Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Take a Risk

Are you playing it safe?  Do the choices you make daily reflect fear and worry instead of hope and joy?  There are phrases out there that we use that keep us from moving forward.  One of them is: "you have to go along to get along."  Another, "to change the system you need to be part of the system".  Or another favorite of mine, "change the system from the inside out".  This kind of thinking leads us to not take risks.  Some of us avoid risks at all costs.  I was once lectured by another pastor that I should take more risks.  Funny story, he himself was not taking any risks.  Maybe risk for one person looks different than another.  It may not be smart to take risks.  Wise thinking would tell you not to take risks.  For me, part of taking a risk is linked to sacrifice.  To move forward with integrity I have to take risks.  Playing it safe does not always get you in the end zone.  Think about the fans at the end of a game that see the quarterback kneel down three times and run out the clock.  Do we cheer for that?  How about the coach that doesn't trust his quarterback and hands the ball off three times in the red zone, only to try and kick a field goal?!?  Cheer for that?  Without great risk there is usually no reward.
Lots of people talk about WWJD- what would Jesus do?  I'm not sure I can guess what he would do in all situations, but I do know that he took risks.
He took a risk when He constantly challenged the Pharisees.
He took a risk when He preached the Sermon on the Mount.
He took a risk when He reveled that He was the Messiah.
His life was full of risk.  Is yours?
Friends, please consider today why you are doing certain things.  Are you taking the least path of resistance, or are you taking risks in the name of Jesus Christ?
Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fine Line

There is a fine line between holiness and self-righteousness.  There really is.  In the time of Jesus he encountered several religious leaders that were more focused on fame, celebrity and power than serving God.  Here is a small passage from Matthew 23

"2"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
 5"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'
 13"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
 15"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
 16"Woe to you, blind guides!

Self-righteousness leads to pride.
Holiness leads to love.
The fine line is where your heart is focused.  If your heart wholly focused on God, then you walk the path of holiness, denying the self.
If your heart treasures things of the world more than God, then you walk the path of this world, a path of self-righteousness.
Which path do you walk?  The fine line that divides it is not always easily seen.  Be aware of where you are walking and why.
And it might be good to better understand what a phylactery is before you skip over the fine line.
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Are You For?

It's easy to figure out what people are against.  Just talk to someone and they will tell you.  Negative gripes, mean spirited words, and opinions have been elevated into some sort of high art form that is lauded as something unique, gifted and important.  Here is a secret.  Anyone can tear something down.  Anyone can gripe.  It does not take a Ph.D to speak poorly of others.  We are called to build each other up, not tear each other down.  I value your opinion, and I hope you value the opinions of others.  Our opinion is not the only view.  It is truly sad to see God loving people take disagreement to a new level of accusations and using the Bible or parables to speak poorly of others.  Watch the news and you will see it happens too much.  Jesus said,"for whoever is not against us is for us".  In others words, treat everyone as if they are your friend unless they give you cause not too.
Please remember that most people do not have bad intentions.  In fact, most people have good intentions.  Look at your own life.  Can someone tell more of what you are against, or more of what you are for?
So what do you stand for?  Righteousness, goodness, faithfulness, peace, joy, hope, faith or love?
Go in peace and go with God

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The ABC's of Ministry

During seminary the term ABC's of ministry bounced around a few of our classes.  The ABC's stand for
Many churches gauge how they are doing in the world by checking the stats and comparing with other churches. When we reduce the body of Christ to those three things we really miss the point.  Yes those are a few indicators or where we are, but by no means do those things tell the whole story.  If there is a business of the church it is the business of making disciples.  New disciples.  Sadly it's rare in the church today.  Most of our churches are just recycling or reconnecting people who have fallen away.  Now I am all for reconnecting and recycling.  But we have a larger calling.  There are Unchristian, non-churched, never been to church, never heard the Gospel story, far from God, lost and miserable people out there in the world today.  We assume everyone in our communities have heard about Jesus.  They probably have because of Christmas and maybe Easter.  But what have they heard?  If we allow the media to explain and share our message through the lens of the edges and extremes of the Christian church, then shame on us.  The next two generations are turned off by the church.  They are not coming as fast as other generations.  Is this a crisis?  Should we focus all our time, resources and energy and figuring out why the next few generations (X, Y) really don't like the church much?  Should we read all the latest books and talk and talk and talk.....?
Or is there a different path?  A simple way?
New church start pastors are told they need to make 10 contacts a day with new people to get a church up and running.  Ten new people a day!  Wow.
If you are sitting in church every week and looking at the attendance listed on the back of your bulletins, but do nothing to increase that number personally, have you missed the point?
If you look at the giving every week and have not moved your giving up in the past few years, have you missed the point?
Are you more focused on your current building or the new building than who might be coming to the building, have you missed the point?
I pray every day for the Body of Christ.  I pray every day that God will continue to bless us, guide us and lead us down the path He has placed before us.
Go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations (people).  It doesn't just say our friends and family.  All.  Everyone.  Anyone.  Who will you share the Gospel with today?
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Heat Is On

