Sunday, February 28, 2010

Answering Some Questions from the Message today (2.28.10)

Today's message was a 3rd out of 4 messages in a series of sermons entitled, Experiencing God When It Hurts. The point of today's message was to persevere with purpose. I stated in the message that every hurt has a purpose so we must persevere.

So this brought up a great discussion I had after church about some theological issues; and I thought I would continue that discussion on the blog. So this might be a long blog.

First of all, the purpose the sermons are to bring you into a position, in the midst of your hurt, to experience God's glory. Therefore, I cannot cover everything! I guess that's why God created blogs.

One issue our discussion centered around was God's will. We were pondering the issue of God's sovereignty. We asked: If God has a purpose for our hurt, does that mean God would have caused the pain so his purpose will come true?

Well, yes and no. For example, the Bible says it was God's pleasure that Jesus suffered and died for our sins. Paul writes to Timothy that all who follow God will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). Jesus stated in John 11:4 that Lazarus's sickness and death were for God's glory.

But, on the flip side, a lot of our pain is the result of us breaking the laws of God. There are consequnces for breaking God's law, and he has written the consequences right into the very fabric of our everyday lives. In Galatians 5 Paul writes that we reap what we sow. This is a principle that God has laid down for everyone. For example, if you sow deception, then deception will come back to hurt you. You will reap it.

Now to God's will. As I understand the subject, I see God's will in two/three phases. The first phase of God's will is His revealed will. The Bible reveals God's will for your life. Does God want me to move in with him/her? God says no. Should I go into debt? The Bible says to be a cautious debtor. Should I steal? No. God said in the Bible that He does not want you to steal. So God has His revealed will. You don't have to think about it. God has already laid down the law, so to speak.

Secondly, God has a plan for this earth and the people of this earth. Psalms speaks of how God's plans evolve over generations. (Psalm 33:11) This plan ultimately is complete when Jesus returns to earth. The details of how this plan comes together from generation to generation are not completely revealed in scripture. Revelation speaks of the great day when this plan comes together and all people groups are gathered in heaven. So, in this case, we know the general plan, and we know how the plan ends, but we don't know the details of how the plan comes together.

Then, there is God's personal purpose for your life and your hurt. I said in the sermon that God has a purpose for your hurt. So does that mean God orchestrated your hurt? Yes and No. "Yes" in the sense that God knows everything and "no" in the sense that God never causes anyone to sin. This is a mystery that I cannot answer- where does God's sovereignty and my freedom to choose start and end? To be honest, I don't know.

God did not will sin in your life. God did not will your divorce, or abuse, or your loss. We live under the curse of sin. We live in a broken world that hurts. 

God though, can use that hurt or pain for his purposes. This is why I say that God has a purpose for your hurt, but that doesn't mean God orchestrated that hurt.

Now, with that being said, God is in control and in the Old Testament we can see how God Himself brought hard times on people to bring them back to Him. For example, God brought the storm on Jonah when he ran away. God had Babylon invade Jerusalem when they quit following Him. In the New Testament God executed Ananias and Saphira (?) for withholding their offering. So God is sovereign, and he can choose to bring pain in your life, not to get you back, but to bring you back! Also, God can make the pain so severe that you will never want to go back!

What does this mean? Well, God is dynamic and to place him in a "God is like this" box is wrong. He is wild and unpredictable. You cannot define him precisely. We cannot comprehend the fullness of His glory. So with any theology discussion we must keep this in mind. God can bring hurt in your life for a purpose, or he can use a hurt in your for his purposes. Either way, God has a purpose for your hurt.

One more issue: What about Satan? What role does he play in all of this? Simple, he plays whatever role God allows him to play. Satan is under God's dominion. He can only do what God allows him to do. So, yes, God can use Satan to bring hardship into your life. He can tempt and entice you and your friends to do some really stupid stuff, like believing you're just fine without God. Plus, like with Job, God can allow Satan to bring death and sickness into your life.

I was asked if we had dominion over Satan and I don't know, but I know who does! I have to admit I am unclear about this theology. I need to do some more studying in this area.  I do know this, that whenever I am tempted, that is a cue for me to stay strong in God. The best offense you can have with Satan is to seek to be holy and to follow God with all your heart, mind, and soul. You do that no matter what happens in your life and God will be honored and you will share in God's holiness. (Hebrews 12:7-11)

I probably raised more questions than answered, but I hope I was helpful!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Items You Will Not Find in the Bible (But will in church!) Part 3


Well.. you will not find uniforms in the New Testament Church, unless you count the Roman Soldiers.  You will find uniforms in the Pharisees and Saduccees.  They have uniforms that are based in the Old Testament though.

