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There is so much I want to tell you, and hear from you, but…
I don’t know if I will drive you away, make you mad, make you sad, or be misunderstood. There are those who would tell me that my feelings don’t matter, and that the truth must be told, whatever the cost. Yeah, I understand that…tell that to my heart.
I am telling the truth right now. I worry about you…I wonder about you…I pray for you…I ache for you. Yeah, I do.
There are a thousand million “truths” out there in the world, and I very humbly but very firmly believe I have found “the” truth. I believe in Jesus.
I know that you say you do too, but I wonder if you really do. Who am I to judge, you ask. You can consider me a busy body, a self righteous snob, or a loving friend…that’s up to you. No, I don’t know your heart, but Jesus said that “from the treasures of the heart, the mouth speaks”, and I hear you saying and see you doing things that cause me concern. (Matthew 12:34)
OK…here I go…
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I think that that is a funny, slightly clever saying. I have been “that” pastor more than a few times.
It’s a weird feeling. I walk into a gathering, such as a reception after a funeral, or something. People are “doing their thing”, and when I walk in I hear things like, “Oh, excuse my language pastor, or, I know I shouldn’t smoke, or….they look at me and look away sheepishly, imagining that I think they are horrible or something.
I always feel weird. I am “there” artificially. I am not part of their world, except when someone dies, or gets married, or some other “un”usual reason. I’m glad to be there, but it is awkward to be the one who changes things simply by being there. I know that as a Christian, I am to be salt and light, etc., but sometimes I feel like a parole officer in a drug house.
Sometimes I respond verbally. Something like, “Hey, it doesn’t bother me if you smoke”, or, I just smile back sheepishly. It’s weird for me. I’m trying to be invisible, but I’m pretty sure I’m not.
I am not a choir boy. I actually had a very different life before I was a Christian. I’m not shocked at a lot of stuff. I don’t cover my mouth and gasp at the sight of such things. I know…it’s hard to believe.
I appreciate the respect and deference that people show me because I’m a pastor. That’s a cool thing. I might try to dodge their smoke, not get any alcohol on me, and sit down and hang out with them, and get to know them. It rarely happens that way, in those kinds of gatherings, but it’s all good. Sometimes I get to connect with people, but often times, folks don’t wanna be seen with the likes of me. ;-)
If I could say a few things to them (and sometimes I do), it would be something like this:
“Thanks for saying that. I appreciate that. It doesn’t bother me. Actually, I’m not the one you need to worry about. I’m not your judge, God is. He loves you, and he is the one you need to think about, not me, but thanks”.
Somehow, many people have gotten the idea that drinking and smoking are deal breakers with God. I recently told one guy to not quit drinking or smoking unless Jesus inspired him to. Just come to church, listen, and be open, and then make up your own mind.
Gosh, I know a lot of Christians, including pastors, that were drinking and smoking and doing other stuff when they came to Jesus. It seems like some of us have forgotten that.
Anyway, to all my future acquaintances: don’t worry about me. If I don’t like what you’re doing, I’ll leave the room. But honestly, Jesus is the One you need to think about.
Cheers! Where’s the Martinelli’s? ;-)
With the advent of the internet, blogging, and social networking, much of humanity now has the ability to share their thoughts and feelings almost instantly. That is not news to most of us.
On a humorous and slightly sarcastic note, someone wrote, “Just because you have an internet connection doesn’t mean that you have anything important to say”. I suppose “important” is in the mind of the writer, and not always the reader. I’ll leave that statement alone.
I find myself in a season of life where the words are not coming easily or clearly. There are different kinds of concerns on different fronts. There is instability from the human perspective. I am wondering about the future of certain people and not sure what to think or say.
I am purposely not going into details to try to explain things, because sometimes the words just don’t come. I am learning not to be bothered by that. If you know me, you may know some of what I am talking about, but I am not really looking for people to understand me. Please don’t feel that you need to respond.
It is a strange sensation for us humans to feel things very deeply, but not be able to clearly understand those feelings, or be able to communicate them. If we are fortunate enough to gain some clarity of thought, we then have the challenge of trying to express clearly what we are thinking, and then having the right person to share those thoughts with.
