He’s In The Room…

When I became a dad, my perception of who God the Father is changed pretty drastically.  Now, every night I tuck in my girls and we go through a big routine.  Maybe I have a soft spot based on my fear of the dark growing up that I talked about in my last post.  Maybe, I am just a softy as my wife likes to call me.

There are two truths to these times and I will start with the simpler truth.  Often, part of this routine if for me as much as it is for my little girl.  Every night after I put her in bed, she will say “daddy, sit” and point to the bed.  And I usually sit there for about 5 – 10 minutes.  It is for me, I enjoy the stillness.  I enjoy the quiet and I enjoy the moment of peace where ideas and thoughts come to me.  This simple post included.  That is for me.  It is often the only 10 – 20 minutes, I actually feel disconnected from technology and away from the noise that is daily life.  That is a time for me.

And then there is the part that is for her, and it made me think of the Lord, our Father.  It is simply this.  He’s in the room.  You see, as I sit there listening to my daughter breathe and toss and turn, I do not always respond to her.  Sometimes, the darkness in the room hides her ability to see me and she will start to cry.  I often remain silent.  I do not rush in and calm her, nor do I speak.  I simply sit and listen.  It hurts.  It is hard not to solve her problem of fear and re-asssure her that “daddy’s there”, and this is how my perspective on God has changed.

Just like she wants to cry out for me, I often cry out for Him.  I often question why I am scared in the darkness.  We all do don’t we?  I cry out for him and doubt He is there, but He is in the room.  He is always THE Father and He is helping us to grow.  He is in the room.  He hears the cries, and while it may be naive, I like to believe that on some small scale it hurts when He cannot simply rush in and calm the fears, but we must grow.

The nights I let my little girl cry for me are hard, but she must learn that even in the darkness, I will be there in the morning.  She must learn that we have to go through scary moments in order to grow.  That while it is scary and hard…your father will never give you more than you can handle.  And we know that this is true.  As a parent, you learn to become in tune with your children and you learn their cries.  You learn the ones that are scarier than I simply need comfort.  You learn the ones that are pleas for help…and so you intervene.

As I have been a father my faith has deepened and been stretched because, there are lessons that you cannot learn until you are a parent.  There are passages in scripture that take on a whole new meaning when viewed through the eyes of a parent.  As a dad, I see my heavenly father differently and while it may be selfish, He becomes more human to me.  I sympathize as He hears His son cry out on the cross in the darkness.

I see him sitting in the corner hoping that His son will remember that He is in the room.

And we all have this same blessing and gift.  We are all welcome to scream and fuss and cry out for the father, but we must also remember that even in the silence…He is in the room!

Convicted…

Last week was a very difficult week.  I could not shake a funk that I was in.  I just felt like it was baby peaks and extreme valleys.  I battled all week to just be ok with how everything was going.  I am not 100% certain if I was overwhelmed with everyday life, feeling beaten down, or tired.  I really did not know.

It was almost impossible for me to even step back and celebrate small victories.  It was hard for me to be content with the simple truth that I was blessed beyond measure.  It just seemed like everything was stuck in neutral or reverse.  And sadly…it was everyone else’s fault.

Or maybe that is where my mind wanted to go.  Maybe that is what I wanted to believe.  I wanted to tell myself that no one really cares about how their actions affect you or hurt you.  But that CONVICTED me…

What am I doing, or not doing that might be hurting someone else?  How are my actions affecting those people that mean the most to me.  Maybe, just maybe, I feel that everyone has a problem with me because I simply am acting like I have no care about them.  Am I not respecting what they want or need?

I ended up waking up extremely early for me on a Friday and just sitting in stillness.  I read, I prayed and I was convicted.  It was hard to look into your own heart and say, that these things need to change within you.  It is hard to say, these things hurt, but what can you really do about it?  It is hard when you truly have to accept people for who they are and not for who you want them to be in your life.

I was convinced and convicted that I cannot change anyone and more importantly, I should not want to.  They are who they are and that can hurt at times.  People have been raised in different situations and different behaviors have been accepted as good and other behaviors as bad.  I am not here to redefine good and bad based on what I want or what I expect.  That is foolish of me.