Here is a picture of a priest in uniform during Jesus day.

The dress of many clergy today, with the collars and hats and the like, do not have its roots in the Old Testament.  Rather, its roots inthe Greco-Roman world.  In a great little book called Pagan Christianity, the authors write Clement of Alexandria argued that the clergy should wear better garments than the church members.  He said the clothes should be simple and white.  This was the color of clergy for centuries.  Contrast that with the dark blue suit and tie of many ministers today.

Then under Constantine differences between, bishop, priest, and deacon started.  In AD 330, the clergy dress began to match the dress of their secular counterparts in the Roman government.  But, as we know, fashion is never stable.  It always changes with the whims of man.  Later on, the flowing garments of the Romans gave way to the short tunics of the Goths, but the Romans refused to change their style!  Kinda like how parachute pants of the 80's gave way to ripped jeans in the 90's!

The clergy continued to wear these outdated garments and began to believe this was the "holy" style.  They believed this so much so that when laymen adopted a new style of dress the clergy said it was "worldly" and "barbarian."

In the protestant era, black became the color of clergy symbolizing his spiritual authority (Did they forget about the white?).  I guess preachers can go goth!  When this started black was the color of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals; just like the dark suit today is the choice of politicians and professionals.  The clerical collar goes back to 1865.  It is not a Catholic invention.  The Anglicans started this fashion trend.  It was invented so ministers could slip it on at anytime so that people could recognize them as "men of God." 

With all this talk about style I can't help but think what Paul wrote in Colossians, "As God's chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."  (3:12 NIV)

Good advice.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Do you love God?

If you do then do you love others?  It says in first John that if we love God we will have fellowship with one another.

That's funny, because when I hear most people talk about being close to God I hear people say they have some kind of great insight or they had an inspiring experience.  They would be feeling really good about themselves.  Is that the result of being with God?  Feeling good for a little while?

John, though, says the result of having fellowship with God is loving others. It means loving broken people, hurt people, frustrating people, ugly people, and not just the people that are convenient to us.  The Bible tells us to accept others as Christ has accepted you.  Think about it.  Christ accepted you as a sinner.  You were someone who offended God, but he accepted you.

John says that if we have fellowship with God we will love others.  I have to admit that I after a while I'll write people off.  I grow tired of dealing with them.  For me then that's a gut check (compassion in the Bible refers to your gut).  I have to ask myself in that situation if I really have fellowship with God, because if did, I would love you no matter what.

Love is a verb.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Thought about Tiger's Speech

In case you haven't heard, Tiger made a speech Friday about his infedilities and how he is trying to get his life back together.  He apologized profusely and took full responsibility for his actions.  I commend him for those words.  I'm pretty sure that was a very hard moment for him to do.

For me, Tiger looked like a man in bondage.  He didn't want to talk to anyone.  He was staying sequestered in a rehab facility.  All of a sudden the freedom he thought was so awesome has entrapped him in a lot of stress, pain, and shame.

Isn't that the way sin works?  At first, it's great.  You even convince yourself you deserve the sin you are involved in.  You get a little too confident in yourself.  Then, the sin is brought to light and all the pain and shame that goes with it, and now you are in bondage.  The freedom you thought you had was a sham.  it didn't last.  By the way, sin never affects just the sinner.  Like a bomb's shrapnel, sin always has innocent casualites, unintended consequences.

I found it interesting how Tiger said he was going to get out of his bandage.  I'm going to bring balance into my life.  I'm going to prove my words with my behavior to my wife and the others I have hurt.  He refered to his Buddhist faith (Religionis always convient in these situation) but he didn't refer on how his faith will bring him out of the bondage, just how he needs to get back to living by it's commands to live in restraint.

I found that interesting because my faith says I am not able to restrain myself.  It teaches me that even if I try to get away from sin and restrain myself, I still have to live with myself.  My faith teaches that I need something greater than myself in me if I have any chance at all. 

As a man in bondage Tiger needs to be set free.  He needs to know forgiveness.  He needs to embrace grace.   He can have his slate cleaned free of any guilt.  His Buddhist faith will not give that to him.

The good news is that's why Jesus Christ died on the cross.  He died to set us free from the bondage of sin.  We can be free in Christ.

I understand Kenny Perry is a strong Christian on the PGa tour.  I pray that Kenny will have a chance to share the good news with Tiger, and give him the ability to be set free.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

10 Choices a Church Member Can About His/Her Church Family

#1- Choose to believe the best about the people in your church as opposed to assuming the worst about them.

#2- Choose to trust them to make decisions that matter.

