Church

Who Doesn't Love A Good Piece Of Wedding Cake?

wedding-cake-toppers-115556_1280

This past week has been a whirledwind. One of my very close friends from college got married this past Saturday and I was in the wedding as one of his groomsmen. So all the stuff that leads up to weddings, such as friends coming into town (One of our close family friends is staying at our house), pre-parties, and etc; has kept me from following my blogging routine. Hence my last blog post was last Monday.

We still have friends in town, so it will be difficult for me to blog consistantly this week; however I did want to share a little thought that I had while the wedding reception was going on... Yes. My mind does tend to wander, no matter my circumstances, and I have a tendency to contemplate many things... Anyways...

wedding-19131_1280I love weddings! Weddings never get old for me. Since I am a pastor, I have had the privilege of officiating several weddings, and I have also been a groomsmen for my cousin, my dad (I was his bestman), and a groomsmen for a couple of my friends. Additionally, I have also been invited to and have attended many weddings, and I have crashed a couple of weddings back in the day.

One of the things I love about weddings, besides the sacredness that weddings cultivate and elicit in our imaginations and in practice is the seeing of old friends and meeting new friends (I also look forward to the food at wedding receptions and a good piece of wedding cake).

I love reconnecting with long-lost family members, friends from my bygone years, and I love meeting new people from different areas of the nation and world. It's funny, as much as I am an introvert, I enjoy meeting new people and learning all I can about them and their lives.

Here is what I was thinking at the wedding this past Saturday...

I wonder if the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be like what I'm experiencing here at the wedding ceremony and reception?

Phils wedding1That's it. Nothing earth-shattering, no profound words of wisdom, and nothing life-changing. Just that I wonder if at the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb" we will be hangingout with old friends and meeting new friends, and of course eating a good piece of wedding cake.

Monday Mashup...

logo-mashupmonday  

 

Interesting things from around the internet...

Society & Culture... 

Twinkies are back! All is right in the world today... Enough said.

My thoughts on the Trayvon Martin Trial... 

Religion and Spirituality...

Egypt Crisis: Political upheaval can exacerbate already unstable and unsafe conditions for religious minority groups. I try to pray for the persecuted church as often as I can.

Does the size of a church matter in regards to it's effectiveness? This and other great questions Ed Stetzer tackles with precision and tactfulness. Rethinking Small Church by Ed Stetzer... 

Tech Roundup...

What's one app you can't live without... Okay how about five apps you can't live without? Three of the Top 5 apps deal with social interaction. What does this say about out society OR what isn't it saying about our society...

Apple's iWatch. Very interesting... I want a phone like the one from Total Recall (2012 film).

Celebrity watch...

Brit Royal Baby has an app. Seriously! Seriously? 21st century royalty...

Poor Johnny... Can't wait for Pirates of the Caribbean 5!

How I see worship

cross-66700_640I want to talk about worship for a little bit...

I must admit I am not the most qualified voice on the topic of worship when it comes to worship services. I am not a worship pastor, I don't help plan worship services anymore, and I really don't like music all that much - HUH! surprised disbelief from my readers... But I am a worshiper of God...

I guess this brings me to my point. For me worship isn't necessarily about singing or musical instruments, or one hour on Sundays, or even about sermons. I have found that some of the most worshipful moments I have had were the times when I was sitting in silence, or having coffee with friends, or eating dinner with my family. Don't get me wrong I throughly enjoy worship songs and I am not advocating the abolishment of music in worship services. What I am saying is that true worship isn't about the actions of worshipping, but the state of the heart. I recently saw this quote posted by Timothy Keller on Twitter: "Worship is treasuring God." I feel this statement captures just that, the state of the heart. I believe worship should encompass every area of a person's life, not just their voice or ears.

My friend Devan Bumstead said it best this way...

"In short, we believe worship is a communal lifestyle of sacrificial obedience based on a grounded relationship with the triune God. Meet and respond. But perhaps what’s most important about this little definition is just as much what it doesn’t say as what it does. We don’t use titles around here like, “Worship Service,” “Worship Pastor,” or “Worship Songs” because we believe that kind of language limits worship to a particular time, place, person, and activity. Biblical worship is beyond that—it encompasses every area of one’s life, not just the time they offer for an hour a week on Sunday mornings. This is why we’ve chosen to call our gathering time a “Celebration Service” and refer to our time of singing as “praise”, which should be appropriately viewed as a subcategory of worship, not to encompass the whole spectrum..."

