Friday, March 31, 2006

House Rules

In card games there are a zillion number of little variations that people have depending on local custom and preference. This also applies to sports where people change the rules to overcome different ability levels. Recently I spoke to a youth basketball coach who encountered a team that wasn't taught to play defense so that the kids would have an easier time scoring. Needless to say his defensive-minded squad had their way with the other team.

These 'house rules' are quite common, and Jesus has left us with some, too. As Christ-followers, regardless of how the game is being played in other places or homes, these are our 'house rules',

Colossians 3:18-25
You wives must submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. And you husbands must love your wives and never treat them harshly.

You children must always obey your parents, for this is what pleases the Lord. Fathers, don't aggravate your children. If you do, they will become discouraged and quit trying.

You slaves must obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Obey them willingly because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ. But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites who can get away with evil.

Ephesians 5:21
And further, you will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

In our case the Holy Spirit is the ref, speaking to our heart when we get out of line. Seems like a pretty good game to me.

Jesus, remind me to start with you when I look at the world. To often I start at the point of judging the “fairness” of something and then asking you to make sense of it. May I start with you, trusting you, seeking you and your ways first. As I struggle to see or understand your will, may I never doubt your character or your purposes.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rules For Daily Living

Rules aren't very popular these days. In an anti-authority culture people will do almost anything to squirm out from under being told what to do. Even when the rules are there to help us, we still don't willingly embrace them. Why do we need referees at sporting games? Because without them someone will abuse the rules.

What's wrong with the ten guidelines?

Exodus 20
Then God instructed the people as follows:

I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt.

Do not worship any other gods besides me.

Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish.

Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God.

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God.

Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God will give you.

Do not murder.

Do not commit adultery.

Do not steal.

Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.

Do not covet your neighbor's house. Do not covet your neighbor's wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns.

Father, forgive me for treating the unfolding of your plan in the “old” testament as the museum of Christianity rather than the foundation of everything that points to Jesus and the cross. Teach me to understand the details so that I might appreciate the cross all the more.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Deliverance

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Cecil B. DeMille's epic, The Ten Commandments. Last Friday night we watched most of the show with our three kids, aged 9, 7 and 4. They absolutely loved it!

Growing up in a family that had no connection to Jesus or the church, I still remember watching the movie and respecting what God had done in delivering the Hebrews. I hoped my kids would have a similar experience.

My youngest woke up first on Saturday morning and as he rubbed his eyes at the bottom of the stairs his first words were, "Dad, can we watch the movie again?"

We watched the crossing of the Red Sea for the second time while we waited for the other two to wake up. By the time Moses ascended Mt. Sinai my other kids had come down and sat transfixed. A story of freedom always gets a hearing, especially where God is involved.

There are times for all of us when we feel alone, exiled, and desperate. In those times of darness we can remember Moses and give thanks "for God's loving-kindness is everlasting."

Psalm 107:5-9
They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
They did not find a way to an inhabited city.
They were hungry and thirsty;
Their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses.
He led them also by a straight way, to an inhabited city.
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.

Jesus, you are sovereign over all and yet you call, even invite me to join in the proclamation of your sovereignty to the entire world. May my delight never be only in the proclamation, but may it be in embracing your heart, desiring to see others join in the deliverance.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Success or Service?

Albert Einstein had the portraits of two scientists on his wall for inspiration, Maxwell and Newton. Near the end of his life he replaced those two with portraits of Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer.

Said Einstein, "It is time to replace the image of success with the image of service."

Perhaps he'd been inspired by Schweitzer's words, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know, the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

Who, or what are you holding up as the image of success?

Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I Love Jesus But Hate The Church: A Building or the Kingdom of God?

From a blog: “Thoughts of a pastor taking a sabbatical -- giving up church (not God) for lent.”

People love Jesus but hate the church for all kinds of reasons. Two weeks ago we tallked about the hurts that churches inflict; last week we spoke of the judgment that goes on on any given Sunday in church that keeps people away. Today we look at another reasoon people are leaving the church behind.

Parable of church, culture and gospel.

Three friends from university. Best buddies. Graduate and move apart but stay in close contact and celebrate life’s journey. As time passes they find they don’t talk as much, or get together. They find they get updates on each other second hand, through others.

One of the friends invites the other two for a reunion…he in turn dominates the discussion, always making himself the focus of attention. The other two friends leave saddened in the end.

The friends are 'gospel' and 'culture', the inviter being 'church'.

George Barna in his book, Revolution, finds that some are leaving churches because they’ve lost sight of what it means to be a church. They are active as revolutionaries for God, in spite of the local church, because often the local church exists for itself and appear as a building. No longer do we just follow Jesus but now we have a building to maintain, programs to run, lawns to mow, etc.

As a university student our group visited the home of one of our members. There was a little rope cordoning off the living room. It looked like a museum scene. Heaven forbid you could go in there and ‘do life’. It’d mess it up!

That’s what usually ends up with church buildings. Having people do things there messes it up. You need custodians, rules about food, policies and procedures, restrictions on keys, barriers and obstacles to discourage the use of the building in order to keep people out so that it’ll look good for ‘Sunday’.

The church is not a building. The church is the vehicle of God’s choice to create a movement to change the culture (society). Jesus favorite term for this was not ‘church’, but the kingdom of God.

At its simplest the definition of the Kingdom of God is the range of God’s effective will (us!). It brings us back to the question that frames this entire series,

"What should a real relationship with Jesus Christ invovle and how should our lives and church look as a result of that relationship?"

When you look at the Bible you see that the kingdom of God is God acting. The only thing that transforms us spiritually is the action of following Christ.

1 Timothy 1:1 the Message calls Jesus, “our living hope.” I love that. A building is not our living hope.

This ‘living hope’ has given us a task. All of you task type people are going to love this. Jesus is into tasks! Our task is the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus gives us the task of taking care of relationships. I love that, too.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20
All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, "Be reconciled to God!"

Paul tells us that our goal is to point people back to God. Why get hung up on a building? Or anything else for that matter.

Our existence is to take our living hope to others.

"The world is my parish." John Wesley

Sin is not primarily a matter of disobeying laws but of failing to love, failing to make one’s life a gift. Robert Barron, Evangelical Catholic theologian

That idea helps frame the ministry of reconciliation. Sin is failing to get into the only game in town that God really cares about, that being helping people reconcile to each other and to God.

This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called a ‘religion-less Christianity’, where church liturgy, property (building), government and politics were superseded by community, compassion, fidelity and integrity in daily discipleship.

A discipleship that is less guru-focused and trusts more in the Spirit.

We must throw our whole soul into our desire for God. A. W. Tozer

Joshua Harris, Stop Dating The Church
“I’m seeing a church over on 99 Street.”
“Marry her?! Whoa! No, I’m not ready for that”
“She’s kind of clingy: Wants to be together for two hours every Sunday. Always asking me to go to small group. Wants me to do service.”
“I don’t want to ruin something beautiful!”
“I want to keep my options open.”

