"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him in the midst of loss, not prosperity." --John Piper

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

That can't be what that means...

I was listening to the sermon from Sunday. The preacher said that "doing the right things for the right reasons requires purity." He went on to connect Jesus telling the Rich Young Ruler that he must "follow the commandments" to Jesus calling us to be pure, and that Jesus was saying "if (we) want to be good, then (we must) live a life free of disobedience and sin."

Dang, I was really hoping for a shot at going to heaven, but I know that I am not pure.

But maybe Jesus telling him to follow the commandments was not a call to purity, but to show him his impurity. Jesus had previously stated that "No one is good except God alone." And this man was no exception. But the man thought he was.

He responded to Jesus by saying that he had kept all these commandments since his youth. But he also knew that this was not enough. In Luke's version of this encounter, the man wants to know what he still lacks.

Jesus then tells him to sell all he has and follow him. Wow. So what is Jesus saying here? Is he replacing the legalism of the OT law with monastic poverty? Or is he saying take all that you depended on in the past, your purity, your wealth, your ways of thinking of these things, and throw them out and put yourself in my care. Follow me. Love me. See the Father through me. I am the way, truth and life.

I think that would be how Paul would interpret this encounter.

Philippians 3:7-9

7But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Okay, I feel better now.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Radical...or minimal???

Last Monday our church had its monthly men's meeting. They were going over Chapters 6-9 of the book "Radical" by David Platt.

Overall, they did a decent job of discussing the book. I wonder if they understood that David in a Calvinist, and that they spend most of their time tearing down the very theology that they were heartily embracing this night. It reminds me of Fiber One commercial where the dad puts his hands over the F-I in Fiber and tells his son it's a new cereal, Number One, to get him to eat it.

Needless to say, I was enjoying hte evening. Until the end. That was when the preacher spoke up. He had to say something, he had to grab some glory for himself. Seeing that things had gone well, he stated that this was why he had chosen this book, because of its challenging message. Yet this is the same preacher who 4 months earlier had admitted to me that he had not yet read the book, but merely "perused"it. (The book was chosen well prior to this time, as the reading list was given last year.) But that was not bad enough. He went on to talk about the challenge that Platt issued at the end of the book. And he issued his own challenge. "If you don't do anything else, if you don't accept all of David Platt's challenge, at least pray about it." Now I have nothing against prayer, in fact, I am all for it. It just that James 1:22 and 2:14-17 are ringing loudly in my ears.

Way to water it down, brother! Drown that seed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Purposefulness...which rock are we building on?

For some reason, this is what's on my mind today...

A few months ago, I went to one of our church's small group meetings. It was stated at the outset that the purpose of this meeting was fellowship. (This seems to be the purpose of most of what our church does.) It was stated that even if we did not get to a bit of discussion of the Bible, or prayer, or anything else, if all we did was get together and fellowship, that was okay, because that is the primary purpose of our small groups.

So I wonder...

Did the early church ever meet just for fellowship? Peter is in prison, Paul is at sea, Jesus died for your sins, persecution is rampant. Let's have a cookout!

I think it is good to have purposefulness, but it must be the right purpose! Fellowship is a great thing, but our church was not built on the rock of fellowship!

I feel a volcano brewing. It is just a matter of time until it spews. I think this blog is a sort of pressure release that has kept it from blowing already. When and where it will happen I do not know. But when it does, I will blog about it here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

From the backyard

We are hosting a bar-b-que on Friday, and I was doing some cleaning up in the backyard. I really didn't intend to spend much time on it. First, I hosed off the patio and then saw some of the chairs looked awful. So I started powerwashing the chairs. They looked nice, but then I saw that in the process, there were some "clean" spots on the patio. Now I would have to powerwash the patio. While I was at it, the picnic table looked a little green, so it would have to be done too. But now the privacy fence looks dingy next to the clean picnic table, so now the fence needs powerwashed. Which means that the decking is gonna need done too, or it won't look right. So a 20 minute job turns into a 3 hour job.

So why am I writing about this? Because it reminds me of my spiritual life. Just when I think I have everything almost in place, getting those last few things in place reveals that there is more to be done. I finally feel like I have forgiven someone for wronging me, and I see hidden behind those feelings other things that need work too. A small project turns into a larger one.

