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3/29/13

I'M CONFUSED

OK, so I've read all those things, like why do you Drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?  Why do they put expiration dates on Sour Cream?  

All funny and interesting and entertaining.  But, as a pastor, I have to admit, I'm legitimately confused.  Why do we call the day Jesus died GOOD FRIDAY and the day that big bargains are available BLACK FRIDAY?  Am I missing something here?  Isn't that backwards?

I'm thinking Jesus would agree with me.  He prayed, "Father, let this cup pass from me".  Translation:  "I don't want to do this...at all...no way.  I'm requesting you reconsider and please come up with a Plan B."

Sorry, from my perspective, this is a true BLACK FRIDAY.  But, God, in His power and wisdom has turned BLACK FRIDAY into a very GOOD FRIDAY.  

OK, so I guess I'll just remain a CONFUSED PASTOR.  By the way, isn't that redundant?  CONFUSED PASTOR?

3/26/13

ZOMBIES

Biblical language can sometimes be confusing.  Jesus and Paul both talked about people who were "asleep", but neither was talking about sleeping.  It was the first century way of referring to death.  They weren't just sleeping, they were SLEEPING!

Have you noticed how pop culture seems to go from one thing to the next.  One minute everyone's a vampire.  Then, vampires are yesterday's news and zombies are the new cool thing.  Zombies are the new cool thing. However, they are not new, by any means.  (See Night of the Living Dead)  I guess interest in zombies runs hot and cold.  Today, they're hot.  Tomorrow, who knows.

Culture aside, the zombie problem has been around longer than any of us realize.  This Living Dead idea is not only a Hollywood phenomenon, it's a biblical reality.  God's Word proclaims the fact that all those around us who are without Christ are dead men.  Literally, spiritually dead.  They walk.  They talk.  They look perfectly normal. (I think the fact that none of their body parts are falling off and none of their flesh is rotting throws us off)  But, God's Word is perfectly clear...they are DEAD.  SPIRITUAL ZOMBIES.  Living right next door, or working in your office or sleeping right down the hall or even in the same bed as you.  SPIRITUAL ZOMBIES.  

Probably not something you give much thought to.  We'd rather watch the latest Zombie movie or catch an episode of the new Zombie series than wrestle with the idea of this being a real condition.  ESPECIALLY, when the same Word reveals to us that we have been trusted with the antidote that brings these Zombies back to life....not just life, but abundant life.

So what's the problem?  We're not sleeping dead...we're just sleeping duds.  We need to WAKE UP!  We need to start seeing these people as WALKING DEAD, not just WALKING WEIRDOS or WALKING JERKS or WALKING PROBLEMS or WALKING ____________ (you fill-in the blank with your favorite brand of disgust).  They just need to be alive.  And God has commissioned you and I to wake them up, give them life and set them free.

Before you go and volunteer to drive a stake into their hearts (although, in some cases that may seem to be the most logical scenario and quickest fix), you need to know what they need is not a stake to the heart, but a cross.  Not driven with a hammer, but with love and truth and the power of God.

But, Step One is, WE have to wake up.  Me and you.  We have to realize we are surrounded by the spiritually dead and we have the antidote.  We have to WAKE UP and SPEAK UP, or be satisfied to live in a world of spiritual zombies for the rest of our days.  

You're right.  Somebody oughta do something about this situation...and that somebody is YOU!


3/25/13

CHRISTIAN NARCISSISM

What's a narcissist?  Sounds bad, doesn't it?  It is.  Let me give you the simple nickel definition: It's a person that's totally in love with themselves.  Yep, you were right.  It's bad.  It comes to us from Greek mythology, where a guy named Narcissus was bending over a pond and saw his reflection and thought, "Wow, that's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!".  You get the idea.

So, why do I bring it up?  Well, because I believe the whole concept is one we battle against on a continuous basis.  If you're like me, there are some names and faces floating through your mind right now.  Pretty sure yours isn't one of them....but, you can think of a few without much trouble.

Here's one for you:  Christian Narcissists.  Isn't that an oxymoron?  Can you be a Christian (totally in love with Jesus and those he died for), and a Narcissist (totally in love with all things ME)?

Well, let's see.  Jesus gave us some very real orders before he left Planet Earth...Go...Tell...Teach...Love...Reach.  He basically turned over the reigns to us.  He said, "the Church is yours...now do exactly what you saw me do...love like I loved, lay down your life to reach anyone and everyone who is far from God.  Do whatever it takes."