Would we notice if God walked through the room? If not we’ve just become a building. On the other hand, do you know where to find God?

Matthew 25:44-46
"Then they will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' And he will answer, `I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life."

“Think Globally, Act Locally.”

The church in the kingdom sense needs to be a place of permission giving and should promote church: world engagement/involvement. Because that’s where the people are that Jesus is trying to reconcile with!

People need space to do 'kingdom work'. Hierarchies don't allow for this and we lose spiritual formation and kingdom living.

We need church for the people by the people. Relational. Creative. Incarnational. Inclusive, not box-ticking on a form.

More appreciation of different ways of being church. More encouragement of new leaders and less criticism.

We are saved by grace, by the power of the gospel, and not by the church, even if it was through the broken vessel of the church that the gospel came to us. The church, therefore, is never ultimate. It deserves our energy and commitment not for its own sake, for the priority is on God; rather, there is a priority of the gospel over the church. The church is meant to be a kingdom beachhead.

What is the project that God is working on in Edmonton? In your neighborhood? In your life? What project will we commit our lives to at Community of Hope? How big is that?

Matthew 15:21-28
Jesus then left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter has a demon in her, and it is severely tormenting her."

But Jesus gave her no reply--not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. "Tell her to leave," they said. "She is bothering us with all her begging." Then he said to the woman, "I was sent only to help the people of Israel--God's lost sheep--not the Gentiles."

But she came and worshiped him and pleaded again, "Lord, help me!"

"It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs," he said.

"Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even dogs are permitted to eat crumbs that fall beneath their master's table."

"Woman," Jesus said to her, "your faith is great. Your request is granted." And her daughter was instantly healed.

Imagine that you are this woman. You're not Jewish. You have heard a trouble-maker called Jesus. Jewish people did not like to mix with non-Jews. Some Christians are like this today. Let’s call them ‘building Christians’.

Jesus is coming to your area.

Your daughter is sick. So much pain. You are desperately worried about her. You find acceptace and healing in Jesus.

In Hebrews we read that Jesus learned obedience. In Luke we read that Jesus grew in stature. Did Jesus ever stop learning? Do you think that Jesus could learn something at age 30? What about you? Some of you would say, no, neither I nor Jesus seem to be learning anything!

There are only two times Jesus changes his mind, John 2 being the other. Both involve women.

Herod has just killed John the Baptist. The Kingdom of King Herod kills people like John the Baptist. It criticizes you constantly.

The Kingdom of God heals and feeds people. It listens to you.

When I read these accounts I think there is no greater project that the Kingdom and we are still learning of it today. Jesus seems to be saying I'm starting something new. Won't you join me?

If I were a disciple, lying in bed that night, I'd think there's nothing better to be involved in.

What do you think of this project and would you like to commit yourself to it? Have we stopped learning or can we keep learning and following as disciples in the Kingdom?

Ask your friend/spouse to evaluate your life. Ask them to answer this question: What do I talk about most? How important does being involved in God’s work, the kingdom, come across through my life and actions?

Psalm 16:8
“I Will Set The Lord Always Before Me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

The gospel is proclaimed and enacted; when it’s proclaimed but not enacted you get hypocrisy; when it’s enacted but not proclaimed you get burnout; we need both to be the gospel.

Don’t go to church, a building. Be the church and go to others.

The church has left the building. Literally and metaphorically.

"Once you see not only the problem, but the solution, there's no escape. You see it, you can't look away from it. I want it to feel like an adventure, not a burden. I don't mean just for me, I mean for the movement. This is an extraordinary thing, an uplifting thing. This is not, 'Oh my God, all the poor starving Africans with flies around their faces.' They are very noble, royal people, full of easy laughter and very innovative. This is about us, too. It's about who are we? What are our values? Do we have any? It's exciting." Bono ­ Interview with Rolling Stone, November 2005

I am a Revolutionary in the service of God Almighty. My life is not my own; I exist as a free person but have voluntarily become a slave to God. My role on earth is to live as a Revolutionary, committed to love, holiness, and advancing God’s kingdom. My life is not about me and my natural desires; it is all about knowing, loving, and serving God with all my heart, mind, strength, and soul. Therefore, I acknowledge the following:

· I am a sinner, broken by my disobedience but restored by Jesus Christ in order to participate in good works that please God. I am not perfect; but Jesus Christ makes me righteous in God’s eyes, and the Holy Spirit leads me toward greater holiness.

· God created me for His purposes. My desire as a Revolutionary is to fulfill those ends, and those ends alone. When I get out of bed each day, I do so for one purpose: to love, obey, and serve God and His people.

· I do not need to save the world; Jesus Christ has already done that. I cannot transform the world, but I can allow God to use me to transform some part of it.

· I am not called to attend or join a church. I am called to be the Church.

· Worship is not an event I attend or a process I observe; it is the lifestyle I lead.

· I do not give away 10 percent of my resources. I surrender 100 percent.

· God has given me natural abilities and supernatural abilities, all intended to advance His kingdom. I will deploy those abilities for that purpose.

· The proof of my status as a Revolutionary is the love I show to God and people.

· There is strength in relationships; I am bound at a heart and soul level to other Revolutionaries, and I will bless believers whenever I have the chance.

· I want nothing more than to hear God say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Thank you, Lord God, for loving me, for saving me, for refining me, for blessing me, and for including me in the work of your kingdom. My life is yours to use as you please. I love you.

Full text of Revolution manifesto

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dancers Who Dance Upon Injustice

Did you feel the darkness tremble,
When all the saints join in one song?
And all the streams flow as one river,
To wash away our brokenness.
And here we see that God You’re moving,
A time of jubilee is coming,
When young and old will turn to Jesus,
Fling wide You heavenly gates,
Prepare the way of the risen Lord.

Open up the doors and let the music play,
Let the streets resound with singing,
Songs that bring Your hope, songs that bring Your joy,
Dancers who dance upon injustice.

"The winds are blowing through again, so we must follow. A people daring to believe we can change tomorrow, and be the miracle of light… Now is the time for us to shine." Martin Smith

"Once you see not only the problem, but the solution, there's no escape. You see it, you can't look away from it. I want it to feel like an adventure, not a burden. I don't mean just for me, I mean for the movement. This is an extraordinary thing, an uplifting thing. This is not, 'Oh my God, all the poor starving Africans with flies around their faces.' They are very noble, royal people, full of easy laughter and very innovative. This is about us, too. It's about who are we? What are our values? Do we have any? It's exciting." Bono ­ Interview with Rolling Stone, November '05

Romans 8:1-2
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I Hope You Dance

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give fate a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance... I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances but they're worth taking
Loving might be a mistake but it's worth making
Don't let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance... I hope you dance

Time is a real and constant motion always rolling us along
Tell me who wants to look back on their youth and wonder
Where those years have gone

I hope you dance... I hope you dance

I hope you dance.

While pain and stress in life are unavoidable; while disappointment and heartache are all a key part of the human experience--misery is optional.

