Houses of Worship

June 12, 2017

On my Monday morning “slog”- (really slow-jog), I began to notice that within one mile of my home are 8 church facilities.  Granted I have lived in the same house 14 years, and Yes, I just now noticed.

I began thinking about 1 Timothy 3:15, But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (CSB)

I began to pray for each of these churches and their leadership. Praying that they would be faithful to live out the truth of the gospel, truly representing God’s household- the pillar and foundation of truth.  I prayed that our community would be transformed by the power of God through the presence of these churches.  I prayed that each of the churches would find their hope, purpose, and satisfaction in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

Then I realized that there were several houses of worship along my jog- party stores, Fortune 500 corporations, small family owned businesses, and schools.  All places people go every day to worship.  All places people go to find hope, purpose, and satisfaction.

The problem is that each of these places was never designed to be the focus of our worship. They can never deliver what they promise, they always leave us discontent and discouraged.   At there best they are good gifts of God that point us to Him, at their worst they become counterfeit substitutes and misappropriated glory.

Every one worships something.  Every one is trying to find hope, purpose and satisfaction in something or someone.   We were created to reflect the glory of God.  He is our only hope, defining purpose, and the only one that can truly satisfy.

  • What or who are you worshiping?  What do you look to for hope, purpose and satisfaction?

Show and Tell

January 20, 2016

showtellThis past Sunday at Our Redeemer we talked about Show and Tell. Yes, that activity that has now been banned from most elementary schools, but also the Show and Tell of the Gospel-the good news about Jesus Christ.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul is defending his time with the Thessalonians reminding them of genuineness of the message and the manner in which he communicated it. He reminds them that his message, motives, and methods where clarified and not contradicted by the way he lived among them. “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well.”(1Thess 2:8)

Why do we like Show and Tell?  Sometimes hearing is not enough. We need to see what it looks like. It’s why the “This Old House” television show launched a whole “do it yourself” culture and cable network. People needed to see how it works. The same can be said for our relationships with God through Christ. The Bible is not just a book of do’s and do not’s.  It is a picture of people learning to faithfully live in light of God’s revelation. It’s why our spiritual growth is a community project. It is why sharing our faith must include sharing our lives.

Why do we like Show and Tell?  Sometimes showing is not enough. “This Old House” had a segment where someone would hold up a tool and everyone had to guess what it was or how it was used. Without someone explaining, we are only left with a dilemma of guesses. The good news about Jesus is not just about showing, it is also about telling. A popular misquote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi is “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” We know what the quote is trying to say. Our showing must be consistent with our telling. However, a more accurate quote may be “Preach the Gospel at all times, and because it is necessary use words.” Without communicating the words of the Gospel, it will never be good news. It is just someone holding up an impossible standard of moral behavior and self sacrifice. It’s the words that explain the work of Christ that make it good news. (Romans 5:6-8)

Let’s be people who “preach the gospel at all times, and because it is necessary use words.”  A people who are anxious to not only share the gospel, but our lives as well.  It is a lot like Show and Tell.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Romans 10:13-4

Powerball

January 13, 2016

powerball24n-1-webTonight’s Powerball jackpot is a record 1.5 billion dollars. Yes, that is billion with a B. So far an estimated 550 million Powerball tickets have been sold, and that does not even include the procrastinators who will make their purchase at the last moment. The math people say you have a 1 in 292 million chance of picking the right combination of numbers, which means the non math people know, “So there’s a chance!”

But even if there is a chance, I am not interested in throwing a dollar into the mix. There may be more, but here are just 3 reasons why I am not interested in jumping in on the record jackpot.

1. It is not Magic Money-
Sometime we think the money that is won through the lottery just magically appears. But is doesn’t. It comes out of the pockets of the people who bought tickets. The lottery is not losing money. There is no mysterious bucket of money that pays out prizes. Those dollars came from people living in poor communities believing the lie that the lottery is their only hope. My new found wealth would be coming from the exploitation of poor. If you think it’s helping public schools, realize that the small percentage that actually makes it to schools reduces the dollars that come from state tax funds. So in a way, the lottery is a tax on the poorest of the poor to fund public schools.

