmly believe that this is the cornerstone of God’s church being a more vital part of the cultural landscape, a relevant stop of people as we continue to figure out what this life is supposed to look like.

do be someone that’s full of grace, a person of great hope & one who leads with love.

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!

this issue has been brewing in me for a while now…bill-of-rights there are a host of difficult issues at play with the activation of the religious freedom act.

 FEAR

both sides of this issue have fear as a motivating factor.  for those that believe on one should be with-held services because of their sexual orientation through the lens of religious belief the fear could be placed at the feet of the question; “what’s next?  who are they going to bar next?  don’t i have the right to eat & sleep where i want?  isn’t this a free country where no one shall be unfairly judged or mistreated because of their nationality, creed, etc.?” the fear coming from the other side of the issue may sound like this; “if we, who morally object to this lifestyle, are forced to set aside our beliefs what’s next?  what will they take away next, our right to freely gather, our right to worship our God without mistreatment & persecution?” for the follower of Jesus the conversation, for me, begins in the wrong place. Jesus tells His disciples [and us] to not be afraid.  to let go of our fear, to trust in Him.  i kind of wonder, as one who is a follower of Christ, that our fear [Christ-followers] is a simple lack of faith that God has all things under His control.

 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

-mk.4:40

 something’s that at stake here for us all, is the answer to this question:  will you & i live in fear with what might happen if…? if we get under the surface at all that’s much of this is all about.

“are we headed back to segregation?”

“what will the government make us do next?”

“is this the end of religious freedom?”

“is this the end of my personal freedom?”

WORRY

are you, am i [as a follower of Christ], willing to trust in God that He has it under control? Jesus was very explicit that if we followed Him it would get tough [putting it lightly – He actually said we could die].  but that struggle, difficulty, persecution doesn’t mean that God had let go of the wheel & mayhem is on the loose.  it simply means that the struggle continues & government, no matter it’s form or goals, does not have the last word. “but what about the WORD of God standing tall?  don’t you want that?”   of course i  do.  but judgment is best reserved for God and God alone. accountability for actions is served best in the context of relationship.  picket lines & petitions don’t allow for any relationship & draw lines of one side against another; and i’m just not that interested in doing that.  i’m more interested in the love i show & how it reveals the work of Christ in me, broken & hypocritical as i can be.

 LOVE

as followers of Christ we are continually walking a thin line between demonstrating the love of Christ & doing whatever we want.  i saw a facebook post earlier this week from a friend when he simply reminded us that Jesus hung out with the prostitutes, tax collectors & those who partied too much.  and in the eyes of the religious elite, ruined His character. Jesus’ time here on earth was spent with those that the “church folk” didn’t want to have anything to do with.  and all Jesus does is spend time with them, offering them a chance to have a relationship with God. a God they may not have known. 1283-Indiana-Religious-Freedom-Restoration-Act-Frequently-asked-questions a God they may have felt abandoned by. a God they were not invited to know. we all have a tendency to get our rights all mixed up in all kinds of things.  as a follower of Jesus my rights take a back seat to the real call on my life; to love well.  Jesus tells us that how we love communicates whom we follow, so He says love others in the same way He has loved us.

 there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. the one who fears is not made perfect in love.      

1jn.4:18

 so our worry & fear stand in the direct path of God’s working in the midst of the muddy, murky water of life.

 FINALLY

the whole truth of how this all plays out is yet to be determined, but i have said this for a long time.  i believe that it’ll be settled by the wallet & not much else. we like money more than we like almost anything.  and this decision will have a financial impact on indiana more than the religious or LGBT community. when our wallets are affected we become different people, almost entirely regardless of our beliefs & convictions.  we have placed a great deal of importance on money & the false security it provides…

…but that’s probably a topic for another time.

so in the mean time love well, in the manner that Jesus loved. lay your worry to rest; and don’t let you fear be your spokesperson.  that guy gets enough air time.

our own worst enemy

Restaurant Receipt

Justin Lee: When Christians Are Christianity’s Worst Enemy.