Dance.

Matthew 11:16-17
Jesus says, "To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.'"

Friday, March 24, 2006

Congrats!

The boys won last night 4-1 to claim the city title in their division. James, Jake & other guys were/are very excited about the accomplishment. A great effort combined with great coaching helps overcome adversity anytime.

Even last night Mali & Rach were asking when we get to bring the trophy home so they can hold it!

Walking The Tightrope

What does God want from you?

"I don’t know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future." Ralph Abernathy

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." André Gide

"It isn’t events that matter but our opinion of them." Epictetus

Micah 6:8
He has showed you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Finishing Well II

More from Wong and Clinton in Finishing Well: Closing Significant Chapters of Life. Which of these characters do you want to be...

John The Baptist "The Greatest Yet The Least" In our confusion and disappointments—especially with regards to affirmation of our ministry on earth, we must remember, “We are not home yet!” Great illustration of a missionary couple retiring.

Joseph "Closing a Chapter of Hurt" A weak start can be overcome and end up with a good finish—if one has a “sovereign mindset.”

David "2nd sketch—Closing a Chapter of Grief" One can do something well sometimes, early on, but not be consistent in doing it later. Responding properly once doesn’t guarantee a good response later.

Naomi "Closing a Chapter of Loss" All of us lose things—how do we respond?

Job "Closing A Chapter of Doubt" In a time of doubt, hearing from God that He is and is in charge is enough, even if we don’t get all the answers to our questions.

Simon Peter "Closing a Chapter of Failure" There is hope after failure.

Paul "Closing a Chapter of Success" Focusing on one’s ultimate contribution is a key toward living a successful life—not necessarily achievement as seen in one’s culture.

Philippians 3:12-14
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Finishing Well

The Bible is ripe with life stories that teach us much. Bobby Clinton and David Wong have written a book called Finishing Well: Closing Significant Chapters of Life that examines 14 Biblical characters, highlighting both positive and negative incidents in their lives to teach us important lessons.

Many of the characters found in the scriptures could be mirror images of us, were we to just change the names and update the circumstances. Perhaps that's the point of reading the Bible...

Which of these characters could be you...

Saul "A Heart Too Hard" This speaks to the pride barrier.

Solomon "A Heart Too Soft" Starting well does not insure a good finish.

David "1st sketch—Hard and Soft in the right places" One’s response when confronted by God is crucial.

Samson "Fatal Ignorance" Power in ministry, alone, especially without discernment, can be very problematic.

Eli "Fatal Indulgence" “Do I have some fatal indulgence?”

Samuel "Vital Resilience" Discouragements will come in life and ministry; seeing God in and through them can be crucial to surviving them.

Moses "So Near, Yet So Far" Leaders, like Moses—especially those with high profile and claiming to speak for God, will be held to high standards in their own lives and ministry— because they influence so many. Yet God was gracious in his treatment of Moses.

Psalm 119:18
Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from your word.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thank You Jesus

I am so thankful for what God has done in my life. I can echo the words of Paul in First Timothy,

1 Timothy 1:12-17
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinnersof whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

How are you feeling about God's work in your life? Have you taken time recently to look back and see what God has done?

Monday, March 20, 2006

I Love Jesus But Hate The Church: Judgment Day

“As a young child I saw a lot of things that bothered me about the Christian faith,” Nancy recalled. “I was raised in a very legalistic church. As soon as I got away from home, I turned away from the church and vehemently turned against all things that I considered Christian. I would have sooner spit in the eye of a Christian than talk to them. At that time I even actively campaigned against Christian programs and missions.” I Saw Him in Your Eyes by Ace Collins

The legalistic faith Nancy witnessed growing up left her with thoughts of guilt and shame, so she fled for years. Later in life she came back to God and now distributes Bibles!

A lot of people have similar stories. They’ve either left church because of judgments, or haven’t gone to a church service because they fear the judgment upon arrival.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter a woman is forced to wear a red ‘A’ on her sweater because she committed adultery. Many people experience the same treatment, albeit metaphorically, upon entering modern day church services.

“The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not to tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude!” Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Walk The Line" June Carter in a store shopping before a concert Chapter 16 (54:08-55:40)

Religious groups can malform and deform a person. It leaves us with the question, "What should a real relationship with Jesus Christ mean and what should our lives and church look like as a result of that relationship?"

Luke 18:10-11
"Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: `I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don't sin, I don't commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, `O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.' I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored."

If I have been judged and rejected my first reaction is to judge and reject. This, though, is not the recipe for a fruitful life. We need to encounter these issues because it’s easy enough becoming frustrated by our own shortcomings, never mind focusing on the shortcomings of others. We are prone to becoming obsessed with the weaknesses of others that we can’t see anything else. Often we get so caught up in this battle that we lose touch with our own relationship with Jesus Christ.

We start to think that we have the spiritual gift of judgment and enjoy using it liberally.

Will Rogers once said that before a Native American would criticize another man he would walk all the way around him. He would look carefully to see what the view was from that person’s perspective before condemning him.

''If you judge people you have no time to love them” Mother Teresa

Say “No” to judging others. Withhold the judgments.

We learn to do it so subtly, don’t we?

When you gossip it is sin....
When I gossip it is "sharing."

When you stand up for a belief you are stubborn and rigid...
When I do I have the strength of my convictions.

When you make a mistake you are an immature Christian...
When I screw-up I am going through a "difficult time".

You are selfish...
When I act selfishly I am looking out for myself because no one else will.

When you miss church you are letting down the fellowship...
When I miss it is because of my difficult week that you can't even begin to understand.

When you don't work at a church function you are lazy...
When I don't volunteer it is because I can't possibly take on another thing (sighhhh)

When you take initiative you are self-centered...
When I take charge I am following God's direction.

When you get angry you have a terrible attitude...
When I get ticked off I am "filled with righteous indignation"...or something.

These dark age attitudes are like CAVE people & CAVE churches: churches and Christians against virtually everything

Counter them by
1. Having seen God’s grace at work in our own life we find our identity in Christ, not in the approval of others;

2. By recalling how bad it used to feel or remembering the pain of past judgments upon us;

3. Speak from a position of love with no other agenda.

"I love Jesus, but I hate his fan club." One of the reasons for this is the ‘love’ agenda doesn’t seem as strong as some other agendas are…such as being right!

For those of us who follow Jesus Christ we will never find the healing and freedom that we desire until we are willing to open every nook and cranny of our behavioral house for remodeling and cleaning.

This is not easy to do. We need to search for the nearly extinct species known as personal responsibility: yours and mine.

Mickey Rivers, former Yankees centerfielder said, “Don’t worry too much about things you have no control over because you have no control over them. Don’t worry about things that you have control over because you have control over them.”

Deuteronomy 29:29
There are secret things that belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our descendants forever, so that we may obey these words of the law.

