Monday, December 19, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Put Jesus First

I had SO MUCH more to share yesterday at Cedarbrook. If you were there you saw that I only covered two points on a list of ten.  My topic was The Top Ten Reasons You Should Put Jesus First. Download it now...especially if you've ever been caught by a rushing river. (You'll understand if you listen to it).

Paul made reference to a "dominion of darkness" in Colossians one. That's not something we know a lot about. The Bible never goes in depth about it...only makes passing references here and there so we have to piece things together. I wanted to say more but had to cut the following...

In chapter two (Colossians) Paul makes another reference to evil powers and he uses an interesting military metaphor that requires a little explaining. Speaking of Jesus’ death he said....
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15
Paul is  describing a military victory parade. You know what teams do after they win the Super Bowl? They have a big parade through town.  Green Bay is probably going to have another one of these this year.  In ancient times when an army came home they had a parade but they made the captives trail behind making a public show of them.  Humiliating the enemy was part of the celebration.  Imagine the Packers having a parade and then at the end of the parade was the  losing team with their heads dropped in shame. That’s the idea.
Paul says that’s what Jesus did in the spirit world.  After he died on the cross and rose from the dead there was a parade through heaven with all the evil powers.  I don’t know if this literally happened or if Paul is just using the metaphor to make his point but the point is that Jesus saved us from a dark world that is out to take us down and we should be thankful. We should put him first in our lives because everything that once had control over us has been defeated!

I hope this week is a time of reflecting on all that Jesus has done for you and thanking him for it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent...time to put Jesus first

Yesterday I continued my study of Colossians, chapter one. My goal is to help us Worship Fully this Advent season. And to do that, we need to put Jesus where he the top of every list we the center of everything we do.

I don't know about you but Jesus often slips out of place. I'm embarrassed to say that...after all, I'm a pastor!  You'd think I would be meditating on Jesus all day!  But I drift. I get focused on my work. I get focused on my play. I get focused on people. And before you know it, I'm not as in touch with the presence of Jesus in my life as I know I can be.

This study has  already challenged me to carve out more time every day to simply sit in Jesus' presence to be quiet...reflect on his words...and listen. Let's develop the habit (again) in December and carry it throughout the year.

Download the message here. By the way...the print version has a few more scripture references and notes if that matters to you.

Why not use the Going Deeper questions (text version) to help you reflect more on Jesus this Advent season?


Monday, November 28, 2011

Christians Look Like Idiots When....

Steve Furtick is a young fireball of a pastor in North Carolina. His blog today touched on something I believe and pass it onto you here. This is just an excerpt. Click at the bottom for the full post...
I wonder how many “rivalries” we’ve set up within Christian culture that make us look completely aloof and disconnected to a watching world?
We’re busy drawing battle lines within our bubble:
“Are you Calvinist or Arminian?”
“Are you missional or attractional?”
“Are you a Cessationist or a Continuationist?”
“Are you seeker sensitive or (insert opposite of seeker sensitive)”
“Are you blah blah blah or yada yada yada?”
Meanwhile, most hurting people in the world have no idea what we’re talking about. (A lot of the time, neither do we, if you press us.)
What’s worse, they don’t care.
If the average non-Christian heard some of the debates that dominate many of our “Christian” conversations, they’d be sickly amused, completely confused, totally disgusted, or all of the above.
Bad things happen when we become obsessed with things that most people couldn’t care less about—and become distracted by passions that aren’t the highest priority in the heart of God.
We look like idiots when we launch full-scale wars over battles that Jesus didn’t die to fight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Goal of Spiritual Growth... MUCH Fruit

In some ways, I think my message on Sunday was one of the most important messages I've ever preached. Why? Because it set our faith in context of who God calls us to be.  

I find that many believers don't understand their purpose. Over the years they chase different spiritual things that they perceive to be "growth". It might be Bible knowledge. It might be spiritual gifts or charismatic experiences. It might be spiritual disciplines like fasting or prayer or silence.  All of these things are good and even helpful. But none of them are ends in themselves. Download "Much Fruit" here.

