theology

Just read the gospels more...

[wpvideo Gd2HfBPx]  

How often do we think about the last advice or the last words we would mouth to the people we love? To be honest, I don't really think about it that much. On the occasion when I do think about it, I have a tendency to think about the words I would speak to my wife, my kids, their spouses, and grandkids if it was appropriate to assume my kids had them.

So much should be said—like our last "I love you's" or admonishes about the wiles of this world. Maybe I would want to share with them my favorite things about each of them; the shape and color of their eyes, their scent, their dimples when they smile, the contagious sound of their laugh, or maybe some favorite moment we shared together.

While I am sure I would have some talk of these things with them, I feel there would need to be more...

Look At Jesus

These words are the words I would want to utter and recite to my family and friends if I had the opportunity to share with them if I were on my death bed.

Look At Jesus

N.T. Wright, when asked the question about what he'd say to his children on his death bed—commented that he would tell them to read the gospels more, "to look at Jesus."

I find it fascinating when I read the gospels, I find this drive and passion in Jesus to make sure we see that he and the Father are one—there is this completeness, a wholeness between them. The clarity and power in their unity is what drives, transforms, restores, and secures all things.

Jesus said,

"My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." - John 10:29-30

In essence, Jesus is saying his dad is the biggest, baddest (Used in the American colloquialism—meaning good), and toughest dad in the neighborhood. Yet, he is also saying "my" dad is the most loving, caring, forgiving, and rescuing dad in the neighborhood.

You want to see God, look at Jesus—he is God who came to earth in the form of a man to reveal and demonstrate all the aspects of the Godhead to us. God loves, He cares, He forgives, and He rescues.

I would want my family and friends to know these things about Jesus.

I would tell them to read the gospels more, to look at Jesus, trust him, and then go do what he does.

When is being selfish in the church okay...

(This post has not been edited for errors. These are my raw, honest thoughts.) Okay here you go...

One of the hardest things for me to hear and something that is really bugging me is hearing people talk about the church as if it is something that is consumed rather than something to be actively living out in our lives and community. I hear from ministry friends from all over the country that share in this frustration.

I get sad when I hear people church hop because the church community/family they have been a part of is no longer meeting their needs or no longer is the cool flashy place they can invite friends to. I guess in reality they really don't see church as a community or family, instead it is place to meet personal needs and desires... We people abandon a church for these reasons they show their true colors, they were only seeking to be a part of God's kingdom for selfish reasons i.e. "what can I get out of church." They are like the kid in high school who only hangout with certain people because it will benefit them socially, but once that person(s) can no longer benefit them they move on to a different friend or group...

I also get frustrated when people leave churches because of conflict they have with a pastor, church staff, or another believer. How can we expect to rule and judge alongside Jesus if we can't even settle hurt feelings, disagreements, character clashes, disputes, and the like amongst ourselves, the body, house, bride of Jesus? I think the Apostle Paul said something to this affect in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. When someone abandons the church they were a part of for these reasons, they are like the kid who doesn't like it that the pickup game of football isn't going their way so they get their football and go home...

The problem is that our North American culture allows for this kind of flippant Christianity, and our churches do as well... I dont judge a person's desire to keep from going to hell, but I do judge their selfish and consumeristic motivations for being a part of the body, the house, and the bride of Jesus.

DON'T get me wrong! Sometimes the only solution to a problem is to leave and find another church to be a part of, that is not what I'm talking about here. I am referencing people who for selfish-consumeristic motives leave churches.

The solution (Your are correct to assume that I have already premised the former is incorrect, unhealthy, and not what God wants His Church to demonstrate to a world that needs His grace and mercy)... Well there are many things that can be done to help the situation, but lets just take a glimpse of three ideas for this blog post... Abide in Jesus (John 15:1-11 ESV), Love one another (John 15:12-17 ESV), and do good works (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV). If we do these things then it becomes hard to be selfish and have selfish-consumeristic motivations, and people might actually stay at their church and BE the church. To answer the question in my title of this blog post - I'm not sure it is ever okay to be selfish if it blemishes the church...

