March 2008 - Posts
Figuring out our purpose. It's the goal that has launched a million backpacking trips across Europe and an equal number of mid-life crisises. But as complicated as we make it and as difficult as it often feels, Paul felt like it was pretty simple. Here is what he says in Galations 5:13:
"You, my brothers, were called to be free."
That's it. That is our purpose, to be free. Nothing fancy. Nothing complex or difficult or mystically spiritual. Freedom, that is our gift and our purpose. That is the word that is supposed to define our lives.
So are you living it? Would people describe you as free? Or are you embracing slavery in some way? Are there chains on you people might not see? Because you can go to Europe a thousand times and get the fastest sports car on the planet, but at the end of the day, if you're not free, you're not living your purpose and that's a tragedy.
Be free today.
Dont take my title the wrong way. Last week Human Blogger, myself, Aunt L, and another gentleman whose name I can't remember right now had an eye opening conversation concerning the Sabbath. I prayed, I read scripture and I'm still kind of steamed. I'm steamed about people telling me that I don't honor the true Sabbath. The next time you see a billboard on the interstate condeming you for not honoring the Sabbath because you go to church on Sunday....remember this. Ever since the morning when they found the borrowed/temporary empty tomb of Jesus Chirst, the church has met on Sunday from then on. According to the New Testament ever since that day the church has met, assembled, and worshiped on the first day of the week.
The Sabbath was originally a day set aside by the laws of man to worship, and it fell on Saturday. We don't do that anymore and praise God we don't need that anymore. We celebrate on the first day of the week in honor of our resurrected Lord. Thus, the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday, the first day of the week. It was the day that Jesus Christ conquered death, hell, sin, and the grave....and He did it for you and for me. This eliminates ANY other way to God other than through the person of Jesus Christ.
(*Uncle J stepping off soap box....inserted here....sorry)
I think it's time we put the phrase "I have an unspoken prayer request" out to pasture. Seriously, let's just kill it.
It's one of those ideas that keeps us hidden from the people we're supposed to be visible to. When you say that to someone, you're hiding. You're putting a wall between you and the idea of prayer, which I think is meant to be vulnerable. You're hedging your bets in a way, asking for someone to give you something without giving them anything at all. It's a little hollow and a little empty and a little fake.
You can always go to James 5:16 to get a reminder of what God says about confession:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
It doesn't say, "sort of confess," it just says confess. So I think that's what we're supposed to do when it comes to asking someone to pray for you.
And here's the other thing, when you tell someone you have an "unspoken prayer request" people assume the worst. They might not admit it, but people automatically think, "wow, that dude is having an affair" or "yikes that guy is embezzling money" or something equally as big.
So do the simple thing. Ask for prayer with words that mean something and lets retire the phrase, "unspoken prayer request."
p.s. Be careful about James 5:16, it's one of those verses people often use as an excuse to employ honesty as a weapon.
My sister and I are about five years apart. When she was about two, I was about seven. I'll never forget when she stumbled upon the concept of "Independence." I'm not sure who told her about it, probably me, but it made my life a lot more difficult.
Suddenly when we would try to help her with her shoes or pour the milk on her cereal she would wail as if we were committing a horrible crime. It's led to many frustrating moments and a lot of her walking around with one arm rammed through the neckhole of a shirt because she refused to let anyone fix it.
And when we would get to this place together, there is one thing she would yell, one hybrid kind of word that she would say over and over and over again:
Mydo was simply her way of saying "My do" or "I want to do this for myself now. I'm not a baby anymore but an independent child with wants and needs that I need to express and fulfill myself. So please, give me some space."
I think her saying mydo, mydo over and over again was funny and very annoying but to tell you the truth, it's not that far off from what I tell God sometimes. There are times in my life or situations I find myself in where I don't want to pray about it. I don't want to seek counsel or read the bible or trust in God to provide. I just want to do it my way in my timeframe.
So I tell God, "mydo."
I wonder what he thinks when I repeatedly make mistakes he is trying to prevent, when I constantly doubt and push against his gentle, helpful love. When I interrupt guidance as interference and concern as constriction.