The common perception that good people have fewer flaws is wrong. It is not a matter of more or fewer flaws. It is the willingness to change them that counts. Louis Tartaglia

We need to find a way to leave our pride outside and make our differences work, like developing the attitude expressed in the following prayer,

Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed , disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares .

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment , knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together .

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.

I need a volunteer. Take out a scalpel, hacksaw, cutting instruments, etc.

1 Corinthians 12:12, 14-20, 27
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. Yes, the body has many parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And what would you think if you heard an ear say, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye”? Would that make it any less a part of the body? Suppose the whole body were an eye—then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything?

The church isn’t a building it’s a body. That’s the way God has made us. He has made many parts for our bodies and has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! So he has made many parts, but still there is only one body…. Now here is what I am trying to say: All of you together are the one body of Christ, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it. How absurd to judge and cut one part of the body up: it's bloody, messy, and very painful!

Twelve Steps for Recovery
1. We admit that our single biggest pleasure is to judge other people.

2. We have come to believe that our means of obtaining greatness is to make everyone lower than ourselves in our own mind.

3. We realize that we detest mercy being given to those who, unlike us, haven’t worked for it and don’t deserve it.

4. We have decided that we don’t want to get what we deserve after all, and we don’t want anyone else to either.

5. We will join with others on this journey of transformation.

6. We are ready to have God remove all these defects of attitude and character.

7. We embrace the belief that we are, and will always be, experts at sinning.

8. We are looking closely at the lives of famous men and women of the Bible who turned out to be ordinary sinners like us.

9. We are seeking through prayer and meditation to make a conscious effort to consider others better than ourselves.

10. We will embrace the state of grace and forgiveness as a permanent and glorious reality. We will seek to live in the spirit of ‘reconciling friendship’.

11. We choose to rid ourselves of any attitude that is not bathed in gratitude.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we will try to carry this message to others who think that Christians are better than everyone else.

God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Take me to your recovery room for healing. Then help me to lead others there to show them your grace, and mercy, and peace. Amen.

I am loved….by God…and by this church family. In this place…I am home. I can make a difference. I don’t have to be perfect. I can love whom I wish. And I can be loved. No matter what the world says, nothing is impossible with God. I am where the less than perfect are more than welcome. Amen

A manifesto
To try and see everyone through the eyes of Jesus because my eyes are prejudiced and prideful.

To try and love them like Jesus because my love is selfish.

To let them others know that my relationship with Jesus has changed my life, given my life purpose, given me strength to endure tragedy, and real hope for the future.

To authentically relate how this personal relationship with the living God saved my marriage and made me a better parent to my children.

To be gentle in relating the good news of the story of Jesus Christ to people in every situation and mired in any self-destructive behavior. My goal is to introduce them to Jesus and let them work out their relationship in a loving and supportive environment.

To exhibit grace and forgiveness to those who attack me for not sharing their views.

To be an example of the living Christ to everyone I come in contact so that I can have a positive effect in my little circle of influence.

To be an advocate for those wounded by the church and other Christians. Our lack of unity must grieve the Lord who prayed for unity of the body during His final agonizing hours before His betrayal, mock trial, and crucifixion.

To try to never be surprised or repulsed by the actions of those who do not follow Jesus. The Lord Himself was always gentle with searchers and always tough on religious hypocrites. We have reversed his example far too often. We are too tough on searchers and too gentle with the hypocrites.

To try and give generously of my time and treasure to those who have not been as materially blessed in my neighborhood, my country, and around the world.

To let people know that I love Jesus and I am not at all ashamed of that fact.

It is sad, silly & sinful to judge another & drive wedges. Stefan Ulstein

"Real fellowship is so much more than just showing up at services. It is experiencing life together. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sacrificial giving, sympathetic comforting, and all the other 'one another' commands found in the New Testament." Rick Warren

We need each other to be able to do this. It can’t be done alone.

John Wesley had it spot on when he said: ‘Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven? Remember that you cannot serve him alone. You must therefore find companions or make them; the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion”.

Say ‘no’ to judging others means Saying ‘YES’ to compassion. To live as fully human, we must cultivate an inner sense of how other people think and feel, how they hurt—and we both fear and pity those who lack this knowledge. If community and church is the interweaving of self and other, then its most intensive form is compassion. Compassion is a particular subset of love, self-dispossessing without being self-destructive, a state of mind that (unlike mere pity) surely results in virtuous action: the sufferings of others become "the cause of our action as if they were our own."

Developing a thick skin and a tender heart is the road to becoming a hope-filled follower of Jesus Christ.

"Object constancy: in psychology it is the ability to maintain an internal connection to people (i.e. your friends or loved ones), goals (i.e. your commitment to them) and hope (i.e. your ability to look forward to in the future) after you have been frustrated, disappointed or hurt/injured. The more mature you are, the stronger your connection to them; the more immature you are, the weaker your connection to these.

This is why children will say, "I hate you," to a friend or parent after they have been disappointed or sometimes merely told, "No." It is also why immature wives and husbands will immediately go to, "Let’s get a divorce" or girl friends and boyfriends will say, "Let’s just break up," when many of them are disappointed or told, "No."

Learning to feel and stay connected under stress is a matter of maturity and an ability that fewer people seem to be achieving, even in a church.

Learn to ask, "Is there anything building up between us?" Assumption is a close cousin to speculating, and unchecked speculation leads to judging.

Risk It!

Churches are like tortoises. They can only get ahead when they come out of their shell and stick their neck out…”

People are the same way. We need to get out of our shell and risk it!

The dying church is the one who doesn't hear the call of God to be the compassion of Christ, the icon of God's grace in the community.

Let's not worry about being 'seeker' or 'sinner' sensitive; Are we broken-hearted sensitive?

"Being comfortable in church is not the primary goal. I am not always comfortable at the dentist's office. I often arrive in pain because I have neglected to do what I should have done. The staff always makes me feel welcome and even cared for. Then the dentist confronts me with the truth: 'You have let this go too long, and I must hurt you (a little) in order to heal you.'"

In order for this analogy to hold true we must understand we have a problem and realize that the church and Jesus have something to offer in hope and healing and finding meaning.

The strange paradox... of gathering together Sunday mornings regularly to learn the message that gathering together Sunday mornings regularly is not what gets us to heaven.

We read the Bible to learn the message that reading the Bible is not what makes us a Christian.

We pray prayers to a God who teaches us that just saying prayers is not the thing that makes us true Christ-followers. Bruxy Cavey

The goal of all of this isn’t to cram info into our head obviously. The goal is to go and make (spiritually form) disciples (apprentices).

Our normal equation,
Gospel = SELF + Attend Church + personal transformation + social transformation

But What if God loves the world;
And He has called a group of people to work with Him in loving the world;
And what if you could be converted to life participate in this and thus live outside yourself.

It is not about self but about participation in what God is doing. And at this point in history God is more concerned with love and compassion than judgment and condemnation.