2. My Money is not My Money-
Ultimately my money is not mine. I am a manager of God’s money. He has entrusted me with his resources to meet my needs and advance His kingdom. I might be able to convince myself of all the good I could do to advance the gospel with 1.5 billion dollars, but do I really want to stand before God and give an account for how I used 1.5 billion dollars of God’s money, most of which taken from the exploitation of the poor?

3. It Questions God’s Goodness-
If I buy a ticket, am I saying God is not meeting my needs? Am I saying that I need the lottery to meet my needs and make me happy? As a follower of Christ I am called to do all things through Christ who gives me strength- (Philippians 4:13) A statement Paul makes in the context of being content. If I buy a ticket am I showing my disappointment with how God is caring for me and my family?

It’s ok if you disagree with me, I am just telling why I am not picking up a ticket.

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life. Proverbs 22:22-23 (NIV)

Happy New Year!

January 6, 2016

newyearBy now you may have returned to work, school, or many of your pre-Christmas holiday routines. Maybe we should just call it “life”.  The hope and anticipation of the holiday season has passed, and maybe you are struggling with a little post holiday disappointment. Maybe things didn’t go as “peace on earth good will toward men” as you may have liked. Maybe, just maybe, the same struggles, conflicts, and problems that existed throughout the year showed up and spoiled your “Christmas spirit”. I know my own holiday season included car problems, plunging a hotel toilet, and more than a few uncomfortable family moments and conversations. But that is what Christmas is all about.

Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation; God took on human flesh and lived with us. (John 1:14) But he didn’t just come to hang out or set a good example, he came with a clearly defined purpose. He came to fix a problem- us.

… and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (NIV)

“that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 2Corinthians 5:19 (NIV)

He came to bring light because we were living in darkness. He came to set us free because we were living in the slavery of our own selfish sinfulness. He came to fix our broken relationships, beginning with our broken relationship with God (John 1:12)

So maybe your Christmas gatherings displayed more of your brokenness than you would have liked. Before you get too discouraged, remember that Jesus did not come into a neat tidy world where everybody got along. He came into a messy, dysfunctional, sinfully broken world that desperately needed Him. Christmas is a reminder of our brokenness and need, and points us to the only solution- the person and work of Jesus Christ.

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV)

Starbucked

April 15, 2015

starbuckedRecently I came across the book “Starbucked” by Taylor Clark. A very interesting read for the coffee-obsessed like myself. I won’t say I am addicted, but I am highly committed.  The book provides a history of the specialty-coffee industry with special attention to the role Starbucks has played in it.

As a strategically small church pastor-one that sees the the supposed liabilities of the small church as strategic advantages-I was struck by the discussion about whether or not the presence of a Starbucks had a negative impact on small independent “mom-and-pop” coffee shops.  It reminded me of the tension between larger churches and smaller churches. We could ask a similar question, does the presence of a large church in a community negatively affect smaller churches?

When I replaced the coffee shop names with churches I found I was in total agreement. The discussion concluded that the presence of a Starbucks (larger church) actually had a positive impact on the smaller independent coffee houses (smaller churches.)   It seems it all depends on the attitude of the (smaller church) and their ability to understand and maximize their uniqueness.  Those that tried to imitate Starbucks failed and went out of business.  Those that maximized their own uniqueness thrived.  Their conclusion- “You can’t beat Starbucks at being Starbucks.”  So don’t try.  The (smaller church) has the ability to be more nimble, switch strategy more quickly, and be more responsive to the changing needs of their community.  The (smaller church) fails when it tries to imitate and be something it is not equipped for and was never intended to be.

Churches large and small are called to faithfulness not imitation.  Each is equipped differently to reach different people in different ways with the gospel.  The smaller church and the large church are gospel transformed families of the powerful presence of Christ.