I'm not sure, but I've started to say "mydo" outloud when I find myself trying to go in a different direction than God. It's an instant reminder of how childish I'm being. Of how silly it is to not want the creator of the universe's help in my life.
So next time you're there and you will be, don't get mad at God, just say "mydo." Chances are, it just might keep you from pouring blueberry yogurt down the front of your dress or taking a job you're not supposed to have.
I was talking with a nice young man last night at my weekly attempt to play Basketball. We were talking about church and I asked him, "So how are you involved at your church?" He responded in all seriousness and with a straight face, "I'm involved right now in the ministry of attendance."
Squeeze me? :)
Are you serving or are you a spiritual consumer?
I have friends that have said things like, "I wish I didn't lust" or "I wish I wanted to work harder at work" or "If I was a good husband I would love my wife more naturally."
And I appreciate that sentiment. I think they are sincere in wishing they were just wired to be motivated to do the right thing. To do what is good. But here's the thing about good, it ain't easy.
It's not where our lives head by nature. It's not somewhere we arrive at without trying.
That's why I love Romans 12:9. Here's what it says:
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good
Can you see the freedom in that? You can stop pretending you love what is good just because you think your a good person. You can start admitting how hard it is to do what is good. You can scratch and claw as you try to hold on to what is good. You can cling.
That might not mean anything to you, but to me it means that it's OK when I don't default to the Good option in any given situation. I can't trust my default. I have to push and pull and fight my way to good.
Because good isn't easy. Good is not something we are magnetically drawn to.
So let's stop pretending it is.
And let's start clinging.
Matthew 17:1: "[Jesus] led them up a high mountain by themselves."
Matthew 28:16: "The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go."
Mark 3:13: "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him."
Mark 9:2: "Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone."
Every church needs to have a process that leads people to higher spiritual ground. Jesus didn't evaluate his ministry effectiveness by how many people joined him in the valley... but by how many had climbed the mountain with him. Likewise, it's saying nothing to have huge crowds on Sunday mornings. We have to lead them to higher, more exclusive, less selfish terrain. And unfortunately, many people will choose to stay behind.
In the past, I have been critical of things the church does. For not liking certain Christian radio stations or slogans like "Got Jesus" and complaining about what I find disappointing about them.
And I confess, I do tend to be too sarcastic. But I read something yesterday in 1 Corinthians that made me feel like maybe being honest about where the church succeeds and where it fails is OK. Maybe? Maybe not.
Here is what 1 Corinthians 14:12 says:
Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
The second half of that sentence is what I want to focus on. It doesn't say, "try to be average in gifts that build up the church." It says, "excel." That literally means "to surpass, to do extremely well." That's a challenging word and it's what I want to do for the church.
Lately, I have written as hard as I can when I blog. I've been guilty of cutting corners in the past but reading this verse lets me know that I can't do anything less than my best for the church. Not everyone has that same idea though.
My friend is the associate pastor of worship at our church and he said that he has heard people say that something was "good enough for the church." That is, it wasn't top notch or the best, but it didn't have to be, it was "just for church."
That's bogus. That doesn't excel or make God look like the amazing God he really is. And that's why when someone doesn't try hard I don't feel bad about writing a blog to ask, "Hey, why didn't you try hard?"
At the same time however, notice what we are to excel at is building up the church. I am not called to be really talented at tearing down the church. I am not called to be an expert at what the church does incorrectly. I am called to build her up. To be the very best at building up.
So that's the call today.
If you've been in churches, you've heard the word worship a lot. You've been encouraged to worship God thorugh singing. When worship is "good", you've been emotionally moved. Worship has even become it's own "style" in the music industry. Worship is more popular than ever, and we use this word constantly, but what does it mean?
The answer comes when we look at the life of Jesus Christ. How did Jesus talk about worship? The answer is simple....He didn't. Jesus really didn't talk much about worship. He didn't have to. His life told people what worship looks like, so His mouth didn't have to. And it seems like Jesus' life can be best characterized by one word.....surrender. Complete, total, unwavering surrender. Jesus was completely surrendered to the will of His Father, in every area of His life. He surrendered His relationships, time, dreams, and His life to the sovereign will of His Father. For Jesus, surrender and worship went hand in hand.