Jesus said that we are called to produce "much fruit".

Using an apple tree as my model I defined much fruit as involving three things:
1. Bringing kingdom character and behavior into your life situations
2. Helping people in need
3. Reproducing your life in the life of someone else

This is our calling. This is God's will for us. Imagine a community of people all pursuing these goals together. God has a word for that: church.

I hope you'll read/listen to the message and see what God might say to your heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Believe in Hell

I'm often amused (and grateful) at how people misquote me for the good.  They will tell me how a sermon changed their life but when they tell me what I said I know I never said that!  But I'm glad their life was changed!  That's sweet. Or people will read a book from some spiritual giant and then forget where the idea came from but assign it to me by mistake. Excellent. Bonus points for me!

But the downside to being a public speaker or leader in general is that  you get misquoted in bad ways and often misunderstood. That can be very discouraging because there is often nothing you can do to recover. You feel defenseless in the face of gossip and much good is undermined because people assumed something to be true that wasn't.

I've appreciated being able to post written and audio versions of my messages online so people can see/hear what I really said. It would be nice if people would go to the source to get the real story but unfortunately that doesn't always happen.

I mention all this because I spoke a message on hell this summer and it seems that some people misheard me.  That happens. So let me briefly clarify my view on hell just to help those who are interested.

I believe that...

  1. hell exists because the Bible talks about it in  many places.
  2. hell is a logical result of a judgment that must come at some point from a just God.
  3. the Bible often speaks figuratively, using metaphor, so we need to  be careful  in assuming we know exactly what hell is and who will go there.
  4. put simply, hell is a place where God is not.
  5. God loves us so much he sent Jesus to save us from hell.
  6. Jesus is an expert Savior and therefore will save many more people than will be lost to hell.
  7. anyone who believes in  hell and speaks of it should speak with great humility and compassion.
  8. we are called to judge each other's moral behavior but not our eternal destiny. That's God's job.
  9. thinking Christians shouldn't be afraid to question and struggle with the concept of hell because the rest of the world does and they would appreciate hearing that we do too. But wrestling with the concept doesn't mean you disbelieve it.
  10. Christians can  hold different views on hell than me without being labeled a heretic. ( I can even learn from people that hold different views from me.)

I hope this helps to clarify any confusion that people have about my views on hell. Pass the word!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Change or Die!

In yesterday's message I quoted the book "Change or Die". I mentioned that the book gives three important ingredients for change but only mentioned one yesterday.  Here are all three:

1. Relate - this is what I talked about. You need to learn from someone you like; a counselor, coach, pastor, etc. if you want to change. When you don't like your teacher you are less motivated to change.

2. Rehearse - you need to learn new information and keep repeating it until it becomes a part of you. This is why reading the Bible is so important. You don't do it once and quit. You keep reading it until it's a part of your thought process.

3. Reframe - Once you grasp the new information you use it to reframe how you view life.  For example, when you fail at something you don't beat yourself up as a reframe your thoughts and view yourself as forgiven by God and having the presence of God's spirit to live a new life.

If you missed my message, download "What's Your Plan?" here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Where is the Lord's Prayer?

I'm often  asked why we don't say the Lord's Prayer at Cedarbrook. My answer is that we don't have anything  against saying it. I just don't like to  do or say things in a ritualistic way that robs true meaning from the experience.   

I prefer to preach the Lord's Prayer...especially the line...Your kingdom come,  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  I do that often. I did it again yesterday. Download GrowthWhat are we shooting for? Our mission as followers of Jesus is to  bring heaven  to earth every day in tangible ways...most often in  our we treat people. This is the greatest testament to a living God.

Seeking the kingdom by living the kingdom was the main thing Jesus wanted to see from his disciples. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said... not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6

If you read the verses before and after this passage the context helps us to understand what "seeking the kingdom" means. It means helping others out financially. That's why he tells us not to worry about food or drink or clothes. He's saying...if  you worry about helping others I'll worry about helping you. That's what my kingdom is all about.

