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September 18, 2017, 9:30 AM

Waste of Energy


I am a master at both wasting time and conserving energy. Give me a video game... there's an hour gone. Give me a task or routine, I'll have it refined to work efficiently with as little effort as possible. Please do not assume that the conserving energy thing is noble. No, it simply exists to serve the first part of my declaration: more time to waste. 

There is a part of me though that is not so efficient: the time and energy wasted on horizontal anxieties. In order to understand that verbiage, check out the sermon from this past week so we're on the same page (or look for the devotional book "Vertical With Jesus"). There is a vast category of things that occupy way too much of our brains, memories, and emotions. Jesus addresses these things multiple times, and I want to echo his teaching here.

Doubt. Fear. Worry. Anger. Jealousy. Greed. Grudges. 

Those are horizontal matters that only waste our time and energy. They distract us from the Vertical matters which should occupy those dark areas inhabited by them. 

How much time, energy, and emotion are we wasting on them? Too much. The beauty of focusing on the Vertical is the energy and passion we gain from it. 

Matt 5: 6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; For they will be filled. 




September 11, 2017, 8:45 AM

So Much More Than Just Food


Yesterday (09/10/17) was Friend's Day. It went very well, and there were many, many new faces in the crowd. Well done Red Bridge. It is always amazing to see what can come from the simplest of questions/invitations. Sometimes we're the ones who create the rejection, which stops us from ever asking anyone to do anything (like coming to Church with us). Yesterday proved otherwise, and I'm very proud. 

However...  (there's always a "however" isnt there?!)... I heard a line spoken matter of factly a few times throughout the morning and wanted to address it here. In various iterations I heard: "I guess we should have a meal every week after Church." Or: "If we have food people will come." 

Multiple times this was expressed. And multiple times I was distressed by the sentiment. Why?  Here's why:
We have so much more to offer than just food. 

The meal is not why our friends, coworkers, and family joined us yesterday. That type of thing happens every day, everywhere else. We eat with people all the time. The fact that we had lunch together IN our building is immaterial. What this sentiment identifies is a cheapening of the power of the Gospel. We assume (with the same assumption that no one would want to go to Church with us) that what people need is a good meal????  

While the lunch was excellent, the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ has so much more to offer and we cannot lessen ourselves to just being a buffet. We have the very Son of God, the Messiah, The Savior, the Son of Man who inhabits our hearts and lives to offer. Next time an invitation is offered, we must make sure we're offering much more than just a full stomach. We're offering an introduction to a life, heart, and soul made full. 

John 6: 26 - 27  26Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs.27But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”




August 28, 2017, 8:38 AM

The Bat-Signal


This is a follow up to last week's article. You may or may not be lost if you havent read it. 

The Church's greatest asset and power is not from its strength or ability to shine a spotlight into the sky telling the world we are here and ready to love them. Truth be told, most churches cant afford a spotlight, more or less make one bright enough to reach past a few blocks. No, a bat-signal is not what we're missing. 

The power of the Church is in the smallest of things: Relationship. Now that can be interpreted a few ways, so lets break it down a bit. There are some relationships that are barely that at all. We'll call those acquaintances. The Church is FULL of acquaintances. If someone you recognize but don't know extremely well is missing a couple weeks in a row, you probably don't notice or just assume they have a good reason (vacation, etc...). When you see them again you smile and say Hello. 

Lots of those around. Which is not a bad thing, our schedules are pretty similar after all. Then there are relationships that have become a little stronger based on that schedule, or simply proximity. We are all creatures of habit and like routines. When other people are a part of that, we become more than just familiar and begin seeking out relationship with those of similar ilk. Again, lots of those in church because we all like sitting in the same spot, arriving at the same time each week, etc... 

Not a bad thing either, after all our schedules are pretty similar. The big question today: do you have relationships that extend past the convenience of scheduling? I'm guessing that those exist in plenty....... outside the Church. Relationship holds people together no matter what is going on. People ride out the craziest of storms together because they really like or love each other. Sometimes the worst things can happen, and friendships only get stronger. 

Western Christianity has a relationship problem. We're quick to pull the trigger on ending our "relationship" with a church, friends, fellow worshipers because of ____________. It may not even be a storm, but the tie that binds is more of a slipknot than a locking figure eight. 

It may not look like much, but the Church remains God's most vital tool of hope in this world. Service without expectation. Sacrifice without repayment. Love without conditions. Relationships that weather storms, instead of letting go at just the wrong time. 