Although I have (thankfully) never been hurt by the church, I could still share and appreciate the misconceptions that you spoke about last Sunday. It was only by chance that I became a part of CoHo; before that, I hadn’t actually sat in a church since I was a child. As an adult, after going 20 odd years with not so much as one Sunday saved for church, I honestly believed that “I wasn’t good enough” to even attend a church. I didn’t even think I was a Christian because I did not attend church. I knew I believed in God, but somehow, I always felt insignificant in God’s eyes.

I can’t tell you how much it has come to mean to me -- to be a part of this beautiful community of hope. When I started attending CoHo, shortly after moving to the city – about 8 months ago, I did have apprehensions about being accepted. I worried about the questions, like “Are you married?” or, “How long have you been a Christian?”, or my personal favourite “Oh... there is no father... I see”. But, those apprehensions soon faded. I have been embraced each Sunday with warm smiles, “how are you”, “how’s your son”, “nice to see you”, and even virtual strangers have reached out and hugged me! No one has ever made me feel unwelcome or judged... ever.

I guess my point is, since coming to CoHo, I have realized that I can still attend church on Sunday, despite the fact that I don’t know a single verse from the Bible, that I don’t have a church background to speak of, or that I’m an only parent fumbling through life... not always making perfect choices, but trying. I think everyone should be very proud... CoHo may be small, but its imprint is ever lasting.

I want to give back and thank CoHo for making a tremendous difference to me and my son... for embracing us, with all our imperfections. :-)

I just wanted to share that with you.
Mary

Email me your "100 Word" story of a "God moment" in your life. I'd love to hear it.

Next week: I Love Jesus But Hate The Church: A Building or the Kingdom of God?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Forgiveness

Miroslav Volf shares some great thoughts on forgiveness in his new book, Free Of Charge. He begins by letting us know that forgiveness is a special kind of gift. He goes on to say,

"For Christians, forgiving, always takes place in a triangle, involving the wrongdoer, the wronged person, and God.

Take God away, and the foundations of forgiveness become unsteady and may even crumble.

The world is sinful. That’s why God doesn’t affirm it indiscriminately. God loves the world. That’s why God doesn’t punish it in justice.

What does God do with this double bind? God forgives."

What about you?

1 Corinthians 3:3
For you are still controlled by your own sinful desires. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn't that prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don't belong to the Lord.

Romans 4:7
"Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight."

Psalm 32:1-2
Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

Isaiah 38:17
Yes, it was good for me to suffer this anguish, for you have rescued me from death and have forgiven all my sins.

Psalm 103:12
He has removed our rebellious acts as far away from us as the east is from the west.

Isaiah 43:25
"I--yes, I alone--am the one who blots out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again."

Jeremiah 31:34
And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family, saying, `You should know the LORD.' For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me," says the LORD. "And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins."

Hebrews 8:12; 10:17
"And I will forgive their wrongdoings,and I will never again remember their sins."
Then God adds,"I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Listen...

I long for…
… the wind of his Spirit to breathe calmness into the chaos of my life.
… the fullness of his wisdom to order the thoughts in my mind.
… the sufficiency of his strength to undergird the weakness of my body.
… the abundance of his blessing to saturate the poverty of my spirit.
… the joy of his will to give rich pleasure to my journey.
… the refuge of his arms to shield me from my fears.
… the gentleness of his touch to reawaken the feelings of my heart.
… the compassion of his heart to enfold me and hold me close.
I long to see Jesus … again. Anne Graham Lotz

Have you ever felt abandoned by God? You’re praying but it doesn’t seem like God is listening. It feels like God is busy answering other people's prayers!

Is it possible this is happening because the conversation is one way, your request needing God's answer? What if you waited to hear God's request instead?

Be still. Listen with the ears of your heart. Can you hear him? The still, small voice of God is calling you to see Jesus – again. He is calling you to an experience of personal awakening. Right here. Right now.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sure

What are you sure about?

Ruth 1:16-18
Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!"

Romans 8:35-39
Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:12
And that is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He works so steadily.

Oft' times He weaves in sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper
And I, the underside.

The dark threads are as needed
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

Not till the loom is silent
And shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

Psalm 84:5
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

An adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose. Gilbert Chesterton

Luke 24:30-32
As they sat down to eat, he took a small loaf of bread, asked God's blessing on it, broke it, then gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! They said to each other, "Didn't our hearts feel strangely warm as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?"

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Way It Is

There is a thread you follow
It goes among things that change,
but it does not change.
People wonder what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread,
but it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it, you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen, people get hurt,
or die, and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you can do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.
William Stafford

For me that thread is Jesus. What's your thread?

I shall not find Christ at the end of the journey unless he accompanies me along the way. Esther De Waal

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Here Is Our King

On Sunday Glen and the gang taught us all this song from the David Crowder Band. It really touches on where we're at and what we're becoming at the Community of Hope. Let the words saturate your soul and enjoy the clip below.

David Crowder recalls his thoughts on writing the song shortly after the devastating Tsunami in December '04:

it is the depth of our fall upon us. even the ground under our feet is not right. the air we breathe is not right. here though, the hope i have found in christ miraculously expands. i believe that we are part of a bigger story unfolding. i believe that the rescue of creation has been coming toward us for a long time. i believe that sure, there was a moment that i was found by this rescue and that i am rescued continually, but the even greater thing, the thing that expands in my chest in this moment is that there is more coming! he is coming to set things right. he is coming to set things straight. he is coming and this is tremendously hard to take in, but our hearts swell and this tide of hope grows and after all of this, after this brokenness, after these tears, after this fury, after this tearing that is life...finally, finally...we will lift up our heads...finally...and the clouds will break...and finally...he who is all light and healing... finally... finally... majesty. here

From wherever spring arrives to heal the ground
From wherever searching comes the look itself
A trace of what we're looking for so be quiet now and wait

The Ocean is growin'
The Tide is coming in Here it is

Here is our King
Here is our Love
Here is our God whose come to bring us back to him
He is the one
He is Jesus

And He is our King
He is our Love
Here is our God whose come to bring us back to him
He is the one
He is Jesus, Jesus

And what was said to the rose to make it unfold
Was said to me here in my chest so be quiet now and rest

The Ocean is growing
The Tide has come and here it is

Here is our King
Here is our Love
Here is our God whose come to bring us back to him
He is the one
He is Jesus

Majesty Finally

"Here Is Our King" song

Monday, March 13, 2006

I Love Jesus But Hate The Church: It Hurt(s) So Bad

The following was written on January 1st by a woman in her mid-twenties...

I heard a pastor talking about how he believes that modern-day Christians have a lot of head knowledge about what to do and what not to do but not a whole lot of application. I've been on the edge of a realization these last few months. Every time I teeter close to it, something draws me back, usually my own reluctance to know the truth. But last night, New Year's Eve night - the truth hit me so hard in the face, I had no other choice than to hear it.

And the truth is this: I felt less lonely and more loved as a drunk, drugged-up lesbian than I do as a Christian.

Horrific. Sad. Miserable. True.

