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For the 22 years I have been in ministry I have seen the ebb and flow of church attendance and membership. Often times the Church as a whole doesn’t grow with new people who have found freedom in Jesus. It is just churches swapping people. We never really talk about it or worry about it, but I think at it’s root we have a problem in our culture.

In the 70’s Burger King created the slogan “Have it your way” in order to compete with other brands that would only serve what was on the menu. It was a great concept and one my waist size knows I exploit often. Ironically I never get it my way. It never fails. I will pull up to the plaque showing me a ton of options… A voice comes out of the speaker “how can I help you… are you ready to order?”. I speak back to the speaker; “Yes! thanks… I will take a Whopper with cheese, but with no onions and I will add extra extra pickles…”. Then I will proceed with all the customized requests from the 5 other people in my family. By the time I get home with the order and start handing it out it’s too late. My order for extra pickles and a kids meal without cheese must have been confusing and emotionally taxing because I did not get it my way.

It NEVER works the way I would like in fast food, but for some reason it’s expected to be the norm in the church that we should approach the counter of God, and give our order, with demands to have everything our way.

If you have been in a church longer than a day you have seen this to be true:

The music is too loud.
Why can’t they play more Chris Tomlin Songs?!
The Lights are too bright!
I just cant worship unless they have a laser show and fog machines.
There is no way Jesus likes the way these chairs are set up or this awful carpet color.
It’s time to leave honey… We just are not being fed.

I could go on and on because I have heard it all. It absolutely drives me nuts hearing these kinds of things, but maybe it is more disturbing to me because I’m guilty of wanting it my way as well.

Amos 5:21-24
“I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living.

If this was placed into our time period it would likely read something like this:
If you are not willing to be people who overflow with Justice, Love, Joy, Peace, patience, kindness, goodness and mercy then you might as well stop everything else you are doing in all your christian duties. They are worthless. JUST STOP IT! Just stop with all the “stuff” that you are convinced you need to do in order to worship me because you have made it all about you and you do it for you.

That verse just wrecks me and convicts me every time I read it.

I remind myself and my congregation as often as I can that our “Service” is for God and the Bible wasn’t written about us, because we need to be transformed into people who chase after the heart of God and not people that shout with our actions that Jesus isn’t enough.

I was joking the other day with a friend that I thought it would be funny if there was a drive-thru for Ash Wednesday. You could pull your car up, get your ashes and drive off to go about your day. We had a great laugh at the absurdity of it… Well that was until I got a text to a few articles telling me this existed at not only many locations, but even at a church close by.

I read the articles that said the churches wanted to give people the opportunity to get the ashes, but they knew their schedules were just too busy so they set up street stations. Like a 1 min car wash. I understand time constraints. I work two jobs and have 4 kids. I truly do sympathize, but something about this just seems to feed the beast of consumerism and everything that verse in AMOS was talking about. I won’t presume to judge one heart in this, but the fact that the church offers CONVENIENCE in the Lenten period dedicated to FASTING and self-denial, which is not convenient, is teaching the church the wrong things.

We do have to ask ourselves though… Are we looking at our faith walk in the same way? Are we hoping that we can have the fullness of what God offers our life and we can consider ourselves fully devoted to his kingdom by looking for every opportunity to “drive-up” to a window and just grab the overspray of his goodness without having to die to self and trade my will for God’s?

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” ……No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

That is the crux behind the heart of Lent. Being no longer satisfied with the unfulfilling overspray of his presence, settling for the sugar high we get from cool events, and finding ourselves needing to add things to Jesus to make Him more “rich”.

Oh the joy I’ve found
Surrendering my crowns
At the feet of the King
Who surrendered everything

Oh the peace that comes
When I’m broken and undone
By Your unfailing grace
I can lift my voice and say

You can have it all, Lord
Every part of my world
Take this life and breathe on
This heart that is now Yours

Bethel Church “Have it all”

This should be our prayer as we dive heart first into Lent.
No longer saying I will “HAVE IT MY WAY”.
Instead my daily prayer to God who I know is Lord, but who I now will allow TO BE my Lord, will be
“HAVE IT ALL LORD… HAVE IT YOUR WAY”

More Loud and Deep

December 5, 2015 — 1 Comment

bells

I am one of those people that loves the anticipation period of advent and all the symbolism with it even more than I like Christmas itself. Don’t get me wrong… I love waking up on christmas morning at the crack of dawn to race down the stairs and watch my kids have a blast with their new toys as I munch on cinnamon buns and bacon, but.. there is just something about advent that makes my spirit full.

