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9/19/14

WHAT YOU GOT FOR ME?

"As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Sometimes people followed Jesus just to see what he could do for him.  Interestingly enough, Jesus never condemned them or rebuked them or told him their motives were wrong.  In this case, he healed the blind men.  In essence, he was saying, "I'm glad you realized I have the power and capacity to heal blind eyes.  You must have been listening to me and following me for a while.  Now, you actually BELIEVE enough to approach me and ask me to restore your eyesight.  Good for you...I'll do it!"  

You may be following Jesus to see what value he can add to your life.  And Jesus says, "Come on.  I can add unbelievable value to your life.  If you're looking for a BMW, I'm not your guy.  But, if you're looking for a better life...come along".  

Looking for something....someone who can add value to your life?  Jesus is the guy.  Follow him.  Even if you're just curious.  Even if you don't believe him.  He invites you to come along anyway.  

FOLLOW HIM.

9/18/14

FOLLOW THIS...

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."    Matthew 5:21-24

     I'm sure Jesus had their attention when he spoke about the Law.  Especially that part about murder.  No murderers here!  We're good.
     Then Jesus threw them a curve.  "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment."  Wait a minute...if I'm just angry with my brother or sister, I'm guilty of murder?  According to Jesus...pretty much.  Well, he didn't exactly say you're guilty of murder.  But, he did say you're just as guilty as if you'd committed murder.  Jesus took the standard, the expectation up a notch.
     What Jesus was saying he was, God's goal is not that you just don't kill someone....it's that you actually love them.  That's the goal.  Not just the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive.  Not that you can check off what you didn't do, but what you actually did do.  
     Loving someone is a LOT DIFFERENT from just not killing them.  Jesus is saying that following him is more about doing than not doing.  It's more about relationship than simple moral laws.  
    You can't follow Jesus in a vacuum.  Jesus was a lover and a healer and valued people.  To follow him means we must as well.

9/16/14

THE GOD WHO WANTS YOU

Jesus referred to us as "children of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:45),  "sheep and a shepherd" (John 10:14), and "a vine and its branches" (John 15:5).  In other words, it's all about relationship.  It's all about intimacy.  It's all about coming close.  

Jesus came to reveal God to man.  The religious of his day thought they knew God and His heart.  He was distant and was simply about rules and reward.  Follow His rules, he throws you a bone.  Fail to keep the rules and He'll slap you down hard, at best, or disown you completely, at worst.  

Jesus exploded the myth and broke the mold that God refused to fit into.  God wanted to be a father that was closer than our earthly fathers ever were capable of being.  He wanted to be a shepherd to protect, guide and feed us, His sheep.  He wanted to be the vine out of which we grew, gained our life and sustenance and were able to live a truly fruitful life.  

God wants to come close.  He wants a relationship.  Whatever you thought of God, Jesus came to reveal who God really is...not some concept we drew up in our minds, or some caricature that was foisted upon us.  

Follow him.  Observe him.  Watch him.  Listen to him.  Check him out.  He invites you to.

9/14/14

FOLLOWING

"As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him" Matthew 20:29

There's "following" and then there's "following".  If, when you refer to "following", you mean drawing a crowd, a group of interested onlookers, then Jesus was both extremely successful and unbelievably disinterested.  He could draw a crowd at the drop of a hat.  Perform a miracle.  Heal a blind man.  Feed 5,000 with a box lunch.  The list goes on and on.  Instant crowd.  An instant following.

Yet, as soon as the crowds gathered Jesus would say something that would turn them away as fast as they got there.  You and I would probably relish the crowds and strategize how to get past the next growth barrier.  But, not Jesus.  He wasn't looking for a crowd....for followers.  He was looking for people who would actually follow him.

So, the question that faces each of us at the beginning of this journey is, "Am I a part of the crowd, or am I actually following?"  Put another way, "Am I a FAN or a FOLLOWER?"

9/4/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT?, Part 8

Q:  Why don't we have Sunday School?

For years (and years and years) churches everywhere have had Sunday School.  If you grew up in church, you need no further explanation.  For those of you who didn't grow up in church, some explanation may be necessary.  Sunday School is simply age-graded bible study/discipleship programming that usually takes place right before or right after the Sunday morning worship experience.

When I grew up, it was unheard of for churches to have more than one Sunday morning worship service, so it was, basically, 9:30 Sunday School & 11:00 Worship Service.  It was just assumed that's the way Jesus did it, so if it was good enough for him, it should be good enough for us too!

So...why don't we do it that way?  Let me give you several reasons:

1.  We have chosen not to spend millions of dollars on adult educational space to be used only one hour a week.  That doesn't mean that any church that chooses to do that is wrong, wasteful, less wonderful than we are...it's just a stewardship choice we've made.  We'd prefer to spend those millions elsewhere...like on Children's facilities, Student facilities, ministry, missions, etc.

2.  Rather than having a discipleship ministry that's only available one time a week, we've adopted a strategy that uses homes and is only limited to the days and times that people are willing to open their homes.

