Saturday, September 30, 2006

What is Church Anyway?

What is Church Anyway?

I bet you think of a building, don’t ya? Or, maybe a congregation of people in that building? Think of it this way: If Jesus had in mind what you and I think church is, would it not make sense that He would have spent His time on earth doing things other than just hanging out with people???

Seriously folks! What about believers in other parts of the world, what about those in other centuries? Are they condemned because they didn’t dress up many times a week and go to a building for services and prayer meetings?

Might I posit the obvious: Our understanding of church needs work!

Church is Christ-followers living out their faith together (key word there!) which sometimes and occasionally includes corporate activities. Corporate activities are vital to church; they are not, however, most of what we do.

Neither, I might add, is small groups church… altogether. “Small groups,” in and of itself can be just a smaller corporate meeting. “Small groups” is “Community Lab.” I see it as a place where we learn to live out our faith and practice it safely in a hospitable environment (i.e., community).

Which idea of church are you living out? Is church a lifestyle – constantly relational for the purpose of building God’s Kingdom? (I know church staff people that are too busy with church work to do that!!!) Or is your idea of church something else? Something that is not congruent with the life of Christ we read about in the Gospels?

Improvement on our ideas is what I’m after here, not a change in behavior. That will come when our ideas change.

Read the Gospels.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Profundity in Simplicity

There is more wisdom in the simple than the profound and complex.

God is good.

Heaven is real and coming.

We will battle the tendency to reject God until the day we die.

Be still and know that He is God.

The one who listens to God hears Him.

Hearing God means that we spend time alone and silent.

If we don’t spend regular time alone and silent… we won’t hear God.

God want us to hear Him.

Hearing what He has to say is a good thing.

It seems we want to listen to any other voice besides the voice of God.

God ordains whatsoever comes to pass.

Precious little (in fact, nothing) depends on you.

God loves you whether you know it or not, whether you’re lovable or not, whether you have experienced any kind of love or not.

Jesus died to wipe out any penalty you owe for your wrong-doings.

Worry is a sin.

Alcohol in moderation is not.

Every prayer is heard by God.

Praying is the end of prayer (not answered prayer).

Joy is available. As you become the real you, joy will emerge.

The world stinks.

Hope motivates.

God’s gonna win!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ever noticed that you CAN notice?

Oh, what a beautiful morning! As I drove out this morning, I thought this to myself as I noticed the crystal clearness of the haze-free and dry early fall morning.

Then I had a metaphysical, existential moment:

I noticed that I COULD notice!

I noticed a beautiful morning with the gift of notice-ability.

I not only noticed the beautiful day waking up, I noticed that I was given the gift, the ability to notice!

God let me see, let me notice, let me behold.

Do you notice… you can?

What do you see when you look?

(Jesus said:) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God (1 John 3:1).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

How Do You Know If What You're Doin's God's Will?

I am currently tutoring a rising senior in high school – Algebra II, ugh! We begin our summer mornings on the porch where we “solve the world’s problems” before we solve the ones in the math book!

Today went like this: You see, the young man is a committed follower of Christ, mature and apparently committed to God’s plan for him. He is an excellent baseball player. His decision du jour revolves around which school to attend (he has been home schooled and plans to go either to a Christian school without baseball or the public school with baseball). It seems it comes down to this: Christian school portends the end of baseball – what the young mans calls “laying it down.” And, public school is place of ill-repute in which one’s faith is attacked regularly and without mercy. There is more to it than that, but this young man really wants to honor God and has a love for baseball as well.

This scenario and millions like it face believers daily. Some simply do their best to make a decision and others seem to hear God speak to them clearly and decisively saying, “This is what I want you to do.”

Interestingly, this particular morning I was sitting reading a book on solitude and silence when the conversation began. What follows is a record of my mind’s ruminations on the subject of pondering God’s will. I purposely will not fire off the customary Bible verses with the “And, there you have it!” at the end. I want to talk in a rational tone to a rational mind.

The first thing I want to note is that regardless of one’s theology of determining God’s will, personal beliefs seem to bear on the decision with invariable certainty. For example, one might have the belief that in order to follow God’s will, personal enjoyment is out of the question. So, in our case this morning, the prospect of God’s will including baseball seemed self-promoting and therefore very remote. Now, don’t scoff! I’ll bet that hits close to home for many of us. Point is, though, our ideas and beliefs we bring to the decision table bear strongly on the proceedings.

This young man went on to tell me that “everyone” has been quick and generous with their “advice.” This is where I really began to think. Paul in Colossians strongly warned against this. (I said I wasn’t going to do it, but I am). Go read chapter 2, a polemic against self-appointed arbiters!

What place does advice have then? Here is the biggest point I want to make: I want to heed the advice of those who have done well hearing from and heeding Jesus themselves. Would it not make perfect sense that the advice of greatest value comes from the ones most intimate with the Lord – the ones who have been with Him, the ones who have spent time listening to Him in silence and solitude?

I want those kind of loving relationships, don’t you? Think about this in a church context. Suppose you are in a town meeting or an elder meeting in which the future trajectory of the church needs to be addressed and strategized. Traditionally, the meeting happens, everyone gives their “opinion” (“I think we oughta ….”), a token prayer opens and closes the meeting and decisions are made right there on the spot – ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH!

For those of us even remotely interested in doing God’s will, would it not make practical and plain sense for us to spend time with God, quiet and in the listening mode? I mean, really! Think about decisions you and I have made – from the brand of deodorant to the choice of a spouse. Have these decisions (at least the key ones) been preceded by times of intentional, protracted and meaningful times of silence with the hope of HEARING GOD? Then why, for crying out loud, do we think we are following God’s will?

Jesus in John 10 says (as plainly as the nose on your face) “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (v. 27).”

I guess the best indicator that one has “heard the voice of God” is that person has been still and quiet long enough to have heard it. Only problem is: The church discourages stillness, does it not? Even the silent prayer time in the worship service has an organ playing in the background! We are to be do-ers of the Word, winning the world to Jesus, right? Activity and busy-ness is rewarded in the church. (Sorry for letting my cynic show.)

So, where and when are we taught and encouraged to “Be still and know” that He is God? My God, may the church take a practical clue and stop and listen!