What a challenge. What a redefinition of how we  should live our daily lives. Most of us seek first our kingdom...our security, and beyond that, our luxury. But Jesus framed our life experience in a totally opposite way.

I think this is bigger than any one of us. We need each other  to lead such a radical life. I invite you to join Cedarbrookers in this calling.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Has Your Faith Flatlined?

I launched a new series yesterday. I hope you'll download it  to hear a story I told about my new hobby of biking and how I related it to what causes our faith to grow. Download Growth: Three Obstacles to Growth here. 

I talked about the parable of the sower and the seed. So often people beat themselves up for not being the kind of seed that produces a good crop.  But if you look at the story closely...we aren't the seed. God's word is the seed.  We are the soil.  And in another parable Jesus tells us something about his seed.  Listen...
26 He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." Mark 4
It says here that the seed grows ALL BY ITSELF.  The man has no idea how it grows. It just does.  In other words...we don't have to worry about growth.  It happens naturally.  All we have to do is supply God with obstacle free soil.  I talked about those three obstacles yesterday in my message. 

So spiritual growth is much more possible than you imagined!

Join me Sunday for part two.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Creating Relational Boundaries

On Sunday I took a look at what it takes to raise and release wise children into the world.  I said it involves two things: offering choices and consequences. Download Parenthood: Hitting the Target here. We raise wise children by helping them to take responsibility and make good decisions.

But for you non-parents I hope you see the application to other relationships.  Choices and consequences are what we should all be using to establish boundaries in our personal relationships. Too often people feel the need to take responsibility for the problems that other people create. We get guilted into solving their problems just like children often guilt their parents into solving theirs.

For example, a wife asked me once if I could find her husband a job.  Now, I don't mind helping people out...passing along tips to find jobs or whatever. But behind her question I sensed a weak boundary.  What she was really saying was..."my husband is lazy. He won't look for work so now I have to do it for him."  And what she didn't realize was that she was now trying to pass that responsibility onto me.  I told her that I'd be happy to keep my ears open but if he didn't want to look for a job that that was the real issue.  She shouldn't try to solve HIS problem. (And neither should I). She should consider giving him choices and consequences for his decisions. 

For some of you. this probably opens a number of follow up questions for your particular situation. It's complicated, I know. Maybe come in and see me. We can talk through a solution to your particular scenario. But don't solve other peoples problems for them (unless that's your job and you get paid for it!). Life is too short and you have enough of your own problems to solve!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Parenting isn't for Cowards

On Sunday I started a new series on parenting. If you missed it... download Parenthood here.  Practical stuff that will help you out...parent or not. Good principles.

My last point was that parents need to be prepared. Specifically I said that you should always be reading a book on parenting. Really?  Read?  Really. Parenting is one of the toughest jobs on the planet. You can NEVER  know enough about loving your child and raising them to be a godly person of character.

You might want to start by buying the book, Have a New Kid by Friday, by Kevin Lehman. We have it in the lobby.  I recently read it and found it very helpful for parents.  Here is one quote for you...

These days, parents are overly concerned with a child’s self-esteem. “I want Johnny to feel good about himself,” a mother says. So what does that mother do? She goes out of her way to clear life’s roads for her child, to do things for him that he should be doing for himself.   She thinks she’s helping him with his self-esteem, but what is she really doing? She’s sending a negative message: “I think you’re so stupid that you can’t do it yourself, so I’ll do it for you.”  (pp. 68-69). Revell. Kindle Edition.

Please consider inviting your friends to the next two Sundays for this series!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Do Evil Spirits Exist?

In yesterday's message, Acts touched on how Paul's ministry healed people physically AND of evil spirits.
Evil spirits...that's an interesting topic!
My original message had a few minutes discussing it briefly but I  had to cut it due to time so I pass it on to you below .Download the full message here. 

I looked at Paul's ministry in Ephesus and compared their religious culture to Paul's teaching on the kingdom of God. My question was...are you willing to settle for religion or do you want God's kingdom to come to earth?