This past two weeks have been the longest stretch of hot temps that I have ever experienced.  I remember one stretch when I was in high school one summer in July, but every day I walk outside and it just feels like a furnace.  I know electric bills are going through the roof as air conditioners are running almost non-stop.  Cooling stations are opening up, the libraries are packed, as are the pools.
In life the heat sometimes gets turned up as well.  Whether it's work life, school life, married life, kid life, church life or whatever, the heat is sometimes on.  How do we deal when the pressure is building and steam is coming out our ears?  Do we blow up?  Do we attack?  Do we accuse?
I've seen and experienced both sides of a blow up.  It's been awhile since I have been the one blowing up (many, many years thank the Lord).  But I have experienced people blowing up.  The thing about a blow up is...what's next?  Sometimes the blow ups are so big that there is no chance of repairing a relationship.  It can be years before best friends talk again after a blow up.  So here is my suggestion today- find a place to cool down before you blow up.  You can feel the pressure building and yet, you do nothing to stop it.  Try and go to a place, a person, a church, a pastor, a counselor, a friend, your spouse to help you cool down.   Some people say it's good to get it out, to vent...usually those people are the ones venting and blowing up.  Talk stuff out.  Work it out.  And if you want to get all religious, Jesus only blew up a few times and well, he was the Son of God, so what it our excuse?
Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ingredients that Work

I like to make salsa.  Every year we make our own salsa from ingredients mostly from our garden.  There is no better salsa than fresh homemade salsa.  We continue to fine tune the recipe.  We don't have it written down, so we have to remember every year how to make it.  So this year I knew there was something missing in my first few tries at salsa.  It just didn't taste right.  I had ripe tomatoes ;0), onions, cilantro, salt, lime juice, vinegar, minced garlic, green and red peppers and a jalapeno.  It tasted good, but nothing like last year.  What was missing?  It took a few tries but I finally figured it out....(dramatic pause for religious discussion)
This happens in my faith life as well.  I will reach a certain point of growth and then forget how I got to where I am.  It's a bit frustrating to have new learnings forgotten.  How easily we forget what God has done for us.
Being a Christian and living out the Christian life takes a few things too.  I will not give you the recipe, but some of the ingredients include - Jesus Christ, prayer, the Word/Bible, service and you get the picture.
Back to my salsa story.  So one thing I had added the previous two years were green chilies from a can.  Mild of course.  And it makes a world of difference.  It just seemed like that one ingredient kept being taken from my memory.  So we are back to making great salsa after several weeks of confusion.  So what is missing in your life of faith?  Church?  Service?  Ministry?  Prayer?
Go in peace and go with God.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Let's Think About It This Way

Does your daily life mirror the life of Christ?  In my last post I talked about spiritual disciplines and reflected on a friends journey and my own journey.  A spiritual discipline is like having a good habit.  It's something that is ingrained in your daily life.  It's like your daily cup of coffee.  You never go without.  So from morning to night what jumps out at you that screams "I am a Christian"?  Anything?  Something?  Nothing?  It's tough to be known as a disciple is absolutely nothing in your life points to Jesus Christ.  Leonard Sweet in his book "Jesus Manifesto" says, "Jesus isn't a cause.  He is a real and living person who can be known, loved, experienced, enthroned, and embodied".  Whoa.  You mean I can't just be a CINO (Christian in name only)?!?  I have to be someone who makes disciples of all nations, loves God, loves my neighbor, declares that the kingdom of God is at hand, helps those who are in need, builds up (not tear down) the body of Christ and I have to be the light of Christ.  Tall order.  Big shoes, or sandals.   Be filled with God, not the world.  Let love, not: anger, hate, malice, confusion, frustration, power, authority, the world; be your guide.
Go in peace and go with God.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Personal Spiritual Disciplines

A friend of mine is starting a new journey of faith this month and it centers around his desire to grow deeper and unplug.  You can follow his journey here.  I have talked on numerous occasions about how important it is to grow deeper with God daily.  Some of the things I emphasize are:
Daily Prayer
The Lord's Prayer
The Apostles Creed
Daily Bible Reading.
For me, my daily life for numerous years has included prayer and Bible study.  It is a discipline.  Every day starts with the Lord's prayer and every day for me ends with the Lord's prayer.
Here it is-
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.
Try and type that from memory to see if you know it well.
I also daily pray for those in need, my family and friend, other churches, other pastors, hospitals, candidates for ministry, our Bishop, our cabinet and a bunch of other stuff and people.  Prayer is central to my relationship with Christ.
So, that is part of my story.  I hope your story is full of prayer.
Go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Destinations: Everyone Is Going Somewhere- New Sermon Series

In a few weeks we will begin a new sermon series at Grace.  It's all about our final destination and how we live it every day.  The Christian is a lot of things and one of those things is story.  The story of Christ, your story, our story, the story of God's people are intersect and make one big story.  Story is about a beginning, a middle and an end.  Over the next few weeks we will be talking about how the story started and where we are all going.  As Methodists we have a deep tradition and history of living out the journey of salvation.  Salvation for us is not about a one time emotional and spiritual event.  It's about growing and living into God's grace, love and mercy every day.  As we grow, the full and whole love of God fills our hearts.  We know people who are unsure of their final destination.  Some of us might be unsure of our future as well.  Come join us as we begin a new conversation about salvation, faith and our story.
Go in peace and go with God.