Every Day Resurrection

April 8, 2015

This last Sunday was Easter Sunday, and at Our Redeemer we talked about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, pretty cutting edge I know- We talked about the past, present, and future realities of the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15:20-34. It occurred to me that most of our time and attention is either focused on the past historical reliability of the resurrection, or the future anticipation of new life after physical death the resurrection proves and provides.

But what about the present? How does the reality of the resurrection change my today, my every day? I know that the resurrection changes my Sunday. Christians throughout the world traditionally gather on Sunday for worship because it was the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead. Every Sunday for the Christian church is a celebration of the resurrection. But what about the rest of the week?  What about every day?  Is it only a past, future, and Sunday thing?

For the Apostle Paul the resurrection was every day.  It changed the way he served, suffered, and spent his time.  He closes the chapter in verse 58 with a call to action based in the present reality of the resurrection, “…stand firm, give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

What about you? Does the reality of the resurrection change your every day? Does it affect the way you think about your work, relationships, temptations, and time? How different would your day be if you were consciously aware of the reality and expectation of the resurrection? It might just make your Mondays more meaningful and your Wednesdays more worshipful.

Spend some time today reflecting on the present impact the resurrection of Jesus Christ has on your life. Don’t let it just be a past, future, and Sunday thing. The resurrection changes everything, every day.

It’s Tournament Time!

March 18, 2015

Image result for final four

It’s Tournament Time!  Which means 40 million people, a majority of which have not watched an entire college basketball game this season, will fill out a 64 team NCAA tournament bracket.  A majority of those 40 million are expected to have the top seeded and undefeated Kentucky Wildcats as their projected National Champion.

A few years ago when Kentucky was loaded with talent that had not yet translated to wins on the court, I heard an interview with head coach John Calipari.  He was explaining the process of getting his team to work together.  He described it as the difference between competing and complementing.  His focus was to help his players realized they were on the same team.  Their individual basketball skills were best demonstrated when they complemented the team instead of each playing like they were competing against one another.

It got me thinking about churches.  All too often churches that should see themselves complementing each other, see themselves in competition.  Smaller churches are concerned they can’t “compete” with the resources and programs of larger churches.  Larger churches are trying to use their resources and programs to help their church feel small.  Tons of time, resources, and of course conferences are dedicated to helping larger churches feel small and smaller churches to get big.  But what if churches could see themselves as complementing one another?  What if they resourced each other to turn their supposed liabilities into strategic advantages?  What if each church faithfully maximized their God given gifts and unique opportunities for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel, instead of spending its time trying to be something it was never intended to be?

I wonder if a reminder from college basketball might be helpful.  We are on the same team.  God is equipping His churches, churches of all sizes, to complement one another,  not to be in competition.  In the big picture of God’s plan to redeem and restore a broken world, different churches reach different people in different ways with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Personally, I tend to lean toward the smaller church, I like to play man-to-man more often than zone.  If you are looking for a great small church resource, I love The Strategically Small Church by Brandon O’Brien.

#Boasting

March 11, 2015

Last Sunday at Our Redeemer we talked about the difference between boldness and boasting from 2 Corinthians 10.  It really got me thinking about platforms just like this one as well as all social media platforms.  If you just scroll through any of these feeds you might wonder if they are just ways for us to brag about what we ate, who and what we hate, where we went, and how much we spent.

We want to know how many “likes”, comments, retweets, favorites, and pins our sweet picture or clever comments can generate.  Is it really just a way to boast about a life we wish we had, or the one we want you to think we have?  I know what you are probably thinking, “Who does this #hypocrite think he is posting this stuff about social media on a blog only his mother reads with his #lame picture at the top?”

In 2 Corinthians 10– the author Paul explains the difference between his boldness for the gospel and arrogant boasting.  Boldness is marked by demonstrating the character of Christ (verse 1), its strength and clarity comes from divine power (verse 4), it’s for the purpose of building others up (verse 8) and branching out with good news of the gospel.(verse 16)  Boasting is just the opposite.  It’s marked by self promotion, selfish ambition and judgmental arrogance.  It’s strength comes from the ability to tear down, belittle, and isolate.