Here's my piece on evil spirits from Acts 19...

God was doing great things.  But notice here what it says. It says that not only were people healed but evil spirits left people. That’s something we don’t talk about a lot.  We don’t often talk about the devil or demons or evil spirits. Maybe we think it’s too primitive. It’s too anti-intellectual.  Maybe we give it another name like epileptic seizures or psychosis but Paul believed that there were spirits...and not the holy spirit...that had power to influence people for bad...for evil.
There’s a crazy story in this chapter about an exorcism gone bad.  There were seven Jewish men trying to use the name of Jesus to cast out an evil spirit. They weren’t followers of Jesus. They just used the name of Jesus hoping it would have magical powers and this is what happens... 
Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. 17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Acts 19:16,17
I don’t want to take the time to get into this and this probably isn’t the place but there are things we do that invite evil spirits into our lives and not even know it.  For example there are blatant things like playing with Ouija boards or astrology or tarot cards or psalm readers or psychics. Sometimes an immoral lifestyle will welcome an evil spirit.   And then there are things that are done to us; forms of abuse where we are victimized by not only the abuser but the spirits that drive our abuser.
If you have questions about this please contact me to know more. But just know that this stuff is real and it’s not a game. Jesus said that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy and he wasn’t joking. Peter said that the devil prowls around like a lion looking whom he can devour.  I don’t think there is a demon behind every problem but I do believe that there are some problems that are driven by demons and until you address that issue no medication or counseling is going to help.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The "Repost Or-Else!" Guilt Trip

I got a long email the other day telling me how great God was and how I should resend the email to everyone I know if I really loved God. I expect this from young people or new believers.  They think they are doing something good...taking a stand for God. So I cut them some slack. But this was from a pastor. He should know better.

The "resend or-else" mentality has invaded Facebook as well. Does anyone else see this as a form of cyber-bullying?  I posted this on Facebook yesterday...
 I think FB should ban "repost this or else you are a bad person" posts. Come on people. These are lose-lose posts. Have we really accomplished any good by bullying someone into promoting our cause or agenda? Don't get suckered into the trap. Just hit delete.

I got a number of "likes" and favorable comments. No one seems to like the subtle threats but no one says anything either. So, on behalf of these people, I write!

Like I said in my post...these are lose-lose propositions. If you don't repost you feel guilty for letting the person down. If you do repost you feel guilty for succumbing to the pressure. It just leaves you feeling bad. I can't believe that people really mean to have this effect. So I'm simply pointing it out. It's NOT helping. You are bumming us out!

If you agree with me and really love God and country and your momma then repost...or else bad things will surely happen to you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Has Your Faith Left You Cold?

On Sunday I talked about a story in scripture (see Acts 18) that has confused many. It's the story of Apollos and how, even though he was a great preacher, he lacked something. A couple pulled him aside and talked to him. It doesn't say what they told him but after he heard from this couple he rose to become one of the top apostles along with Peter and Paul.  It's a bit of a mystery and has caused many to speculate on what he lacked.

My guess from the context is that he lacked the filling of the Holy Spirit because it says that he only knew of John's baptism. It seems odd that he wouldn't have the Spirit. He clearly believed in Jesus since Acts 18 says that he preached the story of Jesus accurately. Other parts of scripture imply that we receive the Spirit when we believe. So this is why there is confusion. 

But if you read between the lines of the early faith stories the "normal process" (not that it was a formula) to coming to faith was that someone believed, was baptized in Jesus name and filled with the Spirit all at once.  People didn't wait to be baptized as they do today. It was immediate. And that seemed to be the time when the Spirit came to indwell the new believer...similar to  how the Spirit came in the form of a dove upon Jesus at his baptism.