To read Devan's whole blog post on worship, check it out here.

C. S. Lewis ‏said, "Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it." When Jesus told the woman at the well that there was a time when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, I believe he was revealing to her that there was coming a time when it would be a joy to worship God and not a chore (John 4:23).

Does worshipping God bring joy to your heart or is it a chore that needs to get done? Do you treasure God when you worship Him?

Trayvon Martin, Justice, and the Church

justiceIn my forty years here on earth I feel I have witnessed two major landmark incidents involving racially charged accusations of white against black / Caucasian against African American injustice. In both of these situations, it has become very apparent that more than ever in this country we are fractured along racial lines. Accompanying these tragic incidents were riots and threats of riots, death threats, police negligence, alleged injustice, racial profiling. Both situations have caused societal reckoning and individual soul-searching. So much time has gone by between these two events, we would think that issues of race, social inequalities, and injustice would have long been identified and corrected in our society and culture; especially when it comes to racial divides. These two tragic events are the Rodney King beating (The beating in 1991.The riots after the trial and acquittal of four LAPD officers in 1992), and the Trayvon Martin shooting death (The shooting death took place in 2012 and the murder trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013). I call them tragic, because human dignity was lost and human life succumbed to the recklessness of sin, death, and Satan. At the end of it all when someone is beaten or dead, a man loses his freedom even though he is free, and everyone hates each other, and revenge is executed - NO one wins.

This blog post is NOT about whether someone is guilty or not guilty (I do have my personal opinions about both incidents). This blog post is about the response of the Church and every Christian regardless of your opinions of whether justice or injustice has occurred.

When tragic events like this take place people almost always we see three things to happen:

Blame: When something tragic happens people want to blame someone or something for the pain and confusion caused. We want to point fingers because we believe that this will alleviate any anger, hurt, or confusion that we might be experiencing. Blame might make things right, but it never brings about the end it only prolongs the issue, circumstances, and feelings.

criminal_justiceJustice: We want things made right don't we and we want people getting what they deserve. It seems to be a human condition. Since we were little and old enough to interact with other people, we have sought justice. Whether it's issue with our bratty siblings, encounters with our classmates on the playground, or coworkers who don't carry their share of the work load; we want "things made right or for them to get what they deserve." The problem with justice is that it can neglect the very things we all seek for ourselves like understanding, mercy, forgiveness, dignity, and love. Justice never makes things completely right; and getting what one deserves almost always is never a good idea for all involved, because it never leads to closure, it only leads to more desire for justice, hate, division, and ultimately revenge.

Revenge: The only thing revenge does is fuel the cycle of anger, hate, division, pain, and confusion.. Revenge never satisfies. Revenge never quenches the desire or need to make things right. Revenge is incapable of making things right; it can only perpetuate the tension of people getting what they deserve - it is cyclical. Revenge ultimately leads to destruction and death.

So what do we do when there are events and circumstances where justice is needed or injustice prevails? As Christians our understanding and response should be one of peace, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. We follow and serve a God and Saviour who both deserved justice and had injustice committed against him. Yet he neither sought justice while he was here on earth, nor did he complain or cry about the injustice committed against him (Isaiah 53:6-8; Luke 14:43-65 & 15:1-37) .

lent-400WHAT DO WE DO... We are called as people of God to not live in anger, instead we are to demonstrate compassion and forgiveness to everyone we encounter (Ephesians 4:1-32). And we need to be aware of our words and actions. We need to live with wisdom and prudence. We are not to react foolishly or contrary to the ways of God, but make the most with our time here on earth. The Apostle Paul said it this way, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16).

We are to serve as the reconcilers of cross-cultural divides and be advocates of forgiveness and healing for a society that is racially and culturally polarized right now (2 Corinthians 5:14-21 & Philippians 2:1-8). The gospel message is that Jesus through his death on a cross and resurrection, brought peace between God and man. We are also called to live in peace with each other and to demonstrate peace to those who need it (Ephesians 4:3; Romans 12:18; Colossians 3:15; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; Titus 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:14-15; & 1 Peter 3:8-12). Our message is one of peace through Jesus (Acts 10:36). I could go on an on, but I believe you get the point. Followers of Jesus are to be peacemakers.

