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November 18, 2013, 1:26 PM

at the Rock-Bottom Cafe


Good Day Reader.  

I like to celebrate winning.  Some people may call it "Trash-Talking", but I prefer to call it "Pointed Celebration!"  What is really happening is that I like to win, be on top, prove myself smarter or better than everyone else.  Its all about ego, pride, and domination.  Churches like to be on top too.  To be the biggest, most progressive, most inclusive, most attended, most beautiful and modern facilities...  The list goes on.  It has become a part of our culture as the Body of Christ to compete with each other, whether its spoken directly or not.  We like to be top dog.  

Lets go further with this and look inside our own heads:   "I'm glad I'm not like her...."; or "My kids are so much more behaved than theirs.";  or even "At least I dont struggle with sin like he does."  There is a hierarchy in place, spoken or not, in churches.  Those that are best dressed, and have it all together are placed on pedestals.  We dont intend to marginalize, but its in our nature to do as such.  

As we continue our thoughts from Sunday's sermon (11/17), when we fall to the default, or very basic character of Christ in our lives this becomes a non-issue.  Looking through the interactions between Jesus and pretty much everyone, we see him existing in the margins, connecting with people no matter their place or social standing. As we build our lives, marriages, families, and ministries we must reach into those margins and model our rock-bottom foundation on the character of Christ.  The storms will come, and are most likely already here.  We will go toe-to-toe with cancer, divorce, failure, rejection, financial ruin, bullying, disappointment, and a slew of other storms that threaten our foundations.  If we are built on sand, or the foundations of culture, popularity, acceptance, or even doctrine (not theology) we will fall (like the foolish man's house going SMASH).  

However, being at the very rock bottom, foundationally speaking, provides us the strength we need to not only survive the storms, but thrive.  Important SIDE NOTE:  we are never promised happiness in the storms, prosperity despite the storms, instant healing in the storms... we are simply promised the "get to the other side" through the storms.  That may mean a life of deformity, oppression, sacrifice, and unfulfilled dreams.  It may not be a pleasant journey, but it will be a successful one when the destination is reached (in our case, Heaven!!!!!).  

Which takes us forward to next week.  Finding ourselves at rock bottom, and being thankful for it.  Turn to Luke 18: 9 - 14.  I confess that while I have not prayed like the Pharisee here, I have had thoughts and intents like the Pharisee.  Forgive me please, I'm still in recovery.  I dont want to be at rock bottom because, well, it isnt popular enough or sensitive enough to my fragile ego!!  Its too easy to look around and wish I were a mega-church pastor, with a twitter feed that resembled your most beloved celebrities.  Its easy to look up from rock bottom and assume I'm being punished or oppressed, or missing opportunities.  And in that I take the character of Christ and brush it aside for pride.  

Church... I fear for us if we cannot become self-aware, knowing the devastation we have wrought in our plights to avoid rock bottom.  We have created idols of success and fertility in other institutions.  We have secularized our financial beings.  Leadership has become about reputation or financial savvy more than about shepherding and pastoring.  Rock bottom has become what happens to churches who get it 'wrong' and close their doors.  Rock bottom is to be avoided, not celebrated like in the parable of Christ in Luke 18.  

I am a recovering Pharisee.  Please join in me in my quest to check my ego at the door and thrive in the character of Christ... at rock bottom.  

 

 

 




November 7, 2013, 9:08 AM

Play Like Champions Today...... and SkyMall.


Its not often I get to work SkyMall magazine into a blog title, so I jumped at the opportunity! I was perusing said magazine whilst waiting for that magical clearance of 10,000 feet to re-engage the book I was reading electronically on a recent flight.  This sign caught my eye:  "Play Like Champions Today" signed by the great Lou Holtz from Notre Dame Football (item #SSM184).  A sign like this hangs above the exit of the Notre Dame locker room for players to tap on their way onto the field.  Its a simple reminder that if you want to be a champion, you play like a champion, no matter the month, score, or opponent.  

I wondered what would happen if I hung a sign like this on the way out of the auditorium at the church I serve in KC.  Well, lo and behold, I visited a church that had just such a sign hung above its main door that very week.  I spotted it from afar and had to make the trek back there to read its inscription.  It said:  Leave to Serve.  I then knew what I would find on the other side of the door, and my suspicions proved true: Enter to Worship was pasted above the door to motivate upon entry.  

My curiosity was piqued and I decided that I needed to see if this sign elicited any response, or attention at all.  Neither did.  In fact, I noticed another alarming tendency:  while this door was used for an entry, I saw few using it to exit.  I wonder if this sign did indeed have an impact on the people, much like the decree to Play Like Champions Today does to the football players at Notre Dame.  

I do believe this sign creates conflict among those passing under its command.  If you jump up and hit the Champions sign, you are declaring to everyone that you WILL play like a champion and that your team can count on you to elevate your game to that level. If you dont play like a champion, you have lied to your teammates.

