Posted tagged ‘spirituality’

Better than Jesus?

June 28, 2014

Jesus welcomed children. We aren’t better than Jesus, are we?

little boy

Matthew 19:13–14 (ESV)

13Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

The disciples didn’t understand the Jesus way of living. They were stuck thinking about position and power. Children didn’t enhance their status.

The way churches think about children indicates their spiritual health. Sick churches ignore or minimize children’s ministry. Healthy churches prioritize it.

If parents brought their children to Jesus, why aren’t they bringing their children to us? Matthew indicates they came because of what they received. Parents wanted Jesus to touch their children and pray for them. What does this mean for us?

  1. Forget about status.
  2. Serve those who can’t serve in return.
  3. Express appreciation for children.
  4. Respond to the concerns of parents.
  5. Elevate and honor people who give themselves to children’s ministry.

The way Jesus responded to children was nothing short of revolutionary.

Tell me how your church treats children and I’ll tell you if your church is like Jesus. In a healthy church, children are part of the church.

Luke 9:46–48 (ESV)

46An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

Being like Jesus means treating children like they belong, rather than like they are an incumberance. If the least of these are great, then children are great.

Whatever

November 3, 2013

uncertainty

It sounds spiritual to pray, “God please show me what you want me to do.” It’s also safe.

Believers pray for God to show them His will and then slip under the covers for a snooze.

Fake Spirituality:

Praying without taking action is fake spirituality. I hear someone cry, “Don’t be so harsh. I’m waiting on God.”

If waiting on God is doing nothing, then stop waiting on God! Waiting on God, in reality, is doing everything you can while waiting for further guidance in one area.

Waiting on God isn’t an excuse for self-indulgent spiritual.

How not what:

“But what,” you ask, “Should I do?”

You’re too concerned about “what.” God is concerned about “how.”

Colossians 3:23 (NIV84) “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,”

Worry less about “what.” Go do “whatever.” Worry more about “how” – “with all your heart.”

Excuses:

Uncertainty is the excuse of fake spirituality. “I’m not sure what God wants me to do, so I’ll do nothing.” Excuse makers:

  1. Believe certainty indicates God’s guidance.
  2. Know what they don’t want to do.
  3. Feel spiritual doing nothing.

Whatever:

Doing nothing takes you nowhere.

Stop making excuses and go do “whatever.”

Do:

  1. Good for another.
  2. Meet a need, the bigger the better.
  3. Act on your point of highest certainty. Forget perfect certainty.

Most importantly, whatever you do… “Do it with all your heart.” Uncertainty is an opportunity to trust God. Perfect service opportunities don’t exist. Go all-in on an imperfect opportunity.

Under grace you are free to do good to others
as much as you want!

New prayer:

Rather than praying for God to tell you what to do, pray for an opportunity to serve. “God give me an opportunity to serve someone.” Get up off your knees and get busy. That’s real spirituality.

Half-hearted Christians are unhappy Christians.

When you focus more on wholeheartedness and forget about perfect answers and opportunities, life grows bright. You become happier and more useful.

My prayer is, “God, give us more ‘whatever’ Believers.”

Rethink Glorifying God

January 16, 2013

smile

The trouble with saying, “Glorify God” is the language doesn’t fit everyday life. It’s the language of religion. Churchy people love religious mumbo jumbo. But saying, “Glorify God,” doesn’t sound liberating and vibrant to average folk.

But how:

Glorify God by enjoying his provision. Include everything from colors to sensations. Persistently miserable people can’t and don’t glorify God, regardless of what they say.

Those without joy, can’t glorify God.

You powerfully glorify God when you enjoy life even when life hurts. James 1:2 says; consider it joy when adversity or suffering invades (paraphrase). Joyful hearts glorify God.

Respectful language, apart from joyful hearts, dishonors God.

God’s provision reveals Him. Nature, relationships, human capacity, art, and imagination tell us who God is. See His splendor in the snow, for example. But, of course, if you hate life, you hate the one who made you and it’s impossible to glorify Him.

Glorify God by enjoying his person. If you believe God is a heavenly kill-joy, it’s impossible to enjoy Him and impossible to glorify Him.

If you’re a miserable Christian, please find joy or practice some other religion, for God’s sake.

  • Take a breath and enjoy it.
  • Hold a loved one and find God, again.
  • Believe life has purpose even during chaos.

Accept Him:

Joy bubbles up when you accept God for who he is. One way to accept God is to acknowledge His control. Joy drains when you play the role of controller. Perhaps you want to be God, Adam did. But you aren’t. The sooner you get clear on that, the sooner you’ll find joy.

Joy spills into everyday life when you enjoy God’s provision and person. Let’s toss out religious hocus pocus and live joyfully.

Then next time someone says, Glorify God, thinking about living joyfully. Go one step more, let others know you enjoy Him.

P.S. I’m not suggesting that Christians must always be happy. 1Peter 1:6 acknowledges seasons when believers may be in heaviness, to use the KJV translation.

But I Don’t Want to be a Butt

January 5, 2013

Why can't you be like me

Church people love trying to mold others into acceptability. I hear them complain how others aren’t behaving or thinking “properly.” Arrogance oozes from their words.