Have you ever tried to truly wrap your head around what it might have been like for the jews anticipating the messiah. Can you imagine your whole life being told that a savior was coming who would put an end to all the governments and people groups that reeked havoc on your people. A season of waiting that had gone on for generations must have felt like it would never come.

They were told in Isaiah 6:9 a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.



They waited in uncertainty for a messiah and it must have been easy to doubt. I can imagine that many would have forgotten to care. The sense of urgency was gone and the complacency with whatever life has dealt them sank in.

Then one day God interrupted time.
For God so loved.. that he sent his only son.
This King of Kings… The son of God. The messiah didn’t come riding on a horse armed to the teeth to save the Israelites.. instead he came as a baby.

Hebrews 2:14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. 16 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters,[h] so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

He came as a man to save mankind… to help us so that we would not only share in his suffering but share in his glory. It’s amazing and all together mind-blowing that our God is that loving.

There seems to be a disconnect these days especially when you turn on the news. The world we live in is such a mess. War is all around us and possibly at our doorstep these days. Terrorists are killing people, extremists are targeting Christians, Sex trafficking is huge in Atlanta, Racism looks like it’s 1950 again, there is video of planned parent hood killing babies and nobody blinks an eye… Our world is in outrage over atrocities and we battle it with fear and ranting Facebook posts in a literally limp wristed attempt at justice by the click of a mouse. Cities are getting blown up by people wearing suicide bombs, politicians are parading their lying evil agendas, millions are starving, There is still homeless in our community, Christians battle each other with hateful words and accusations, prejudice and persecution fill our news headlines, we are afraid to go to the movies and we kick ourselves for profiling people because we never know who to be afraid of. Our response once again is sitting on our couches in amazement and fear.

Where is God in all this?


Where is the God of justice in a world of so much pain and injustice?

These days it is hard to truly appreciate the anticipation of advent. It has been described as an expectation of something we know will come much like a pregnant woman in labor… but we want everything now. We want instant gratification… so every year Christmas gets just a little bit closer and every year we complain about Walmart already having their christmas decorations up in sept… but it’s what we want if we are honest. We want it now! 

In the same sense we want the God of justice and mercy to come in and fix everything and we get upset and frustrated without the anticipation that HE WILL when he returns.

The other night after a church outreach prep, my co-pastor mark, and I were in the parking lot and a cop pulled up beside us in the parking lot. It was dark and mark and I were like.. oh man here we go. The cops have met us outside our church many times asking why we were there at 10PM…
This time it was different. He got out and let us know that he has been assigned to help, serve and protect the churches in the area. He shared with us that he is a christian and in a worship team. A really nice kid. Then he asked if we would be willing to go through active shooter training with him.
I have to say that even hearing that line made me uneasy. These are the times we are in sadly. I have been in ministry for 20 years and I have never heard the words “we should prepare for an active shooter situation.”

. 

The enemy comes in like a roaring lion looking to steal and destroy.

So in the mean time… where is God because if I am honest I want to spend this season excited about Jesus and not afraid about our world, but then my social media lights up yet again of another shooting or some other horrible thing that has come from the dark hearts of man.

“While dining at home on December 1, 1863, The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement.” This story Href

Longfellow writes in I heard the bells on christmas day:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Isn’t that the place we are in sometimes? This world is a mess, our community is broken, christians can be real hypocritical jerks and persecute each other, families are broken, relationships on the rocks, depression… anxiety and fear are devastating and crippling…

It’s one of the reasons why the Church is so important.. because hate is strong, depression is strong and it flies in the face of peace on earth good will to men.

But.. There is jesus..

I was watching interviews with Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Bagdad. He was talking about what it is like to have a church in the middle of a warzone. The US is not there of course, but we can learn a lot about what it looks like to deal with fear by Canon Andrew’s church. He shares about kids who are running away from killers and people who have lost everything. The Christians, when asked how do they deal with the fear and the fact that when they are baptized that the next day they might be killed, respond with these lines:

“when you have nothing…Jesus is everything”

“Yeshua is always with me”

If you are reading this and made it this far I want you to sit on those two phrases and then move on to the rest of this piece.

Jesus… Yeshua… casts out fear.

And the angel said “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel which means God with us.