#3- Choose to believe that when they are asking questions they are growing in their faith and seeking clarification.

#4- Choose to believe they really love the church (that means you!) and want to see it (you) thrive.

#5- Choose to be inspired by your fellow brother and sisters in Christ as opposed to comparing your faith with them and feeling like a failure.

#6- Choose to listen to them before making a decision about them.

#7- Choose to value them as a human being and not just another person at church.

#8- Choose to empower others by encouraging them in Christ.

#9- Choose to let them present a solution to the problem they might be telling you about.

#10- Choose to focus on all the things the church is doing well instead of just focusing on where we're messing up.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It was great to be together and looking to the future.

Wow!  It was great to be back togehter again!  It was great to worship God together and it was awesome to share God's word with you too.  It was almost like a great family reunion!

I wanted to share with you some thoughts on what we are facing when it comes to reaching the families of Suffolk.  If we are going to reach Suffolk for Christ it means we will have to reach out to young families.  Suffolk's average age is 36.  75% of our population lives in hoouseholds.  Most of Suffolk's population is between the ages of 18-45.  That means if we are going to reach families we are going to have to be sensitive to their needs.

So this raises a big issue for our church.  Our children's space is crowded.  We have talked to several consultant's and the simple truth is this, unless we do something about our children's space, (simply put, find more room)our church will no longer continue to reach out to new families.

The problem is to move into a new building (We've looked at building after building) is simply too expensice for a congregation our size.  The only way for that dream to become a reality is to find a place in between for us to continue growing so that dream can become a reality.

Here are some of our options the elders are looking at:
   1. We get a modular place at the Y and/or convert the blue closet into a classroom.
   2. The miracle of finding a place actually happens.
   3. We find a school we can rent.
   4. Bring in a mobile classroom, like in a conveted RV.
   5. We do nothing and let the people of Suffolk go to hell.

Our leadership need wisdom, and your input.  Please call one of the elders or me with any thoughts that you have.  And please, please, pray as we take these new steps to expand God's kingdom her in Suffolk.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Highlights from the Next Level Leadership Conference

Last week I attended the Next level Leadership Conference at Savannah Christian Church in Savannah, GA.  This was the first time for me to visit this fair city and it was beautiful.  Every city thinks they are attractive, but Savannah truly is with it's squares and tythes and park vistas witht he Georgia Oaks towering above with the spanish moss drifting in the wind.  Indeed, it was eye catching.

I was able to tour three of the oldest churches I have ever been in.  They are beautiful and historical.  I posted the pictures of them on my facebook page.  I also went down by myself.  It was a retreat for me as well to get away for a while and just let me and god be together.  I really enjoyed that.

I thought I would share some of the best quotes and highlights from my time at this church.  Just to let you know Savannah Christian church in the mid 90's was around 200-300 people.  They decided to double their ministry every five years.  Once they had that vision they started getting real specific in their planning and strategy in reaching Savannah.  They didn't double in five years.  They did it in three.  They started this onference to share the lessons they have learned in the process.  Here are some of those lessons and quotes:

  1. The simplest definition of a leader is they know what to do next.
  2. If you are a leader you have to master the art of self-leadership.
  3.  When you take care of God's business... he takes care of your business. - Tommy Barnnett
  4. God blesses the church after his own heart.
  5. God blesses a church that loves what he loves.
  6. We only accept half the gospel.  we are to love God AND love people.
  7. There is only one King inthe kingdom.
  8. At church we shoot the wounded becasue we don't really know them.  you don't shoot you're friends.
  9. The Christians in our church are hard charging, lost seeking, disciple making, hill taking, sacrafacial follwers of Jesus!
  10. When you're through changing.. you're through!
  11. If you want something different then you have to do something different.
  12. Your church needs to align four different areas: Doctrine/Theology; Directional/Methodology;  Systematic; and Relational.
  13. The dress code of your church will tell men if they belong or not.
  14. In order to figure out the man code in your church men... look at the leaders (Are they strong?)... They listen to the music (can they sing it?)... want to hear about other men (Am I part of something real?)... listen to the ministers (Does he challenge me directly?)... are extremely sensitive to quality (Is this cheesy?)... listen for vision (Can I dream a something great happening here?).
  15. Our church does three things, evangelize, send people out, and disciple.
  16. If you want commitment you have to ask for it.
  17. Do you know the difference between a college coach and a high school coach?  A high school has to develop talent.  A college coach receruit developed players.
  18. Ministers are often like college coaches and not high school coaches.
  19. Everyone is supposed to be a disciple maker.
  20. God wants to supply what you need- sometimes we don't look.
  21. Developing leaders require proximity to potential leaders.
  22. You know where a person is at spiritually by listening to them.
  23. Christians grow just humans do.  They are born again, then they are an infant, then a child, then a young adult, then a parent.
  24. "A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it."  Proverbs 22:3 & 27:12
  25. "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done."  Proverbs 19:17
That's plenty for now!  It was a great trip and I learned a lot.  I must confess I always come back meloncholy from these evetns.  I come back with all kinds of ideas and dreams but I also realize that we have a long way to go!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cancelling Church and a Preachers Heart

You might think that if church is cancelled due to weather the preacher rejoices because he gets a suprise week off.

