Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Re: Christmas

I recently read an article in Relevant magazine (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/) about the origins of the idea of Santa Claus. According to this article, there was a guy who was considered a Saint whose name was Nicholas. It was in the 300's A.D., I think. Anyways, he inherited great wealth and wanted to give gifts to some orphan kids. However, he wished to do this anonymously and began by dropping the gifts through the window of the home. But, they were onto him the next year and were waiting, so he decided to drop the gifts down the chimney.

Is that not true religion?

James 1:26-27
26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

The Christmas season has become something I really don't like. I hear so many people talk about HAVING to go buy gifts and being so busy with all the SHOPPING and all that goes along with Christmas.

Tracy and I celebrated our first Christmas as husband and wife in 2004. We both spent a large amount of money (at least for us) on each other. And, what we realized was that instead of enjoying the event, we were both stressed out hoping the gifts were perfect and we both lost our vision not just for Christmas but for being a Christ-follower in general.

So, we decided to do away with buying gifts for each other. It has been so freeing. We enjoy working together to buy gifts for family members, friends and others, but we just don't buy anything for each other. And, it's been amazing.

We have had the privilege this year of being involved in giving some gifts to a number of different families and orphanages that do not have enough money to get gifts on their own and that has been a gift to me as well.

As we prepare for the climax of this holiday season, maybe we all could consider the way we view Christmas. We might find that we have turned our kids into self-centered narcissists instead of Christ centered givers.

The passage above says to keep oneself from being polluted by the world, that is true religion.

I've talked a lot about how we should change the way we view church and the idea of church in general. Perhaps it's time we change the way we view Christmas as well. While we're at it, if we are going to be true Christ followers, maybe we should take a good hard look at every aspect of our lives and ask ourselves if it would be something that Jesus would accept as pure and faultless or if we have allowed it to be polluted by the world.

I'm done.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Re: More on authentic community

I have felt compelled to understand the idea of Biblical community. It is important that I surround myself with the right kind of people in my life who will hold me accountable to being the disciple of Christ that I call myself.

Here are some thoughts on authentic community from Ergun Caner:

1. don’t ever allow poisonous people to make you bitter (Paul did not let it get to him). Bitterness is someone else depositing poison in you and you holding on to it. Bitterness is a grudge.

2. Don’t’ let jerks or the jealous make you jaded. Jaded Christians think that everyone’s out for you and everyone will throw you under the bus. God HAS put someone in your life who will come alongside you and lift you up.

3. Don’t let idiots rob you of your worship. I go to church not for people, but for Jesus. I give my tithe not for the pastor, but for Jesus. I don’t care what others around me are doing, I will not let them drag me down or reduce me.

These are some important points to remember.

We go to church not for ourselves or for others, but for Jesus. It's all for Jesus. Jesus is not 'the reason for the season'. Jesus is the reason for life!! He is the way, the truth and the life!

Proverbs speaks seriously of what the Lord thinks of someone who attempts to stir up dissension or create problems.

Prov 6:16-19
16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes, - (haughty means behaving in a superior, condescending or arrogant way)
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

This post is a little bit random, but I came across this as I was studying the idea of authentic community and it seemed to be worthy of passing along.

I'm done.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Re: A Child's vision

I recently read this quote from Tyler Jones, pastor of Vintage21 Church in Raleigh,

"There are 2 things God says to me each morning which frame everything I do as a pastor...

1. "You are my son." In other words, God says that there's nothing you can do that could make Me love you more; there's nothing you can fail to do that will make Me love you less. My love and approval of you is based on the Gospel, not on your successes or failures, and so you should base your identity on that, too--and NOT on how big your church is, how "successful" your ministry is, or how many people like you.

2. "I absolutely do not need you for anything I want to do today." This dissolves the pride I'm prone to feel for the things I've accomplished because I realize that the only good I've ever done is because God has invited me to join what He's already doing. He invites me into His work; I don't demand that He bless mine. This also takes the inordinate pressure I put on myself by destroying the ridiculous idea that I have to dream up and perform great things for God.

The second point strikes me.
I think all of us at one time or another have a feeling of pride that creeps in and tells us that our church can't survive without us. Whether we serve as teachers, deacons, pastors or worship leaders, it happens. We find ourselves thinking that no one else could ever do as good as we are doing and thinking that God just wouldn't be able to get much done without me.