When we are struggling with the issues of life, though there can be people that are sympathetic, some dear people actually make life a bit harder for us. They try too hard to fix things. They give off the cuff advice without thinking. They offer up a quick “prayer of faith” that is more confusing than healing. We can appreciate such intentions, but sometimes we find that we avoid such help.
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Filed under: Blogs
, Fellowship With God
, God's Love
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Promises Of God
, Self Awareness
, Spiritual Joy
Some thoughts for fellow followers of Jesus…
The ten second sound bite version of what I am writing is this: If you blew it, and have a mess on your hands, let God fix it. You thought you could be in control and do things your own way, and now you have a mess. In your flesh, you made a mess. What makes you think that in your flesh, you can fix it? Better to walk in the Spirit like you should have to begin with. Walk in the Spirit, and let God fix it.
The longer version of the same story line is as follows…
Sin is a nasty thing. It promises much, and delivers little. The consequences are always bigger than the gratification. It never seems as bad as it really is…until later.
We get used to sinning. We minimize it. We get de-sensitized to it. We agree in our heads that something is wrong, but we do it anyway, intending to stop.
There are sins of commission: we do things that we know are wrong.
There are sins of omission: we don’t do things we know that we should.
The sin in a Christian’s life can run the gamut of not reading your Bible (dumb…you need God’s Word, heart, and direction) to something much more obvious, like substance abuse or sexual immorality. We can be committing little sins, like being disagreeable, or we can be committing bigger sins, such as being violent and a striker. A sin of omission might be that you don’t think that church attendance is important, and eventually find yourself isolated, alone, unchallenged, un-encouraged, etc. There are numerous examples of sins of commission and omission.
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Filed under: Christianity
, Decision Making
, Dying To Self
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Self Awareness
, Spirit Filled Life
, Spiritual Blindness
, Spiritual Growth
Pastors and church leaders make many valid efforts to promote church unity. In any city, there is the church universal. Each of our particular churches is a sub culture of the City Church, and then within each church, there are sub-sub cultures, such as youth groups, 50’s plus groups, college groups, etc.
We are conscious to understand each sub-sub culture, to speak on their terms, and be sensitive to their world. We seek to promote activities that appeal to those sub-sub cultures, and to bring age appropriate blessings to them.
These efforts are good efforts, in that they reach into people’s worlds. We meet them where they are at. We become “all things to all men that we might save (and bless) some”.
Human nature is such that we love our peer groups. Birds of a feather flock together. We all have that tendency. Like attracts like. Little or no effort is needed to mingle with people like ourselves. It is an unconscious human response to seek out peers that understand us, accept us, and approve of us. And so, sub-sub cultures exist within our church.
While recognizing and ministering to sub-sub cultures in our church has its benefits, it can also create problems regarding church unity. The blessing of attending church can revolve around easily fitting into our sub-sub culture peer group. There is almost if not actual immediate gratification in peer groups. Social and cultural mores are understood, and have been previously navigated. People enter into sub-sub cultures, and though the balance of things changes at times, lesser adjustments can be quickly made.
Most people that I know have little time to expand their circle of friends, much less try to break into a different sub-sub culture. The thought of learning another social language, another culture, etc., is not only not natural, but troublesome and too challenging for most people.
Yet this is what must happen if our churches are going to continue past one generation, and if they are going to be trans-generational. Younger people need to learn from older people, and older people need to realize their responsibility to raise up the next generation.
The Apostle Paul teaches that in Christ, we are created as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). There is a new culture called “Christian”. There is a new man called “Christian”. There is a new peer group called “Christian”.
If a man or woman or teen can see that the greatest oneness they have is not the cultural “sameness” of this present fleeting moment, but the eternal oneness of being one in Jesus, then suddenly that person’s “peer group” is no longer a sub-sub culture, but has grown to include the entire Body of Christ.
If a person can capture the idea that they have settled for the ease of living in a sub-sub culture peer group, but have missed the greater blessing of knowing the entire church, they just might be motivated enough to push past present cultural trends, and actually try to understand another Christian from a different sub-sub culture.
We all understand that the best evangelist for a teen is another teen. Kids come to church because their friends convince them to. Like attracts like.