3.  Rather than building space that is limited to the square footage of the building built, we use homes, so that as we grow, the space we use will be limitless, as new families are added and new homes open up to group life.

4.  Although we don't do it on Sunday mornings (actually, if someone wants to have a group meeting on Sunday morning, I guess we could), it in no way means we place less of a priority on meeting in small groups for spiritual growth.  In fact, by making it more available, we believe we place an even higher priority on it.

5.  We believe that rather than having an hour on Sunday morning (which usually turns into about 30-45 minutes of real content), we would prefer to have a longer time (90 minutes, which often turns into 2 hours) for discipleship, bible study, meaningful relationship building, accountability, care, etc. which we believe is preferable and more life-transforming.

9/3/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT?, Part 7

Q:  Why don't we pass the offering plate?

A few years back a survey was done that asked people who did not attend church why they didn't attend.  Here were their top answers:

1.  All they want is my money
2.  It's irrelevant
3.  I don't trust the childcare
4.  It's boring

Guess what?  For the most part, they were right.  During the time this survey was taken, we were at the height of the televangelist craze, where far too many greedy charlatans were painting the church in the worst way possible.

At Crosspoint, we've tried to address every one of those indictments of the church and build bridges rather than walls.

As to the charge that the church is irrelevant, the truth is we can be and often are.  If you're lost, you're probably not sitting around wondering what that Greek word means or who Lazarus' sister was.  However, you do want to know how to be a better parent, have a better marriage, get your finances in order and live life with less stress and more joy.  We try not to answer questions that no one is asking, but instead, show that God's Word is the most practical how-to book ever written for how to live a real life and have real relationships.

Regarding childcare, we have the most exciting areas of our church for kids, do background checks on anyone who works with kids, have high security in every area where children are, and have invested in the best check-in/check-out systems we can find to assure the safety of every child.

As to boring, well, we're a lot of things, but boring just isn't one of them.  Everything we do comes with a question: "Will this engage people and keep them engaged?"  If not, we're just wasting our time.  For those of you that grew up in church, you may not see the need for the lengths we go to to produce our services, but you have to remember that we're attempting to reach people who see life in 30 minute segments with commercials every seven minutes.  Attention spans are at an all-time low.

Now, the bucket issue...If unchurched people already think all the church wants is my money and 10 minutes into the service we tell them it's time to take up the offering and stick a bucket in their face, while the person on their left and right watch to see what they do with it, what do you think they're thinking?  "See, I told you all they wanted was my money.  Point proved."  They are now tuned out to anything else that will be said that day.  They came with a preconceived notion and we proved them right.  To you a bucket may say, "Give if you like", but to that person it says, "We're watching to see if you give...and give a lot."

We make it really clear how people can give, but tell our guests right up front that we DO NOT EXPECT THEM TO GIVE ANYTHING.  Just enjoy yourselves.  This is our gift to you.  WOW!  Preconception smashed.  "They don't just want my money.  In fact, they went as far as to tell me NOT to give.  I wasn't expecting that.  I think I'll listen to the rest of what this weird church does".

And that's why we don't pass the plate.

9/2/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT, Part 6

Q:  Why do we ask people to make videos before their baptism?

Another good question.  Most people hate to make videos.  Many years ago a study was done of the greatest fear people face.  #1 Fear: Dying.  Years later, the same study was done, but this time the answer was surprising.  #1 Fear: Speaking in public  Times have changed and fears have changed.  So, the natural question arises, "Why would we make people do the thing they fear the most when they come to Christ and want to be obedient to him in baptism?  Are we just trying to make it as hard as possible on them?  Doesn't that seem to be a little contrary to our purpose?"

So, why do we make people do what they most don't want to do just to get baptized?  I'll try to explain:
1.  First, we don't just sit them in a chair, put the brightest lights possible in their face and say, "OK, roll 'em.  Be good!"  A pastor always sits in with them, asks them questions and they answer him.  If they don't like the answer, they can do it again as many times as they like.  It's just a conversation, you just never see the other person in the conversation.
2.  Everyone has a story of how they came to Christ and this is the very best time to hear it.  Otherwise, it may never be heard.
3.  Every person's story resonates with someone sitting in that auditorium.  That video, ...that story...is the most important thing someone will hear that day.  Far more powerful than any message that I could ever preach.  That person's story relates to someone I never could.
4.  When you make a baptism video you should do so with the express understanding that someone will come to Christ because you were willing to tell your story.  Someone will listen to you and say, "They just read my mail.  They just told my life story.  If God can save them, He can save me.  I want  what they have."

Kind of puts it in a whole new perspective, doesn't it.  I....yes, even I, hate being in front of a camera. Those little 30 second spots I sometimes make usually make me more nervous than 50 messages.  I usually use up about 10 takes just to get it right.  So, I understand why people hate them.  I just hope people love to see people come to Jesus more than they hate making a video.  You'll probably never hear what your video accomplished.  You'll just have to trust me...it did.