I think it's an important point to remember, that God doesn't NEED us. Instead, He has invited us into His work. He has given us the privilege to bear His name, to be a representative for the powerful name of Christ! We should stand in awe of that alone. And, when we realize the gravity of the calling to bear his name, should it not drive us to our knees (both literally and figuratively)? Whether you are a nursery worker, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, a member of the praise band, a mom, a teacher, a business owner, man, woman, teenager, banker, barber, lawyer, if you are a child of God, you are called to bear His name.

What if we woke up each day and went to work with that on the FOREFRONT of our minds? What if, every time we taught Sunday school, that was at the FOREFRONT of our teaching?
What if, at every deacons meeting, that was the driving force?
What if, in every business transaction, you were motivated by your status as a child of God to be a light for HIS name?

How would that revolutionize the way you approach life?

Another quote I recently heard: Vision arises out of calling.

When we get the idea that the calling on our lives is to exalt, glorify, share, live and be the name of Jesus, we will develop a VISION for our lives, for our families, for our church and for our future.

A vision that shapes every day of our lives.

I'm done.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Re: Authentic Community

As I've stated before, I recognize that I am on a journey of studying and trying to understand what God wants me, the church, to be. Along with that, I'm learning what God wants us, the church, to be, as well.

There is an area in most churches that seems to be severely lacking, it's the idea of community. I recently heard someone say that a youth pastor will have, on average, 40 hours of face time a year with his youth group. That's less than two days a year. The same goes for many of us at church. We have those who we consider close friends that we rarely spend time with outside of the building owned by the church. However, we may only see them for an hour a week and we probably only interact with them for a few minutes each week.

This brings to light something that seems to be lacking among the children of God, authentic community. I recently heard Ergun Caner, President of Liberty Seminary (http://www.erguncaner.com/), he was speaking to a new church that he is a part of there on the campus of Liberty. The sermon I heard was actually the first sermon he delivered for what they call Liberty Campus Church (or maybe it's Thomas Road Campus Church). I need to get to the point. As he spoke, he was raw, he was open, he was honest. He spoke of the issues that abound on the Liberty campus, he spoke of some common flaws among American Christianity, he was authentic. He even said that, perhaps, many people would be committed to Christianity if it wasn't for Christians. True, authentic, Christianity would say that is a correct statement. And, he encouraged those in his church to be open, to drop down their guard and allow people to see their flaws, to be transparent.

I wish I were better with words and could lay out a beautifully written piece of literature that would send someone walking away with a great desire for community.

Alas, I cannot do that. I can, however, demonstrate with my life that I desire for real community within the body of Christ. Maybe, too, we could free our church calendars from pointless busyness and focus, instead, on authentic community. Perhaps, too, as we interact with those who don't know Christ, we could introduce them to Christ not through a badgering or a cheesy tract, but we could introduce them to Christ by means of our community. Perhaps, when they see the way we treat and interact with each other, and we show them that we love and care for them as well, they may be drawn to Christ because of our authentic Christianity.

I'm done.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

3 - More of Be the church

As I have begun to wrestle with the idea of not going to church, but being the church I have begun to look critically and skeptically (maybe too much) at the way we "do church" now.

I am on a personal journey of understanding what the church is supposed to look like and how I can be a catalyst for being the church that Jesus planted. One of the things that must change before we ever change programs, styles, buildings, leadership, or anything else is the way we speak of church. We must change our language from "Christianese" to culturally understandable.

One of the ideas that I have been trying to correct in myself is getting rid of the idea of saying that we are "going to church". If we are to really "be the church" we have to recognize that the building is no more sacred than our house, than our place of work or our school. The building is great and it must be taken care of (that's called stewardship), but it's not holy, we are holy, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The building is just bricks and sticks and some horribly uncomfortable pews.

I think it is also dangerous to suggest that we should change our behavior when we are "at church". Comments like, you shouldn't say that "at church" or we shouldn't listen to that music "at church" or you shouldn't dress like that "at church" are harmful. Instead, we should teach the idea of being a disciple of Christ all the time. When we say those things, are we saying it's ok to do that or wear that somewhere else, just not on this "sacred ground" that happens to be owned by the church, inc.??