How we doing with that?  How's that working for us?  Honestly, not so good.  Most churches are in decline in the US.  Many will close their doors this year.  More are going unreached than are being reached.  But, why?  Because we don't care?  Because we don't believe correctly?  Because our theology is bad?  Because our strategies are poor?

No, we pray for the lost, study the Word, reach out, strategize, etc.  So, what's the problem?  Well, to borrow a phrase, You might be a Christian Narcissist if...You really want to reach the lost, but...
     *You don't want to hear secular songs on Sunday morning
     *You don't want to have to park far from the building
     *You really want to be fed deeper messages
     *You don't want to sit in another place or attend another service
     *You demand more hymns
     *You're not going to put up with homosexuals attending your church
     *You don't like the pastor wearing jeans on Sunday morning
     *You don't think someone should be allowed to bring a donut into the auditorium
     *You think the music is too loud

I know, I know, you really want to reach the lost, but, you really want church to be all about you.  Face it, you just might be a Christian Narcissist.  Sound bad?  It is.  But, you'll have company.  Just read anything that mentions Pharisees in the New Testament.  You'll get along well.
   

3/19/13

IT'S GOOD NOT TO BE KING

I remember a great quote from Mel Brooks in the movie, History of the World, Part 1.  After doing whatever he wanted with absolutely no checks and balances, he simply stated, "It's good to be King!".  I guess it would be.  Have everything you want and do everything you want, with no impunity.  Sweet gig.  You don't always do the right thing...but, whatever you do is the right thing, for one simple reason...you're the King!  Sweet gig.

I look at it another way.  I guess my mantra would be, "It's good not to be king!".  I met yesterday morning with the staff.  We discussed what we were doing, what we need to be doing and what we better be doing better or even different.  We agreed and disagreed and challenged one another...sometimes liking it and sometimes, not so much.

Then, later, I met with my Executive Staff.  I heard about things I did well, things I should have done better and choices I could/should make that would be better for the church and for me.

Last night, I spent several hours with the Elders of our church.  I heard...this is good, this is great, this...not so good, this could be better.  I heard "Yes" and I heard "No", and I heard "Maybe, but not now".

In every venue, it was made clear that I was the leader.  All wanted me to lead.  All honored my leadership and affirmed my leadership and followed my leadership.  But, at the same time, it was clear that I was not the King.  I don't want to be King.  I want to be Pastor.  That's where God has called me. That's where I'm most usable to Him.  It's also where I'm most comfortable.

Being King might be a lot of fun, but there's a lot of pressure to being King.  I like having people in my like who exist and have the freedom to say "No".  To say, "Not now, that's good, unwise decision, more of that, less of this".  

It's good not to be King!

3/18/13

PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING

Life is not so much about what happens, as it is the direction that you're looking at it from.  I've seen, as have you, people's totally opposite reactions to the same event.  Both saw the same thing.  Both heard the same news.  Both experienced the same stimulus.  But, they responded totally oppositely to the same thing.

The Resurrection is one of those things.  We, as Christ-followers, celebrate the Resurrection every Sunday.  But, we REALLY celebrate it on EASTER.  We build our calendars around it.  We plan for it.  Some get all dressed up for it.  Others, plan a feast for it.  We plan outreaches around it.  We, unapologetically invite everyone we know to join us in worshipping our risen Savior on this most special day of all days.

Jesus' disciples got to experience the Resurrection up close and in person.  So, how did they get ready for Resurrection day?  By hiding out, laying low, feeling sorry for themselves and rethinking the purpose and plans they had for their lives.  Their plans didn't include celebrating.  Theirs centered more around mourning.  A quiet early morning visit to a tomb to recollect what could have been and how it had all come to an inauspicious and unexpected end.  Their joy had been turned to sorrow and their hopes and dreams had all gone up in smoke at the foot of a cross as they stared at the one they'd left everything for come to a sudden and crushing end.  It was over.  Everything was over.