Not so with me.  I'll tell you why.

The messages that I bring to my congregation are no small matter for me.  In many cases i have been praying over the message and it's content for close to a year.  I've spent many hours in prayer and thoughtful study of the Bible in preperation.  I have sought to pay attention to the flock God has given me so i can bring a message that will challenge as well as confront with the truth and love of God.

By the time Sunday rolls around it's gameday for me.  I'm psyched!  I'm amped up!  I'm ready to go!  I have some fire burning in my bones!  I'm not juist doing my job.  I'm bring ing you life, real life, through God's Word!

So when church is cancelled I'm bummed!

But I'll be ready for next week.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Things You Won't Find in the Bible, Part 2

The Cross as a Peice of Art

Many churches are decorated with crosses.  There are paintings of Jesus hanging on a cross, or statues of Mary holding Jesus after Jesus was taken down from the cross, along with the familiar cross on the stage of the church.  Many people today decorate their bodies with a cross with tattoos, neckalces, t-shirts, and the like.  The cross has been morphed into some many different shapes that we have the lost the horror and the degrading humiliation that was the cross in Jesus day.

In Jesus day the cross was something that you covered your eyes from seeing.  It was outrageously bloody.  Bone and organs would be exposed after the beating most criminals took before being nailed on the beams.  Only the filthiest and worse people would hang on the cross.  It was shameful to be associated with someone on the cross. 

Mark Driscoll writes of the horror of the cross, "...victims labored to breathe, as they went into shock.  Naked and embarrassed, the victims would often use their remaing strength to seek revenge on the crowd of mockers who gathered to jeer them.  In a turn of events, the Gospels say the mockers spat on Jesus. (italics mine)  They would curse on their tormenters while urinating and spitting on them.  Some victims would be so overwhelmed with pain that they would become incontinent and a pool of sweat, blood, urine, and feces would gather at the base of the cross."

The cross was a grotesque scene.  The word excruciating finds it's roots in the pain experienced while one was nailed to a cross.  Who could turn that into a peice of art?  Something pleasent to look at? They didn't at first.

Churches using the cross as art didn't appear until 2-300 years after the cross fell out of use.  By that time, the horror, the shame, the grotesgue memories of the cross had faded. 

And then we have progrssed to the cross in our culture where Madonna has said that the cross was sexy.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Change.. here it comes...

I believe if Celebration is going to continue to grow and to reach out to others we are going to have to change... dramatically.  We are going to have to things that might be uncomfortable for us, but on the other hand, maybe not.

Have you considered how much we embrace change?  We'll remodel our hose, move, have children, change jobs, even change churches, all voluntarily.

So I believe we all can change.  The question is why do we resist some changes and accept others?

Think about that... because I believe God is going to really change Celebration this year.. no more the same ol same ol....

Just a thought... do you realize that if we kept up the current rate of growth we will not reach 300 people until  2023?  Chew on that too... ;)


Getting Old...

Has anyone ever asked you on your birthday what it felt like to be a year older?

I have.  I generally reply that I don't feel one way or the other.

Then this week came, excepts it's not my birthday.  This week I saw two markers of getting older.  One was I started liking coffee.  Now, I know Starbucks made coffee cool to drink and all but when i was a kid, coffee was just something old people drank.

Well, this week, out of the blue, I started liking coffee! Albeit with plenty of chocolate creamer.  I really like that mocha taste.  Have you ever had a Tiramusu dessert.  I like my coffee to taste like that.  Anyway, that's one marker of age for me.

Then the other is I started needing reading glasses.  Can you believe it.  I look so oold with the glasses on the tip of my nose.  Ughh!

But onthe other hand I can see things so clear up close now!  I was starting to read my books almost two feet away.  That's not good.  In case you didn't know, I use a large print Bible to preach from so I could see the words easier.

Getting older is interesting.  I just keep on changing.  So far it hasn't hurt too much, but my Dad says growing old hurts. 

I sure hope he is wrong!

Have yourself Committed!