What if we viewed our bodies as the church (as Scripture is clear in teaching)? What if we viewed the building as a place of worship? What if we viewed our house as a place of worship?
What if we viewed our school as a place or worship? What if our churches were so focused on sharing Christ with those who don't know him that we had very few programs or activities but instead were constantly investing in the lives of those who are lost and destined for eternity in hell?

Would that revolutionize our idea of church? I know there are churches that have taken this idea of being the church seriously and are seeing the Lord do more than they could have asked or imagined. I pray that, here, we can do the same. I pray that we will never be content with just taking care of "insiders", but we will always have our vision focused on those who have not yet turned their life over to Christ.

Wanna see a humurous video about this whole idea?
go to http://www.crosswalk.com/video/11557283/ , then click play. Good stuff.

Be the church!

I'm done.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

2 - Me so busy!

I love being a follower of Christ, it is my driving force and it gets me up in the morning. I have been a church-goer all my life and have always been very involved from the time I was born. My parents still tell the story of taking me on a youth outing and, while I was riding the bus, I tossed a box of Cheerios out of the bus window, apparently just for giggles. Guess I haven't changed much since I was 3.

I have noticed, however, that the idea of church has, in many circles, not fulfilled what the Bible seems to teach about the church. Acts 2 teaches that the church (the people) devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (what we call preachin'), to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Fellowship seemed to be such an important part of the life of the early church. As I come to church Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday evening, I feel like the programs and busyness of church has replaced the fellowship that the Lord longs for us to have. I was having lunch with a friend of mine last week and we realized that, up until that lunch, we had never spent more than 5 minutes just sitting and sharing our hearts. Yet, this is a person who is in ministry with me.

What has happened? Why are we so busy?

I have begun to feel as if we have programmed our churches at the expense of any real fellowship. What would happen if we replaced Wednesday nights at the church building with a community of small groups meeting throughout our town and having real fellowship for an hour and a half? The parents aren't running all over the place getting ready for the program, but just sitting and enjoying fellowship with each other, breaking bread and praying.

I think it's time that we step back from the "way things have always been done" and we ask ourselves, is this really what Jesus wanted when he told the apostles to go and make disciples? Is this what he intended church to look like?

Maybe we don't have to have a million programs. Maybe what the world needs is not another church Christmas play or VBS. Maybe what they need is to see us in authentic community, to see us living like Jesus in our homes, at work, at Wal-mart.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe not. Fact is, we're losing people from Christianity because it seems so fake and unauthentic.

Has Christ really changed your life? He has mine.

I'm done.

Monday, December 3, 2007

1 - Be the church

I've always wanted to say that I am an excellent writer. It's just something that I would like to be able to say. I got a 5.5 on my 10th grade writing test and, at the time, I thought that was really good. Now, I don't even know what it means. But, as it turns out, I'm not the best writer in the world. I use short sentences. I don't have fantastic words that you have to go to dictionary.com to look up. And, I am not great with sentence structure. I majored in Finance and Banking and am currently a Youth Pastor in Fuquay-Varina, NC. Yet, still, I like to write. I enjoy it as a way to express the things that have been on my mind.

So, it is with this approach that I begin to blog. I have resisted blogging for a while and am now doing it at the persistance of a friend who is a much better writer (breakfasttiffany.blogspot.com).

For a few months, the Lord has given me a very strong desire to communicate the idea of being the church. Growing up in a conservative, independent Baptist church I was taught (probably indirectly) that the church was a building that was sacred in which I couldn't run, wear shorts or sit within 6 inches of girls.

Between the ages of 18 and 21 I abandoned the idea of church in general because of a basic lack of trust for the church and what it stood for. As the Lord drew me back to Himself in my early 20's (weird to say that, now that I'm 27), I began to understand and look at being a follower of Christ in a different light.

That has led me to a place where now I am convinced that those of us who call ourselves Christians have got to get up and be the church. I think it's time we stop scheduling programs and activities that do nothing but serve those already in the church. We need to intentionally place ourselves in culture, in people's lives who don't know Christ. We need to show them that Jesus changed my life and I haven't been the same since (quote stolen from Dr. Alvin Reid).

I now run the risk of making this entry too long and boring. No one will really read this, so it doesn't matter.
I'm done.