Living the Christian life is a never ending task. Thankfully, it is not one that needs to be accomplished in one moment, one day, or even a year. It is a journey and a process. Left alone, my backyard will revert to its former self. Dirty, messy, etc. But even while that is true, I cannot spend my all of my time on my backyard, because I have a front yard, family, job, etc. It is a balancing act, a matter of choices. Just like my relationship with God. I cannot spend all of my time on any one portion of it. Prayer, worship, service, etc. need to flow and each part needs attention. But right now, it is my bed that calls me to it. Rest is also a needed part of life, I hope you are getting your share of it too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do I have to?

3And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (I John 2:3)

There is a constant struggle between legalism and grace. So what is John saying here? Are we bound to keep the commands of Christ? Is it a part of our salvation to do so? And the answer is apparently, YES!

But before someone yells, "legalist!" at me, that is not my answer, it is John's. So here are some thoughts about this verse that might clarify things a bit.
  • John is not talking about keeping his commandments as a means of salvation. He does not say that if we keep his commandments we are saved.
  • He does state that this is evidence of our salvation. That if we want to know if someone knows Jesus, we should look at them and be able to see a difference.
  • Verse 6 states, "whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked."
Salvation is not a matter of works, it is a matter of faith. And by that faith, we pursue the object of that faith, God as revealed by His Son. We cannot pursue that by works of righteousness.

My son is at the age where he is a constant shadow to me. If I am going somewhere, he wants to know where and if he can go along. If I am doing something, he wants to help. Not because I ask him too, but because he wants to. In a sense he is pursuing me, and in some ways he will become like me. He would not become like me by merely doing what he was told. He would not become like me by cleaning his room and mowing the yard. To become like me he must spend time with me. Watch me. Talk with me.

I don't become Christlike by merely attending church, giving, serving. These are good things, but take out the love for God (see 1 Cor 13!) and it all means nothing.

God, help me to love you today. Help me to pursue You, to spend time with You, to see You. What more is needed?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

True Story ('cause I can't make this stuff up)

After yesterday's post, I checked the mail. We got a post-card from our church because they have missed us in worship service. Let me share the text with you...

"Just a note to let you know that you were missed in our worship service this past Sunday. You are a loved and valued member of our church family, and we look forward to seeing you next week. If your absence was due to a problem we can help you with or pray about, please let us know. Also, if you have been ill and would like communion brought to your home, please call the church (555-5555) prior to Sunday so we can notify the deacon.

God Bless,

Your Church Family"

God has a wicked sense of humor. In case you have not read here before, we struggle with the church we attend. The speaker (I hesitate to use the word preacher) tells stories and jokes, and sprinkles in a few verses now and then, often out of context. I have expressed my concerns to him very gently, only to be told that if we do not like his preaching, perhaps we should find another church. We have communicated our concerns to him and 2 elders, and have let them know that for now we are attending Sunday School and until we know what God wants us to do, we are refraining from attending worship services. I have expressed my desire to discuss the situation, but they have no interest in doing so.

So I thought I would take the time to rewrite their letter, adding a few comments along the way, that perhaps better expresses their actions.

"Just an impersonal, form letter note to let you know that you were missed in our worship service this past Sunday and this really kinda ticks us off. You are a loved and valued member of our church family, and we look forward to seeing you next week provided you don't make any waves. If you do, you can become a loved and valued member one of our neighboring churches. If your absence was due to a problem we can help you with or pray about, please let us know. If you do not have a good excuse for not being here, please be motivated by the intended guilt of this card. Also, if you have been ill and would like communion brought to your home, please call the church (555-5555) prior to Sunday so we can notify the deacon. That way we can better keep tabs on you.

God Bless Us and All Who Agree With Us,

Your Extremely Dysfunctional Church Family"

Legal Disclaimer: This card is all that God requires of us as a follow-up to those who miss worship services and releases us from all obligation. No legal or moral rights are granted or implied to the recipient of this card because those who forsake assembling together are in danger of heathenism and the fires of hell.

Have a nice day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

About church growth...

