Thursday, November 29, 2007

Trying to Please God

So much of what we call a Christian life is spent trying to please God. We make sure to God to church, so god won't get mad at us. We give to the church and other ministries to get God off our back. When we take a few moments to slow down and ask the dangerous question of why, our life might not be the same again. I have to confess that for far too long I have been trying to keep God please with me, making sure that I do the right things, and stay away from the wrong things. Much like the followers of God in the Old Testament, I want to make sure that I give the right sacrifice at the right time, so God will be pleased with me a bless me. I have come to believe this to be faulty thinking. Understand that I have transitioned my thinking, just not all my actions to this point. God is already pleased with us. That is the whole point of Jesus. That God is pleased with us and longs to be in relationship with us. It is not God's unhappiness that blocks a relationship, it is our sin. At the root of every sin known, and not known, is placing something, or someone ahead of God on our relationship priority list. Anytime we make something more important, or bigger than God, we are practicing idolatry. At its heart all sin is idolatry.

Ironically the gods we place ahead of the Lord God, will never be pleased or satisfied with us. There will always be a demand for more of our attention and sacrifice. Yet we ignore the true God who is already pleased with us, and further separate ourselves from that God. What would happen if we shifted focus. What would happen if those who carry the name of Christ began to live like people who were in relationship with a god who was pleased with them. What would happen if we began to live a life that showed we have been blessed by God, not for our sake but for the sake of other people.

We are people, all people, who have a God that is pleased with us, and longs to be in perfect relationship with us. When are we going to stop trying to please this God and all the other gods in our lives?

Monday, November 26, 2007

God Knows What We Need

I shouldn't be, but I continue to be amazed at the ways in which God knows what we need. Not only is there a knowledge of the need, there in an amazing ability to provide in unexpected ways. Over the last few months in the church I have been doing some small group or one-on-one meetings with people from the church I serve. Through one of those meetings yesterday God has provided just what I needed. After the Sunday services, I was feeling less than encouraged about my abilities as a pastor. I had a stressful weekend, and have been watching the church attendance stagnate over the past few weeks. I had begun to wonder if I was reaching anyone. If people were growing in their faith, or if I was doing anything of value in the kingdom of God. Just to clarify, not a happy or good place to be. My plan was to call my covenant partners later in the evening, after this meeting with three women from the church. God knew I needed that meeting more than anything in the world. I sat with three women who have have been growing in their faith over the last year, and have decided recently to jump out of comfort zones and begin to serve God in new ways. They told the reason was that God was using me, to encourage them and show them the possibilities of what God could do. Thank you ladies and thank you God for the encouragement.

I do not write this for me, rather that we would know that we have a Heavenly Father who cares for us more than we can imagine. He knows what we need, what our soul needs, or responsibility is to be obedient in following his call and lead.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What to Do When It's Broken

Whether we like it or not all of our lives are effected by organizations and institutions. There is not a single person who is exempt from this. Yet there are some who are able to function and do what God has called them to do in spite of a broken system. Usually these are the people who push a dead institution toward reform and renewal. This brings me to a question, when the system is broken what is the difference between reform and insubordination? I am a part of a broken and if not dead on hospice system and institution. The church organization that I belong to is in desperate need of reform, yet I want to make that like King David, I am honoring those who God has placed over me in the organization. I am balancing the drive and call to be a radical reforming voice of renewal and challenge to the system, and the need to respect and honor those who take actions and make decisions that seem to aid in the death of the church. The easy way out would be to become non-denominational, however I think the challenge still follows you. No, when it is broken and dead, revival is the only course of action. There comes a time when those whom God pushes are to step out and challenge the system. If we look at the life of Jesus he was constantly charges with insubordination. Jesus did not follow the rules and regulations of the established system, He advanced the Kingdom of God, even when the religious leaders tried to stop him. I is time to follow the leader, and advance the Kingdom, even if the religious leaders are not willing to go.

Matthew 11:12 says this, " Since the time of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men and women, take hold of it."

Status quo, playing inside the rules is not going to get the job done. If this means I am charged with insubordination, so be it, I am in good company.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Poor Representatives of The Truth

I have noticed that there are more and questions about God surfacing in our world. Actually I am not sure there are more, I am becoming more and more aware of the questions, and having a few of my own. Along with noticing the questions I have found myself at a deficit in answers. I have always thought as a pastor I was suppose to have the answers, so I learned many of the standard answers. additionally I learned to say them with great conviction and rudeness, hoping to reduce arguments. I have now reached a point of realizing that the questions of our faith are not questions which come with standard answers, and often the standard answers need to be challenged. The result of sticking with the standard answers is a church that cannot think in increasing numbers. These churches are producing individuals who are not able to think and examine critical issues. This has brought us to the point in our journey where Truth has taken a real hit because we, the church, have been poor representatives of the truth. I want to be clear, Truth, absolute truth, exists, however, there is not a single earth originated person who holds all of this truth. What this means is that we all need to approach discussions of truth with an appropriate measure of humility, understanding and willingness to journey with all people and God. I wonder what would happen if we spent less time trying to assert truth, and more time letting the God of Truth be revealed to us as we listen to and ask questions of each other?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jumping Into a Rock

Now by most people's account jumping into a rock is not one the smarter things that one could do with their time and energy. In fact if done with enough force, and distance could have quite extreme consequences. There is a rock though, that we should all jump into, fore it is the Rock, also known as Jesus that we should be jumping into. I want to be clear that we are not to jump into the church, we are not to jump into some institution, we are not to jump into anything that is made by human hands, or gives glory to human hands. We are to jump with all our might into Jesus Christ. Yesterday, Sunday, November 11, 2007 was the day that both my feet left the edge of where I was at. I am now headed full speed ahead toward the Rock, Jesus Christ. While I am still a part of a dying, if not dead, institution, that is not where I am jumping to. I am jumping to Jesus. No longer will status quo living and minister have room in my life. No longer will I take the easy, comfortable, or casual way out. Every moment of my life will be aimed at following Jesus, no matter where that takes me. I invite you to jump into the Rock.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Reflection From Africa

Finally I am going to write a little about my time in Africa. I was excited about going and learning about the church in Africa, and worried that I might teach some of the bad habits of the American church unknowingly. Once I got to Africa I found a people who were for the most part still primal in their faith. The people of the church in Africa are some of the most committed people I have come across. Their devotion to the work God has called them, and their commitment to serve God with all their heart soul and mind was humbling. I could see signs of the American church creeping into the church in Africa, and it saddened me. I pray that is there is any transfer of learning it is that we in America re-learn what the African church seems to have not lost. My we have vitality, passion and reliance on God through the Holy Spirit like those I encountered in Africa.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Time For Action

Recently here in the city of Cortland where I live there have been some lively editorials concerning Christianity in the newspaper. Now at least one of the articles uses a questionable process of selecting biblical texts, and not using the fullness of a text. I expected better scholarship from some one who is a college professor, but that is not the point. The point is that both of the articles pointed to the same thing, Christianity is under attack, and I think it should be. However, letters to the editor, sermons, even blogs are not going to engage the battle on the best level possible. The only way to begin to answer the critics is to let religion and Christianity die, and to embrace what Erwin McManus dubbed the Barbarian way. We should be living a dangerous life, filled with risk and uncertainty. Institutions, religion, and tradition have never and will never bring the fullness of the kingdom of God. Only when individuals choose to live a more primal life, and those individuals band together to follow with all they are and all they have after God, as taught by Jesus Christ, then the Kingdom of heaven will be advanced. So what say you, are you just going to read this blog, possibly comment, and live your life the same? I hope not!