Those are two very different ways of living out the days leading up to the Resurrection.  The difference?  Which side of the Resurrection you live on.  It's one thing to live as we do, looking back on it.  We do that with joy and hope and anticipation.  It's quite another thing to live, looking forward to it.  By that, I don't mean expecting it, anticipating it and looking forward to it.  In reality, the Resurrection took them totally by surprise.  Sure, Jesus had left some pretty good hints.  It's a lot easier to see them looking back after the fact.  Looking through the lens of the Resurrection makes everything much clearer.  But, they didn't have the Resurrection to see through and to hear those hints through.

Still today, which side of the Resurrection you live on makes all the difference in the world.  If you find your hope in that Resurrection, then it becomes the defining moment, not only in history, but in your life and your history.

Yet, still today, if the Resurrection of Jesus is not your hope for forgiveness and eternity, then it's just another day, only one with a fable attached to it and religious holiday.  It still all centers on which side of the Resurrection you chose to live on.

Is it just a nice story or the answer to everything in your life and future?  That one answer to that one question changes everything,

3/15/13

WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

There's a thought for you.  You're probably thinking, "If you don't know what a Christian is, what are you doing being a pastor?"  Good question.  But, I'm asking you.  Here's the honest truth, if you asked 50 CHRISTIANS what a Christian is, you might get 40 different answers.  And that's from CHRISTIANS!  If we're not sure, what chance do those who don't follow Christ have of getting it right?  For that matter, what chance do we have of winning the world if we're not sure what winning looks like?  

CHRISTIAN.

Is there any other word in the English language that is so emotionally charged?  Just the mention of that one word makes some smile, while it makes others curse.  It conjures up images of grace-filled, loving people in one person's mind, while at the same time, in another's mind comes pictures of judgmental, hypocritical, and non-tolerant hate-mongers.

How can one word mean so many different things to so many people?  One thing everyone can agree on in regards to Christians...everyone has an opinion.  

Beginning in April, we'll ask the question that no one in the Church ever asks, "What, exactly, is a CHRISTIAN?"  In Genuine CHRISTIAN Brand, we'll ask the hard questions, like:
     *What is a CHRISTIAN?
     *How do you BECOME a CHRISTIAN?
     *Is being a CHRISTIAN more about what we BELIEVE or how we BEHAVE?
     *What is the identifying CHARACTERISTIC of a CHRISTIAN?
     *How do you STAY a CHRISTIAN?

That should give us a little bit to talk about.  So, what do you think a CHRISTIAN is?

3/12/13

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

Personally, I like Daylight Savings Time.  But, every morning, I'm reminded that it's a misnomer.  When I get up it's dark.  After I've been up a while it's still dark.  That sun takes its pretty little time getting up.  This is, obviously, not Daylight Savings Time, but, rather, Daylight Postponement Time.  I know it's just a technicality, but I feel a need for accuracy.

This is either the idea of the government or a woman...possibly a woman in the government.  The government can grow its expenditures by 20% and cut out 3% of its spending and tell us it saved us money, all while the deficit continues to pile up.  A woman can find an item she may or may not need, on sale for $10 off, buy five of them and come home after spending $100 she didn't intend to spend and announce to you how proud she is that she was able to save you $50 dollars.

OK, so I've now successfully offended all government  workers and all women....my audience is being weeded out rather quickly.  That's OK ladies.  Your man will counter with the fact that he's only bought one thing for himself in the last 3 years.  The fact that it was a $50,000 truck is irrelevant!

(How do I get these places?)  Like the Daylight issue, we prefer to postpone rather than save.  We prefer to postpone rather than confront.  We prefer to postpone rather than recognize.  Postponement is preferred to finding real answers, grappling with the issues at hand and finding real solutions.  Tomorrow is our mantra.  Someday is our creed.  When I get around to it is our motto.

Like turning up our clocks and saying, "Look, we made more sunshine!", we have the tendency to assign the important, life-altering, relationship-changing issues to tomorrow.  Yet, when tomorrow gets here, it's today...and an excuse to postpone one more time the things that matter most.

Don't just get up in the dark and call it Daylight Savings.  Seize today.  Start.  Start what matters.  And leave the minutia of life to tomorrow.

3/11/13

MY NEW YELLOW TRUCK

It must be Spring.  Yes, I know it's barely March, but it's Spring.  How do I know?  My truck is yellow every morning.  I believe my sinuses are approximately the same color, although I can't prove it.  There may be a tree already have sprouted there.  I may be trimming the leaves growing from my nose soon. (But, as I am prone to do...I digress)

Spring brings a lot of challenges to those of us who are allergic to life.  But, it also means that everything is coming back to life, turning green and starting to bloom.  It also means that Easter can't be far behind.  Easter is THE DAY.  It's the DAY OF ALL DAYS.  It's Christmas & the Fourth of July &  President's Day & Thanksgiving all rolled into one....only BIGGER!  It's the RESURRECTION OF JESUS.