Jesus brings a little clarity to the issue in the book of John, chapter three. He talks to Nicodemus about the difference between being born of water (baptism) and the Spirit.  A religious act isn't good enough. We need the genuine presence of God. He said...
"Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again. "4 "How can anyone be born when they are old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!" 5 Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. John 3
All that to say that we need to be careful not to assume we have the Spirit of God in us just because we have a casual belief in Jesus...we grew up in church...went through confirmation...have read the entire Bible...been baptized, etc.  A relationship with God is more than knowing information about God or performing a certain rite of passage. It involves his Spirit living inside of us, directing us and transforming us.  I'm sure many people have walked away from God because their knowledge alone didn't change them and it left them frustrated.  This was Nicodemus' problem in John 3. 

If your faith has left you cold then maybe you too need to be "born again". Ask Jesus to fill you with his Spirit and transform you. And then be sure to make room for him. Set your attention on things of God and not chasing after merely satisfying your wants and desires.

If you have any questions about this be sure to ask me because it's very important! Download Sunday's message here...Aquila, Priscilla & Apollo

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Revelation, Suffering and Hope

On Sunday I spoke on Revelation. I guess most people aren't used to the idea of Revelation being encouraging!  I got a lot of thanks for the message. I also undermined the idea that God has to "fix" all of our problems before we can worship him.  Some of the best worshippers have been those who have died for their faith.

One person wrote me and said the message was "lifechanging".  I had to know more so I asked the person to expand and this is what they said. I thought it might encourage others...

Your message helped me to change my attitude towards suffering. I've been waiting so long for God to do things in my life since I've had a relationship with him and not to see it happen brings a lot of  discouragement.  [But now that you mention it...] suffering indeed has drawn me very close to Him, and has taught me more about Him than I ever imagined. Also I could never worship and love Him the way I do without the lessons it's taught me.

I was also impacted by your insight into the book of Revelation that its simply about Jesus being on the throne to be worshipped, and to bring hope to believers who were suffering beyond belief. I saw a story the other night about the musician John Waller who suffered 18 years with bipolar disease and had expectations for God to heal him. After a lot of let downs and trying to figure God out, he finally learned that it's best just to worship God and trust Him. Eventually God healed him at the appropriate time in his life. He wrote the hit , While Im Waiting which is a great worship song relating to his suffering.

I see now its best to embrace our suffering, cling close to God knowing He's on his throne, and worship Him for who He is and for how much He loves us.  

Amen and amen.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Cedarbrook Welcomes Pastor Dave Johnson

I'm happy that Dave Johnson will be joining us this Sunday. Dave pastors Church of the Open Door in Maple Grove, MN.  Even though I just met Dave a few months ago we "go way back". Let me explain.

Back in the 70's I came to faith in an upbeat contemporary church in Minneapolis. It grew and grew but then fell apart when the lead pastor was exposed in adultery. The church didn't handle it well. It got ugly and the majority of the people left the church...hundreds. (I learned many lessons on how NOT to do church through that era).

I heard that a lot of the people were ending up in a small church in North Minneapolis called Church of the Open Door. Some young guy had just taken it over...was preaching the Bible with clarity and life...and lives were being changed. His name was Dave Johnson.  He seemed to have a heart for not just preaching the Bible but seeing the Bible impact lives for good...especially healing emotional wounds.

I lived in South Minneapolis so I never visited the church...just heard the reports...and they were good. C.O.D. kept growing. They had to move out of their church  building into the old Robbinsdale High School where they continued to grow...up to 5000 people at one point.  Dave published a timely  book with one of his co-pastors...The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. I personally found it very helpful having seen my share of pastoral craziness...pastors wielding way too much control in their churches and hurting hundreds in the process.

I finally made it up to see Dave preach but he was on vacation and got a guest speaker. It took a few more years before I actually saw him speak.  But I wasn't disappointed when I did. He was full of passion. He was sincere. And he was real.  He had a bookstore full  of his teachings on cassette. I picked up two series that were profound...The Pain of Porneia...a look at how mishandling sex has hurt so many...and Women in Ministry...Dave's teaching on  1 Timothy and why he felt women should have equal right to ministry.  Both teachings had a powerful impact on me...Dave's word was probably what opened me up to my current belief in women in ministry.