This past week I witnessed first hand the power of the Church during our disaster relief efforts. If you've lost hope in the Church you've simply been looking for hope in the wrong places. Stop looking for a bat-signal and seek out a relationship. 

 

 




August 21, 2017, 9:19 AM

The 6 Million Dollar Man is Not the Best Approach for Church


Yes, you read that right. Yes, I threw out an old television show as a model for Church growth and development. Here's why: Better, Faster, Stronger, More Powerful, All the Tech you can Throw at it, Sleek, Popular...  That describes a few churches who are able to pull off the dynamic approach to worship and ministry. No, they're not bad and evil just because they're the biggest and strongest. They are simply serving their audience how their audience wants served. 

How do we want served? We're a small church in a suburban area that is aging. The house market is slowly turning the median age younger, but its not moving very fast. We arent the quickest to adapt and adopt. The resources (people) are just not plentiful enough to build major programs and make us a powerhouse. 

Is that a bad thing? It is, if you judge a church's influence and ability by the standards of the world. 

A corporation is only successful if it has market saturation and brand awareness. Basically, the world tells us that we need to be the 6 Million Dollar Man to even compete in the church growth market. Is that really the only way we can hope to make a difference? I hope not, because even with inflation and the growth/decline of the dollar, $6 Million is near impossible. 

It is a good thing Jesus measures strength and power with a different metric than the world. Zacchaeus was his choice for a dinner host. He thought parties with tax collecters were a great idea to attend. He touched people who wouldnt be allowed within yards of the temple. He valued women and servants. He taught his apostles to treat people kindly (children especially), and not be blinded by cultural barriers. He modeled strength through sacrifice and service. 

That doesnt look like $6 Million dollar programming, it looks like simple relationships. It looks like gentleness. His model works for us because it is not based on budget or manpower. It is based on loving the people around us. We are not weak because we are small. We are strong because he is strong. Make a difference in someone's life today in a small but personal way, and the Kingdom of God will be that much closer and stronger than ever before. 

(I do wish i made the cool whooshing/electronic noise when I ran like Lee Majors did in the show). 

John 13: 3 - 5 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.




August 14, 2017, 9:36 AM

Faith...


This is a tough one to nail down. Meaning: kindness was simple -- be kind. Goodness, the same -- be good. But faithfulness - have faith... In what? God, yes. But the question was asked in class yesterday (08/13) "What exactly does faith in God really look like?" 

For many, it means going to church. Period. Faithful in attendance. Surely God will notice how I've adjusted my schedule to meet his, right? 

For others it means including daily study and prayer on top of dutiful attendance. Surely God will notice how I approach him on a daily basis, right? 

I am NOT decrying attendance or daily habitual reflection in the Bible and prayer. Those are essential pieces to being a Christ-follower. But they are not displays of faith. They are displays of habit, scheduling, and a tenacious desire to please God by doing things he wants us to do. Those habits may even include such radical things like giving weekly, serving in a classroom or ministry, or finding service opportunities during the week that help the marginalized and destitute. While all are good things... none of them really require faith. They require scheduling, planning, sometimes elbow grease. 

Faith is a deeper, more foundational element that changes our character, not just our schedules. Reading your Bible every day, if done out of habit or a felt need to do something godly on a daily basis, may have little to no impact on your life other than familiarity with scripture. In the same vein, prayer can be rote, or habitually asking for help as opposed to asking for a deeper connection with God. 

When you have faith in something, it shapes your behaviors, decisions, and hopes. Not just a few minutes/hours a week. There is a tenacity to the faithful that circumstance, storm, or hardship cannot shake. Faith changes the way choices are made. Faith adjusts lifestyles. Faith moves the mountains, it does not just build an easier path around them. 

I recall a story a good college friend told me about his time in Papua New Guinea as a teenager. A mountain tribe was dying, desperate for supplies, relief, and the new found hope they discovered in Christ through scripture. No one could reach them based on the terrain. One person, during a tribal council discussing the need to relocate and abandon their location held for generations, brought up Matthew 17:20 and asked the leaders to pray for the mountain to move instead of the tribe. They did just that. One shovel-full at a time, they moved a mountain. Creating a landing strip for a small plane to reach them, the tribe connected with the world and with the Gospel. Because of faith. True story. 

What mountains have we been content walking around, or abandoning all together? 

Matthew 14: 14 - 21 

14 At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15“Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” 17Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well. 19Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”
20“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

2 Corinthians 5:7  For we live by faith, not by sight. 

 


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