I was convicted that the only person that I can control is me.  I must look and see what I can control and what I am doing that might be hurting someone else’s walk with Christ.  If I am to call my self a Christian, then I am a part of this thing we call the Church or Body.  It is hard to be honest with ourselves in this day and age.

Culture as a whole has shifted to the “it’s someone else’s fault” model or the “if you don’t like what I do, that’s your problem” not mine.  It is always a way to shift and divert attention from ourselves.  We end up finding more and more ways to remain in the dark about how to truly grow in Christ.  He will convict you of the things that you need to let go of and change.  You will know He is speaking to you.

The question is, how will you respond?  How will you answer His call?  What are you willing to change for the betterment of His Kingdom?

Two Movies…Two Vastly Different Messages…Unconditional Love and Knowledge

Tonight, I actually watched two movies.  I took a break from my usual routine with my wife and girls out of town to go out.  I watched two movies that made one think about their purpose here on earth.  What are we supposed to do with our time.  For the record, I watched “Lucy” and “God’s Not Dead”.  While, I am obviously a believer in the Lord above and Christ, this is not my attempt to say one movie was better than the other.  It is not my attempt to even say that both movies were not interesting.  There were good points to both.

I would even say that “God’s Not Dead” does not touch on what the first stirred in my from a belief standpoint.  The truth of the matter is that after watching the first, I felt that I was pulled into the world of trying to figure out what it would look like for us to live up to our full potential.  This is not to say what would life would look like if we used 100% of our brain, but about recognizing what our highest calling is.  As I watched the first movie, I saw what one person would do in order to serve themselves and serve the world at large.  It was based on knowledge and understanding how things work.  There were some great things touched on about our interconnectedness with each other and the world around us.  But ultimately terrible things were done in the name of protecting this gift of knowledge and ultimately power.

For me though, I struggled with this as I am a firm believer that to reach our true potential we must learn to live and love unconditionally.  This is just my opinion and I am always willing to be proven wrong.  But in my life, the greatest piece of growth that I have had comes through giving of myself.  I have had people tell me that I need to take care of myself and not everyone else, but the truth of the matter is that by serving, I recharge.  I do struggle, I do find it hard to give some days.  I get angry, I want to quit, I want to run from the people that I think might take advantage of me.  But I also recognize that the people that push my buttons, probably need someone to not have conditions on helping them.

I would say that if we truly want to advance to our highest self, then we must always be willing to give.  We must be willing to let go of all the things that we hold so tightly and give those away.  That is the way that we pass on the power of who we are to others.  This world is crazy right now; wars all over and economic scares.  But we get over all of that through finding ways to love and sometimes that means loving someone who seems unlovable.  For me that is what it means to be Christ-like.  For me personally, to withhold love is to judge.  To withhold love is to fail to acknowledge that we are fallen and that I am undeserving of love.

What a lot of things boil down to for me, is ultimately what do I value?  What has the higher price in my opinion?  You see, to me…love has the higher value.  And I say that simply because knowledge is rather easily attainable and cannot truly be lost.  Other people can acquire the same knowledge and we can always be pushed to gain more knowledge.  Love on the other hand, and more importantly unconditional love, is something that cannot be attained through our desire to have it.  We cannot be loved by someone because we want it…they must give it.  Someone has to give a piece of themselves to you and they trust you with that.  We do it as parents, spouses, brothers and sisters  (although that can feel forced at times).  We do it in our friendships and we do it as the sons and daughters of our parents as we mature.  We choose to love them and give of ourselves for them and instead of dealing out pain for the acquisition of knowledge, when we love we take on most of the pain for the sake of those we love.

We are willing to accept someone else’s burden and take ownership of it when we love them.  Love seems to be the ultimate calling for us as it is to accept that we will hurt and be okay with it.  It is to accept the truth that when we love someone without conditions, then we are living out this thing we call faith.  Genuine unconditional love, is the message of the cross.  It is an amazing message that we often miss in our daily lives.  And other times, we say that we know that is the message of the cross with our mouths, but we do not believe it.

I have learned in my life that it is not about proving how much one knows.  I have learned that there are people smarter than me with more knowledge than me.  I used to get into arguments to prove my faith was strong.  I would debate and study and acquired vast amounts of knowledge about my faith and other faiths.  I had this arsenal of knowledge and no matter how many arguments or debates I entered, I was doing little good or furthering the kingdom in any way.