1 John 1:1-4

 1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

They (John and whoever else "we" refers to in verse 1, probably leaders of the church) had seen Jesus with their own eyes. They had witnessed more than just the miracles, they had seen them in context. They had heard Him speak of the Father and proclaim the gospel. So now what did they want? They wanted to share that with others, they wanted others to be a part of this great fellowship. But not to fellowship with them, but to fellowship with God.

Church growth is a great thing, provided it is growing into fellowship with God and Christ. Just having a large or a small gathering without it being completely centered on God is irrelevant. As Matt Chandler says about church, it is a lame hobby.

But there is something else in these verses. At the end, he states a motivation for proclamation, "so that our joy may be complete." They found joy in sharing God with others. Failure to find joy in serving God is a problem. And failure to serve God gives us a joy that is incomplete. So, God is not in need of our begrudging submission. I don't think He even wants it. He wants our hearts to be turned to Him. He wants us to find our joy completely in Him regardless of circumstance. He wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. So it naturally follows, that if we do love Him in such a way, that our joy will not be complete unless we serve Him wholeheartedly.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Journey (Part 23) This Resume Stinks (Part 2)

Out of the blue we found out about a youth ministry position open in Indiana. We applied and I got the job. That was where the real roller-coaster begins. 4 years there. 2 Senior Minsters, and then my wife decides to file for divorce. That was when I went through driver training school and learned to drive an 18-wheeler. To pay for the school, I had to make a 6-month commitment to drive for an over-the-road company.

As soon as my commitment was up, I found a job with a company in Indiana that I could be home on a more regular basis. I spent 5 years there, starting as a driver, moving up to a supervisor, and eventually running the transportation department for the last 2 years. A change of GM's brought about a change in jobs for me. I found a job down the road at an asphalt materials company. What a great job that was. No stress, just had to weigh and dispatch trucks for an early morning shift. Problem was, by the end of the year, the company I subcontracted for lost the contract. They offered me a job behind the wheel of a truck, but I felt I could do better. So I took a job working for Next Day Freight driving as a casual driver while I relaxed a bit, took some time off when I wanted, and looked for a permanent position.

I found that job through a friend at church. But it was not what I thought it was. The guy who hired me, and we became good friends, wanted me to take over his job while he worked sales to build up a larger client base. I ended up doing more of the sales, which involved making a lot of cold-calls, which is something I despise. I hung on for a while, but it just was not my cup of tea.

From there I went to Alliant Food Service, doing daily routes. Not a bad job, and I had done this type of work before. However, about 6 months into the job, I started to develop tendonitis. I spent some time in therapy, but when I started working again it came right back. It was then that my wife suggested that I go back to school to get my teaching certificate. I ended up going to Ball State and getting a Master's in Elementary Education. It was actually cheaper and shorter to do that than to add elementary education to my current degree.

After graduation I took a job teaching in our local system. This marks the end of 9 years in education. I wish I could say I will end up retiring from here, but there are 2 problems with that idea. One being the current economy and educational climate. Indiana is tough on public education. There is a lot of job uncertainty in this field right now. And the second is, you never know what God has in store. I really would love to preach and teach again in a church, and I have discussed this with God. But His current answer seems to be to stay and wait. In either case, I understand where my mission field is, and I love going out there.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Long Journey (Part 22) This Resume Stinks!

One of the things I have not mentioned a lot is my work history. I guess that is because I don't believe that I am defined by my job. Or maybe it is because my work history is such a bizarre carreer path. Let's take a quick journey...

First real job was working at a bank. I was 17 and had my drivers license. They needed someone to take some information each night to another location, so they paid me to come in and vaccuum a bit and take the paperwork a few miles down the road. A sweet gig for a kid with a license!

Next was Burger King. Is there anyone who has not spent some time in fast food in onr form or another?

Graduating from High School, I worked for an engineering company doing soils and concrete tests. While that sounds impressive, I did some simple science experiments for minimum wage and reported the results.

After a summer of that, I took a job as an apprentice mechanic where my did work. That was the best thing I ever did. I got to know my dad in a way I would have never known him. I also got to see what he had to put up with to provide for his family. He truly was an amazing man. But after a year of that, I decided to go to college. Partly because my being there made Dad's life more difficult. Although I know he never would have had me leave over that. But I was young and had so much life ahead of me.

I attended a small Christian College, where I did work study, helping the school's electrician, and had a weekend ministry for a part of that time.