Okay and done...

Cynicism of Prayer

Prayer  

I am by no means an expert on prayer. Let me first get that out of the way... I pray, but not always with the consistancy I wish and I don't always believe my prayers get answered...

There I said it. Most of us if we were to admit it live in "shame and spiritual weariness," as Paul Miller aptly states about prayer. We are afraid to admit to God our lack of faith in His ability to do anything in our lives and thus become burned out, because we try to carry the burdens of life on our own. Our theology and practice is a "cynicism of prayer" not being heard or answered by God.

Prayer is continual and constant...

Prayer is not an item that we check-off from our todo list. It should be woven into the fabric of who we are becoming. Prayer is continual and constant.

Since for most of us prayer is something we occasionally do when the need arises or when we are in a setting or situation that calls us to pray; we do not necesarily see ourselves as people of prayer, but rather we would identify ourselves as someone who prays occassionally. Because of this it shouldn't surprise us when we become cynical about God hearing and answering our prayers.

It like the little child, who wants a sweet, but asks his or her parent once for a piece of candy and gets no response and then walks away dejected. It's always the persistent child who continually asks, sees a response from the parent and receives some sort of answer whether it be a yes, no, or not yet.prayer mountains

I'm not suggesting that God only responds to a frenzied and nagging conversation from us. Instead what I'm advocating is that through a consistent practice of us speaking with God we become aware and even sensitive to God's movement and action in our daily circumstances as He answers our prayers.

We also begin to perceive the things that God wants us to be about or ask.

By making prayer a continual and constant part of who we are and who we are becoming we become internally and visually aware of God in the midst of our lives.

 

Four characteristics to demonstrate as a person of prayer...

To break the cycle of praying with cynicism, there are four charateristics that I try to posture in my life as person of prayer...

Pray with expectancy

Pray with faith

Pray with courage

Pray with honesty

Above all, it is important for us to communicate with God about our doubts of Him hearing our prayers. To remain silent and not express our doubt that God hears our prayers can prevent us living a life on purpose for God. The courage to speak aloud this quiet cynicism is empowering and frees us to be the people of God.

Fear and Loving Your Neighbor...

neighborIs busyness the root cause of why people have difficulties in loving their neighbor. I have asked myself this question and have even used it myself on numerous occasions for reasons why I couldn’t help my neighbor. In-fact my neighbors have said this to me. Not too long ago one of my neighbors had surgery and while he was on the road to recovery, he had a landscaping project that he needed some help with, especially with moving heavy rocks and dirt. Of course I offered to help him and told him so. My only caveat was that I couldn’t help him until the following day to which he agreed; three days later I noticed that the work he needed help with was already accomplished. In-fact he was finishing up with what was left of it. I went over to him and asked him why he didn’t get me to help him. His response haunts me to this day... He said that he would have, but he noticed that I’m busy all the time and I'm never home - “you know” he said, “your always busy with that church stuff.” I just took a straight punch to the gut, a right-cross to the jaw, and was finished with a swift upper-cut.

FEAR AND SELFISHNESS... I couldn’t believe it! My neighbor was kind enough to give the out I needed... In all seriousness, I felt really bad that he had to finish the project with the help of our other neighbor and himself, but I also was relieved that he allowed me to hide behind the excuse that I’m a very busy person and rarely home during sociable and functional hours of the day. I got to tell you though that after much thought, busyness isn’t an excuse, or at least one that holds weight with my neighbor, myself, and especially Jesus... No, my real issue isn’t busyness, but it is fear and selfishness...There is nothing more Satan wants than to distract God’s people from loving Him and their neighbors. He will use the church as an excuse, our kids, our jobs, and yes even our spouses, but the reality is that none of these are good reasons to not be the best neighbor our neighbor has ever had. I contend that fear and selfishness are the culprits of this. Don’t get me wrong, I believe busyness is an obstacle for sure, but it is not the root cause of us not loving our neighbors to Jesus. The burden of busyness that people strap to their backs can be debilitating, but it is still not an excuse. It is just a symptom of fear and selfishness. Fear causes us to pull up to our driveway, pull into the garage and shut the door behind us without talking to any of our neighbors. Fear gives us the mindset that we might or do have awful neighbors so it is best not to associate with them. Fear causes us to think that our neighbors won’t like us for who we are or the other way around, and the list could go on... Selfishness, well lets just say that selfishness drives us to avoid our neighbors. No one really wants discomfort, pain, unplanned disruptions, and all the other hard things that come with relationships.

