We Come so We Can Go

What is church?  Is it a fancy fun place that we go to once a week to make ourselves feel good?  Is it a place we go so that others feel good about us?  Is it a place to go only to learn about God?  Is it where you go to talk to other people without dropping the mandatory every other sentence f-bomb?

What church is has really changed a lot over the years.  At Second Chance (the church plant we’re doing) we’re trying to get back to the roots.  The concept is that we want to Worship like Pentecostals, study like Calvinists, and be in the community like Evangelicals of old.  Our goal is to introduce people to Christ, transform the community for the glory of God, and Praise and Worship like there is no tomorrow…because hey, there might not be.

We have a vision that the church is a place to go, to learn and to edify the body, so that the body can go out into the world and do what it’s supposed to.  We come to church so that we can go out where we are needed.

This is a paradigm change for many in the American Church.  For many, the church has become a place to go and be entertained so we feel better about our situation.  (Don’t believe me?  Look around and see how many churches are doing The Happier You  from the pulpit.)  Then they tend to go out and just “live” with what suffering they feel they need to endure.  How are we spreading Jesus to the world by just trying to survive day by day?

All of our jobs, as the body of Christ (and the bride of Christ), is to be out sharing the message.  But remember, helping with an agenda attached isn’t helping…it’s propaganda.  It’s okay to love where you are, just remember that loving Christ is higher on the list.  Go and help the community so that it’s a better place, not to hand out tracts.  More often people will listen to what you have to say when they know it’s out of love, not out of a feeling of obligation.  If you’re out there helping them and their community for no reason other than helping, it shows a commitment to them and a love for them.

Honor God, help the community, teach the Gospel.  These three things are our calling, and the last two flow from the first…honor God.  You honor God by helping the community He has you in.  You also honor God by teaching His word and His love for people shown through His son Jesus the Christ.  Learn, help, and share.  Learn God’s word, help those around you, and share the good news, that’s your calling.  That’s all of our callings, every last one of us.  You personally can make a difference, but you have to do something first.

Taking the Drudgery Out of Sermon Preparation

Taking the Drudgery Out of Sermon Preparation by Webb B. Garrison.  This is a Source Books for Ministers book, and for those of you who know what that means, you know about how this reads.

Overall, the information in the book is of good value.  However, it seems like the same result could have been received with an essay or a long pamphlet.  About 3/4 of the book is basically restating the same thing over and over again with mild changes trying to show a different view of the same concept.  Maybe it was too much for me because I’m a musician and I have already figured out what Mr. Garrison is describing, on my own.

The book doesn’t talk about source study or really sermon preparation at all.  This book is intended to show how to take examples out of everyday life and find a way to use them in sermons.  Although, Garrison takes this to the extreme and often comes off as a Christian Panentheist.

I love the idea of finding examples from almost anything; again, I’m a musician and I do it quite often.  If read with a grain of salt, and understanding that this was written in the 60’s, it is informational and can be helpful.

Graceful Words of Wisdom

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that my wife and I are doing a church plant.  As a part of this process (as in getting ready) I’ve been talking with other pastors and church planters.

It’s really been amazing to hear all the words of wisdom coming from firsthand experience.  I just found out that the pastor at my last church has done 3 church plants in the past.  I had no idea!  And as it turns out, all three churches are still around and thriving today.  Now that’s impressive!  I already had loads of respect for Mark (the pastor), but man, this just adds to it.

I’ve heard great things that range from basic and common advice to very personal advice on how to keep the marriage strong and not destroy our family (yep, it happens a lot).  I’m really looking forward to having a sit down with Mark.  It’s been a while since we’ve talked.  I loved being at their church, great people, great teaching, and God was always glorified!  It’s a great privilege to serve near them.

So what can you take away from this?  Be humble enough to take advice from people who have already been through what you are entering.  Don’t think you have it figured out, there’s always something that we all miss.  It’s okay to learn from other’s mistakes, there’s no point in going through the pain if you don’t have too.  And remember, keep Christ the center, teach the Word, and serve the people.

Hakuna Matata

It means no worries, for the rest of your days.  It’s our problem free, philosophy, hakuna matata.  This is a real Swahili phrase that does translate to “no worries.”  So what brings this up?

I’ll be honest, I did one of those Facebook quiz’s that say’s who you are based on whatever category…this one was which Disney sidekick are you.  You guessed it, I got Timon and Pumbaa.  Why does this matter?  Well I find it interesting.  Several years ago Shannon and I applied to be missionaries in Tanzania, Africa.  I don’t want to go into too much detail, but suffice to say that I had a miraculous experience and “heard” someone say something to me (in Swahili) while no one was around.  The voice came right after having some serious physical and spiritual warfare, not being able to physically talk (seriously, I was texting Shannon like I was a teenager while she was right next to me because I physically couldn’t get the words out of my mouth), and being miraculously healed, and praying that I believed that Tanzania was where we should be.