Finally, I heard that Dave did a teaching on the Beatitudes that changed his church.  He converted some of that teaching into a book called Joy Comes in the Mourning.  It was the best teaching on the Beatitudes I had ever read...very practical. It really helped me to get a picture of what it means for the Kingdom of God to  come on earth as it is in heaven. I told Dave recently the impact the  book had on me and he was shocked because he wasn't happy with the book and it never sold well.  I guess the book was written just for me because I really liked it!

So now, 30 years after watching Dave from a far, I met him at a conference and we struck up a friendship, hence his visiting Cedarbrook on Sunday.  I have a ton of respect for anyone who commits themselves to pastor their church for 30 years, let alone keeps it together and even manages to grow it. Since Cedarbrook is still young (eight years) I have a lot to learn from Dave.

I hope you'll join us on Sunday and invite a friend to hear Dave. He gave me a sneak preview of his message. It will start in around the Bible (as is his style) and encourage us about the hope of the gospel...that is, what makes it good news for you and me today.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How We Lost Our Audience...and how to get it back.

I got a lot of positive feedback from my message yesterday. I seemed to have hit on something that many people had questions about.  You can download "Lost in Translation" if you missed it.

In addition to talking about Desperate Housewives and Country music I talked about how it is that even though we have the best story in the world  to tell (the story of Jesus) yet so many people ignore it. They are unimpressed. The truth is, we've done a good job of losing our audience.  I looked at five ways we lose our audience and then what the Bible says about how to win it back.

One of the things we ("we" meaning most Christians) do wrong is we don't give people enough room to think about faith and dialogue with them about it.  When I was a kid and learning to fish I would always want to reel the fish in the moment my bobber went down but my dad told me to let the fish run with the bait for a while. I think that's true with us. We often aren't patient enough to let people wrestle with issues of faith. We just want them to believe and be like us!  But that's why people spit our story out of their mouth.

Jesus rarely "closed the deal" with people's faith questions. He typically just asked them more questions. He wanted them to fully understand the issues and not just believe a doctrine or make a decision. Jesus wanted to engage people in discussion...that is, a relationship. He's not looking for a convert as much as a disciple...someone that walks with him, talks with him and learns to do what he does.

I think there are more spiritually interested people out there than we realize. We just need to stop being religious and learn how to talk as naturally about our faith as we do sports or gardening.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Reasonable Response to God's Story

On Sunday I followed up The Story series by asking the question, "What's a reasonable response to The Story?"  What is an authentic expression of our faith and thanksgiving for what God has done for us?  Paul and Jesus made it clear... a reasonable response is to give God everything...your whole life...every day! (see Romans 12:1 and Mark 12:20)

I hope you'll download the message if you missed it.

I wanted to spend more time in the book of Colossians but was short on time.  I talked about living a transformed life and it intrigues me how much of transformation hinges on US.  God does the changing but WE need to make choices all along the way that give God the right to do the work.

It's kind of like a doctor these days. They are very concerned about lawsuits so they ask permission to do everything. I'm going to do this. Is that okay?  I'm going to touch you here. Is that okay?  The doctor won't do anything without your permission and God is very much the same way. You need to invite God to do his work all along the way. It's a team effort!

I know we all want God to wave a wand over us and magically change us but we need to take action. In Colossians 3 Paul tells the people what THEY are responsible to do.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Colossians 3

For Paul to command us to do these things he must be convinced that the power of sin has been broken in our lives. He couldn't command this if he didn't. In fact, he says elsewhere that the power of sin was put to death  when Jesus died. But now we need to LIVE OUT what is true.  We need to put away our old life and put on the new life.  The more we obey God's call the more we invite him to keep changing us into the image of Jesus.  I hope that's what you want for you life!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Raising the Spiritual Bar

Seth Godin is a business guru. I like what he said below about those who raise the bar of performance. He's talking about the business world, but what if we applied it to our faith?  

