Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Avoid the Path That Leads to Death!

Thursday night at Camp Barakel, I talked with just the senior high guys. We discussed the direction of their lives by using a metaphor common to camp, the path. Here are the key ideas:

1. The paths you choose in life will determine your destination
Every decision you make is a choice to follow a path that is leading you somewhere. Your life's destination will be the culmination of all those decisions.

2. Every path leads to a destination
Some may think they can just "enjoy life" for a season and their decisions won't have consequences until they are "grown up". Wrong... If you choose the path of hard work and discipline your destination will be significantly different than he who chooses the path of parties and night life.

3. You may not see the destination, but you can see the path
You must be careful about the path you walk as it may lead you somewhere different than you think. We used the youth from Proverbs 7 as an example. The path he chose LOOKED good and FELT good and seemed to be going VERY WELL. But it ended with him being led as an ox to the slaughter, like a deer caught in a trap until an arrow pierces his liver... Be careful about the path you choose.

We closed with Proverbs 3:6-7: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and don't lean on your own understand. In all your ways follow Him and he will make your paths straight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You Can't Have Faith Without Obedience

A few years ago, I walked out the front door of my parent's house to go get ice-cream with my siblings and their families. As I walked toward my car, the garage door began going up, allowing the rest of my family to exit to their cars. I glanced over to see my son and my nephew hanging from the rising door, eyes wide with the excitement of their new game.


It probably wasn't the time for me to reason with him, or request obedience. He was in immediate danger, and had no idea. I'm glad to report that sensing the urgency in my voice, he let go and ran to my side. I explained that he could have really hurt himself, and that kids get hurt in garage door accidents all the time. Then I thanked him for obeying so quickly even though he didn't know why.

As parents, we often know what is better for our children than they do. I'll never understand the parents who don't discipline or say "no" to their children for some of the following reasons:

  • I did the same things, so I'd be a hypocrite if I stopped him.
  • He just needs to learn for himself.
  • I'm tired of fighting about these things.
  • I don't want to make a big deal about it.

Look. If you know something is bad for your child, tell them "NO". This is a major "duh".

After this little incident, I began thinking about when God says, "no" and whether or not I respond as well to him as Liam did to me. (being a father so helps me understand me and God better) I asked the question, "Why did Liam obey me so quickly?", and the answer was helpful in my understanding of my relationship with God. Liam obeyed me because:

  • He knows that my knowledge and experience far surpasses his.
  • He trusts that my commands are intended to cause him good not harm.
  • He believes I desire what is best for him.

Obedience, for Liam is rooted in faith. He has faith in my knowledge. His faith leads him to trust me. His faith gives him hope for his future with me.

Get it?

When I choose to not obey God, I'm demonstrated that I don't have faith:

  • I don't have faith that He knows infinitely more than me. Disobedience demonstrates that I think I know better than God.
  • I don't have faith to trust him. Disobedience is an intentional decision to trust myself instead of God.
  • I don't have faith in my future with him. Disobedience is my attempt to manipulate my own future apart from God's plan.


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Solution for All Relational Dysfunction


That was easy, right. Seriously, Jesus is the answer, or better yet, Jesus' attitude is the answer.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing,taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himselfand became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Just list-thinking out loud here; but, recognizing that we all take different lengths of time to assume the attitude of Christ,maybe the path to relational healing looks something like this:
  • Betrayal. Most relational dysfunction begins when one party feels betrayed by another. Whether it is a "behind the back" betrayal, or a breach of confidence, or the breaking of an unwritten code, betrayal hurts.
  • Anger. Our initial response is anger because our very first instinct is almost always to be severely aware that we have not received the treatment we were entitled to. A sense of entitlement, when not fulfilled almost always results in anger.
  • Hurt. As time passes, the anger fades into a hurt as we realize the betrayal was not just an injustice done to us, but a life-changing relational loss. Recognizing we can no longer trust or confide in someone we once did is painful.
  • Pity. When we are finally able to take the camera of our mind off ourselves, we begin to realize our "enemies" actions are a reflection of their own shortcomings, not ours. The betrayal we experienced was beyond our control. Since we are no longer obsessed with our own self entitlement, we are able to feel sympathy toward the person who wronged us.
  • Love. Love is a choice, not a feeling. When we are no longer concerned with our own needs, desires, expectations, etc. we are able to CHOOSE to concern ourselves with the needs of others. The truest, most Christlike love is to choose to be concerned with the needs, desires, and expectations of others; particularly our enemies.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
  • Reconciliation. Having been reconciled to God, we are able to reconcile to our brother and our neighbor. In fact, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We cannot control who will or will not betray us. We can control whom we reconcile ourselves to. We must learn to aggressively pursue the right we can control and relentlessly forgives the wrongs we cannot control.