For a Christ-Follower, it's everything.  There's nothing bigger.  Nothing better.  Nothing in the same league.  The guy we trust with our lives and our sin and our future and our eternity....everything...all our hopes and dreams, walks out of a tomb and everything changed in a moment, forever.  

If nothing else, the Resurrection should make us bold.  A dead guy just came back to life.  Not just any dead guy...our dead guy.  That puts a little swagger in your step.  Don't misunderstand, I'm not talking about cockiness.  I'm talking about boldness.  Nothing should make you bolder to open your mouth and speak the truth about salvation, hope and forgiveness than the one you're putting your trust in walking out of a tomb.  That one simple fact turned a bunch of mealy-mouthed, defeated, cowards into a band of world-changers.  Why can't the same truth do the same to us?!  Be BOLD!  Give someone a reason for hope.  Tell them about Jesus!

3/8/13

IGNORANCE IS BLISS, BUT...

They say "Ignorance is bliss".  OK, I'm not sure who they are...but they say it, and some people believe it.  In some ways it's true.  As long as you are totally ignorant of a situation, how bad it is, how much you can do about it, what Jesus would do, and, therefore, what a true follower of His would do, etc....it's sooo much easier.  The SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL mode of living has its benefits.  Ignorance is definitely easier.  You get to concentrate on YOU, YOURS, MINE & OURS.  You're not bothered by all those problems of somebody else out there in the world.  You can tuck yourself away in Suburbia and your greatest causes of concern are big things like Property Taxes, whether your kid makes the football team or the dance squad and how your 401K is doing in these trying economic times.  Yep, it's tough, but we get through somehow.

Then, you go and blow it.  You venture out of the bubble...out of Suburbia...out of the First World...into the Third World.  And, you find there is a whole different world out there.  In the Third World there are none of your First World problems.  No one is comparing school districts...there's no public education system.  No one is looking at floor plans...one room is still one room no matter how many times you look at it.  They're not wondering what to cook for dinner....they're wondering if there will be dinner.  None of our First World problems even exist for these people.  They would love to have our problems.  Never in their life will they have to choose between the Ford or the Toyota.  But, they may have to choose whether to watch their child die or give it away.

Suddenly, where to go for dinner isn't as important as it was a week ago.  Ignorance was bliss.  But, now it's gone.  I've seen with my eyes.  I've felt with my hands.  Some of the unknown, unseen ice on my heart has started to thaw.  I can't undo what's been done.  I am RUINED.  It is not possible for me to do nothing.  I am the same, yet I am different.

We can't fix it...that is true.  But, we can do something.  We can make a difference.  I must.  We must.  We will.  

As the t-shirt I picked up says, I have a LOVE HAITI RELATIONSHIP.

3/7/13

HOW CAN WE NOT?

I've spent the last 3 days in the country of Haiti.  Adam Bateman, our Missions Pastor and I came here to "spy out the land" and see if this was a place we should engage in doing work for the Lord.  Our purpose in coming was simply to be the "eyes and ears of God", that He might give us, hopefully, a resounding "Yes" or "No" as to what we are to do.

What we've seen is unbelievable poverty, people who are going nowhere ("Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained"), and the needs are great.

So, what's the word from God?  We have been looking for a word like, This is where I have for you to work...This is what your assignment is in my Kingdom's service...Here is the village you are to serve...this is the task I have destined for you...or even, This is a great place of service, but it's not the place I have destined for you.

That would make things so simple, but God is often either not that simple, or more likely, more simple than we expect Him to be.  What have I heard from Him?  Not a this or that, here or a there.  It was more of a How can you not come?  How can you not help?  How can you not make a difference?  

RESULT OF MY TRIP:  I've been ruined.  I've been broken.  I can't not return.  I realize that's a double-negative, but it's a properly used double-negative.  Sometimes God just ruins us, he ruins our heart and ruined for eternity.  No matter where we go, there will be a part of our heart that is owned by this island.

Like Arnold....I'll be back!