I seldom hear Church people explore ways to maximize the strengths of others while minimizing and compensating for their weaknesses. Usually, they want to fix them.

Personal illustration:

I’m skilled at a few things and unskilled at many. Worse than that, my strengths are often weakness, too. I love changing things and hate repeating things, for example. Imaging how troubling that is to Churchy folk who love ritual. (They seldom attend Good News, surprisingly.)

My love for innovation isn’t a fluke. It’s how my Maker made me. Neglecting it insults Him.

Some don’t appreciate change like I do, just like I don’t appreciate sameness like they do.

The choice:

We can celebrate and leverage the difference or we can try molding others into our image, fixing them. The first approach expresses grace and faith; the second approach arrogance and manipulation.

The Body:

If some had their way, the entire Body/Church would be a butt, like they are. But, celebrating difference expands, enhances, and elevates the Body. We are members of each other. Hands don’t smell and noses don’t see.

Butt Christians:

  1. Think they have all the gifts.
  2. Believe everyone should be butts.
  3. Know the best way to do everything.
  4. Don’t accept or share their weaknesses.
  5. Work to mold others into butts.

Back to me:

The downside of innovation is instability. I tolerate ambiguity.  Actually, I love it. Forget fixing me. I ain’t broke. However, all innovation is like a Church that’s all butt. That’s why I must embrace those different from me.

Belonging:

Everyone wants to belong. The only way everyone belongs is by:

  1. Building transparent relationships.
  2. Celebrating diversity.
  3. Maximizing strengths.
  4. Compensating for weaknesses.
  5. Aligning around shared mission and vision.

Pony Express Churches

August 18, 2012

The Pony Express was the brainchild of William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell. It operated for only eighteen months from 1860 to 1861.

The Pony Express died because it defined itself too narrowly and failed to adapt. Technology – the telegraph – killed the Pony Express.

If the Pony Express defined itself as a communications company rather than a letter carrying company it might still exist, only in a different form.

Churches can give artificial respiration to dying ponies or learn to define themselves in ways that align with transcendent Biblical truths; truths that don’t change even though the way they are expressed must.

God adapted himself to our context when he became man. Yet, he didn’t lose himself. His appearance changed but he didn’t. He never changes.

Transcendent Truths include:

  1. Grace alone.  We always freely receive provision from God. That’s how we become believers and that’s how we live, by grace. Christianity isn’t a self-help program. It’s a grace enabling program.
  2. Faith alone. We never work our way to God. He worked his way to us. Our responsibility is to believe. All commitments in our walk are expressions of learning to trust him alone.
  3. Jesus alone. He’s not one of many ways to rich relationship with God. He’s the only way.
  4. Response alone. All expressions of Christian living are response to God’s love and grace, that includes, service, worship, obedience, evangelism, and everything else we do.
  5. Love alone. Love is the only thing that makes life meaningful. Without it, life is empty, like clanging cymbals. The only way to love is to be loved. “We love because he loved.” (Back to #1) Even confrontation expresses love or it’s wasted, useless effort.

Most of the things Churches do in their gatherings are completely adaptable, consider music. There are no Christian notes or rythmns, only Christian lyrics.

What would you add or modify on my list of transcendent truths?

What is adaptable when it comes to Church gatherings and ministry?

The Day I Heard Dad Sing

June 29, 2012

My dad was a quiet man; not weak, just quiet. We had his funeral yesterday, June 28, 2012 at 1 p.m. He was 84.

He trusted Jesus at the funeral of his best friend, Gene Niles, about 40 years ago. I remember the day when he walked to the front during the public invitation, knelt down and became a believer.

It was one of the few times he spontaneously embraced me. The only person he persistently expressed affection to was mom and he did it a lot.  I’m not complaining. We never doubted dad’s love.

One summer morning, when I was a teenager and dad was finishing the chores in the milk room, (the place we kept all the milking equipment). I heard dad sing. It was early yet and I was just waking up. From across the driveway I heard a god-awful baritone voice belting out, “Amazing Grace…”

He sang like no one could hear. But I did. Now that I think about it, he was probably singing to God.

I checked with family and friends; no one ever heard dad sing, ever. And, I never mentioned it to him.

He was a regular at church but during the singing his lips never moved. You might have thought he didn’t love Jesus or that he had no passion.

Truth is the quiet man from Maine – the man I call dad – was passionate about grace. Over the years, with typical tenacity, he studied grace. We talked about it, from time to time. He didn’t run around like a cheerleader; he lived it. Grace touched him and set him free.

The same passion he brought to his work he brought to Jesus. Even though he worked harder than anyone I ever knew, he always faithfully served. Grace changed him.

I’ll never forget the day I heard dad sing “Amazing Grace …”

Grace, Transparency, and Fullness

June 25, 2012

Intimacy dies where fakery prevails. Legalism creates emptiness because it blocks transparency.

Last night the Good News Ladies powerful illustrated freedom in grace. From different sides of the circle they shared favorite passages of Scripture. But, what makes a favorite a favorite?

Suffering, stress, or tension lift Bible verses to favorite status. Our weaknesses give value to truths that strengthen. The best way to explain a favorite passage of Scripture is to share the frailty it answers.