Upon graduation I found a youth ministry where I spent a year before being asked to leave because they wanted to start fresh (they had been through 2 ministers in that time period). Upon leaving there, I sold vaccuum cleaners for a short time, and also worked as a salesman in a mobile home lot. I was offered the managerial position for a new lot they had just begun, but I chose to go to work for Pepsi when a friend told me he could get me a job there.

At Pepsi, I loaded trucks, worked as the day-checker (checking product out to drivers, doing inventory, etc., and drove a delivery truck. Then came the phone call...

Yeah, I am gonna continue this in another post!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Long Journey (Part 21) Small Group Heaven

Life never seems to slow down for long...at least not my life.

I was attending the singles group which met on Sunday nights, and then began attending Sunday morning as well. It was a large church, so connecting there was not really happening. However, I was connecting through the smaller singles group. I started attending a small group that met not to far from my home. It was kind of a strange situation at first. Apparently, there were 2 small groups that had combined for a study. The people from the small group that actually met in this home thought I was coming from the other group, so when I showed up after the study was over, they were puzzled at first, but soon we all figured out what was going on. I continued to meet with this small group for a while, but then the 2 girls who were leading the group decided it should be disbanded. Several of the group wanted to stay together. I was asked if I would be willing to lead, and I said I would if they would wait for me to go through the approval process. I did, and soon after we began meeting in one of the homes not far from the original group.

I love small groups if they are done right. Not micro-managed by the church so that they can form their own personality, and not just a place for fellowship, but an honest study of the word and connecting with people. A place where you are encouraged and sometimes tested as well. We had a good core of people and a good group as well.

I spent about 2 years in that singles group. It changed my life. I am thankful that I found them. But life never stands still for long, does it?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Long Journey (Part 20) Slowing Down

So I was keeping myself busy. I think I learned an important lesson through that relationship, actually several, but one that stands out to me is that I can't fix things very well. I thought that by getting married again I could get my son the mother he deserved and just pick up where I had left off in pursuit of the American Dream. Oops!

So now I was not in a hurry to fix things, other than myself. I got involved in a church. It happened because I went to hear Tommy Oakes speak. There were several people from a singles group at that meeting, and one of them invited me to attend a meeting. I was very reluctant, but after a few weeks I went. It was amazing. I expected it to be a big "meet market," but it was anything but. Not that there probably weren't people there for that reason, but there was a lot of meat to what was going on. Over 200 people were there, lots of opportunities to get involved in ministries, study groups, etc. It would be through this group that I would make many friendships and grow as a Christian.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Long Journey (Part 19) Can someone answer the phone?

So I was getting divorced. I was trying to get things in place, find a permanent (?) place to live, and figure out what was next. I stayed with a friend a few weeks while I looked for an apartment close to work. I saw my son as often as I could. I had not had any contact with my wife. Through the lawyers I was told when I could go to the house and pick-up the rest of my stuff. I did, no one else was home.

She seemed eager to cooperate, as long as it was through the lawyers, and as long as I did not pursue any of her retirement money or equity in the house. I was fine with that, because I believed it was the right thing to do. About a couple of months after we separated, I got a call from the phone company. They said if I did not pay my bill, they would shut off my service. I explained the situation. They stated that since my name was still on the bill, I was responsible. I asked what my options were. They said pay the bill (about $200) and continue service or it would be cut off. I told them I would get back with them after I talked to her.

When I tried to call, service had been cut off. I tried again a few days later, and it was back on, so she must have paid the bill. When she answered, she was friendly at first, but when I asked about the phone bill, she just hung up. So I called the phone company back to get my name off the bill. They told me that if I did, they would have to cut off service again, and any reinstatement would require a deposit equal to the amount that was overdue in addition to new service fees. Yikes! But since she would not talk to me, I felt I had no choice. I cancelled the service that was in my name.

It is a sad thing when people cannot communicate, for any reason. It is even sadder when it is because emotions get charged up and we cannot be reasonable.

I think we tend to do this to God a lot. Things go south, maybe because of something that we did to distance ourselves from Him, or maybe just because of some difficult circumstances we encounter. Sometimes it is a slow drift, sometimes a sudden shift. But it is always our decision to cut communication. God never stops listening. Even when we don't pay the bill.