the link above is to an article that i’m seeing far too often!  is’s about Christians that, when eating out, instead of leaving a tip for their server they will write something regarding the server’s lifestyle [gay, lesbian] or about God getting 10%…therefore no tip is given to the server.

this is absolutely unacceptable!

we are to be Christ’s ambassadors & we end up defaming the name of the One we say we love, the One we sing about & the One we worship. we end up tearing down everything we believe in when we act in this way.  the article linked above says it really well, so i encourage you to read it.  and consider the message we send while this season of hope is upon us.

john15:12 “love each other as I have loved you.” – Jesus

ooohhh this is a good article.  take a few minutes & read it.  this kind of thing stirs up our emotions & the things we think are true & right.  it’s always good to challenge the things we believe are true!

3 Phrases Christians Should Quit Relying On | Jayson D. Bradley.

shame on you…

so the other day, actually every monday, i have breakfast with a local group of pastors @ the same restaurant & much to my sha-grin i have become, not only a regular there but i also have a regular order.  i say “sha-grin” because i never thought i’d be that guy.  i like to try different things on the menu; but clearly there is pattern that’s developed.

oatmeal with blueberries, raisin toast if i’m feeling crazy.  i know; it’s sad. oh_no_you_di_int_retro_housewife

this past monday when i ordered an omelet the table just about lost their collective mind & our waitress didn’t quite know what to do.  but i digress…

while we’re there, and this happens each week, we end up becoming quiet loud & boisterous; lots of laughing & just sharing life together.  one hilarious story leads  to another & it truly is the best meeting i have every week!  well, on monday last  we were our usual, loud-selves & we were chastised by another table through our waitress.  she comes over to us & jokingly says, “well, you guys are just too loud!”  and she jokes with us consistently & of course, we give it right back.  so this wasn’t an out-of-the ordinary comment.  but one of the guys asked if that came from another customer or if she’s just ribbing us.  she motioned over her shoulder to a table of 3 older women & said that they were complaining of our volume.  she then told them that we were pastors & that didn’t seem to impress these ladies whatsoever.  and to be fair, i don’t know that there’s much of us to be impressed with.  but setting that aside there is something going on in this little town, surrounded by a corn field, in the shadow of a prison.  God is doing something & it seems to be coming from the fact that we as pastors really, truly enjoy being together.

one of the guys pointed to the disconnect among churches in our county & said something like this;

maybe the disconnect among churches is because there’s a disconnect among their leaders.

i know that what i’m experiencing with these group of men & women, trying to lead the churches God has entrusted them to lead is a bit of a unique thing.  so i’m soaking it up as if it may vanish at any moment, praying that it never leaves.

back to our boisterous enjoyment of time spent together…

how often is your expression of time spent with the people of God loud & excited?  for some of us that shows up in our worship to God.  for some it’s highly limited to places of athletics.  for others it rarely shows up at all.  and truly, i’m ok with causing a stir in a local restaurant with conversation that centers around what God is doing & simply the joy of knowing that God is doing something in this little town, surrounded by corn, in the shadow of a prison.  and i’m probably going to get loud about that from time to time.

 i’m just glad that i have some men & women that are going to get loud about it too.

so it finally happened…an athlete in a major sport [football, basketball, baseball, hockey] broke his silence & said that he is gay.  first time in this country this has happened.  all of this broke mon., april29 with a sport illustrated article [here is a link to one such article].  what happens now, for the Christ-follower & the church, is highly important.  the things that we say now & how we behave has a great opportunity to reach into places we’ve often stayed away from…and stayed away at our own doing & choice. the issue of tolerance is often brought up when these kinds of conversations are had.  “you have to be tolerant of others beliefs & even their reaching-outbehaviors, otherwise you’re being judgmental!” important point: we need to be sure we understand what tolerance means.

tol·er·ance defined

1.  a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, racereligion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

2.  fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.