But what happens when one chooses love?

Forgiveness and Repentance

****This is probably more rambling than anything****

 

Recently, I put up a little question on Facebook and a few people responded to it.  It was a simple question with a challenging premise, in my mind.

Which is easier…forgiveness or repentance?

The response was a mix of one or the other, but the majority made it clear that it was a hard decision to make and neither one of them at the core is easy.

The question arose, I took stock of my life and looked at the world around me.  I wanted to take a minute and see what my weaknesses are and the things that I need to be better at.  I also thought about the simple truth that if I had to make the commands of Christ as simple as possible…what would they be?

I came up with the following short, sweet, probably too basic for many list:

  • Love The Lord with all your heart
  • Forgive Others
  • Repent

And there we go.  The hardest part is that doing items two and three are a subset of item one.  That is to say that in order to love the Lord as he desires us to love him, we must learn to forgive others as well as admit our mistakes.

But the more I spent in prayer on this topic or trying to work through it…I discovered that for me, I am really asking a variation of the question…

Is it easier to forgive other or to forgive myself?  Is it easier to let go of the hurt that someone else inflicted on me or is it easier to admit that I made a mistake…that I was wrong?  Because I can tell myself a million times that I forgive the person who wronged me, but I know whether or not I have truly repented and forgiven myself.

The long and short of it is (for me), that since we ate the fruit in the garden, we lost the ability to forgive ourselves.  We have this knowledge of what is right and wrong.  We have the ability to hold onto that desire to be right at all costs, even when we know we were wrong.  We justify…”the devil made me do it”.  We have pride.  And that pride keeps us from being able to be wrong and be okay with it.

Pride keeps us from being able to forgive ourselves.  Pride inhibits us from kneeling before the cross and acknowledging that Christ has indeed forgiven us our sins.

So for me, I better start working on repenting and letting go of the very thing that keeps me from admitting I was wrong.

Tonight I Didn’t Go To Bible Study…

Tonight, I did not go to Bible Study.  I pulled myself out of the loop.  I had a really rough and long day.  In the past, I might have run to this group and put on the happy face, shared my stories, my revelations, and all things me!  I could have read the chapters and been just fine.  I probably would have even been encouraged and touched by many of the brothers and sisters that are in the group because there hearts are there.

But tonight I didn’t go to Bible study…and I am still standing.  Lightning didn’t strike me down and more importantly than anything…I felt like I finally got some real time to experience Christ.

I had a terrible day and needed the Lord to do something.  I had felt abandoned and abused and on the drive home…I was reminded of the gift that is a marriage and parenthood.  The Lord tapped my shoulder and said…no matter how bad your day, I have given you these people to come home to.  They love you in spite of your flaws.  They have learned to love you and see you the same way I do…as “perfect”.  Just as you have chosen me…they have chosen you.  They trust you to be a leader in the house and set an example for them.  You not only represent them, but you represent Me.  You had better decide to love like I love.

I started to perk up and not feel quite so down.  So I rejoiced a little…and sat in silence hoping to hear more.  One might call this prayer – only I didn’t say much.

Again, I “heard” some truth…I realized it isn’t about church services and Bible studies.  It is not about religious activity but about sharing Christ.  It is not about always talking about Him.  It is not about the Scriptures I have memorized or can use to demonstrate my superiority.  It is about “sharing” or revealing or living out of Christ.  It is about Christ and when you love people, you are sharing Him.  When you choose not to judge, you are sharing Him.  When you choose to listen, you are sharing Him.  When you choose to put yourself on the cross for 15 minutes and be what one person needs you are sharing Him.

The biggest thing that kind of struck me, is they might not even know you are sharing Him with them.  He has changed me, and that is what I am sharing.  I am sharing the new me…and He is the builder of that new me.  People need to know that they are loved…unconditionally.  And that includes me.  And that is something I can do…if I am willing to let Him live through me.

