Tag: Christ

Church would be better if people thought like and agreed with me!

Coffee-LoveI finally found the solution to ALL the church’s problems! For sure this will be a chapter in my up and coming book “Humility and how I achieved it.” Oh wait! I do have a chapter about that! Let me be frank, cause I love you. Church has a big y’all don’t agree with me issue. Here is what I mean:

Be a cheerleader
That’s right. Start off by trying to encourage people not be a critic. (Yeah, some of you preacher boys should just stop reading right now and focus on this part.) We all have too many critics but not enough cheerleaders. My critics practically killed me! Cheerleading is a choice.

Be loving
There is nothing more comfortable than being around a loving person. That person may even point out where you’re wrong, like a loving mommy saying “you’re not wearing that are you!?” while baking you epic chocolate chip cookies. Seriously, love comforts. Don’t pour gas on a bad situation. Bring about peace and comfort. That’s what I do.

Be a team
You live as a team or you die as a team. Period. Work together. I do believe the Spirit is readily available to help with this. After all, if we don’t row together alike a team… Work it out and be a team. Easy to do when the above is true! So, get in line and be like me!

Be Loyal
We have affection and and sympathy for people we are loyal to. An we even do that for friends of our friends. So, care about the people I care about.

Be one
Here is what it comes down to: You need to have the same mind and love as me. Really. Church would be so much better this way. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this whole thing is be in arrogant. “Oh course everything in church would be better if we thought like you, duh!” “You’re just thinking of yourself! What about diversity all?” My response? You’re just thinking about you. In fact, you think church would be better if people were one with you and not me.

Why I’m right and you should be like me
I could have had the good life, but I didn’t. I sacrificed and worked hard just like you do. But, I did it for you and not myself. I put up with a lot. And frankly, it killed me. You humiliated me and being in this job I got blamed for things I didn’t even do. But hear me out. There is a day coming when everyone will agree that I am right and people should be like me. Mark my words: everyone.

The bottom line:
This chapter is called Philippians Chapter Two. My brother Paul wrote it for me. (If y’all think like and agree with him you’ll be well on your way to being like me.) Humility is the KEY! So, what church to be better? Be humble like me. It’s the only thing that work.

Love you all!

Christmas Wars: Return of theology

My bottom line is this: The focus of the First Advent should be on Jesus humbly being born in the likeness of human flesh and that at second advent is in the near future when Jesus returns to make all things new. Rather, this season is marked by what I call the Christmas Wars.

Xmas controversy
Christian_Chi_RhoAs a child I remember being scolded out of the blue because I wrote ‘xmas’ on my paper. I was following in the evil pathway of removing Christ from Christmas. Being the reader (nerd) that I was, I looked it up. (Note, this was before the advent of wikipedia, so I had to use this thing called a card catalog and books.) What I found was this: The X was from the greek letter Xsi which is the first initial of Christ’s name, Xristos in Greek. X marked with another letter or part of the word was an appropriate abbreviation for Christ. There is no grand conspiracy to remove Christ from Christmas.

Mas controversy
Jesus died once for all sin. In doing research I found another interesting aspect: I don’t celebrate Mass. Mass is the liturgy surrounding the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharist views communion as becoming wholly the blood and body of Jesus. It’s a perpetual sacrifice. Hence, the symbol of the crucifix. While the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, it is through the resurrection that we’re saved. The Bible doesn’t teach a perpetual sacrifice but a single sacrifice at one point in time whereby the barrier between God and man is forever destroyed through the resurrection of Jesus. Communion then is a symbol where we proclaim the Lord’s death until he returns.

The First Advent
It is good to celebrate the First Advent. Why? Jesus demonstrated humility and a focus on people. My fear isn’t removing Christ from Christmas. My fear is not seeing Christ in Christians. Let’s be humble, friends. It’s what Jesus did.

The light of the World
It is good to celebrate Jesus as the light of the world. The real issue is whether we’ll accept by faith that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. Jesus died once for all sin, the just for the unjust. My concern isn’t removing Christ from Christmas. It’s removing Mass from Christ. Theology matters. We do not need to continually dip into a pool of grace to merit salvation. We need to simply accept God’s gift in Jesus whereby God lavishes his grace upon us! We don’t celebrate Mass, we celebrate a risen savior.