If you say you love God then you must love your neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40).

hello_neighbor_dribbbleAs daunting as it can be to meet your neighbor and begin to love them the way God does, there are THREE initial easy steps you can take to start the process of being the best neighbor your neighbor has ever had.

1). Talk to God before you talk to your neighbor... Ask God to give you insight to your neighbor. Ask Him to reveal to you little things about your neighbor, things that are easy for you to pray about and engage your neighbors in conversation - talk to God before you talk to your neighbor... God knows your neighbor and their circumstances - ask Him to give you insight into their lives.

2.) This is a real simple one - wave and smile at them and say hello... I know their are some people who aren’t receptive to a smile and a friendly hello wave (I’m from California, I completely get that). However over time, and with repeated effort your hard work will pay off. You will eventually get that returned smile and wave or maybe even a Duck Dynasty Phil Robertson Thumbs Up.

3.) Simply get to know your neighbors names. Everyone has a name and everyone wants to be known! I truly believe everyone likes to hear the sound of their name called. Asking someone their name is one of the most disarming things a person can do. It actually helps give them dignity.

A thought to ponder: Would your neighbor and neighborhood miss you if your were to move away?

*Some of these thoughts find their genesis from a friend of mine named Brian Mavis and in the ministry of LifeBridge Christian Church

A Tribute to Brennan Manning

brennanOne of the people who have heavily shaped and influenced my life and Christian walk passed away yesterday. Brennan Manning showed me that the God of the universe was more than some distant authoritarian being, but a Father who wanted me to call Him Abba which distinguishes me as His child, a part of His family. Now you got to understand I never met Brennan Manning. I never heard him speak at a conference or sat in a lecture by him, and I never attempted to meet him. His influence on me was through his writing. I first started reading his books while I was in Bible college. One of my professors made a couple of Brennan’s books required reading, and once I cracked open the pages of his books, it was no longer required reading for me... Brennan Manning also taught me to depend on God’s grace day by day and moment by moment. He purposed me to live a life defined by having an awareness that I am deeply loved by Jesus. My true identity is found in Jesus and that it was a gift, not anything I deserved or could buy, but it was offered to me for free - The Father’s grace...

Brennan Manning’s influence profoundly molded my view the reconciliation of my old life to the new life I have in Jesus. Even to this day when I struggle with the demons of my past, I reflect on not only the words of Jesus, but also on thoughts written by Manning, such as...

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” - Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means.” - Brennan Manning

Becoming aware of my need for redemption from the dark shadows of my life, one that is given not earned, reminds me that it is through this painful life that we find love and acceptance from Abba, Father. In turn, Manning spoke of this grace being something that is not selfishly kept, but desperately shared. In his book The Wisdom of Tenderness, Manning speaks of the true measure of our love for God is seen in our love for our neighbor. Our understanding of God’s love for us is when we seek to have our heart broken and concerned for the things that God cares about. Grace is something to be shared not something to keep. Manning wrote that The Father’s grace is for the hurting and not for the well. Manning states in his book Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, “Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.”  May we all have a heart like The Father’s and take life moment by moment like Brennan Manning.

Thank you Brennan Manning you have shaped my life through your writing! You have shown me I am loved by my Abba, Father and the need to live gracefully.