tolerance does not mean that i have to agree with whatever you want to do or say.  tolerance DOES mean that i respect you as a person & that you have value, even if i don’t agree with how you live your life.  this is also how we recognize what love is all about.

so, with all of that said, this is a grand time to make sure that as a Christ-follower i am reaching out to those that feel as though they may have had to hide a part of their lives.  this was a prominent part of the article about jason collins & admitting his sexuality. recently i was having a conversation with a friend of mine & our conversation ended up being about how we talk with people that believe different than us.  how do we show love, but at the same time talk with them is such a way that they know where we stand?  what we ended up saying is that our best bet is to always get back to Jesus.  always get it back to Jesus.

so in light of these recent events, we look to Jesus…

Jesus is consistently seen with the kind of people that the local church leaders did not have much patience or time for.  He’s found at their parties, not obeying the rituals of the day, ignoring the societal standards of separation.  and it ticked them off to the point of orchestrating His death. but an interesting thing emerges; those people that the church-folk didn’t like, liked Jesus; even though the church-folk were more like Him, but Jesus didn’t seem to like the church-folk very much… meaning this: Jesus seemed to want to be with those that were outside the church more than those inside the church.  i’m not why this is, but here is a possibility.  it is natural for us to become highly comfortable with people that are most like us & Jesus seemed to want to break that down.  acknowledging that His greatest desire is for us…ALL of us.  and His desire for us is shared through those that already know Him.  so i must make sure that the way i talk about this issue, & how i even feel toward those that have this life-style, is covered in the love of Christ.

may you do the same…

Been-There-Done-Thatwhen new things are presented one of the first things our brains want to try and answer is this; “have i seen this before?”  our brains are categorizing machines.  neatly organized files of experiences, emotions, things done & places been.  so when something new comes on the scene & we have the option to enter/engage our brain immediately tries to make sense of it with little to no information.   such a dangerous practice…

we are, by the nature of our current culture, highly impatient people.  we feel like we have to decide right now if we’re moving forward to going to retreat into what we know & have seen before.

in the midst of this there’s a lie that we want to believe…

“do what’s familiar”

after all, the familiar is…well, familiar.  “i know how to handle stuff that i’ve already seen.  i know what to expect & how to react.”  the new is unknown & it might just be a lot of work.

as we talk about reshaping church & the expectations that exist within church; and realizing that we’re reshaping the culture of church, we know that there aren’t just one or two things that need to be addressed; there’s a truck-load of things & expectations that need to be dealt with.  and quite honestly that’s hard work.  there’s a lot of self-examination that must take place, a lot of questions that need to be asked & honesty that must be employed.

if we realize that Christ comes to offer us something that we cannot attain on our own & do something that we’ve never seen before [and that’s a big IF]; then we stand a chance in seeing something that we’ve never seen before, to be a part of a move of God’s people like we’ve never witnessed in our life-times.

Jesus says in john 10:10 [msgB]

 "I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of."

hmm, “more and better life…”

yea, what if we just said “no” to the familiar, & decided to embrace what Jesus comes to offer; a different kind of life.  a life that’s difficult…but then again, life in general is difficult.  so instead of choosing the familiar & easy path what would happen to your life & mine if we chose a path with Christ that seemed harder but would lead to a more full life?

recently a friend was telling me about a conversation they were having with a family member.  it revolved around their connection to a little church that didn’t have the best programs, especially for kids; but they were working on it.  and it was said, “i just wish that part was a little better, then we’re in.”

and the response was, “well, sometimes it takes the commitment of some parents to say we’re here to get this thing off the ground & make it great.”  since that conversation those parents have decided to fully engage in that little church.

i think sometimes we want to walk into a setting that’s already hummin’ & it’s just the best thing; and you’re surrounded by people that are just like you & it’s not uncomfortable at all.  and the truth is that’s pretty great when it meets your needs right now, where you stand.  but i think there are a lot more times when Jesus calls us to give all we have in places that are difficult & undone.  that “more and better life” part of what Jesus offers is a hard road.  but it still leads to the kind of life that has Jesus at the forefront.

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…