The bottom line:
As the Christmas wars heat up, again, let’s remember our theology. Ignorance is no excuse anymore as information is freely available and easier to access. The focus of the first advent should be on Jesus humbly being born in the likeness of human flesh and that at second advent is in the near future when Jesus returns to make all things new. Let us pray for and look to the Second Advent as we celebrate the humbleness of the first.

Manic Monday: Good people need the Gospel too

God puts everyone on a level playing field. Even if life is good and everything is in order, there is still need of the Cross. The Sunday sermon is something we should ponder throughout the week. This Sunday’s sermon grabbed my attention. We often forget about the moral person.

As Jon talked about Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, men who had it all together, I remembered a time in college. I was talking with a gentlemen about mankind’s condition. The often used phrase “religion  is a crutch” and “man is morally good or neutral” were used. He claimed to be an atheist or perhaps an agnostic. Chance would have it that the movie we picked was Sphere…

Given my class in the Book of Romans, I wanted to hear his insights to Romans 1 and 2. In church we often focus on Romans 1, but we forget about chapter 2. In discussing human depravity we focus on how bad man can be and forget our man can be relatively good. Paul deals with the moral person. Moral people who do good by following “the law of God as it is written on their hearts.” Even given their moral code, they fail to measure up even to their own standard. After discussing our views on man, we watch his beloved movie.

The movie Sphere brings out the nature of man in Romans 2. Here a perfect object- the sphere- brings out the worse of the characters. Their conclusion was man wasn’t good enough to posses the sphere. Man was depraved according to the movie. When it ended there was that awkward silence right after. I did not pounce, and he said there was more to think about. We agreed, even good people have faults. We enjoyed the discussion and it brought more depth to watching the movie. A seed was planted.

Romans 1 talks about the highly sinful man, Romans 2 the moral man and Romans 3 the religious man. All three need the Gospel. Back to the sermon… Jesus related to the moral and the religious. He talked with Nicodemus, even if it was on the down low. Part of mission and being compassionate is meeting people where they’re at. While Jesus came for the sick and the needy (those who need the infamous “crutch”) He did not neglect the good people too. Jesus knew this simple truth: We don’t need a crutch or a good moral code, we need a savior.

(especially on Monday)

Why not Wednesday? Own depravity

We try to push the idea human depravity away. We hide it, talk it away, claim that it’s a negative outlook, etc. The last we want to do is own it. Some overplay the depravity hand claiming because we are depraved we are therefore worthless. This too doesn’t own depravity. We need to own it.

Conflict resolution
This idea did not go over well as I was training camp counselors in conflict resolution.

“People are naturally good, not depraved,” said a counselor.
“People who say people are naturally good have never worked with children,” I replied.

The group wasn’t buying it. To move forward and be optimistic you first need to understand and see reality. Understand the reality of things and you can move things towards the best. They still didn’t buy in. I told them to give it a week… it only took a couple of hours.

“Trouble makers”
A church that had a large group of unchurched kids asked my advice on dealing with them. Apparently my answer did not have an appreciation for the situation. The rebuttal given was “but they don’t behave!” Aha, there is the problem. My advice was you need to love them first. We polarize discipline and love- they are truly one. If we love we deal with the reality of the situation and work towards the best. Love includes discipline, it’s not exclusive. Good behavior doesn’t come first and then we love. Despite our depravity, Christ acted on our behalf! Jesus loved, saved and then begins to perfect us.

Easier said then done
My kids pour on the love talk when they are in trouble. It KILLS me. They’re cute. They’re adorable, and I LOATH to see them hurt or cry. I knew this moment would come. I knew it would be hard. But love does what is best for the person. It doesn’t act with a cold heart, but it does compassionately deal with reality. This too is the Gospel. As God saves us He also lovingly shapes us. As hard as it is to discipline my boyz, hugging them afterward and showing forgiveness is a powerful moment. It communicates that even when they mess up, they’re still loved.

The bottom line:
We must own depravity. It means doing something that is counter-culture these days: taking responsibility. Bringing it back to the Cross, God knew we could not be perfect. That is why He gave us Christ. Owning our depravity isn’t seeing everyone as evil and worthless- it’s seeing people as being imperfect and need of redemption. Yes we are depraved, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Yes people are depraved, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love them and get involved in people’s lives. That is precisely what Jesus did, and one day we’ll be made perfect because of it.

