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Today, as I sat in the waiting room at the doctors office, I began to think thru some thoughts on Christianity. I have seen churches remove crosses because they wanted to make sure people feel comfortable. Some have decided communion is no longer valid and a bit creepy because it mentions the blood and flesh of Jesus. Then there are the christians that have learned to profess something they aren’t willing to walk out. Christians that are 100% on point to biblical text, but at the expense of loving others. Too often I have seen the church stand up for truth and then use that truth as a smoke screen and justification for anger and hatred.
This got me thinking about how I can sum up where I think we are going wrong and that we are turning people away from the ONE who can save them.
So here they are…

My top Two ways to do Christianity wrong:

1. Preach a gospel that doesn’t offend the lost
- 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
“the cross offends men and women, because it is contrary to their ideas of human worth” – C.H. Spurgeon

The cross is offensive. sin is offensive. our depravity and need for God is not an easy message, but its the ONLY one

2. Walk a life that offends people and doesn’t point to God’s grace
 - John 3:17-18
“You will find all true theology summed up in these two short sentences: Salvation is all of the grace of God. Damnation is all of the will of man.” - C.H. Spurgeon

Yes… we are suppose to speak the truth, but even more importantly we are to speak life. Our role is to show people that sin, while fun, without the cross equals death. We can’t point people to Jesus if we are preaching the wrong one. Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, nor did He come to teach us how to condemn. He came to save it and we need to show people that:
OUR GOD SAVES. OUR GOD LOVES. OUR GOD PAID SO ALL COULD RECEIVE HIS GRACE.

Let us be careful to not get those two ways wrong. Don’t water down the gospel and don’t let your sin and pride keep others from the free gifts of God’s salvation.

Shadow God

March 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

shadow

One of my favorite things in life is taking a hike. Not up a mountain where I’m too dead to enjoy it but a hike nevertheless. I guess you can say I prefer lazy, I don’t need an oxygen tank, hiking. I see God in the walk, in the elegance of the trees, in the shade of the overhanging foliage and in the bazillions of creatures all around.

I have a love-hate relationship when my family is with me while hiking though. I love having them with me but the older ones seem to lag behind and yell a lot scaring all the cool woodland creatures away. Any chance at seeing a hawk or scurrying animal are pretty much gone when those two boys are with me. Our two little ones are just the opposite.  They run so far ahead that when they trip over a rock I am no where near to catch them or even help them back up. They are just moving too fast and are not able to hear my warnings. I’ll be honest because I get frustrated. I want them to listen to my experience in hiking. In taking it all it. My knowledge about birds and my caution about things that can trip them up. My goal isn’t making it so they don’t enjoy themselves. As a matter of fact sometimes having a bit of structure makes things even more enjoyable. My goal, in reality, is to teach them to shadow their father so they stay safe, take the right paths, and don’t miss the lessons and treasures.

The most simplified way of explaining Shadowing God is that it is the concept of walking with Him. It is very similar to my walk with my kids. There are times we get ahead of God. We jump into things we shouldn’t because we are 20 steps ahead of Him. We don’t heed the warnings of the Holy Spirit. When we trip up, we have isolated ourselves from the Church and God and there is nobody there to pick us back up again. Other times, like my oldest, we lag behind and we drag our feet. We yell so loudly we can no longer hear the still small voice of God. He asks us to catch up so we don’t miss what He is doing.

The Bible says His word is a lamp that lights our path. Sometimes that path is so dim we can’t see our hand in front of our face. It’s those times when we need to shadow closer and put our hands on God’s shoulders. The farther we get away from God and His voice the harder it is to see clearly. Other times our path is very clear and full of light. There will always be an ebb and flow to our walk with God but regardless of our situation one thing is clear…
It’s best to STAY CLOSE.

John 15
English Standard Version (ESV)
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

So in this text we are compared to branches that grow on a vine. It uses the word Abide:

Abide means: to endure, accept, remain, dwell, continue

It’s essential to understand that abiding is “being” not “doing”.
Staying close is about being constantly in the presence of GOD.

Sometimes when you start at a new job your boss asks you to “shadow” a more experienced employee. The reason is because your goal is to not only learn from this person, but emulate them. The more you shadow the more you become like that person and exhibit “good fruit”.