What God requires of us is to be His people who act justly, love mercy, be humble...

"He has shown you, O mortal, 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." Micah 6:8

Catch the line about justice. We don't seek justice, we act justly. To seek justice is to make everything right, but to act justly is to respond and interact with others through just motives and actions.

I know it is hard in our humanity to want justice when injustice has occurred. From a Christian perspective and as God's people we must not seek to be judge, jury, and executioner. We can trust that the one who created all things will in the end administer a righteous justice. Jesus will give to each person what they deserve, perfectly and absolutely. (Hebrews 1:1-12; Revelation 19).

I pray that the Church will be the demonstration of love and forgiveness during this time of pain, sorrow, and frustration, disappointment, anger, confusion, and pride. I hope we reveal to people a God who is just, but at the same time is merciful. Through His grace we have all escaped what we all justly deserve and instead have received forgiveness and restoration.

At the end of it all when someone is beaten or dead, a man loses his freedom even though he is free, and everyone hates each other, and revenge is executed - NO one wins.

BUT grace and love triumphs over all.

This Week's Top 5...

SONY DSCIf you missed a read this week… Here's the Top 5 most read posts for this week: 1. When is being selfish in the church okay...

2. You're more beautiful than you think you are... 

3. I just can't get rid of this burr under my saddle...

4. Monday Mashup

5. What's On The Other Side Of This Life

Thanks for reading this blog. If your not a subscriber to this blog, I want to encourage you to do so. You can follow along or subscribe here... Please, comments and feedback about this blog are valued and appreciated.

Image is everything...

Image is everything web logo1I've been kind of dwelling on this "image is everything" thing this past week. I had a conversation with a friend the other day where we talked about things that really matter to God. What we both came to an agreement on was the fact that churches and "we" Christians sometimes put more value into causes, programs, movements, pioneering, and innovation rather than dwelling with HIM. I think this is because all of these things whether good or bad give us a better image or appear to entice excitement and mass numbers. In many ways in the church we have bought into the lie that "image is everything."

Being a disciple of Jesus is not about writing books, teaching at conferences, creating causes so people will be excited about church or Jesus. It's not about pioneering or starting movements through our innovation. DON'T get me wrong I know these things can help the mission of Jesus. It's just that sometimes these things take the place of what we are really suppose to be about. It's about abiding in Jesus and going where he is already at. We are then to be obedient to what the Holy Spirit is moving us to do, which is to love God with all that we have, and loving our neighbor they way God loves us, which is sacrificially through grace and forgiveness. Jesus wants us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Ed Stetzer aptly stated, "Too often we pull our cultural values into our grid for measuring church success..." While his context for this statement is talking about church size, I think it could be equally said for how some in the church value appearances or image over people and relationships. Read the whole article here: Rethinking Small Churches by Ed Stetzer

The culture values outward appearances. Success can be only ankle deep as long as it looks and tastes good. That's probably why we are a fast-food nation and why many of us can't wait for the release of the Twinkie next week.

I am not saying that image and outward appearances are all bad. These can be the very things that get a person interested or coming back to find out more about Jesus. In some ways we need to pay attention to image and outward appearances.

What I am saying is that when these things become the measurement of success for the church and for Christians, then we have a huge problem. When we critique a preacher on the delivery of their sermon instead of if they mentioned Jesus at all in their message and preached the gospel. Or if we become so Type-A about whether we kept our people in service too long or the flow of the worship service didn't go right or as we had planned. When these things become the standard bearer for success then we have stopped dwelling in Jesus. If you want to know the end result of this way then read John 15:1-8... Good gospel preaching, causes, programs, movements, pioneering, and innovation should move you to the neighborhood.

I like how Eugene Peterson said about Jesus in The Message, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood..." - John 1:14

People > causes, programs, movements, pioneering, innovation, sermon delivery, tight rock concert worship services... The church's mission is people and sometimes people get messy, life gets messy and all we really have in the end is LOVE. Causes, movements, and programs will never take the place of a life spent abiding with Jesus. We must reveal to people a life that is dwelling with Jesus not our latest shiny new ministry toy.

Honestly "image is NOT everything." The heart of the matter is "what image are you displaying to people..."