The Gospel first, The Gospel central

What if everything was fine
Imagine no issues between couples, the husbands loving wives and wives honoring their husbands. No children being disobedient, growing in wisdom, stature and favor with men. In laws knew their place and no outlaws in disgrace.

Imagine every gun silenced. No wars, rumors of wars and espionage. No government clandestine plots to overcome. No pollution, perfect climate and people knew what the left lane was for.

Imagine every belly full, every person with a warm bed and not a job a person dreads. No poverty, no debt not even a single regret. No trash on the street thrown or cancer in your body grown. No aids, colds and malaria. No suicide, depression or hysteria.

Imagine if we could bring about a world such as this. We’d still have a problem. We’d still be empty. The church would still be needed.

The Gospel first
The Gospel is of first importance. If all is well and good. No problems, secure job, everything kosher, you still need God. In fact Adam and Even in the garden had a perfect life and the issue was the same, they needed God. Ironic that in an Earth of perfection mankind chose rejection but in an Earth of depravity man must accept the message of the Gospel. The issue is the same. We need God. We don’t evangelize in heaven, for at that point it is too late.

The Gospel central
Our need of God makes the Gospel central. I am sure each of us can think of organizations that were about the Gospel but today are no longer. If we hold to pet doctrines and make them our mainstay, what we do is in vain. If Christ did not raise from the dead, it does not matter our view on things like creation, end times and other deep theological questions that should be discussed. Without the Gospel, we address societies ills in vain by meeting needs without hope.

Is God enough
If we move off the Gospel as saving us, of the Gospel making all things new, we dive deep into despair. The key question regardless of our circumstances or station in life is this: Is God enough? That is the central question to life and history. Even if we were to bring about a perfect world that question would still be there. For Adam and Eve, a relationship with God was not enough. Today we see the effects of running from God, to numerous to count.

The bottom line
The Gospel first, The Gospel central understands that Christ is truly the cornerstone of the church as well as a stumbling block. You cannot get around that without causing the church to fizzle out. With the Gospel being first and central it gives clarity to why we study and pursue the Scriptures; not as religion, but in relationally knowing God. It motivates to serve and love everyone. It understands the that problems of the world are far deeper than politics; they are issues of the soul needing God.

There is much more to knowing God than just the Gospel. But the Gospel is the doorway. The Gospel is not the only thing, but it must be first and central to the church. For in the Gospel the central question is answered: Yes, God is enough, and that changes everything.

Christmas Wars: Humility strikes not

Christmas Wars started with Christmas. Seriously, it won’t go away. I’m often perplexed at the media and cultural storm that now boils up around this time of year. So, here are my two cents. Really, it’s one concept: Humility.

God could have, but didn’t…
Jesus came as a humble baby to a blue-collar family, and was laid down in a feeding trough. He could have descended from the clouds in a massive coronation ceremony. He could have burned the Earth and started over with a few chosen, like he did in times past with the flood. He didn’t. Jesus chose a humble entrance, not an in your face approach. Humble family, humble town, humbled form by taking on human flesh, humble birthing place.

X marks the spot…
Christ is central to Xmas. Christ in Greek is spelled “xristos.” X was used and developed by Christians (Xtrians?). Often times, as in the underground church, such usage of abbreviations are important. Even the symbol of the fish came as a result of initials. If anything, Xmas tells me that Xtrians need to get Xtreme with our humility. Also, it should remind us to pray for those who cannot publicly celebrate the miracle of the virgin birth.

Happy Holidays
Greet people in a way meaningful to you and others and true to yourself. That’s humility. If you have a friend who is Jewish, greet appropriately. If you don’t know, be true to yourself. Humility and respect cannot be achieved by Happy Holidays, or demanding one say Merry Christmas. It can only be achieved by showing respect and deference to others or a respectful celebration to one’s beliefs. Saying Merry Christmas only works if you’re passionate about the humility it stands for and express it as such. Attitude counts.

The bottom line:
Christmas is a statement of humility, service and giving. If that is our focus, there can be no removal of Christ from Christmas. In fact, there is more nobility and appreciation for it. God chose humility and mercy to deal with us. He came as a servant, not as a tyrant. Humility strikes not. It foreshadows the greatest act of humility. Jesus took on God’s justice that we deserved. Humility takes the hit for the benefit of what’s most important. Jesus chose humility during Christmas. We should too.

