Thursday, April 30, 2009

Who Is It For

This morning I am struggling with the question of who the church is for. I guess for me it is not a real struggle. Where I find the struggle is helping the church to understand for whom it exists. First let me give a definition of the church. The church is the community of people living, celebrating and witnessing to the Kingdom of God. Now that is out there I offer the church is intended for those who are not yet a part of it.

In our modern day the church can mistakenly think it exists for itself. For the care and pleasure of its "members". As long as I have been a pastor I have heard the cries of church members wanted the church to serve them. Flat out this is not the intention of the church. The church does not exist to be a care station for its own, now there needs to be healthy and supportive relationships in the church, but the primary reason for existence is not the care of its members. That would be a country club or some other organization, but not the church. The church is not to be about the care of itself, or the assurance of its existence. We have already been promised existence through Jesus Christ.

So what does the church exist for? To build relationship with those who are not yet a part of the community. To say it more simply, to give themselves away. Jesus said it is not the healthy who need a doctor, it is the sick (Luke 5). The context of this teaching is the religious people complaining about who Jesus hung out with, and contrasting who he was suppose to be with if he were really godly. Jesus shows us he made the earthly pilgrimage so that humanity could experience the Kingdom of God, not for themselves. Not to develop an alternative religion. The church was never intended to be a religion, or overly organized for that matter. The church is a movement, an organic movement, witnessing to the kingdom of God, giving itself away, and following its leader Jesus Christ.

If you are a part of a church, great, it is not for you. If you are not a part of a church, I pray we can be a witness to you of the kingdom of God.

Monday, April 27, 2009


We are promised in the scriptures "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom!". I wonder how many people truly live a life of freedom? There are so many things which enslave and trap us. There are things outside of our control, abuse and harm done to us. There are things which we control but cannot seem to step out of, greed and consumerism etc.

There is an intense drive in our culture to get ahead, and differentiate yourself from the crowd. Our American culture has become a celebration of the individual, and the celebration of diversity. These two celebrations have lead to a culture which has lost its sense of community. Sure we like to talk about community, but it is not possible because we must defend our right to be an individual, our right to be a part of the diversity. In our pursuit to maintain these things we have become enslaved to values which hold us down. We must defend territory, stake our claim in the world. Politics and power plays have become the rules of engagement. In the end we are trapped in a life style that is stealing life rather than giving life.

Have we not noticed the reported cases of depression have skyrocketed. There are more people on medication than an other time in history. People uses all kinds of escape tools; drugs, alcohol, television, pornography and the list could go on, to try and fix what seems empty in their lives. That emptiness is the pain of imprisonment to ourselves. What we need is freedom. Not freedom promised by the American way. Not freedom to be individuals. Not freedom to be who ever I want to be. We need freedom that comes from the Spirit of God.

The freedom of the Lord is not so we can create a new system of imprisonment. Rather we are free to be a full member of God's missional community. We have been set free from whatever our past holds. We have been set free from the endless striving. We have been set free from power struggles and politics. We are free indeed to live as a full participant of God's community through the grace offered to all through Jesus Christ.

Let's be people of freedom!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hungry Men

I just spend a weekend with a great group of men on retreat. I was asked to be their teacher for the weekend, and I sure did enjoy myself. Along the way men were set free from some major burdens, and new ground was established in the lives of these men. The journey of transformation was continued and bolstered by what God did.

As I was driving home I began to reflect on the weekend. I could not get away from the fact that these men were so hungry. Not for physical food, they were craving more our of life. They wanted to be godly fathers and husbands. They wanted to me men who were transforming in their lives so other men might be drawn to the journey transformation. The men on that weekend are not alone. There are men inside our churches and most of them outside our churches who are looking for more in life. They turn to all kinds of things to find it, alcohol, drugs, pornography and the list can go on and on. Not all the ways we try to find significance seem as destructive, some it is work, or children's sports, or fraternal organizations. There is a hunger.

In the life of the church all to often this hunger is ignored, and men are taught to be just like women and find fulfillment just like women. This is a major problem because if you have not noticed men and women are very different, and it has nothing to do with physical bodies. The result of the effort of the church is most men have given up on the church and on God to provide that fulfillment. It is not than men do not want God in their lives, it is they have been sold a false bill of God about what it means to be a man of God.

So it is time to create space for men to be men. It is time for the church of Jesus Christ to help these hungry men find fulfillment. Coming soon there will be a time apart for men to be men. A time for being rugged, a space for warriors to be warriors, a space for men to be dangerous. I am working with another colleague and we are designing a men's experience for feeding that hunger deep inside all men. Be watching for more information.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TIme Away

Later this morning I will be leaving for some time away. For as long as I have worked, I have struggled with taking time away. When I became a pastor it only got worse. I have now learned the benefit for mission, ministry and family when I take time away.

Restoration of the soul is important to the long haul of the journey. We all must find a time and place to withdraw from the race of the world to reconnect with the ones we love and with the core of why we exist.

So for the next few days I will be out of commission. It will probably be Monday before I post again. I pray all of you have a blessed weekend as I get to spend time away. Part of my time away is celebrating 10 years of being married to the most amazing woman. For ten years Sarah has stood by me and made room for my crazy exploits. Everyday is a reminder of who much God loves me because of the woman God set aside for me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Glorious Monday

I start off this week with a confession. The way I experience the Sunday services at church directly affects the way I face Monday. I am not sure if this is right or wrong, I am not sure if it matters. What I do know is I should not make decisions about the church on Mondays because they can be very inaccurate.

