Tag Archive: the daily life


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.

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just this past sun., and in fact the past couple of weeks have been difficult to get out what i’ve felt like God has placed inside me.  leaving me with a feeling of things unsaid.

yesterday, while putting the house together with Christmas decorations this thought hit me; as if saying, “this is what you were trying to say on sunday.”

john5 tells of Jesus walking to the pool of bethesda where the man crippled lay for 38 years.  in short, Jesus heals the man & does what Jesus does, He slips away only to return later.  the man is carrying his mat; which Jesus told him to do; and the keepers of the law [we could call them “good church-folk”] aren’t happy that he’s working on the sabbath.

by the time Jesus shows up on this particular day to do this particular work of God working on the sabbath had 39 different categories.  within those categories there were some specifics on what you could & couldn’t carry.  specifically you were not allowed to pick up & put down things in a manner that resembled work.  so what the man, who use’ta-couldn’t walk, was doing was way out of bounds.

the thing that hit me yesterday was that the religious people, who were very good at being good, rushed right past the miracle on the way to the ordinary.

i don’t mean to say that being a good person should just be put aside & not recognized.  but being good isn’t what God came here for; that you and i would be good people.

He comes to do the miraculous…

and then the question that should come to mind:  am i guilty of doing this?

in this season may we make sure that we’re not simply engaging in the ordinary, the usual, the common-place of the season

…as good & enjoyable as all that is;

only to miss out on the miraculous that God is desperately trying to unveil right before our eyes.

by the way, merry Christmas!

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…

 

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.

50/50

friendshpin a recent conversation with my wife we were talking about a difficult situation where a leader had misused his power & influence; and had mistreated several people in the process.  the story goes that he & some of the people he leads had been overlooked in the midst of an accomplishment.  it was, from what i could tell, an honest mistake; but a mistake none-the-less.  this guys response was less than gracious & he really went after the people responsible.  what makes this worse is that some of those he went after were high school students.

this is all, of course, very disappointing.  but it spurred an interesting conversation with my wife & i.  and let me just say, she is very smart!  what she said, i think, we’ve talked about before but she immediately hit the nail on the head.

she said this:  “i’ve learned that it’s only about 1/2 of what you actually know [in your given field] & the expertise that you bring to the table that matters in how well you do your job.  the other 1/2 is how you treat people.

i know, brilliant!

i do believe this is absolutely true.  the measure of who we are as people is reflected in how well we treat others & the respect that’s given.  and here is the thing that takes it up a level:

the strength to consistently do this; give respect to those that we work with & give them space for mistakes to be made, this is found in a consistently deepening relationship with Christ.

if we’re going to try and do this; treating one another well, dignified & filled with grace we’re going to eventually tire & just scrap the effort.  because we will tire, we will grow weary, we will decide it’s all too hard, we will decide it’s not worth it.  the only way to battle that is finding that Jesus is the strength in our weakness.

Jesus’ mission statement [if we could call it that] can be found in john 10:10,

“i’ve come to give you life to the full.”

if we look at the whole of Jesus’ ministry we can see that this is the way that He lived.  He consistently gave dignity to people that had none in the social circles.  gave grace to those in the greatest need.  offered freedom to those that felt trapped.

so as we roll through this season, and really year around, are you offering life to those you’re in contact with?  a life connected to Christ, showing that He is the reason you act & live they way you act & live?

do you demonstrate that your skill-set; in whatever it is that you do, is only 1/2 of the things that matter in your life?

do you show that the people around you matter more than simply completing the job?

if not, make sure that changes today.

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.

Why We Go to the Met Every Sunday and Have for 60 Years | Living on GOOD.

good article from GOOD on seeking out continual inspiration & new insights from familiar sights & sounds.

recently i’ve been drawn back to something that was handed me several months ago.  it was a lengthy excerpt from an article posted on a web site.  the article, in great length, draws out the idea that sin isn’t a problem for the experienced/veteran Christian.  sin is something that someone willfully does that’s in violation of God’s laws.  willfully being the key there.  the article then talks about the “mistakes or errors” of the Christian that “are a result of human weakness, faulty judgement…”

the problem with  this approach is huge!

if it’s true that when once we’re a Christian, we’ve given our lives over to Christ, that we no longer sin, one domino simply knocks another.

if we don’t sin, we simply make mistakes or stumble, when does confession enter the family?  of course other than the heathen, outright sinner who has not given his/her life to God?  when do we confess?

if we don’t sin how does humility become a part of the body?

if we all we do is stumble does mercy & grace become irrelevant to the already saved?

does then the attitude of judgementalism &  a lack of forgiveness become epic?

what happens to pauls words in romans 7:14-25?  “what i want to do i don’t do…i know that nothing good lives in me…”

those are present tense verbs, that’s the here & now.

what about the very big & toxic sin of pride becoming so large that we can’t see anything except our own greatness – false as it is?!

______________

each day, through the YouVersion of the bible [availble on-line through a smart phone – brilliant tool!!] there’s a daily verse that pops up & today i was taken to ps.51:1 & was reminded to be aware of my sin/transgression.

so, can i be aware of myself enough to admit that i do, in fact sin?

do i belong to a community of Christ that engages all of scripture?  not just the parts that prop us up in the hopes of attaining something that we build on our own?

one of the problems that emerges is the gospel of salvation that ends up taking a back seat to this idea: “i don’t have to worry about sin once i’m saved.”  that kind of message has trouble all day long!

…to the cross

do our lives point to the cross, or something else?

this sunday is easter, & it’s easy to talk about & prompt people to live in such a way that our lives reflect the cross of Christ.  easy because this is the one day that churches all over will point to the cross with greater intention & purpose.  and the rest of the year there can be a temptation to focus on other things throughout the year…things that are good & necessary for our lives, but they’re not the cross.

the question that ought to plague our mind this year is do we live out this cross-focus on a daily basis?

do our lives, in the way we live, give to the poor, participate in church, do our jobs, live, breathe & have our  being?  i want to make sure that all i do can, somehow, reflect the cross of Christ.

am i sacrificing, on a daily basis my wants/needs/desires/hopes/dreams/plans for the things that Christ wants through this life He has given?

the answer, many times, is NO!  i’m not living that way.  so my world ends up getting smaller & more confined; because it’s about me.  i can get so consumed with

my stuff, my pleasure, my acquisitions, my vacations, my…

and in this life, i become convinced, is about me.  and we forget that Jesus lived a life that  is just the opposite.

francis chan has a great quote, ” we are glad that Jesus went to the cross, suffered for us, died for our sins .  but we would never consider doing that.  we want to have as much fun while we’re here.  we think He’s a great man, just not a good role model.”

we acknowledge that what Jesus did was necessary & we’re grateful for it.  but we are not willing to admit that Jesus actually calls us to live that kind of life too.  in order to do that, make that kind of sacrifice, we have to be reminded of the cross daily. otherwise, that kind of living just doesn’t sound all that great.  “give up everything i have for someone else? i don’t think so.”

so be aware of the cross, turn to it often, run to it daily, allow it to affect your life.  don’t let it just be a piece of jewelry!