Sometimes what we think sounds like clever boldness really just communicates self-righteous arrogance.  What if before we posted, tweeted, or pinned- we strained our status through the filter of Christ-like boldness?  Does it reflect the character of Christ?  Is if helpful for building others up and the advancement of the gospel?  Is it something the Lord would commend? (verse 18)

In a world that is providing new ways everyday for us to post, pin, and tweet ourselves, let’s make sure we remember the difference between arrogant boasting and bold confidence, especially bold confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hitting the Rock

March 4, 2015

Let’s face it, we have all been there. Maybe we have said something or done something in a moment of frustration we wish we could take back.  When frustration gives way to exasperation we lash out and hit the rock.

This year we have encouraged the Our Redeemer Church family to read through the Bible together following the Chronological Plan. Yesterday’s reading included Numbers 20. The chapter continues the downward spiral in the path of God’s people most recently initiated in Numbers 11 with the opening phrase-“Now the people complained…”

Numbers chapters 11-20 are highlighted, or low-lighted, by constant complaining, infighting, lack of trust, and an entire generation losing out on God’s blessing and provision. They turned on their leaders- which is what we love to do when things start to go wrong- and finally in Numbers 20:1-13, Moses, their primary leader, forfeited his opportunity to enter the promised land.

What exactly did Moses do that caused him to forfeit the promised land? Could it really be just as simple as striking the rock instead of speaking to it?  Maybe it is what striking the rock and claiming some participation in producing the water represented.  Verse 12 says, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

So how did Moses get there?  How did he get lost in the pressure of the moment and lose the privilege of experiencing God’s blessing?  Probably the same way you and I do.   He allowed the complaining of the people around him to wear him down, and worn down his frustration led to forgetting.  He believed that he had to do it all himself.  Tim Chester in the book You Can Change identified four truths about God that underlie all our sinful behavior and negative emotions.  They are:

  1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
  2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
  3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
  4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves

Before you hit the rock remember that even in the most frustrating situations, with even the most frustrating people, God calls us to trust Him and honor Him as holy for only He is great, glorious, good, and gracious.

The Liberating Lie

February 25, 2015

Freedom is a Lie by elcrazyHave you ever noticed the Liberating Lie? It is the lie that says if we could just live free of outdated, unevolved cultural norms and mores, we would all be better off and human society would finally flourish in this new found freedom.  The Liberating Lie involves sex, sexual identity, marriage, the family, and even “medical” marijuana- I mean cannabis.

The thing about the Liberating Lie is that it never delivers what it promises. It actually delivers the exact opposite, it brings slavery instead of freedom.  The slavery leads to broken relationships in a broken world.  It always leads to disaster instead of deliverance and disappointment instead of delight.

It usually starts with an appeal to the exception, and ends with universal misery.  It appeals to our emotions and our rational reasoning.  It suggests that surely we would never deny someone the freedom of personal autonomy-to make their own private choices, call their own private shots. It is built around another lie, the lie that our private choices do not affect the public good. As the environmentalist say “everyone is downriver to someone.”  Maybe we’ll call that the Lie of Independence.

The Liberating Lie was the first lie – Genesis 3:1 “Did God really say…”  It calls into question the God who created creation with its patterns and structures to ensure human flourishing.  It denies the loving limits of a good and generous God and assumes that the creation knows more and better than the Creator.  Even in what appeared  to be a restrictive and oppressive punishment in Genesis 3:22-24, God again demonstrated the loving limits of His divine design.

Watch out for the Liberating Lie.  It always over promises and under delivers.  I promise you will never like where it leads.  The good news is there is a better way, it’s the way of God’s divine design.  The even better news is that God has made a way to reverse the curse of the lie and restore our broken relationships through the person and work of Jesus Christ.