I could walk alone into a bar, a stranger, and in an hour, be on first-name friendly terms with half the bar. I would no longer be paying for any of my drinks. I would have played a round or two of pool with two or three people. Jokes would have been made on how poorly I played. I would have had phone numbers from men and women - and not just the people who wanted to get laid, but lonely people who wanted to go grab some coffee that week or even just get a phone call. Friendships developed.

Now, cue all the people reading who want to tell me some version of this: "But, Kat, those people don't know true love. The love they offer is superficial, not God's love."

Well, you know what - it was LOVE - the best they could do it. It was their meek, lame attempt at offering something they had to me free of charge. It was their Christless version of acceptance and camaraderie.

As I left the New Year's Eve get-together last night, I felt completely empty. I'd just spent 4 hours watching some old lady chew her food and talk at the same time. We talked of doctor's visits, the weather, where we spent Thanksgiving. You know, safe subjects.But then they got into a conversation about where they'd spent New Years' gone by. I politely nodded out at that point. Why? Because compared to this year - my first as a believer - there hasn't been another December 31st in my life that hasn't sucked worse.

As I drove home last night at 12:30, I reluctantly embraced the truth. I wouldn't be happier with a bottle of wine on a bear-skinned rug in front of a fireplace. I wouldn't be happier in a karaoke bar with a bottle of Mich Ultra. I wouldn't be happier in a Jacuzzi with my girlfriend, guzzling Tequila shots. I wouldn't be happier in the honeymoon suite of the Zum Ritter, littered with rose petals and discarded clothing. I wouldn't be happier standing on the streets of Vegas
with my husbands arms wrapped tightly around me inside my jacket.

I wouldn't be happier - I'm not happy - and all I'm sure of is that I may or may not be happier in the future. What a thing to "know."

If you feel the urgent need to preach to me, join the queue. I'm not saying I'm reverting back to my old lifestyle. Don't be thick. I'm saying that there's something hugely wrong when I can feel more loved in the world and in a lifestyle like that than I can when I'm around people who profess Christ - people who are supposed to be plugged into the true source for joy and love. I'm saying that there's something really wrong here when I could call anyone up on the phone any night of the week to go out and have a beer, but I can't think of one person to call when I want to talk (and be understood, yes - there's a catch) about Jesus. I'm saying that there's something insanely awry when women and men who want so badly to find like-minded people in Christ will sit around and get fat and miserable because they don't think it's possible - while promiscuous men and women will spend hours at the gym, being "good stewards of their bodies" because they've tasted a form of glory that we as Christians aren't allowed to taste (anymore).

There's something wrong, and I felt, last night and for the last 6 months, like I'm sitting in the center of it. And all around me, there's doors slamming, people hugging, laughing, TV's blaring, Starbucks, water bottles, cute little lamps and dogs... barking. And not matter how much coffee I drink, TV I watch, hugs I give or get, laughs I force, or bottles of water I drink, I feel alone, isolated, discontent and frustrated.

And the point, I think, is that I could feel all this and feel just fine if I felt like someone really got it. Kat

Matthew 9:36
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

In today's world it's difficult to identify with a shepherd, but Jesus is really talking about the sense of compassion we feel when we witness a teenager living on the street, or worse yet a child.

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. Brennan Manning

“Relatively few unchurched people are atheists. Most of them call themselves Christian and have had a serious dose of church life in the past.” George Barna

Danny's brother-in-law Glen wants to write a book called "We've All Been Hurt By The Church". A lot of people have had a serious dose of the church in the past and it hasn't gone down too well.

Those of us who have never experienced a deep wound, however, should be extremely careful not to judge others who have. If we have been spared pain at the hands of those in the church, it is by the grace of God alone. I have stumbled many times; only God has saved me from a fall. I have recovered from the wounds I have received, but I don't want to have any pride, only thankful realization. Those of us who are still standing shouldn’t feel spiritually superior to those who are not.

The feeling of spiritual superiority is often what starts and escalates church conflicts. Often in a church fight the idea is "the last one standing wins". WRONG! Usually the last one standing is the loser because they've hung onto their pride the longest.

Ezekiel 34:11-16
"For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places to which they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in lush mountain pastures. I myself will tend my sheep and cause them to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes--feed them justice!

Author Flannery O’Connor once noted, "Sometimes you have to suffer as much from the church as you do for it."

Dave Burchett tells the following account of his church experience,

"My wife, Joni, gave birth to our daughter in 1985. But our happiness dissolved into grief when we learned Katie had a terminal neural tube birth defect called anencephaly, which had prevented her brain from developing. She basically had just the brain stem. Katie was not expected to live more than a few hours or days. The doctor in the delivery room described Katie’s situation in physicianspeak that I will never forget. "Her condition is not compatible with life," he said.

Our shock and grief were immediate because Katie obviously had no chance for a normal life. There would be no cure, no hope for even modest improvement. I went through the painful process of calling family and friends and telling our two sons about their sister.

But Kathryn Alice Burchett confounded the doctors and lived. She was never able to open her eyes. She couldn’t smile. Katie lacked the ability to regulate her body temperature so her room temperature had to be monitored. Part of Katie’s deformity was an opening with exposed tissue at the back of her skull that had to be covered and dressed regularly. Joni loved and cared for Katie in a way I will always respect and never forget. She insisted that Katie come home with us. I worried about the affect that caring for Katie at home might have on the boys. Truthfully, I was probably more concerned about the effect bringing her home would have on me. But Joni would not have it any other way, and when she sets her mind she is scrappy. So I showed my spiritual wisdom by agreeing with her.

Katie found her place in our family’s routines. She could drink from a bottle. Katie responded to her mother’s touch and even grew a little. We took her on a camping trip with us, and she was a regular at the boy’s ballgames and events.

Sometimes people would make hurtful or mean remarks. A kid at school taunted our oldest son because his sister didn’t have a brain. (That was something that the classmate had no doubt heard at home, and it reminds me that we should always be cautious about what we say in front of our children.) Once, when we wanted a family photo, we dressed up the troops and went to the photography studio of a major national chain. The photographer insisted that Katie needed to open her eyes. We explained patiently (for a while) that she physically could not open her eyes. He informed us that we couldn’t get our picture taken because their lab would not develop a picture if any person in the group didn’t have their eyes open. Katie totally upset their system, and they would not be flexible. We finally left without the photos and ended up going to a private photographer. Still, all things considered, our life with Katie went about as well as it could.

Then the church entered in.

One Sunday morning before church, a friend called to tell us that Katie would no longer be welcome in the nursery. The moms had met and decided (without any input from us) that Katie might die in their care and traumatize some volunteer worker. They worried that the opening at the back of Katie’s skull could generate a staph infection. Actually, the nursery workers did not have to deal with infection; the opening was covered with a sterile dressing and a bonnet, and it required no special attention during the brief time she was in the nursery each Sunday. Besides, Katie did not interact with the other babies. Clearly, a little caution would have eliminated any possible risk. And we knew she was going to die. No one would have been to blame. Since we were in a church of only 150 people, I think they could have found us fairly quickly if necessary. Given the opportunity, we might have been able to put the workers’ fears to rest. But the decision had already been made. Katie was no longer welcome, and our church had done what I would not have thought possible: They made our pain worse.