The beauty of grace is it frees us to acknowledge our frailties. In our weakness, His strength has meaning.

The path to an empty relationship with God is paved with competence and strength. But, the path to richness is on the well-worn trail of inadequacy, incompetence, and falling short.

You never get there till you know you can’t make it.

The Myth of Distance

June 13, 2012

Walk into church on a Sunday morning and it’s likely you’ll hear a message of self-improvement, good works, and moral development. All three are fine but they never bring anyone nearer to God, ever.

Unbelievers, atheists, and infidels – people who are our friends not the enemy – can improve themselves, engage in good works, and learn not to lie. That doesn’t make them Christians, far from it. Many Christians are shocked to hear that Christianity isn’t morality, it’s Jesus only.

No distance:

Doing something to close the distance between God and man is irrelevant and repugnant.

It’s irrelevant because there’s no distance between an unbeliever and Jesus. He couldn’t be nearer or more available. They may feel distant but He is not. They may reject Jesus but Jesus hasn’t rejected them. There is no “far” or “near” when it comes to becoming a believer. There is only faith.

It’s repugnant to think we can close the distance between God. It insults Jesus by devaluing His work on the cross. Satan must love it when religious knuckle-heads undermine the work of Jesus by working to reform sinners. Dry drunks, apart from Jesus, are just as lost as wet ones.

Apply:

Does the message of the gospel for sinners still apply to us after we’ve become believers? Or does it mystically change? After believing, do we maintain nearness by our goodness and lose it when we’re bad?

Truth is, when believers run from Jesus, He runs after them – think Peter. If they persist in running, He anxiously waits for them – think the Prodigal.

Arrogance:

It’s our arrogance and doubt that motivate us to believe nearness depends on good works, self-improvement, and morality.

Daily faith:

Step back and trust Him again today. Don’t think you’re becoming a Christian again. Think you’re being a Christian anew. Humbling isn’t it?

Breaking Free from Barrenness to Fruitfullness

June 4, 2012

 … the worries of the world, … choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Mk. 4:19 (NASB)

Worry makes you barren.

Caring deeply:

It’s a mistake to believe all worry is wrong. Worry – as in caring deeply – is useful. We need more believers who worry about eternal issues. Paul said he “worried” – felt anxiety – for the churches. (2Cor. 11:28)

Good worries make us fruitful.
Bad worries make us unfruitful.

Negative worries:

Over and over I’ve seen distraction create barrenness. I’ve seen believers distracted from fruitfulness by trying to make others happy or concern over what others think while neglecting the good that’s in their hearts.

Churches aren’t fruitful because their leaders worry about pleasing the wrong person. Show me leaders who run around worrying about making others happy and I’ll show you unfruitful worry warts. They’ll stress-out over trivialities and neglect greater issues like telling people about Jesus! Preach it!

Barrenness comes from:

  1. Pursuing success.
  2. Craving approval.
  3. Greed for money.
  4. Hunger for power.
  5. Needing respect.

Worry is concern over things to the point of distraction.

Positive worries:

  1. Pleasing Jesus. Thankfully pleasing Jesus may include pleasing others, especially sinners.
  2. Serving.
  3. Giving .
  4. Enabling.
  5. Respecting.

Barren:

You may be barren because you’re an ignorant jerk. However, you may be unfruitful because worry distracts you from eternal issues.

Ultimately you’re barren because worry distracts you from your relationship with Jesus (Jn. 15). Every time we center on life’s circumstances, success, or pleasing people while neglecting Jesus we step toward barrenness. All of life is about a person. Circumstances only matter in the context of knowing Jesus.

Freedom for fruitfulness happens when we let go of negative worry and begin worrying about our relationship with Jesus.

What worries do you see that create barrenness in believers lives?

*****

Arise My Love

May 30, 2012

“My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away,” Song of Solomon 2:10 (ESV)

It’s awkward to think Jesus wants us like a lover wants their love. Yet, my call to you is to believe He longs for you.

The longings of grace make it beautiful and desirable. Who doesn’t want to be loved? Who doesn’t long to hear beautiful words?

Looking to Jesus I see beauty; looking to me, not so much.

Perhaps:

Perhaps the reason we can’t speak beautifully to others is we don’t believe Jesus would ever say, “Arise my love, my beautiful one, and come away,” to us.

A place of beauty:

We become beautiful to others when we speak beautifully to them – in ways that ministers grace. Try it at home with your spouse and children. Tell them what makes them beautiful to you. Focus on their gifts rather than their faults. See beauty rather than defects.

Why:

But everyone has so many faults. You may wonder who will point out their weaknesses if you don’t. Really???

Why should we search for their beauty? If you don’t search for beauty all you’ll see is ugliness. At least that’s the trap I usually fall into. Plus, grace makes us beautiful. Right???

Fringes:

I’m on the fringes of believing Jesus calls me “my beautiful one.” I feel there’s a whole new world that waits if I can just embrace the person I am in grace. Believe that grace has already made you the beautiful person you long to be – the new creation. Doubt blocks that person. Faith sets you free.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 235 other followers