I submit that if a pastor can convince a few teens that their peer group is the entire church, and not just the youth group, that those kids will begin to reach out to older people in the church. They will convince their friends to go with them as they do it. The same is true for every sub-sub culture peer group. All you need is one or two people from a sub-sub culture to break out and be convinced that their true peer group is actually the entire church.
Therefore, whereas understanding and reaching into sub-sub groups can be effective, and ought to be done, I suggest that we never sacrifice the unity of trans-generational fellowship for the sake of reaching out to a slice of society. Both are needed. We may reach people by focusing on a sub-sub culture, but we need to help them mature into seeing the entire Body of Christ as their peer group. Trans-generational love and nurturing must occur. Kids need to know that the old people want them, not that they simply hire a youth leader to reach them. Old people need to know that young people genuinely respect them for their accomplishments, and are willing to sit and listen to them.
Cultural awareness is important, but love always finds a way to navigate through cultural waters, and reach a kid, a single mom, or an elderly person. Cultural relevance is a tool of understanding, but love is the heart of the matter. Oneness in Christ is the banner that every Christian needs to ultimately see as the glue that not only builds the church, but holds it together, and pushes it forward into the future.
“As long as nobody gets hurt” presumes that those mutually participating in something know the entire future of their own or another’s life.
How can we possibly know the future, and jeopardize it for the moment? We can’t possibly be sure that current actions won’t bring future hurt. Better to trust God than your own logic, IMO.
Mark 14:3-9 3And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.
6But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
Many who love Jesus give of themselves to Him.
They give time, money, talents, material possessions.
They forsake personal gain, high paying careers, and upward mobility.
Some would say that they give too much.
Parents may encourage their child to go to college and prepare for a good career, rather than go to Bible college and prepare for a life of godly service.
They would never tell their child to not be a Christian; they would just tell them to have a “balanced” life, and be sure to have a good career first. They may suggest that their child not get too fanatical about their Christian faith. They would emphasize that it’s a tough world out there, so their child needs to “look out for #1″.
There are many other examples of how people that give their lives to Jesus are warned or corrected by others who are around Jesus. The disciples were with Jesus all the time, had seen the miracles, and heard Him teach, but they thought that what this was did was “a waste”. They justified their opinion by saying that some good social act could have been done instead. Helping the poor is important, but it wasn’t more important at that moment.
They made the mistake that so many Christians make: they miss the best and suggest the good. They are committed, but not too committed. They worship and serve, to a point. They give, but are careful to not go beyond what is reasonable. They try to be “reasonable” in their Christian life, and are careful to maintain a “balance”.
I never read about keeping a balance. I read about being led by the Holy Spirit.
Like the woman who poured out the costly ointment, some Christians pour out their lives to God.
Like the woman, they are told that what they have done is extravagant and extreme.
Jesus had a different opinion, and defended her.
Be careful about how you judge such things.
My friend Roby Duke (now with Jesus) once said this to a group of song writers: “Your inspiration is perfect, but your songwriting needs work”.
We can be wonderfully inspired to express ourselves, but not quite have the ability, time, or energy to rightly say what we are trying to say. Perhaps the inspiration is fighting against good common sense that would tell us to slow down and think it through. Now is such a moment for me. The inspiration is perfect. I am rushing ahead. I hope this comes out O.K.
QUESTION: “It is easy to live vicariously through others, but is that really living?”
Let’s start with one of many definitions for the word “vicarious”.
“Felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others”: a vicarious thrill.
There is a place for such experience in moderation, but our world is making it increasingly easy for people to feel emotions that don’t have any corresponding personal experience.
We can dial up, Google, Net Flix, read, browse, or Pay Per View our way to any emotion we want, without ever having to actually “do” something that requires dedication, effort, commitment, or faith.
If there was ever a generation that could become addicted to “feeling without doing”, that generation is now.
One might ask what the danger or problem is with living vicariously through the great accomplishments of others. Some of that might be O.K., in that it might inspire us to aspire to do great things. Plus, it certainly feels good to feel good. So what’s the problem?
The problem is this: That kind of living, if it becomes the habitual lifestyle of a person, does nothing to produce in them the quality traits needed to actually enjoy those emotions from first hand accomplishment.