I heard “ninakubali,” which translates into English as “I agree.”  I had never heard this, nor practically anything in Swahili at that point.  I called a good friend of mine who had spent 15+ years in Tanzania to see if it meant anything to him.  (He’s also the person who I was talking specifically with about the mission, so it really wasn’t weird that I called about this).  After telling him, he asked where I heard it.  That was an awkward conversation.  How do you tell someone that you believe that you heard from God in another human language that you don’t know.

Anyway, he informed me of it’s meaning and we were both rather taken aback by the situation.  In the long run, Shannon and I didn’t get the mission, but I still feel very drawn to Tanzania, and I firmly believe that we’ll be doing ministry there at some point.

Hakuna Matata, or no worries, is also very apparent in my life.  I find myself saying “no worries” to people a lot.  It really embodies how I view struggles in my life.  God’s in control, I’m His, so why worry about it.  Don’t get me wrong, I do worry more than I would like, but I really try to let the small stuff wash off my back like a good duck.

If this was a little pentecostal for you, sorry, but I do believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still alive and thriving today.  While I don’t speak in tongues, I’ve experience enough in my life to not question it.  And this is really something that happened to me, and Shannon and my friend can back this up.  God works and communicates in some crazy ways (at least how we see it).  Don’t be discouraged if how God is speaking to you isn’t how others seem as right.  I’m sure most people didn’t think that God speaking through a burning bush was right when Moses talked about it.  And we know that people didn’t think that Jesus was the way that the Messiah was supposed to be.  God’s doesn’t exist in the box people try to put Him in.  Confirm things with the scriptures.  Use discernment and prayer, but don’t try to limit God.

Another Hospital Visit

I’m used to going to the hospital for family and friends, not taking my children there.  Dad moment, mothers please understand that men don’t think the same way as you do and we tend to assume things aren’t as bad as they appear.

My 6 year old daughter slammed her thumb in the car door.  No, I didn’t shut the door, she did.  She did a crab like pincer grab on the door and slammed it shut leaving her thumb between the door and the rest of the car.  OUCH!!!  I open the door, she’s jumping in pain, I look at the injury…small mark and she can squeeze my fingers.  Okay, it’s not broken; lets go into the store and buy what we came here for.  (Like I said, Dad moment).

She’s complaining about the pain all the way through the store, even after a gave her a frozen item to use as an icepack.  We get out, I check the injury again, looks the same.  We go visit my father who’s recovering from his last hip replacement.  She’s still complaining.  We get to my Dad’s house and I give her lunch (that I had just bought from the store; don’t think I’m going to my Dad’s house for his food).  After lunch, she’s still complaining.  It’s been almost an hour now, so I check it again…it’s swollen up like a snow man and half of her hand is also swollen.

Ok, so super calm Dad calmly stands up and walks outside…and calls Shannon (aka my wife and the Mommy of Gabbie) freaking out.  Notice, I didn’t freak out in front of Gabbie.  I then call the Dr’s office and we head down to the doctor.  10 minutes in the waiting room, 10 minutes waiting in the exam room, the doctor sees it and we instantly go to get an x-ray.  Wait for 10 minutes to get her back into x-ray.  Wait 30 minutes for the doctor to come check the x-ray…she can’t read it.  She calls to have the radiologist to have them read it for her….they call back 45 minutes later.  But on a lighter note, the kids each got 2 suckers.

Radiology says it doesn’t appear to be a fracture, but if it’s still bothering her in 7-10 days to come back for another round of x-rays.  After all this, we are told there is significant soft tissue damage, but no bone break and the tendon is still attached.  Ice it and do anti-inflammatories.  Oh, don’t forget there’s frozen items in the trunk of the car.

All in all, I don’t feel like the best father right now; but she’s alright…and so are the groceries.  Love that little girl, hopefully that thumb injury won’t affect how tight her grasp is on this pinky.

The Slap in the Face that is the Gospel

The Gospel, the good news, the story of Christ and our salvation.  It is the most incredible information every given to mankind.  So why do so many people refuse to accept this news?  Is it just too simple?  Is it just plain unbelievable?  Or maybe it’s too old to be considered relevant today.