Our “fruit” (good deeds, attitudes, etc) comes out of relationship with God.
listen carefully… our Relationship with God does NOT come from the fruit.

Colossians 2:6-7
New Living Translation (NLT)
6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to
follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him.
Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will
overflow with thankfulness.

As we ABIDE… as We stay close then we will overflow with the goodness of the
almighty. As our roots grow down deep into Him the less we will be shaken and the more we will become like Christ.
This doesn’t me there are not things to do… What I’m saying is it starts with getting to know our GOD and being faithful to Him.

Mark Batterson said “Faithfulness is not holding the fort… it’s storming the gates of hell”

The Bible makes it clear it wont always be easy. There will be trials and persecution and there will be such amazing joy.
Who we are and what we do comes from God.
We love because he first loved.
We give because He gave.
It starts and ends with God…He is not dead…He is alive:

Acts 17:28 “for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own
poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.”

It is important to recognize that our walk is not for you and your buddy Jesus.
We were meant to Shadow God together. This is not a personal walk. It is a communal one.

1 Corinthians 11:1
“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”

In other words “shadow me as I Shadow God”
We need each other. We need the Church and the body because it is a realm where an invisible God is made visible. Church is not a country club where you pay your dues and get what you want. We don’t do membership at Ember because we realize that there needs to be a mindset change in the church away from the country club mentality. Instead it needs to move towards the reality that God calls us to sell all and follow Him. The reward is not in us getting things we want, but in getting to be with a loving God.


The church community is so important.
It’s a place where we abide in the shadow of the almighty!
It’s a place where we share our lows and our greatest triumphs!
It’s a place where we learn to embrace our diversity and find oneness as we take a bite of bread and drink wine.

One of the most paralyzing things in our walk and one of the main reasons why Church has become less about God and more about us is we Love the big event and are not good with ordinary.

I have great parents and they are also good grandparents. Over the years we have had many discussions with them about grandparenting. They were convinced that big outlandish events were how they should hang out with our children. While the events and trips were cool it became something that was not maintainable. Over time it became paralyzing because the “amazing” trumped the “ordinary” and the idea of just sitting down and reading a book with the kids seemed too miniscule.

We have forgotten how important “ordinary” is.

Acts 9:36-42
36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means
Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she
became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper
room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was
there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So
Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper
room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other
garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all
outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha,
arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he
gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he
presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many
believed in the Lord.

Tabitha, maybe a widow or rich herself, took care of the broken and poor widows.
In verse 36 it says that this WOMAN was a disciple. I love that because once again we see the heart of God for the marginalized.
She used her talents and walked with God. She didn’t wait for a church event or for the leaders to create a clothing drive. She instead loved those around her and in front of her on her own. She considered the widows her friends and community.
When Tabitha died the widows lost a friend and their protector. God considered her healing to be urgent. This was the first resurrection performed by an apostle and I am convinced Luke and God wanted to show us that her faithfulness, being good at ordinary, and her love for the broken was storming the gates of hell!

She says nothing with her mouth in this chapter, but she said so much in how she shadowed God. She saw Jesus in the mundane task and in her broken community. She chose to abide and the fruit and transformation of her whole community came from that.

Shadowing God is not about our devotions…It’s about being devoted
It’s not about our intentions… It’s about being intentional
It’s not about our worship… It’s about the object of your worship.

Don’t underestimate the value of being ordinary and shadowing God. It is in our obedience in being “ordinary” that God fully shows how He is Extraordinary.

888295046336_cover.170x170-75This video is a preview of an upcoming album from my friends Kristen and Bobby Gilles. It is an album born out of the confusion, pain, and hope of a couple trying to worship God after losing their baby. Much like Steven Curtis Chapman’s album, “Beauty Will Rise”, it weaves hope and grief in an intoxicating way, but also makes it way to personal to review affectively. The church needs albums like this. The church needs people like this. Those who are not afraid to ask the tough questions and show that while they are still in pain, that there is hope and we worship a loving God.

Learn the story behind Parker’s Mercy Brigade by Kristen Gilles, a collection of new worship songs to the Lord who gives and takes, and who works the giving and the taking for the good of those who love him. Half of all proceeds from the sale of Parker’s Mercy Brigade go to Nadus, documenting social justice issues around the world and partnering with local organizations to provide humanitarian relief and Christian witness.