And ultimately, I ended up at the Subverisve blog…It was refreshing to be reminded that I am valuable to the Body as a whole.  That while the world may dump on me, possibly even reject me, there is a place for me in the Kingdom…and bigger than that, I am a vital piece of this thing known as the Church.   I have been at the center of many a discussion or debate about the “right” way to do church.  Is it with a pastor or is it in the living room?  And tonight, I cannot say that one way is the right way, but I can say that if it points you to Christ and I mean makes Him come alive in You, then that is where you need to be.  If your church experience leaves you with knowledge and no fire or passion for the son of God, then you might want to re-evaluate where you are at.  If you cannot share the Christ that is in you, in your church world…then maybe you have to move on.  If your church life sends you out into the world feeling empty and forsaken, then it is not Christ.  The power of the Spirit from Christ will send us each out into the world ready to share Him with all.  It will allow us to love with grace and compassion.

I am reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite artists…Andrew Peterson.  In a song about marriage he has a line that goes:

“The only way to find your life, is to lay your own life down.  And I believe that’s an easy price for the life that WE have found”

I know the song is about the marriage between a man and a wife, but it is also about the marriage between Christ and the church.

The only way we find our life, that is our life in Christ, is to lay our earthly life down.  And I believe that’s an easy price to pay for the life that WE, a united body of Christ with one another and with Christ, have found.

 

Nobody Puts Jesus in the Corner

I am writing this as a reminder to myself.  I am saddened by the state of this thing we call Christianity.  Or maybe it is just that everyday, it seems as if this thing we call the church gets more and more dirt on its dress.  There is division and infighting, debates and arguments.  We have become a group that “knows” all the answers and yet knows absolutely nothing.  We are a group of bickering siblings fighting about which one daddy loves the most.

What I am about to say is directed at no one in particular, and it is directed at everyone.  It is directed squarely at the man in the mirror as well.  It is directed at those who attend a traditional church or those who find themselves in a home church, or an organic church, or however they want to define their Christian community. Are we pointing people to Christ?  Are we building him up?  As a father of a two year old, are we behaving and acting in a manner in which we are setting the best possible example for them?  Is the way we treat each other a manner that will encourage our children to actually want to know this man Jesus?

I am sorry to say this but in our quest to know Christ, it seems that we have become obsessed with knowing the facts of Christ.  At times, it seems that our causes become idols standing squarely in the way of people knowing and growing closer to Christ.  We put making people think like us, be like us, find Christ like us, worship like us, anything like us a barrier to knowing the real person of Jesus Christ.

We have become a group of people that sit in rooms and fight over trivial things while Jesus sits in the corner waiting for us to see Him and choose Him.  He sits there quietly waiting for us to turn to Him and stop talking.  He is sitting there like the parent of those bickering siblings wanting to scream “Are you finished?  Are you ready to listen to me?  Are you ready for me to share with you or do you want to keep going back and forth like you are…I’ll wait.”

So I encourage everyone to look within themselves and figure out what needs to be left at the cross.  What are you clinging on to that is inhibiting Christ from being known through you?  Are you willing to put them at the cross and let them die so that Christ might once again take His place as the Head of His Church?

Be Different…Be Relevant…Be Real!

We like to talk…I like to talk.  I like to think that what I am saying is relevant.  I like to believe that what I am sharing IS for the Lord, but I have a confession.  A lot of the time, it probably isn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I dress it up in a nice Christian package.  I will use words like Jesus, Holy Spirit, love, forgiveness, and abide.

BUT…

The words are hollow because no one needs to hear them.  In a continuation from my last post..it is time that the words we share are relevant and not just a simple regurgitation of other things we have heard.  It is time that what we share is not something that we have said 100+ times and always seemed to get a pat on the back for.  It is time to be different…be relevant and be real.

That is to say that when we look at the verses in Scripture that encourage all to share when we gather, we take those seriously.  But we have to share what is being revealed to us.  We have to share the questions that arise in our weekly walks, in our daily walks.  We have to quit looking at the Bible, just to simply…well…look at the Bible.

I am guilty and I confess this to all my brothers and sisters out there, that I have, on occasion, phoned it in.  This though is my call and request that we finally commit to changing the script.  We have to care about those in our communities and the times that we are together needs to add to their needs being met.