I’ve personally heard all of these reasons as excuses as to why someone wouldn’t believe the Gospel message.  In reality, I think it goes deeper than these.  Let’s face it, the Gospel is offensive!  It hurts to hear, hurts to read, and really hurts to believe it.  Why you ask?  Because the Gospel goes against everything we’re taught and think about ourselves.

To accept the Gospel one must first accept that they aren’t good enough and that they need saving.  That hurts.  As a Christian of 15+ years it’s too easy to simply say that I need a savior.  It’s like second nature to me.  But for someone who as been on their own for 15 years having to make ends meet, fix the car and water heater, make the money, pay the bills, and has stayed out of prison, the thought of needing someone to save them seems far fetched and even insulting.

It’s insulting, that’s why the Gospel is like a slap in the face.  It points out that you are not good enough on your own and that you need someone else to fix it for you.  I’m a computer tech, so it would be like someone telling me that I wasn’t good enough to work on their computer and that I needed someone else to fix my lack of skill for me.  Big whoop right?  Except that I’m the guy the other computer companies in the area call when they get in over their heads.  So to me, that hurts, it’s below the belt.  Especially since I wasn’t the one saying that I needed help, it’s someone else.

Then you look a little harder at the guidelines that we measured by if we’re outside of the Gospel of Christ Jesus…the Law.  The Law is a two fold item, first it shows us that we need saving, second it shows us God’s character.  The Law shows us God’s expectations and God’s character all at once.  This is how we know that we need saving, and again, it hurts.  It hurts even worse when you see the degree Jesus explains it, adultery and murder simply by thought.

The Gospel, while a giant slap in the face, is a slap pointing you in the right direction.  Pointing you and I in the direction God has for us, towards Himself.  A free gift of grace, of peace, of salvation.  More than that, it’s God bringing you personally into his lineage, making you an heir.  Meaning that everything God has is also yours.  Brothers with Christ Jesus, the Word from the beginning, inheriting eternity in Heaven with the Lord of all.  As painful as it is, it’s the only thing that matters; accept it.

As offensive as the Gospel can be, it’s also amazingly beautiful.  God approaches us with His love.  God, the one who made the universe, the angels, man, animals, the single cell, and keeps His hand on all of it keeping everything in motion – approaches us with His grace.  How beautiful is that?  That’s why Jesus calls Him Abba (daddy), and why we can too.  Abba, not just father – as a sign of respect, but daddy – a sign of desperate love and affection for the one above you.  Jesus died for you.  The reality of the Gospel is amazing.  It starts off sour and painful, but it ends as the most amazingly beautiful offering ever.

Being a Christian Doesn’t Make You Weak

Sat in at my buddy Jonathan’s church today.  What a blessing it was.  Fantastic Spirit filled praise to our Father God and Christ Jesus, a spectacular sermon, and great people to be surrounded by.  Best line of the day…”The meaning of life is more than 42.”

At one point Jonathan brought up how, in our society, men feel that being a Christian is a sign of weakness.  As a believer, I know just how ridiculous that statement is.  Unfortunately, however, it is how many people outside of the faith feel.  I think part of it is because we are raised to believe that we are good enough, strong enough, and that our success and happiness is what’s important.  Lies, lies, lies, and yet even Christian parents spread them.

The Gospel is incredibly offensive, another point I was excited that Jonathan brought up.  It’s striking how so many Christians argue, over creation and whether it was done in 6 literal days or if God made the world in millions of years as science suggests, for instance.  Christians who believe in the gap theory tend to suggest that we should have faith in the Bible while maintaining our intellect.  This suggests that the interpretation of the literal 6 day creation is foolish and that one is simply stupid to trust God’s word rather than science’s word.  There are many issues with this, but this post ins’t about this debate.  Suffice to say that the Bible constantly challenges and diminishes man’s personal intellect.  For instance, my intellect tells me that I’m a good man and that I should be able to earn God’s affection.  The Bible says both of those thoughts are false.  According to the Bible, I need to trust God rather than my intellect.  That doesn’t mean not to use your mind, it means to trust God and believe Him over your thoughts when they differ.

This is part of the reason why our society views us as weak, we don’t stand for what they think but rather for what God says.  We don’t stand for ourself, we stand for Christ.  But standing for another person isn’t viewed as week in our society.  Would you be considered weak for standing up for your wife?  No!  And Christ stood and died for His wife, the Church, and we are called to stand for Him.  With love, strength, courage, generosity, passion, and confidence we are called to stand.

Being a Christian doesn’t make you weak.  Just because people who don’t understand the Gospel tell you that you are a bad Christian when you stand doesn’t mean you are.  Stand for Christ and for what He taught and is teaching.  Be filled with the Spirit praising God the Father for the Glory of Jesus the Son.