Thursday, November 26, 2009

Christians forgiving Christians

It has been my experience that many times Chritians have the hardest time forgiving other Christians.  We're quick to forgive the sins of non-Christians, but Christians?  That's another story.

Wonder why?

You who have been foriven much, forgive much.


Erring on the Side of Grace

Celebration has a value that I want to communicate to you.

If we err, and we will, we will seek to err on the side of grace.

I hear all the time of such horror stories of churches who treated people with such rigidity. 

Here is my value stustem.  If I err I will seek to err on the side of grace, faith, hope, and love.

After all ever hear of church that had too much grace, too much faith, too much love, too much hope.

I'd love being part of a church that makes these kind or errors.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Forgiving the Church

Yesterday I spoke on forgiveness.  My hope was to get you to move from your perspective on forgiveness to God's perspective on forgiveness.  God's perspective on forgiveness is this: You have been forgiven much, so you forgive much.

Not long ago I was introduced to a great guy.  As our conversation progressed he proceeded to tell me that he was not interested in attending church.  He said he believed in God, Jesus, and was a faithful follower.  The church though, was not part of his faith.  He said that he had been been hung out to dry too many times.  He and his wife had been deeply wounded by this experience.  So he was through with church.  He wasn't going to do that again.

He loved Jesus. He just didn't love the church Jesus died for.  Well, I take that back.  It's not that he didn't love the church as an institution, but the people in it, that's another story.

This conversation, plus preaching about forgiveness Sunday, brought this thought to mind.  First, why do church people hurt other church people?  Then second, why do Christians have such a hard time forgiving other Christians?

First, why do Christians hurt each other?  Well, the answer in front of our nose is we have a mission we are very passionate about and those passions can lead to confrontations.  Those confrontations can lead to power plays, turf wars, and personal insults.  It just ends up that people hurt each other.

I think another factor the equation is spiritual immaturity.    When people have issues of pride, immorality, do not speak the truth in love, and are self-centered problems can easitly arise.

You see this other relational based organizations too, such as sports teams.  It seems though for a sports team we will allow coaches and other players to taunt and humiliate in the name of the game.  If I treated my church family like a lot of coaches treated their teams I would be fired.

I always wondered about that.  I always thought eternity was more critical than a game.  You would think we would invite criticism and push each other harder so we can see faith, hope, and love triumph over all.  Sorry, gotta little diverted there.

Secondly, why do Christians have such a hard time forgiving each other?  I thought to myself, after talking to my new friend, that he will never get over the hurt he had at church unless he learns to forgive those people.  He will carry that pain around all his life until he does so.  He probably knows that.  He just isn't practicing it.

I don't have an answer for that.  We are to be the ones that demonstrate Christ's forgiveness to the world by our forgiveness towards each other.  We have been forgiven much, so why don't we forgive much?

Here is my conclusion (After I said I don't have an answer, ha!): most Christians are not all that close to Jesus.  I heard the wonderful Timothy Keller speak about this in August.  He spoke on the parable of the prodigal son.  In it he said Jesus gives out two paths to God.  The son who left home and the son who stayed home. 

Both were rebellious.  The youngest son was rebellious outwardly.  The older son rebelled at home.

Mr. Keller made the point that most Christians are like the older brother.  Why did he rebel?  He rebelled because he thought he deserved the big party and not the the younger brother.  After all, he earned it.  Because of this attitude the older brother never had a relationship with his father at all.  Therefore he wasn't able to show grace to his younger brother.  He never knew the grace of his father.

That is why I believe Christians have a hard time with forgiveness.  They really don't know their heavenly Father, who has forgiven them so much!!!!

Like I said yesterday, if you're going to have the ability to forgive, you gotta know the Forgiver!  I just hope churches are the place where people practiced forgiveness in incredibly gracious ways.


Friday, November 13, 2009

The Drudgery and Excitement of Church Budgets

For many people church budgets are a boring bunch of numbers that people came up with, but for those that came up with the budget numbers it represents so much more.  It represents hope, opportunity, ministry, and life change.

For example, the internet team's budget will totally revemp our website and make it more user friendly for all who contact it.  I'm excited about the overhaul.

For the youth it represents the resources needed to make a difference in teen's lives, like a place to meet.

For marketing it represents the ability to get out in our community and share the love of Jesus.

In benelovence it means changing people's lives who need a little help.

The budget is so much more than numbers, it's people.  Those numbers represent people.  Let's never forget that!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wesley's Discipleship

Heather Zempel had this post on her blog about discipleship. I liked some of the thoughts...

John Wesley had a pretty hard-hitting approach to discipleship. In many small groups today, structuring the meeting time around the following questions would be frightening to many members. But if you want to challenge your people to deeper community and more focused discipleship, try these questions:
Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am a better person than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
Do I confidentially pass on what was told to me in confidence?
Can I be trusted?
Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habit?
Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
Did the Bible live in me today?
Do I give God time to speak to me everyday?
Am I enjoying prayer?
When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
Do I pray about the money I spend?
Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
Do I disobey God in anything?
Do I insist on doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
Am I defeated in any part of my life?
Am I jealous, impure, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
How do I spend my spare time?
Am I proud?
Do I thank God I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
Is there anyone I fear, or dislike, or criticize, or resent? If so, what am I doing about it?
Do I grumble and complain constantly?
Is Christ real to me?

Virginia Vision Meeting Today

Today I went to Richmond for the quaterly Virginia Vision meeting. In case you don't know VV is the organization that planted our church.

At the meeting I met and talked with people who are busy planting churches all over VA. This is a vital ministry. Did you know that the majority of church goers 25 years from now will be going to church that started today? That's why it is so important to start new churches!

Many of the churches are actively involved in the community and I learned something from them. The community will not think we are here for them unles we keep at it for at least 3-4 years. Now, you might say our church is 7 years old so this is good. We are on course.

But the question is have we been involved IN the community that long doing ministry? The answer to that is no. Just last year we started being involved with 4 Kids and Meals on Wheels. This year we are partnering with Oakland Elementry School. They will not see us as part of the school until 3-4 years from now. Neither will 4 Kids or Meals on Wheels.

So what I learned is that if we are going to seriously minister in this community then we need to be committed for the long run, not just hit and runs.


Monday, November 2, 2009

There are some things that are right about Halloween

Reggie Joiner, in his excellent book on family called, Think Orange, gives some interesting thoughts about the church and Halloween. He writes,

"Have you ever considered that the problem with Halloween may be that we (the church) have thought so much about what is wrong about it instead of thinking what is right about it? This isn't a statement about whether Halloween is right or wrong. I want to make a point about family.

Consider these stats:
  • An estimated 47% of households decorate for Halloween
  • Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of decorations sold
  • Over 790 million jack-o-laterns and pumpkin pies will be bought.
  • Candy sales will exceed $2 billion
  • More than 93 percent of children go trick or treating every year. ( I wonder how many of those families go to your church?)

Most families love Halloween. Watch your neighborhood this fall (or this past weekend).

  • Listen to the laughter
  • Take a look at the generosity
  • Taste the sugar
  • Feel the energy
  • See the glow in the children's eyes
  • Notice the parents walking with thier kids
  • And observe how families connect with other families
  • It seems kind of ... magical

Why can't church be more like that?"

Good Question, Reggie!