And so it comes down to us....it's one thing to worship God when the songs are our favorites. It's another thing to worship God with hearts surrendered to His will. Worshipping God is feeding people who won't eat unless you respond. It's treating co-workers with dignity and respect. It's placing your future in His able hands. It's trusting Jesus in the middle of a bad storm. It's laying your ambitions at the foot of the cross. It's opening your hands and your heart.
So today, and this weekend you're invited to worship God, and you're invited to see worship differently this time around.
SEE WORSHIP DIFFERENTLY!
It is my personal opinion that in this world there is no better way for men to reflect the love and servant heart of Jesus Christ than to practice the art of being a gentleman. We live in a world where men are bombarded through TV, the internet, music, movies, video games, and every kind of media you can imagine. They are encouraged to be rude, crude, and to disrespect and degrade women. We must teach our young men that if we aren’t different from the world, we will never make an impact for Christ, after all, God told us to be in the world, but not to conform to it (Romans 12:2). So, exactly what is a gentleman? I’m glad you asked. God’s word tells us that we will become great when we become as a servant (Mark10:43). A gentleman is a servant-leader.
Being a gentleman is not rocket science, however, it is not just a list of good things to do; it is a lifestyle. It is a great way you can relate to people, and when you relate well to people, they will in turn relate well to the Jesus Christ inside you as you reflect Him. Matthew 5:16 is the basis for being a gentleman. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Understanding this allows you to understand that being a gentleman is not something you can do to make you feel good; you do it to honor God. It goes back to those four little words that are plastered all over the church I serve at. “It’s all about Him.” It’s about honoring God by honoring others with your actions.
Okay, yesterday I came across a random article about a random book when I googled the word "rest." Don't ask. The article discussed that in the book, the authors discuss the critical need to rest. They write, "Because energy diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal." Did you get that? Go back and read it again just in case.
Basically, the more you work, the more you need to rest. But our society isn't structured that way. Busyness is seen as a sign of success. Being constantly available via a blackberry or cellphone is a sign of professionalism. Checking work emails at night and on the weekends is a sign of importance.
But what does the Bible have to say?
One of my favorite verses about rest is Psalm 23: 2-3
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
I think it's important to note that restoration of our soul does not occur until we are laying down. Did you notice that? Unless we are laying down we can not be restored.
And that makes sense. When a surgeon operates, you have to be laying down. If he tried to operate while you were running on a treadmill or driving in your car between meetings or frantically answering emails, it would be a messy failure. So instead, the surgeon puts you to sleep and operates while you are laying down.
I think God is the same way. He doesn't ask us to fall asleep, but he does ask us to be still. To lay down in green pastures while the great doctor, the healer of all hurts goes to work.
The Sabbath is one of those gifts from God that so many of us, myself included, have not learned to receive yet.
So today, lay down.
Here's a very quick summary of a story from CNN:
A 16 foot python swallowed a family dog whole in front of two kids.
That's a tragic story. I mean, the idea of a snake eating a Chihuahua is not a pleasant image. I agree, gross, but there is something I that I think is interesting about this whole thing. In the middle of the story, the owner of the Australian Venom Zoo (which by the way is my new favorite zoo down under) said three things:
1. "It (the snake) actively stalked the dog for a number of days," Douglas said.
Isn't this true of temptation? Temptation is small and slow and patient, but like a snake sneaking up on us, it often catches us unaware.
2. "The family that owned the dog had actually seen it in the dog's bed, which was a sign it was out to get it," he added.
I'm weird, but if I found a snake that was 16 feet long in my dog's bed, I'd be nervous. I would notice it and probably call someone to get rid of it. But how often do we have the same reaction to temptation? We see a glimmer of it, we brush against it lightly and realize it's huge and big and potentially dangerous but we decide not to do anything.
3. "They should have called me then, but (the snake) got away and three or four days later, I was called and went around and removed it" after the dog had been killed, Douglas said.
As my grandfather used to say, "It's too late to do anything when your dog is already half way inside a snake." And that's true of temptation too. When you've already accepted money you don't deserve from a shady business deal or kissed someone that is not your husband, it's too late to avoid temptation. You're in the middle of a mess.
This week, remember the dangers of snakes, temptation and sin. They're not that different.