Joni was devastated, more hurt than I have ever seen her before or since. I am sure our friends didn’t intend to wound as they did, but the hurt lingered for years. And the pain was multiplied by the method. We had no warning that there were concerns. We received no invitation to address those concerns. Instead, a secret meeting was followed by a phone call to tell us what had already been decided. And I’m not the only one with this kind of story."

A pastor in the Midwest USA suffered the loss of his wife to leukemia. Within a matter of weeks, the board asked him to resign because they did not want to be led by an unmarried pastor! This grieving man had to change denominations in order to continue his ministry. It is a miracle and tribute to God’s grace that he kept going at all.

People like this start to wear a mask if they stay in church. Many of them leave the church and never come back.

There are the people who wear a 'D' on their forehead - they have been through a divorce.

There are those with an 'A' on their forehead - they suffer from alcoholism.

They have a 'B' on their forehead - someone they love has betrayed them.

They have an 'H' on their forehead - they are dealing with HIV or AIDS.

They have a 'G' or an 'L' or a 'T' on their forehead - they are gay or lesbian or transgendered.

And they hide….many times from the one place in which they should be able to find peace…the Church.

Many of the unchurched base their rejection of Christ on a bad experience with a Christ follower.

Reggie McNeal has said that more & more people are leaving the church, not to abandon their faith but to preserve it!

A high percentage of Christians leave the church and even their faith because of a bad experience with a Christian, a Christian leader or group of Christians.

These are the victims of emotional drive-by shootings in the church. Most of us have been wounded by friendly fire over the years.

Pat Tillman, former NFL’er was killed in Afghanistan. What adds to the pain is any sense of cover-up. Too bad the US government didn't come clean with the true events until forced to.

So I guess our response should be as good Christians ..let us take up our evangelistic battering ram, knock down the door of their hearts, beat them over the head with the Bible, and drag them to the foot of the cross! NO!

Christians are a group of people who routinely shoot their wounded.
? True
? False

The real question that we need to wrestle with is,

"What should a real relationship with Jesus Christ mean and what should our lives and church look like as a result of that relationship?"

We will explore this idea over the next several weeks. The first step is to,

Give voice to the pain.

One of the reasons that the Emerging Church is so attractive is that people are allowed to tell their stories of pain and hurt. Moreover someone wants to listen to these stories! This is the first step, and sometimes the only step needed for healing.

Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander. Inscription at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Often the biggest pain a person experiences is after the initial event shock is over when you begin to wonder, “Why didn’t anyone do something about this? Why am I treated like a leper? Where are all the good people?”

That deep sense of betrayal and abandonment often outweighs the original wound. If we embark on the healing journey we can begin to realize the depth of Christ’s pain on the way to the cross.

The betrayal of Judas. The denial of Peter. The pain on the cross. Where are my friends?

Look at how Jesus allows Mary and Martha to give voice to their pain. Notice, too, how Jesus allows himself to voice his own pain.

John 11:31-35
When the people who were at the house trying to console Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus's grave to weep. So they followed her there. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell down at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. "Where have you put him?" he asked them. They told him, "Lord, come and see." Then Jesus wept.

Jesus was saddened by the death of Lazarus but also by Mary’s words, too. We all usually find a way to blame God for our hurts, don’t we?

This series and today's message is not about victimology, pity parties or an endless cycle of complaining. It's about reflecting, healing, and moving forward with our lives and our relationship with God, captured best by John Burke,

"We don't need more deconstruction, more theories, and more statistics; rather, we need tangible evidence that God is still doing what God has always done in every generation, constructing his church out of the most hopeless situation. It's not tearing-down time anymore—it's construction time."

“Most people probably know how bad they are, but they need to hear how good they can become.” Rick Warren

Have you ever said, “I’m okay; you’re on you own.”?

Don't be afraid to give voice to your pain. Or to listen so that another can give voice to their pain. In doing so you absorb their pain, much the way Jesus absorbed out pain on the cross.

Matthew 5:7
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Luke 15:1-6
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such despicable people--even eating with them!

So Jesus used this illustration: "If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it? And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found. In the same way, heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away!


The hearers of these words would have full well understood the connection to Ezekiel 34. Jesus was claiming to be God and telling people that the time was now here for the shepherd to seek His scattered flock. No longer would you need a priest or someone else to mediate between you and God. It was time to come face-to-face with Him on your own. He would rescue you.

1. What responsibility do you have as a Christ follower to seek and attempt to restore people wounded by the church?

2. Think of someone that you know who has left the church. Make a commitment to pray for that person. Ask God to show you how you might be instrumental in bringing him or her back to church, any church not just Community of Hope, as we proceed through this series.

3. What is God saying to you this morning? What pain do you need to give voice to? What pain do you need to let go of?

Few people come to Christ for pure doctrine, and few leave the church over theological abstractions. Our place is usually guided by the way people around us live their lives & by the way that they help, or hinder us in our journey. Stefan Ulstein

Let go of the pain. Meet Jesus at the Table. Communion. The Eucharist.

Coming ‘Face-to-face’ with Jesus. In the Ten Commandments "You shall have no other Gods before me", ‘in front of my face’ so to speak.

God is saying that He wants us to join with his love for Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. We'll all be face-to-face. No one in between us. Come and experience love today.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Be Strong and Very Courageous In God

Deuteronomy 34:10-12
There has never been another prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. The LORD sent Moses to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and his entire land. And it was through Moses that the LORD demonstrated his mighty power and terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.

After reading of the death of Moses in Deuteronomy, it would be easy to think that the Israelites would have a more difficult time without him. Even though Joshua had been chosen and was "full of the spirit of wisdom", he may have been overwhelmed at the prospects ahead of him. Listen to what God says,

Joshua 1:1-9
After the death of Moses the LORD's servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant. He said, "Now that my servant Moses is dead, you must lead my people across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. promise you what I promised Moses: `Everywhere you go, you will be on land I have given you-- from the Negev Desert in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River on the east to the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and all the land of the Hittites.' No one will be able to stand their ground against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.

"Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors. Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. I command you--be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

Where is God asking you to go? Do the same promises still stand today?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Us

In The Great Divorce C. S. Lewis describes hell as a place where tiny humans are always in search of distance between themselves and others. Heaven, or eternity on the other hand is a place where people will seek proximity to one another because in that closeness they come to know God and themselves.

God designed the gospel for Us.

God designs the gospel for more than my goodness and my sin and my redemption and my liberation and my experience and my chance to get to heaven when I die. The gospel is about us before it's about me. My own I is in the Us, and a gospel of I without an Us is a gospel about me. I'm glad the gospel is for me but it is about more than me. Scot McKnight

Leviticus 26:11-12
I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.

