It is not uncommon at all these days to meet or know people who identify themselves as Christians, and yet are not a part of a church community. I will be very direct regarding this. I don’t believe it’s possible to be a Christian and live separate from the Body of Christ, or that is to say, live outside the Christian community. I know that is a bold and pretty dogmatic statement and I can already hear “Ya, but”, filling the air. Let me say this first: I understand how easy it is to find fault in the church. It is without a doubt flawed and lacking in so many places and so many ways. The fact that the Church is alive and thriving in the world today in spite of the massive and never ceasing fragmentations is in itself nothing short of miraculous.
“When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard. “ Matthew 7: 28-29 (The Message)
“When you experience the deep pain of loneliness, it is understandable that your thoughts go out to the person who was able to take that loneliness way, even if only for a moment. When you feel a huge absence that makes everything look useless, your heart wants only one thing--to be with the person who once was able to dispel these frightful emotions. But it is the absence itself, the emptiness within you, that you have to be willing to experience, not the one who could temporarily take it away” (Henri Nouwen).
Do I have your attention? Some of you may be shocked, some of you may be sickened, some of you may be saying to yourself, “What they said is true, he's nuts!”
OK, let me explain what I mean, which could make it worse, but here it goes: A few years back I was invited to speak at a men's retreat. The thought occurred to me that I should begin the first session by coming out naked! Yep, buck-naked!!!!!! OK, maybe some sandals to protect my delicate feet, other than that, come out in all my splendor. In my mind I could clearly see the reaction. I could see guys falling out of their chairs laughing. I could see them staring at me in complete and total disbelief, but most of all, I could see and hear a group consensus emerging....”Put something on!” If I had actually done this, it would have made these men exceedingly uncomfortable. They would not have been able to endure me standing before them naked. And this reminded me of church!
Not exactly the uplifting title you would expect for a blog post, but there is some truth in it, especially in light of Proverbs 12:1,
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”
I actually love this verse and the NIV translation leaves little to the imagination. One does not need a full working knowledge of the Hebrew language to get the idea that’s it’s pretty stupid to run from God’s discipline. It’s pretty clear that in God's economy correction is a good thing and beneficial to us, yet in my experience most people are not naturally inclined to embrace it, or like it, let alone love it! But correction, in particular correction that comes from the hand of God, is a necessary and unavoidable part of relationship with God---“because the LORD disciplines those he loves” (Proverbs 3:12).
“The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:17-18)
There are many of us who have had the experience of being brokenhearted, and have suffered from a crushed spirit.
There are many things in life that can lead to these places, such as things others do to us, things that simply happen because of life’s agenda, and things that are a result of stupid things we have done, which often leave us with feelings of regret.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi he instructs the church to have the “same attitude as Christ Jesus.” I think this applies to everything in our lives, yet there are many who would rather cling to and defend their defenseless positions than extend grace to church leaders who stumble and fall. I am troubled by the attitude that many in the church have toward pastors who are thrown off course by the snares of sin.
For many years I ministered alongside John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, best-selling author, pastor, international conference speaker, and worship songwriter. John was a remarkable person and quite an innovator when it came to “how we do church.” There is no doubt that John’s contributions to contemporary Christianity have influenced a significant portion of the Church throughout the world.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a disciple as you will. Simply stated, the goal of a disciple is to learn from one’s rabbi, to emulate him. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that we are to be imitators of Christ. That’s not all that complex of a concept to understand, yet we seem to complicate Christianity with all our theories, our various theologies, and ideas about what it means to be a Christian. Frankly, it all wears me out and makes me wonder who the heck is right about all of this. This why I always come back to the K.I.S.S. principle: “Keep It Simple Stupid!” What are the things that seem to matter most to God? When push comes to shove, it appears to me that it always comes back to love. Loving God and loving others, is a very uncomplicated thing to understand, yet a very difficult thing to do.