What are we saying if we walk under the sign telling us to Serve and do nothing? After all, when we walked in we were totally fine with the Worship part.  In fact, we have very strong opinions about how good we are at worshipping and how others obviously missed the part where their worship was declared wrong.  We take pride in our ability to gather on time, walking in with high expectations of what is going to be presented.  We enter expecting great things....... but are those expectations being realized on the way back into the World?  Are we walking away from our well-dressed, orderly gathering to take the energy and passion of a limitless and loving God outside these attractive and safe walls?  

Nope.  We're not.  In fact, we're probably looking for another door, with a less descriptive charge on it.  Maybe a "Leave with Good Intentions" sign would be the exit we want.  I'm betting we'd have a ton of traffic under the "Just Leave, and Maybe Get a Bite to Eat" door, as that affirms in us to do what we were going to do anyways.  

The sign thing has pushed a greater concern into the forefront of my mind, and it has nothing to do with a sign.  It has everything to do with us and how we view the Church, our Leadership, and our role in both.  I cant tell you how many times, how many conversations have revolved around a question or statement like this:  "I wish this church would just ____________________."  Or a question like this: "Why cant someone here ___________________?"  These are verbal clues to a greater problem staring down the throat of the Western Church.  
We are viewing our Church, our Leadership like shopping malls; places we go to window shop and occasionally plop down some money on what we think is a solid investment.  Afterward we walk away wondering what windows will be there next week for us to peruse, and whether or not we should go find another mall with different windows for us to discover.  

To be plain: the health of the Church and the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be left up to the power of church staff and a small group of men judiciously elected.  If we want a healthy Church, what are we doing to create a healthy church with healthy ministries?  If we want a community to know us what are we doing to model the Bride of Christ to them (outside of looking dapper on Sunday mornings)?  

If you find yourself asking questions like "Why doesnt this church just _________________?"  Or "Why dont the elders ______________________ instead of asking for someone else to do it?";  Perhaps the next question should be: "What am I doing to Play Like a Champion Today?"  
 




October 14, 2013, 10:44 AM

Inadequate


Good Day Reader!  Its been a while since I've sat down and threw some of my thoughts at you.  For some, this is a good thing, for the rest: thank you for being patient as my wandering mind has been occupied with building remodels and retreat sermon building.  

Today I want to talk about my feelings of inadequacy.  THAT sounds like fun, doesnt it?!  It isnt fun, but I know we'll get somewhere here in a second or two, so stick with me.  

The profession I am in is one where I am called to share God's Word with people, interpreting it and crafting sermons into digestible and (hopefully) interesting segments.  Who am I to undertake such a great task?  Who am I to think that my interpretation and calling to interpret is greater than yours?  It isnt.  Ever.  Period.  Totally.  For Realz.  (insert whatever definitive you like here: ________).  This understanding of my limited understanding makes me feel inadequate and unworthy to be the mouthpiece of God.  Why Me?  Couldnt he have found someone with a voice that is broader, stronger (both figuratively and literally), and doesnt have that weird breathy tone that mine does?  

Yes, yes he could.  

BUT (there's always a but with these things) there is something that needs to be remembered about the character of God:  He LOVES me.  Period.  Totally.  For Realz.  

This past weekend I got to speak and present to an amazing group of teenagers and adults at a retreat with the focus: Reckless Abandon.  I was asked to bring 4 messages that would be a spark for those in attendance to live a life recklessly for God.  Sounds easy, there are many, many examples of folks in the Bible who laid it all on the line.  

I thought about all the typical stories and characters one in my position could use to be relevant and successful in getting a message across.  Instead of one of the "easy" ones grabbing a hold of my imagination, I had a story work its way into my mind and grab a hold of me so tightly that there was no denying it.  So, instead of preaching about heroes who built arks, became kings of Egypt, walked on water, or spent their life spreading the gospel, I spent four sermons talking to teenagers and adults about a prostitute.  

Yes...You heard that correctly, a prostitute.  Grab your Bible and turn to Joshua 2.  Keep your finger there and get to Matt 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; and James 3:25 too.  Rahab.  This woman moves from a wildly successful prostitute in Jericho to Great-Great Grandma of David.   She had a house built into the wall, in view of the gates and entry into the city, a place of importance and much influence.  The King of Jericho also knew exactly where to find her, which alludes to a higher end of clientele.  This woman was good at what she did.  I guarantee she was confident, and had no feelings of inadequacy when it came to her place in the order of things in Jericho.  

And then two spies show up.  Men from Israel, the nation that has been a plague on the countryside of Canaan.  Taking every town, wiping out kings, and claiming the land wherever they set foot.  Jericho knew what was up, and knew what was coming.  The spies get into town and for some reason (we wont got into the why or what of it) they end up at Rahab's residence/business/house.  And because of a story that she has heard about something God did 40 years ago, she immediately changed allegiance, stepped out on faith with a God she did not know, made the choice to believe, and lived through the destruction of Jericho.  

But thats not the point of this blog.  God shows up, big time.  Jericho falls.  Rahab is spared along with her family.  God's people hold their end of the bargain and she is brought out alive.  Imagine with me the walk back to Israel's camp after Jericho is taken.  The army is ecstatic having witnessed (again) God's power.  They have the plunder of the town and blood on their swords.  The mood is jubilant as they are welcomed back.  