And because half of all proceeds go to Nadus Films, when you purchase the CD or digital download, you haven’t just bought a record, you’ve joined Parker’s Mercy Brigade.

Preview video produced by Nadus Films.

PRE-ORDER ON ITUNES

Here is the audio from a breakout session I did in Bristol, CT for ”Worship Seminar with Matt Stinton” in Bethel, CT.
I read a book a few years back that God puts our art on His refrigerator and this got me thinking about our role as creators and artists.

Please note that the first 5 min of this talk did not get recorded. It included a quick speech on holiness in teams (which I will blog later) but also the text below the thing which is actually the set up for this talk… So read that and then listen

Our Art on God’s Refrigerator: Creativity in the Church

Have you heard the phrase “less of me and more of you”?
I believe that the church has perpetuated a lie with this phrase that I want to address today.

In many eastern religions the key to being close to God is the removal of self. The more you remove who you are the more you become one with your God. I believe we have created environments in our churches where the goal is to come in as you are and attempt to remove “YOU” so you can have more of Him. Almost like the BORG in star trek… a drone of the collective and individuality is not celebrated.

I know this may sound like semantics, but that is far from biblical truth.
The bible says: sell all and follow me… which is an act of surrender.

Rom 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,1 by the mercies of God, to present your bodies bas a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.2 2 Do not be conformed to this world,3 but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Simply put: instead of Less of me and more of you
we should be thinking “I surrender all to Him so He can make me the best version of me”

I have been doing “ministry” my whole life it seems. My dad was a pastor and my family can be best described as missionaries. I have been in ministry/working in and out of the church on my own and with my wife for 18 years now. I have seen it all. I have seen the amazing side of the church. The side that loves and cares for those who need jesus. Somewhere along the way, and I can’t remember exactly where, I saw the veil pulled back from the Church.

Pay no attention to the crap behind the curtain.

The hidden side of the church is an ugly side. It is a side of conflict, discouragement, gossip and hypocritical prejudice. We all know that this exists as a whole, but love the idea of our church leaders being exempt from such things.

Great words, rich with meaning and purpose, once gave the church purpose. Words like: evangelical, sacraments, charisma, and even Christian are now tainted by politics and culture. They now give way to judgement from people on the outside and Christ is automatically written off because of His followers.

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

I wanted to just spill some stuff from my soul and since this is my blog I can do what I want.

To those who are not in “the Church”

I am sorry…
I’m sorry that we have not loved as Christ loves us.
You are not our pet project.
We are not the sin police.
I am sorry you think we are nasty, judgmental, hypocritical, uncaring and isolated.
You are right…We are…
The truth is we are messy and scarred. Many of us are still bleeding from life.
We are torn and broken.
Broken people have sharp edges. Our words can cut deep.
Our leaders and pastors are good at pretending sometimes, but we are just as messed up.
We all need jesus.
What sins are you carrying?
I am carrying sin as well, but I get to lay it at the feet of jesus.
Please don’t let the cloud of my mess and imperfections make it hard for you to look through the Fog and see the light of Christ.
My job as a pastor is not to judge you.
My job is not to change you.
My job is not to constantly point out your cuts and then pour salt on the wound.

My job is to grab your arm and walk side by side with you helping us both chase after Jesus and rest in the shadow of His grace.

To those who are in “the Church”

Awake O sleeper. Rise from your apathy.
Stop licking your wounds while cutting others.
The church is a hospital for the sick and for those who don’t know there is a cure.
It is not a country club and a place to get “high” on the spirit.
If the spirit keeps telling you to stay in the building and not go tell others about God then you are listening to the wrong spirit.
Our call is to love.
More importantly our call is to walk in humility.
Always remember we are in constant need of God’s grace.
We can’t give grace when we haven’t received it yet
We can’t give the love of Christ to others when we haven’t submitted ourselves to Him.
Don’t forsake the one that loves you and gave His life for you and then pretend you are sacrificing sitting in the comfort of your brand new church chair.
Stop arguing.
Stop debating meaningless drivel.
Stop justifying and defending church culture and instead BE THE CHURCH.

Our job as the church is to point others to Jesus.
We are to shadow Jesus. To copy how He heals the broken hearted. To copy how He sets the captives free.
We are to be ambassadors of His love.
Preach transformation.
Preach grace
More importantly ask God to help you live it.