Friday, July 13, 2012

13 12 Sermon Series I'd Like to Preach Someday

I created this list several years ago. It still applies. Someday I'll do these!

  • Genesis 1-11. The Starting Point.
    The Prologue: Genesis 1-11. If you don't understand these chapters, you'll struggle to get the rest.
  • We Are People of the Book. God is the author, Men were the conduit, Jesus is the protagonist, Reconciliation is the purpose, the Holy Spirit is the interpreter.
  • Psalm 68. Ten great sermons about God.
  • God, Sin, and Evil. Even though I've changed my thoughts about the value of certain types of apologetics, I still am who I am; and that means I love to help people understand some of the more difficult things God has revealed to us about himself...
  • 1 Peter. Duh.
  • Ten Topics the Bible Says a Lot About. Grace, Humanity, Evil, Love, Relationships, Redemption, Choices, Marriage, Leadership, Hope.
  • Pierced, Tatooed, and God's Little Black Book. A three-part evangelistic series.
  • John: Conversations with God. Yeah, this title is ripped from that awful book by Neale Donald Walsch. But it's my favorite Gospel, and I love the interactions Jesus has with people.
  • The One Anothers. What would it really look like if we lived out these relational commands every day?
  • Esther. Surprised? It's a common misconception that I don't like this book. What I don't like is the way most people read and teach it.
  • Formations. Done. Read the book here.
  • In Defense of Judas. I don't know how long this would take, but it would look at all the different ways we misunderstand Jesus, and how we end up expecting the wrong things from him as a result.
  • Three Relationships You Can't Live Without. duh part two.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Forget Your Past, You Don't Get a Mulligan.

Steven Covey suggests four quadrants in which we typically work.

  • Important and urgent
  • Important but not urgent
  • Not Important but urgent
  • Not Important and not urgent

He suggests you first accomplish all tasks in the first quadrant (Important and due soon). Once you've finished everything there, you should move into the second quadrant so that you can accomplish important things before they become urgent.

Using this process, you might not accomplish the "not important" things... which is okay since they're not important.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to consider these quadrants not just in relation to a to-do list, but also as a way to categorize our brain time (the stuff we think about). Here's what I mean:

  • thinking about life stuff that is important and urgent = pressure
  • thinking about life stuff that is important and not urgent = dreaming
  • thinking about life stuff that is not important but urgent = stress
  • thinking about life stuff that is not important and not urgent = wasted time

But here's one other thought. Too often we spend our time in two completely different quadrants that Covey never talked about:

  • thinking about life stuff that is important... and past
  • thinking about life stuff that is not important... and past

It's not a bad idea to have memories. Memories are nice and fun and useful... but too much time with memories can be dangerous and unhealthy. If it is hurtful to spend all your time stressing about the urgency of the day that is not really important, it is far more harmful to spend your time thinking about the mistakes you made yesterday.

Basically, I'm saying this:

  1. Spend occasional time remembering past victories
  2. Learn from past defeats, remember the lesson and forget the defeat
  3. Spend a little time thinking about things that aren't important
  4. Spend most of your time thinking about the important things in your future

How Should We Measure Success in the Church?

Most people measure successful churches by numbers in attendance, balanced budget, size of staff, or impressiveness of facilities.

What if we measured success by:

  • The number of cigarette butts in the church parking lot.
  • The number of pictures on the church wall of unwed mothers holding their newborn babies in their arms for the first time.
  • The number of former convicted felons serving in the church
  • The number of phone calls from community leaders asking the church’s advice
  • The number of meetings that take place somewhere besides the church building
  • The number of organizations using the church building
  • The number of days the pastor doesn’t spend time in the church office but in the community
  • The number of emergency finance meetings that take place to reroute money to community ministry

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Metaphors for the Church

Metaphor: Church as Corporation.

There are two types of people, employees and consumers.
There are two types of people, Christ-followers and not Christ-followers.
Which are the employees and which are the consumers?

Metaphor: Church as Sport.

There are two types of people, the team (coaches/athletes/etc.) and the spectators.
There are two types of people, regenerate and unregenerate.
Which are the team and which are the spectators?

Metaphor: Church as Cruise Ship.

There are two types of people, cruise staff and cruisers.
There are two types of people, those who have the Spirit and those who don't.
Which are the cruise staff and which are the cruisers?

Metaphor: Church as household.

There are two types of people, family and guests of family.
There are two types of people, children of God and children of the world.
Which are the family and which are the guests?

Metaphor: Church as body-builder.

There are two types of body-builders, those who work out to look at their muscles and those who work out to use their muscles.

That's All I Have To Say About That...