Revelation 21:3
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.

Have you embraced the community where your I is a part of an Us ? Ask yourself why or why not.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Journey Of Love

There are three episodes in the Gospels where the apostle John gives us evidence that it takes a lifetime to learn to love others.

Luke 9:49-50
John said to Jesus, "Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons. We tried to stop him because he isn't in our group." But Jesus said, "Don't stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you."

Matthew 20:20-28
Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. "What is your request?" he asked.

She replied, "In your Kingdom, will you let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one at your right and the other at your left?"

But Jesus told them, "You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I am about to drink?"

"Oh yes," they replied, "We are able!"

"You will indeed drink from it," he told them. "But I have no right to say who will sit on the thrones next to mine. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen."

When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. But Jesus called them together and said, "You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many."

Luke 9:51-56
As the time drew near for his return to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But they were turned away. The people of the village refused to have anything to do with Jesus because he had resolved to go to Jerusalem. When James and John heard about it, they said to Jesus, "Lord, should we order down fire from heaven to burn them up?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. So they went on to another village.

Sounds like John was a very fiery and judgmental kind of guy, doesn't it?

When we finally get to John's first letter in the Bible, 1 John, we read the thoughts of a very different person. John's words on love are penned by a very mature, battle-tested Christ follower. These words also occur many years after the earlier episodes mentioned in the Gospels.

John had spent many a day, year in and year out, working out his faith and ultimately distilling life with Jesus to his now famous words on love in 1 John 4:7-11,

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God--for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

The world is general. Your relative is specific. The world is vague. Your relative has character...Whom will you love today? ... It won't be easy. Love is never an option. Jim Smoke

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Litany of Penitence

Pray aloud the italicized words, pausing only to reflect on the brief comments in between offered up by Scot McKnight:

Most holy and merciful Father:

The Litany leads us to confess both general & specific sins. It also leads us to request the mercy of God. As we follow along, we have found our own story in the recital.

We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We now move into a deeper probing of low-intensity sins, such as a lack of love and lack of forgiveness.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.
We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.


Now we need to pause for each sin mentioned and let our minds be lead to our own sins.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.


Now we cry out to God to accept our confession and repentance. God's love for us means that He accepts our prayers of confession and heartfelt repentance.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.
For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.
For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.


To finish, the litany anchors our forgiveness in the unfailing promises of God and leads us to pledge holiness to Him. As we tell the truth to God we can feel his warmth towards us, restoring us to peace and new life.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.
Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

The pastor offers us the following promise, and we can say it ourselves:

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn
from their wickedness and live, has given power and
commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to
his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of
their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly
repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.

Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his
Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on
this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure
and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Amen.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Experience God

Peter and Haley Mrazik serve in Romania at an orphanage called the Father’s House Children’s Home. Recently Peter found an eleven-year-old girl gently rummaging through their garbage cans in search of food. Here's how Peter described it,

She was dirty, here nose was running and she looked terribly cold.

The girl seemed startled that I had appeared, worried that she would be chased away. I tried to reassure that everything was okay and began speaking to her. She said that her name was Elena and she was looking for food. I had to pry to find out more - she still seemed very afraid. She went on to tell me that she had six brothers and sisters. When I asked about her parents, she shared that her mother had abandoned the family some time ago and her father was also out looking for food like she was. I saw a half rotten potato that she had pulled from one of our garbage bags laying on the decrepit baby stroller she was pushing around to carry what she found. At that point I had to turn away to hide my tears from her … it has been almost 16 working here in Romania … but it still gets me when I see children like this…

Recently Haley and I have been reading a book by Erwin McManus. He writes, “So many of us have put our hope in teaching our children about God rather than guiding them into an experience with God … I am concerned that there are many who have grown up in church and have been effectively Christianized but have never genuinely met Christ.”

Peter went inside and shared the story with his son and daughter, aged 8 & 12 respectively. He then asked them one simple question: "What do you feel God is telling you?"

They shared so much, piggy banks were emptied and Peter's son headed out with Elena to buy the biggest loaf of bread they could find for her. This is how Peter's children described it in their own words,

From K (boy, age 8):
This morning I went with a poor girl to buy a loaf of bread for her. She looked so very poor and probably was sick. I saw some rotten food she had got out of the garbage and felt sad. When the girl got the loaf of bread and change she was so happy. Just to see how cold she was am so thankful we have heat to the Lord.

From L (girl, age 12)
This morning there was a young girl about my age. She was looking for food in our garbage. K and I gave her some bread and money. God cares for everyone. He cares for the poor too. I learned to be thankful. The young girl was poor and she was cold and sad.

Peter continues on, "this story is still unfolding, L invited Elena to a little Christian girls club she attends Mondays – Elena came this past Monday with her sister to L's delight. The two children are praying for her daily and understand that more than just reading the Bible, they now have a role to play in God’s story about a young girl named Elena happening right around them…

Children's Aid International Relief and Development

We can learn a lot from Peter's quick spirit-filled response of inviting the children to listen to what God is saying to them. Be on the lookout wherever you go with Jesus' eyes of compassion. Then simply do what He asks of you.

Isaiah 26:8
LORD, we love to obey your laws; our heart's desire is to glorify your name.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Power Of Appreciation

"What is it you appreciate?"

Too often we get caught up in complaining instead of celebrating. Rather than focusing on how to grow a relationship, a business, or even a family together, we often pay attention to what is not working in the situation.

Proverbs 11:17
Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.

Celebrate your spouses talents. Celebrate your childrens talents. Celebrate your friends talents. And Jesus even asks us to celebrate the talents of those we're not very fond of!

The only true gift is a portion of yourself. Ralph Waldo Emerson

God sees the heart, not the hand—the giver, not the gift. Benjamin R. De Jong

Kindness makes a fellow feel good whether it's being done to him or by him. Frank A. Clark

How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it. George Elliston

Everyone can benefit from a little appreciation now and again. Read how Paul would flavor his letters with love and appreciation to the people he loved so dearly.

Colossians 4:7-15
Tychicus, a much loved brother, will tell you how I am getting along. He is a faithful helper who serves the Lord with me. I have sent him on this special trip to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and much loved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will give you all the latest news.

Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas's cousin. And as you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way. Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish Christians among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!

Epaphras, from your city, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident of the whole will of God. I can assure you that he has agonized for you and also for the Christians in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Dear Doctor Luke sends his greetings, and so does Demas. Please give my greetings to our Christian brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and those who meet in her house.

If you wake up in a bad mood, speak words of encouragement and thoughtfulness (or at the very least put a lid on your complaints), so that everyone else in your house has the chance to begin the day with joy. The same goes for employees, staff, and everyone else that crosses your path.

Let's practice this kind of appreciation. Regardless of the kind of day that you're having, freely give a good day to everyone else. Offer encouragement. Share a compliment. Say what you have to say with gentleness. Give others hope. It won't just change the direction of your day, it will change the direction of your life.