I have found myself frustrated lately with things like prayer requests that only last a week.  A brother or sister will ask for prayer, only to have that request forgotten the next time we get together.  Another member in the body may be struggling with someone else during the week and we ignore it because it was not on the schedule for this week.  We must continue to read our assigned book, or to read our assigned Scriptures.  The whole time we ignore a real need that is in our midst.

It is time to be different…be relevant…be real!

If we want to witness Christ moving, we have to do two things.  The first is that we have to be honest with our brothers and sisters about what we might be struggling with…AND we as a body have to move and act on those needs.  When the Lord shows you something, share it…someone might need that reminder.  When you have a need…share it…someone might be able to meet it.  OR maybe we can meet it together.

If we are truly going to be the manifestation of Christ in this world, we have to stop being in love with the sound of our own voices…we have to stop thinking that we are simply here to share our knowledge.  We have to be like Christ and actually be in the world.  We have to be in the lives of our brothers and sisters.  We have to share our lives with our brothers and sisters.

We have to be willing to be different…be relevant…and be real…with one another.  God Bless!

The Kingdom is for the Choir, not the Soloist…

Recently, I was trying to figure out how I would explain the problems that I am witnessing in the church.  I was looking for the best way to figure out what needs to change for so many believers to actually have the impact on the world that they so desire to have.  I am not calling anyone out or questioning anyone’s love for the Lord, but rather questioning if we are loving the way Christ intended us to.

In this modern day and age when anyone on the outside will use whatever they can grab a hold of to find flaws in the faith.  They will grab onto whatever they can to simply say…you are not any better than me.  Look at person X, Y, or Z.  Look at all the criminal charges being brought against priests, ministers, pastors.  Look at the divorce rate in the church…how is that different than the world I know and have now?

And it is here, that I started to think about what the problem is.  We have lost sight of the fact that the church is not one cell.  The church is not one person.  But that is exactly what we have made it about.  We have made it about the best speaker, the best evangelist, the best leader.  We have forgotten that EVERY member of the body is to be valued and contribute to this thing, we call that Church or the Body of Christ.  But do we truly encourage that?

Does the modern church encourage each believer to truly find their gifting and use it?  We have lost our identity as a choir and tried to replace it with one of soloists.  Please bear with me on this analogy as I hope it will open some things up.

When one person sings, it is easy to find fault in them.  Look at any “next big star” show on television now.  When one person is in the spotlight, anybody can listen and hear the mistakes.  Anyone can listen and hear when they missed the note, had a “pitch” problem, dressed in a way that is not flattering, etc.  The list can and does go on and on.  When someone steps into the spot light as a soloist, everyone else can become a judge.  Everyone else can find their flaws and make them known to the world.

The same is true in the church today.  We have become obsessed with “our” (that is to say “MY”) message being the one that everyone hears.  We have become obsessed with stepping into the spotlight and opening the door up to allowing this thing known as the church be judged by the missed notes of one person.  By becoming a body of soloists, we have taken away the beauty of the choir.

You see when you are a part of the choir, no one voice can be singled out.  I might miss a note, have a pitch problem, flat out have an inability to sing, but I am a part of the choir.  I am a valuable piece of the whole.  Go to any concert and there will be a moment when the star will encourage that crowd to sing.  It is a beautiful moment.  The artist on stage can even be brought to tears by having their words sung back to them.  As the crowd grows, the beauty of the song being echoed grows as well.

It is time that we as a church recognize who the soloist is.  It is time that we recognize who the star is.  I will give you a big hint…He can walk on water, died on the cross, and rose again.  He is the star, he wrote the song, and He is the only one that has perfect pitch and never misses a note.  It is time that His body takes its proper place in the choir and start singing back to Him.

If we truly want to be what He desires of us, we must see that none of our brothers and sisters are more valuable to Him than we are and that we are not the soloists.  If we want to be a light to the world, we have to allow the person who cannot sing a single note on key, into our choir and help raise their voice up.  We have to become that greatest choir the world has even known.  We do this, not by accepting the sins in others lives (and our own), but by welcoming the sinner into the choir and helping them to sing songs of praise back to the One who conquered sin. It is no long about programs, ministries, mission trips, stand and greet your neighbor…it it about Christ and the love he showed the lost.