And at the back of the line, walking quietly, eyes down is Rahab.  She is covered in the dust of the town she knew.  She is in shock after witnessing God's power. Where did she sleep that night?  What did she eat?  Did anyone offer her water?  I can only imagine the whispers she heard as people realized there was a group of people pulled from the wreckage of Jericho.  "What are they doing alive?"  "Did we forget to cut their throats?"  

This woman was not Jewish.  She was a prostitute, and the last of her city to be alive.  You want to talk about feeling inadequate?  She did not belong.  She did not have a clue about Jewish culture, tradition, dietary restrictions, laws, commands, or the any of the story.  

And God loved her.  

God showed himself reckless as he opened his arms and surrounded this woman, her past, her future. Everything was wrapped up in his embrace.  His love outshone her inadequacy, and she found herself in the spotlight of grace.  How do I know this?  Read Matthew 1:5.  This woman finds herself included into the nation of Israel, the tribe of Judah, and into the most important genealogy EVER.  Read Hebrews 11.  This woman is listed right next to ABRAHAM as an example of faith.  

If you ever feel inadequate, non-existent, out of place, or just downright down, look no further than a prostitute who found herself surrounded by the arms of God.   

While I feel inadequate to tell the story of God, I know that there is one thing that makes that feeling of inadequacy shrink into the background.  God loves me.  




August 5, 2013, 10:33 AM

I think I prefer snuggling with Jesus...


Yes, you read the title right.  I like snuggling with Jesus.  I like the warm-fuzzies, the reassuring words, the blessings of being close to Jesus.  What I dont like is all the effort I need to put in to maintain any form of relationship with Jesus.  Cant we just cuddle?  

I have an idea for a new product that I think will sweep the nation, especially those churches who are more interested in cuddling than growing:  The Jesus-Snuggie.  Its all warm and fuzzy and clingy... and then you can take it off and move about your day unencumbered by all those rules and regulations that come with a Christ-filled life.  Yep, that and the "The Aroma of Christ" cologne and perfume... gonna make me rich. 

My fear is that the only Biblical input many of us receive each week is the hour or two we spend on Sunday mornings in a building somewhere.  If thats all you get, you are a Jesus-cuddler, not a Jesus Follower.  What scares me even more is that those silly sermons I write and present might be the only Biblical input someone may be getting each week.  We're both in trouble if that is all you get!!!  Thats more of a handshake with Jesus, and doesnt even come close to the cuddling stage of the relationship.  

We, the global Church, CANNOT grow if all we do is snuggle up once a week then head back to a distant silence with Christ the other 166 hours.  

 

So are you a cuddler or a follower?  




July 1, 2013, 11:20 AM

why I prefer False Humility over no humility at all...


Well, at least you tried... right?  Wait, thats backwards, isnt it... I'd rather deal with the proudest person on the planet than try and wade through the pretense of false humility.  Let me be honest: I've tried to walk that line, struggling with the ego that comes from a job offer from a very large church, accepting that offer, then realizing my pride only aided in me being chewed up and spit unceremoniously to the side.  Was it ego that caused the fall?  No, but it certainly aided in the agony afterward!  

Folks, humility... yes, genuine humility, is KEY to the life of a disciple.  I cant help but look back at Jesus' closest friends and the trouble they got themselves into by posturing for better places in the coming Kingdom they expected Jesus to establish at any moment.  They were definitely feeling big in the britches about their place alongside Jesus, and be honest, so would you and I.  Am I condemning them for it?  Can I condemn anyone for pride? No.  What scares me is the opportunities we have to hide our pride behind a false humility, or the mask we put on of being "the meek" while barely controlling the hunger for station and reputation inside.  

We must be content with leading from the back of the line.  Thats doesnt mean yelling up to the guy holding up the line at the front!  It means showing the world that its OK for them to walk on us; Demonstrating to the world that we dont mind a little more persecution because of our beliefs.  After all, we're Blessed... we have a better place coming than anything this world has at the front of the line... 

Yes, another post from the "Easier Said than Done" department of Christian Living.  But what does it say to the world when we speak of humility and our willingness to serve, and talk of our understanding of the "last shall be first . . . " and then elbow people out of the way on our trek to get a deviled egg?! (those things always go fast and early at potlucks).  

I cant get over the idea that what has really messed things up today is NOT any litigation, legislation, or regulation for or against Christianity; the problem lies in the fact that Christians are no longer discernable from the rest of the population.  Meaning, we have allowed ourselves to look, act, and respond just like everyone else.  Doesnt the indwelling of the Holy Spirit make us different?  Shouldnt our knowledge, hope, and understanding that being Blessed make us different? 

Let your humility be true.  Whether your slapped in the face by ignorance, or standing on the foundation of righteous truth........ above all, humility.  

Thanks for reading... I'm off to update the title on my business card...  I've always loved the word "Potentate."  


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