I understand that some of the things that “thrill” us are only for a few to actually experience. We can’t all go out and win gold medals, climb Mt. Everest, or do world tours singing about changing the world.
But I wonder, if vicarious living comes to satisfy us to the point that we don’t pursue what we COULD BE DOING, then has it gone too far? I say “yes”: then it has gone to far.
So….what is it that you are actually supposed to be doing?
I submit to you that actually desiring, struggling, sacrificing, and dedicating one’s self on a personal level is far more important than taking the vicarious route of simply feeling the goose bumps from someone else’s accomplishment. The satisfaction that comes from personal accomplishment is much more valuable than enjoying someone else’s “bigger than life” accomplishment.
Finally, if you are a follower of Jesus, then He wants to live through you. Your part is to surrender, seek His will, believe His promises, walk in holiness by His power, and take small and big steps of faith in responding to what He wants to do through you.
That process has been the most satisfying part of my life, whenever I have actually gotten out of the way long enough for it to happen. The small victories of having my life so bound up in His life have been the most satisfying experiences of my life. My experiences may not compare to some of the great accomplishments of others, but they don’t need to. They are my experiences with God, and I can have first hand satisfaction from them.
Rich Mullins said it well: “Jesus, write me into Your story…whisper it to me.”
Filed under: Decision Making
, Dying To Self
, Fellowship With God
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Spirit Filled Life
Christians have unique struggles when it comes to dealing with people.
By God’s grace, we have been granted insights into wonderful truths about God. His indwelling Spirit helps us discern truth from error. His Word gives us wisdom beyond our natural instincts. His Presence within us brings tremendous healing.
We then encounter people who have problems, and we are rightfully eager to share the truths of God with these people that we care about (or ought to care about).
Often times, we can inadvertently be so eager to help these people “do better”, “be healed”, “see the light”, etc., that we rush ahead to the goal of what must feel like to some, “fixing a problem”, instead of “loving a person”.
I fall into this mentality at times. I don’t mean to, it’s just that I am “in a hurry”, and I need to quickly “dispense the medicine” and move on to whatever is next. I don’t mean to be that way, but sometimes I am.
Now the Holy Spirit blows like the wind (John 3:8), and no two situations are ever exactly the same, but consider this as you may be trying to help people…
We need to genuinely love them, listen to them, and not be in a hurry to “fix them”.
Unbelievers are often quick to love folks without trying to fix them, or at least that has been my experience. I am sometimes amazed at hearing how unbelievers spend countless hours helping friends, loving kids, doing good deeds, etc. It is no wonder that many folks are attracted to those who show such acts of love with no strings attached.
Christians know that man’s greatest need is a relationship with Jesus. All the good deeds in the world will never replace salvation through Jesus Christ.
I am not suggesting that we love people so that we can “earn the right” to speak into their lives.
I am suggesting that we love them because Jesus loves them. Period.
Just some thoughts….
Matthew 17:1-8 1Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” 8When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
I very much relate to Peter. He was privileged to know Jesus. As a Christian, the Lord indwells me. I am involved with worshiping Jesus, and walking with Him, as did Peter. God reveals things to me, as He does to every seeking Christian. It is a blessed and wonderful life. I would not trade it for anything.
Like Peter, I can experience the things of God, and be very excited. I can take in information, and come to a conclusion about what ought to be done. I can make suggestions to God and to others about what to do, what to plan for, and why certain things ought to be done. It is with good intentions that Peter did that. It is with good intentions that many sincere Believers do the same.
In this passage, Peter is interrupted by God Himself. The declaration and command are that the Father is pleased with the Son, and that the disciples ought to be listening to Jesus.
What is striking to me is this: Peter went from an incredible experience that prompted suggestion making, to an even more incredible experience that caused him to fall on his face and be greatly afraid. Peter went from a “manageable” experience with Jesus to something that brought a temporary undoing.
God is good, but He is not manageable. We will experience much with Him that we can “handle”, but He will, on occasion, impact us to the limit of our being.
He does not do that to injure us, but to make an impression upon us that He indeed is God Almighty, and He will not be dictated to by our good intentions. If we have a healthy faith and close relationship with God, He will undo us from time to time.
That’s a good thing.