He desires to stand on the stage in the spotlight, and hear HIS life sung back to HIM.  He desires HIS body to be connected to Him.  If we can be content to be in the choir, we can finally learn what it is like to praise HIM and maybe we can bring a tear to HIS eye as we sing His life back to HIM.

Finding Truth…Crucified with Christ

I guess that this is the final piece in my series.  It is the end of the journey so to speak.  While, I think that this piece can stand on its own, this is part III and part I and part II can be found at the links provided.

So where we left off…I have walked the road and encountered this person known as Jesus and He was who I needed Him to be.  He was the father, I needed or the person who loved me for me like a husband loves a wife.  He was who I needed Him to be when I was searching for something more.  When I finally admitted that I could no longer do it on my own.  When I had no more life to give, He gave me His and was who I needed.  That lead me to try to be just like Him.  I would find myself trying to be who I thought He needed me to be.  I removed things from my life and tried to force my way deeper into His love.  I tried to look at the rules in the Scriptures and tried to live them out.  I found myself striving to be the best Christian that I could be.

Then I was exhausted.  Then I felt like I could honestly never be good enough.  I would never make it to heaven.  I honestly felt like I was back where I started.  It was as if this person that loved me all of a sudden turned into just another person that I could not please.  Christ became the father I couldn’t please, the husband that could never love me.

So, I was crucified.  So I decided to stop using the Bible as a how-to guide and read it.  I paid a lot of attention to the red letters.  I actually looked for meaning in the words of Christ and not just the directives.  I died…and on the third day I rose again.  I realized that I was one with Christ.  And I found that the truth in that is that I am not to walk in His footsteps, but that we (He and I) have already walked them together.  The mistakes I make, are not judgements that he is holding out against me.  They cannot revoke my place in His Kingdom.  I am His child and there is no removing  me from that family.

When my daughter makes a mistake, I do no push her out of the family until she gets back in line.  I do not remove or revoke my love until she does as she is commanded by me.  I am not in the removing my love from her and Christ is not going to remove His love from me when I slip up.  When my daughter disobeys, she risks hurting herself.  The rules and guidelines are there to protect, not restrict.  I love her, her mom loves her and there is nothing in this world that will stop that love.  The more and more, I started to see myself in the family of God (as a son), the more I realized that being In Christ is not about mimicking Him and more about living as He did, with the heart that He had.  The one that allowed Him to love those that no one else would (some one like me).  The same heart gave Him the courage to stand up and be strong in the Father’s name.

We have all been given that same ability if we will let go of the rules that seem to drive Christianity these days.  If we are willing to open ourselves up to the challenges that come with letting go, then we might just find the Jesus of the Scriptures.  We might just find the Jesus that loves each and every one of us enough to be exactly who we need Him to be the minute we need His love the most.

 

An Honest Look at Organic Church

This is just a list of links to some great articles that deal with some of the “shortcomings” of Organic Church as outlined by Keith Giles.  I do not know Mr. Giles, but I respect anyone that is willing to take a frank and honest look at the organic church and admit that it does indeed have some areas that are lacking.  While, I still prefer an organic church to a traditional church (and Mr. Giles is a part of an organic church as well), I am thankful to find many of my own thoughts and feelings on these matters expressed in these various posts.  The areas that I feel he, missed, I might post in a separate post, or I might just keep them to myself.

Please do not see my posting these as my looking to find things wrong, but an admission that there are things to be careful in the organic church, just as there are things to be wary of in the traditional church system.  I am a firm believer that you must go where the Lord has you; that you must go where the Spirit leads you to be – Organic or Traditional.  Go where God has you and you are fine by me.

What’s Wrong with Organic Church (8 Parts)

Invisible to Community

Too Inwardly Focused

Too Isolated from Traditional Churches

Church Discipline

Lack of Networking with Other Organic Churches

No Spiritual Covering

Lack of Strong Leadership

Too Proud of Ourselves

 

Pitfalls of Organic Church (6 Parts)

Break Your Liturgy

Draw Out the Wallflowers and Reign in the Soap Boxers

Let Jesus Be the Leader

Plan to Multiply Into New Groups From Day 1

Practice Brutal Honesty and Shocking Truth

Rotate Locations Early and Often

These are just a couple of series that were written that I thought were well thought out and thought provoking.  I will probably follow this up with some thoughts of my own on some of these matters.