Throughout the Bible we see people who were chosen by God to represent Him and do His work here on earth. In many cases we see great leaders who were also reluctant servants. For example, it is obvious that Moses was called by God to deliver the Israelites from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, yet he wasn't too eager to receive the calling when God first spoke to him. The exchange between God and Moses in Exodus 4 is almost comical. Moses keeps making excuses and finally says, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." Gideon was a surprise pick. He was reluctant to heed the call of mighty warrior because he felt inadequate being from the weakest clan and the youngest in his family. He asked God for sign to confirm his calling. Saul reacted to being anointed by hiding in the luggage! My guess is not only was David’s family confused by the passing over of his older brothers by Samuel when looking for Saul’s replacement, but to pick the baby of the family! That just wasn’t done. I’m thinking David wasn’t sure what the heck was going on either. Joseph, who after being left in a pit by his brothers, certainly couldn’t have imagined one day being elevated over them, or for that matter, his whole family. My guess is that by the time he was sold into slavery, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, cast into a dungeon and seemingly forgotten by all, his God-given dream was a faded memory.
No, not those three R's---Reading, 'Riting and 'Rymetic, but rather Reflection, Refocus and Recommit.
I have always loved the New Year; it always has made me feel like I get a fresh new start, which I seem to always need. It reminds me that I’m not a quitter and that I never give up. That as long as I have breath, there is always hope.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Wow! Another year is coming to an end, and I can’t believe it has gone by so quickly. For me this is always one of my favorite times of the year, not because of Christmas, but it means my family will be together, well, almost the whole gang; Noah, Britt and girls can’t make it this year. When the whole family is together, it’s a pretty big group and really a great time. Lots of good food, laughs, and love manifested via some world class teasing, but it’s clear that everyone loves being together.
About a year ago Martin Smith of the Christian music group Delirious met with eleven other Christian songwriters for a week of songwriting. During this time together they wrote twenty-two songs. After the retreat,and just a few weeks later, they recorded the best fourteen songs. All the proceeds from these songs are given away because the copyrights are owned byCompassionart, "a charity dedicated to seeing works of art generate income for the poorest of the poor." Andy Park was one of the tweleve contributors to this project. Andy is a gifted and anointed worship leader and songwriter whose songs are song by the Church throughout the world. I am excited to announce that Andy is coming to the Coachella Valley for a night of Worship and Compassion on January 31, 2009. We are hosting the event at Faith Community Church at 6:30 p.m.and will benefit the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission (CVRM).
Do I have your attention? Do you think this article is going to be about speaking in tongues? Sorry, not going there. But I do want to address the issue of the power of the tongue when it is used for either edification or destruction within the church. As James said,
“The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6)
I'm not going to delve into this deeply. I’m just going to share a couple thoughts as I listen to the rantings on the Left and the Right, neither of which I have found across the board to be rational or objective.
First of all, it seems to me that most Christians I meet are more influenced by their politics than by their faith. They seem to allow their political views to shape their faith, rather than allow their faith to shape their political viewpoints, which to me would mean one would have a tough time aligning oneself with either party completely. I sit and watch people on the Left and the Right say such thoughtless things, and rather than admit that their candidate is misstating something or simply wrong in their position, they will find some way to spin it in a partisan fashion. I'll be honest; I don't know how you can be partisan and not be in conflict with your faith. Our ultimate allegiance is to the 'Kingdom of God' and the values of the kingdom, which no political party embodies.
“Church” basically means "the assembled," "the gathered," or "congregation." Take your pick. By this very simple definition it’s hard to think of anyone being able to defend the individualistic and independent attitude that is expressed by so many who call themselves followers of Jesus, yet are not connected to the local church on any level.
I do not want to go down the path I have been on for a while, but simply want to highlight a characteristic that I have noticed in the church. We know that the Apostle Paul stated that he 'gloried in his weakness'. We know that in Romans 14 he encourages us to 'prefer the weaker brother' yet it doesn't seem to me that WE, I include myself in this, do this very well. We really like winners, we love 'success stories'; we like the strong, we only like hearing of failure in the aftermath of it, once someone is on the other side of failure and are reporting it as a past event. But embracing people, who have failed or never really succeeded, is something we don't really do.
Recently Todd Hunter came and shared with our church. Todd and I go back a long way. It was so refreshing to see how he treated our little church like it was 3,000 people. As to the content, it really was powerful and thought-provoking. There is no doubt that things have changed dramatically over the past couple of decades; the environment in which we seek to communicate the Gospel is more challenging than ever. All the things that we took for granted years ago, people believing in God, believing the Bible is the Word of God, believing Jesus was the Son of God are no longer viewed in the same way. As the song says, “Well that was yesterday and yesterday’s gone.”