Do we beleive this?

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. ~Ephesians 4:29-32 NASB

Runaway Bride…

Marriage paints a vivid picture of Christ’s love for the church. Paul’s uses the marriage relationship to teach about the church at the end of Ephesians 5. Too often this passage is addressed to marriage. While Paul agrees and consents to this, it is not the point he is making! Paul is describing the passionate unity between Christ and the community of those who believe and follow in Him.

I do not believe Song of Songs describes Christ love for the church, but the book describes what marriage love looks like. Love is not a feeling or a vain emotion. It runs deep.

“Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol ; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the LORD.” ~ Song of Songs 8:6

Church is not trivial
Jesus died for His church… We forget this. While he died for you and me as people, He died for his church. He loves His church, and in giving Himself up for her, the church became a key purpose. Church is not a club, program, theological sub-point, intangible philosophical idea or a spiritual option. The church is the center of Christ’s attention. He gave Himself up for her.

Church is not ready
Jesus purposefully gave Himself up for the church. Paul describes the process of cleansing, purifying and readying the church. Getting ready with an aim for perfection is not an overnight task. Jesus’ sacrifice aimed at perfecting the church, and presenting the church blameless. Put another way, Jesus is aware of what is going on, but He isn’t giving up until the bride is ready.

Church is not leftovers
Jesus views the church as He views Himself. We do not have the mental capability to wrap our minds around this. Jesus is not drill sergeant Bob with a cigar in mouth shouting at us to drop and give him 20 as He pushes us to become a fine sanctified unit. Jesus doesn’t worry about His glory and, oh yeah, also the church. Jesus cherishes and nourishes the church. It is a picture of love and tenderness.

Church is Christ’s
Jesus will become one with His bride. What or how this will look, I do not know. Paul states that “this mystery is great.” Jesus paid for the church, Jesus purified the church, and Jesus will be with His church. Jesus did not, does not, nor will He treat the church as trivial or as leftovers. Jesus knows there is still work to be done, but He hasn’t given up. Love runs deep.

The bottom line:
Rather than runaway, maybe we need to wash up and finish getting ready. Church is elusive to us. With the alarming number of young people leaving the church, perhaps we need to look back at what the church is and should be as a starting point. For sure, we need curb the criticism of church. I’m not saying we ignore things, but the tone needs changing. We need to view church as Christ does. To claim following Christ, but harbor disdain for the church misses the mark. Perhaps people and culture treat the church as trivial, as dirty and leftovers because we do. Perhaps its time we medicate on what Paul is actually communicating via marriage in Ephesians 5.

Name it & claim it!

The Sunday sermon talked about the cows of bashan from Amos 4. (Ok, you can insert corn fed, I mean lame jokes here: The sermon was moo-ving, A1 sermon, nothing like milk of the Word, etc.) I suppose there is just no way to discuss that passage elegantly as the cows referred to women. The juxtaposition of brokenness to hiding it was striking.

Pondering the sermon
Those who hammer holiness in their sermons need to take a serious look at key women in the Bible. It’s messy. Then, take a look at key men in the Bible. It’s even more messy. The problem with depravity is the constant thought that we don’t measure up; that we are lacking. This leads us to a choice: to listen to the fool or the wise. To listen to fallen voices of depravity or the grace of the Gospel. Pastor Jon did a good job pointing to these two choices: truth or error.

Name it & claim it
There is truth to the name it and claim it phrase. It’s not centered on our wants, but grace. 1 John 1:9 is a name it and claim it principle. If we confess our sin (name it) He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins AND cleanse us from all unrighteousness (claim it). Name it and claim it should be about grace, not possessions. When we embrace our brokenness God offers not just forgiveness, He cleans us up!

The Bottom Line:
We have a choice. What will we pursue? Truth or error? Grace or tyranny of our fallenness? If being perfect consumes us, we will never get dirty. Serving and helping people is messy. We want to hide our depravity, but Jesus bring it into the light. We view it as a stain, Jesus views it as dirt to be washed away. His scars prove that. We view it as hopeless, Jesus forged the Gospel in hope. Name your sin, claim its forgiveness, and as a bonus Jesus makes you clean. The Gospel is a powerful thing.