Where is God? He is HERE! and…
God is not scared of what we are scared of.
God is not bound by what we are bound by.
God is not held captive by our captors
The Creator is NEVER defeated by the creation

Hebrews 11:1 
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Because we know that our God is with us and for us not only can nothing be against us, but we are given a source of hope. Our world has lost hope and is only in anticipation of more evil.
Advent teaches that the hope of the world came…
John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

The hope of the world, emanuel is with us now
John 1:4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
He didn’t come into this broken world to put a bandaid on it and leave. He came to be emmanuel, God with us. He came to be the good news that “unto us was born our savior”

And Jesus, our hope will return someday and He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Longfellow finished his christmas song of listening, pain and despair with these lines:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor doubt He sleeps
The wrong shall fail the right prevail
With peace on earth goodwill to men

If you have lived near a church with bells then you know how loud they can be. For Longfellow, they became a deep reminder of hope. I think about all the times I have been in a funk, wrapped in fear or frustration and then I hear a song or read a verse or God speaks to me through a stranger… and the bells of heaven become more loud and deep in my soul reminding me that no matter how I feel: God is not dead.. He is not asleep. Emanuel is with me.

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Church, WE are the light of the world. Jesus gave us life so that we would shine bright for him in the darkness of our community.

As you give food to the hungry or clothe the naked
as you pray for a loved one
as you tell your kids Jesus loves them
As you speak with kindness to your starbucks barista
as you give a coffee and a hug to a homeless person
as you love recklessly
As you do anything for the “least of these”…
YOU become the ringing bells that ring more loud and deep and remind those who could no longer hear jesus or anticipated his presence that He is not dead and he is not asleep.

May our prayer for our world be that the eyes of man would then be opened by the ringing bells of the Body of Christ so that like Jacob people would say
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”.

lent2

The Lenten season began last week. Lent leads up to Easter in a similar way that Advent leads to Christmas only with a different perspective. The idea around advent is an Expectation of the coming of Jesus on Christmas day. Lent however is a time of self-assessment and surrender to prepare our hearts for the death and resurrection of the King of Kings

There is a reason why Lent begins with ash Wednesday. The ashes that are put on a persons head are a symbolic representation of mourning our sin, a reminder of our mortality, and is usually in the shape of a cross showing we are marked by jesus and share in his resurrection.

We know that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, but starting lent with an understanding of lament and mourning of our sin is critical. We need to begin this lenten season recognizing that we are dust that God breathed life into. We are little mud men and women who have been given the opportunity of having eternal life because of God’s mercy, kindness and sacrifice.. And in the same way we were formed out of dust we will eventually return to dust. Life is short and Ash Wednesday reminds us of that.

I love the way the NLT says it in:
James 4:14
 New Living Translation
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone

What we do with our short time on this earth matters. What or who we devote our days to shapes who we are.

Last week 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians were martyred or in other words killed because they were followers of Jesus. It is noted that some of their last words before they died was “Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus, Help me”.

My heart was heavy when I heard this news. It is important to note I want you to know that this kind of thing happens ALL the time. Since Jesus walked this earth Followers of Jesus have been persecuted. If you go to Voice of the Martyrs you can read about men and women who are Marked by Jesus and are persecuted or even killed for their faith. 

I am not saying this to get anybody down or cause any fear. I am saying it because with every great move of the church there is Great prayer and Great persecution. I am so thankful we have not been persecuted or threatened like these followers of Jesus.

Our blessings have also made us comfortable about our faith. Because we aren’t concerned for our lives, we feel that God doesn’t need the full control.

Lets now look at Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV)
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

God gave Adam simple instructions… you guys get everything here, but you should not eat from this tree..

Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

So in this scripture a few things happen that lead all of humanity towards a need of reconciliation with God. Adam and Eve not only disobey God but they are tempted and succumb to the temptations of Pride and control. They were told that if they ate of this tree they would be able to see what God could see and they didn’t trust the Creator.

Adam and Eve were given a choice to surrender their control. God says “You shall not” which means it is their choice. He doesn’t say “you can’t”. In those beginning statements We see God’s desire for us to not be robots but to have free will. And we see His grace because not only did they not die after they ate it, but God had a plan to fix this mess by sending Jesus.

We are given this same choice that adam and eve were given every day.

The question is: Will you surrender control to God?

Continue Reading…

Pure Praise PDF!

January 9, 2009 — Leave a comment

Hey guys..I know you all saw my last post about the Pure Praise MASS devotional going on over at “the worship community”

If you have not ordered your book yet you can grab the PDF E-book of it

HERE

Get in on this. It is going to be very cool doing a devotional with a ton of people and gaining some new insights in to the heart of worship.

It starts monday…see you guys then.