Some people I know work hard to lower the bar at work.
That was my strategy at gym class in high school. Not only did I do the minimum amount permitted, I worked hard to do just a little bit less than that. By the time the semester was over, the teacher was relieved if I even bothered to show up at all.
Most people seek to meet the bar. They figure out what's expected, and do that.
A few people, very few, work to relentlessly raise the bar. She's the one who overdelivers on projects, shows up ahead of schedule, instigates, suggests and pushes.
Raising the bar is exhausting, no doubt about it. I'm not sure the people who engage in this apparently reckless behavior would have it any other way, though. They get to experience a fundamentally different day, a different journey and a different reputation than everyone else.

It seems like many today, in the name of "grace", want to lower the bar spiritually. But I don't see us doing the "greater things" that Jesus promised by lowering the bar. What if we trusted in the power and goodness of God to do great things - amazing things -  in and through us rather than merely scraping by and then sheepishly smiling as we point to God's grace for our excuse? Grace means "gift". God graces us with forgiveness but he also graces us with the ability to do things we never thought possible. Let's raise the bar. Jesus did.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Resurrection, Doubt and Mystery

If you missed Sunday I hope you'll download "Doubters Welcome".  People seemed to be encouraged that doubting the resurrection is not the end of the world. The disciples doubted but came around to finally believe and that's why they wrote their gospel accounts.

I spoke a little about "mystery" in the first service. I got a little more insight as I spoke during the second service and so I'll share that here.

My point was that Jesus isn't threatened by our doubt or disappointed by our confusion and lack of understanding.  He would call that  "mystery".  I noted that mystery stories keep us on the edge of our seat. They engage us because we want to learn more.  Some people hate mysteries. They don't like the suspense. They want things cut and dried for them. Obvious.  But most people are intrigued by mystery. And if you think about it, doubt and confusion are central to what makes a good mystery.

Mystery is what keeps us dating that special person. I didn't learn all there is to know about  Lisa (my wife) on our first date.  She fascinated me and made me want to know more.  Thirty three years later I realize that there is still more to discover about her. This keeps me engaged.

Mystery is not a bad thing. It's good. And that's why God is happy to keep us guessing at times. Our culture wants everything mapped out and diagrammed. But when it is, we get bored  and move on to the next thing.

I think one of the reasons that young people today are not interested in Jesus or Christianity is because in past days  the church felt the need to answer every question and  solve every problem that bothered people about the faith. Church people felt that if we could answer every question we would win more converts. But the truth is...when you answer every question you eliminate the mystery. You make God boring.  We that it? I think Buddhism is cooler! (some might say).

Leave it to the church to make God boring!

My point in saying  this is that  if you doubt and don't always understand God...that's okay. Don't assume you are a failure and give up. Don't walk away. Walk toward God with your questions and you'll be surprised how much he has to show you about himself.

Monday, April 18, 2011

God's Idea of Payback

Yesterday I looked at four word pictures that Jesus left for us in his last week before his death and resurrection. Download "Lasting Images" if you missed it. One of the images was of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus told Peter...if you don't let me wash your feet you have no part in me. In other words.. Peter, if you can't embrace my role as servant then you have no business being my disciple because that's who I am and I'm asking you to be a servant to others too. Peter needed to reshape his idea of Jesus/God.

If I would have had the time I would have developed that thought a bit. In the letter of First John in the Bible John talks about loving others. Notice especially verses 11 and 12...

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12

I like to contrast the way I think a verse will end with the way it is written. I find it interesting that verse 11 doesn't say...Since God so loved us, we also ought to love God.

Why not?  Typically we love people who love us. We treat people well who treat us well. To get us to love those who don't love us is nearly impossible. But that's our calling. So God says, look, I sent my Son so that you might live. Now, you don't have to do anything back for me but instead I want you to love others, even your enemies. By this people will know that you are my disciples and that I am real.

Do you see the wisdom in this?  Maybe this will help you love that nasty person at work or your grumpy neighbor or even that person living in your house who seems to constantly get on your nerves!  Don't love them because they are so lovable. Love them because God showed you so much love.

I hope to see you on Good Friday and Easter!