Having said that, yesterday, Resurrection Celebration, was amazing. God is so God. I wanted the day to feel like a party, a celebration of new life because the grace could not hold him. I think most people left the building yesterday dancing and excited about the work of God. The music was awesome, people were engaged and interactive, the whole thing was a great blessing.

Now comes the challenge, living everyday with that attitude of celebration. Joy should be the calling card of Christ Followers. This does not always mean we are sickening sweet, it means we have an underlying attitude of contentment, and assurance. And why not, Jesus is alive, the grave could not hold him. This should be our blessed assurance.

Another area of life this joy cannot overshadow is the call to do justice and be the mission of God. There is some just horrible stuff, theological term, happening in our world. Joy is not simply dismissing it and ignoring it. Joy is addressing it with the contentment and assurance of Christ. Knowing that because we have new life in Christ, all people can have new life in Christ. We are a new creation, so we can be Christ's ambassadors to the world. What a joy-filled job.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Best Day

It is early, a little colder than I would like, and I am exhausted from the events of this week. It is all worth it when I consider the greatness of this day. I realize that every day is a resurrection day. The fact of new life is not reserved for one day a year. Still there is something about Easter morning, especially after walking through Holy Week. We begin with the grand entrance to the city, then to the last supper. Next is the glorious tragedy of the cross, followed by the hope, anticipation and struggle of Saturday. Then it comes the celebration that the tomb could not hold him.

It is for this day we were created, it is for this day he was sent. Jesus is Messiah, and that means we can once again have relationship with our God. I am not sure I always understand the gravity of that. Today we celebrate the doors of heaven flinging wide open. We see the annunciation that it was all true, the Kingdom of God is at hand. We also have a renewed hope that Jesus will return and the Kingdom of God will be fully realized here on earth.

Today is the day it all becomes worth it. Today is the day for which the Lord was sent. We should do more than rejoice. We should party, we should dance and sing, we should live as a new creation.

I hope you have the best, best day of the year.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday

Today begins the journey to new life. Holy Thursday is the day we tell and live out the story of Exodus. The movement from captivity to freedom. In the past for me this has tended to be a somber day. This year not so much. This is a day of celebration. There will be time enough to be somber and focused tomorrow, but today we party.

When Jesus gathered with the 12 in the upper room, he knew exactly what lay ahead in the coming hours. Still it was passover, a time to celebrate being set free by God. I am sure there was laughter around the table, there was probably spontaneous singing. It was a party atmosphere as they ate together. It was only Jesus, and now us, the disciples didn't know, who know that it was the Last Supper. Jesus didn't say go prepare our last meal, no he told them to prepare the passover. It is not until the meal is over that Jesus shares this will be the final meal until glory.

So I say, celebrate, party. This is the day when we connect with being released from captivity. This is the day we celebrate God continuing to make a way for captives to be set free. If you are gathering today and it is somber, God bless you, I invite you consider having some fun.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Anticipation of Holy Week

If you are a regular reader of this blog you have been able to clearly see I am not exactly a mainstream, traditional church kind of guy. Still this season of life in the church is my favorite. I cannot tell you when Christ the King Sunday is, or when Epiphany is going to be, heck I am doing well if I remember Christmas Eve when it comes around. Aye, but Easter, the Holy week, to me the rest of the journey does not really matter if we short circuit Holy Week.

I am not referring to the pageantry, I am not referring to the the cycle of worship gatherings. I am talking about what stands behind all these events. Maundy or Holy Thursday, the Last earthly meal of Jesus. The inauguration of Holy Communion as a time of presence and remembrance of Jesus Christ. Good Friday, good for us not so good for Jesus. The day when the perfect sacrifice is made once and for all. The culmination of the earthly ministry of Jesus, but not the end of the story. Then Holy Saturday, the day of emptiness. The day when Jesus is dead, and in the tomb. The day when the disciples are lost and afraid. Giving way to Resurrection morning. The day Jesus was proved to be who he said he was. The tomb could not hold him, the grave was flung wide open. In that moment not only did Jesus receive new life, we too were given new life.

As we move toward this Holy time, I invite you to move beyond religious observances. I invite you all to take time and really seek after what God was doing through Jesus. Seek after what God is doing right now.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Never Promised To Be Easy

Monday's are always difficult days for me. Sunday is usually such a celebration and ministry seems so real and effortless. The next morning we come back to reality where there is work to be done. I find myself uttering the words, "I thought this was suppose to be easier." In my mind I have it all built up that this being a Christ Follower thing is suppose to be easy. I am not suppose to encounter struggle or hard times. Monday morning usually brings the thought, maybe I should just do something else with my life. This is too hard.

Once I pull myself to my knees and reconnect with God, I start to remember some important things. First, I remember that I was never given t he promise of it being easy. Second, I can have easy if I am willing to settle for less than everything God has to offer. I have had opportunity to read through the Bible several times. I do not have it all memorized and I leave room to not have it all together, yet I have yet to find the place where we are promised it would be easy. Ever since people have been trying to follow God, they have had to struggle. The struggle has been with ourselves, with the society around us, with other followers. It seems as though it has always been a struggle, yet it also seems that we can grow through the struggle.

As far as making it easier. This whole pursuit could be made easier if I would simply identify a list of things that I can and should do, coupled with a list of things I cannot and should not do. If there I were to generate a prescriptive formula on how to follow Christ, I could simply do the right things, and not do the wrong things. No longer would I have to wrestle and struggle, I could simply compare to the list. While this would reduce the struggle and increase the guilt, it would not result in the life God has called us to in Christ.

Never were we promised following Christ would be easy. In fact often Christ was clear of the struggle it would be. The measure is not how easy it is to follow, rather how we engage the journey. If you are looking for easy, you might miss God and find religion. If you are looking for God, prepare for the journey.