Meeting Point- quote

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

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Why Church?

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In the weekend addition of a small town paper ran a church ad until any before. In big bold letters ran the title: NO EXCUSE SUNDAY–To make it possible for everyone to attend church this Sunday, we are going to have a special “No Excuse Sunday”: Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, “Sunday is my only day to sleep in.” There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel that our pews are too hard. Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late Saturday night. We will have steel helmets for those who say, “The roof would cave in if I ever came to church.” Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who say it is too hot. Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present. Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can’t go to church and cook dinner, too. We will distribute “Stamp Out Stewardship” buttons for those that feel the church is always asking for money. One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature. Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday. The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the church without them. We will provide hearing aids for those who can’t hear the preacher and cotton wool for those who think he’s too loud! Hope to see you there! Maybe you have never run into any of those issues, but a middle-aged man who was in an honest mood gave me his reason for missing church: God made football…doesn’t that cover it?

In part we can chuckle and laugh at the long list of demands that have to all be met before some dare to enter a church each Sunday because we have all probably been there to one degree to another. It is helpful for me to remember that, because now as a pastor the world seems to revolve around Sunday, I blink and Sunday is here again. Yet, it wasn’t always like that,  when I first graduated from college, I was working an hour away from where we lived and I realized just how easy it was to create a host of excuses why church wasn’t all that important or how they didn’t really need me or want me there. It is important to remember that because in our sermon series called DON’T ASK ME THAT we find that a lot of unbelievers aren’t unbelievers at all. In fact, a 2016 Gallup poll found that 89 percent of Americans still say they believe in a God, but they aren’t really convinced that church is all entirely necessary, critical, relevant, etc. So today, we are just going to take an honest look beyond the excuses to the very essence of WHY CHURCH? For our answer we turn to the book of Ephesians where Paul is writing from prison to a people who aren’t quite sure how to see themselves. They have been involved in idol worship, illicit sex, and foolish philosophies— searching for purpose just like a lot of people still today, and Paul starts encouraging them to think about themselves in an entirely different way in Christ — as the church.

(Ephesians 4:11-12)NLT-11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians Paul would get even all-encompassing declaring, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Paul starts to answer the question of Why Church. It is the church that becomes the place where our  Calling Meets Community—In other words, as Pastor Rick Warren said with the first words in his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life- “It’s not about you!” Maybe you’ve tried self-help and been told it is all about you—digging down deeper inside of yourself trying to unlock some hidden gem of wisdom and meaning, and for millions of people that is where they end—in the black hole, whereas, the church is an acknowledgement that purpose is only found beyond self, not in an unyielding focus on self.  As God gifts people with gifts in the church–he doesn’t gift any one person with everything.  Notice the directional implications of what Paul is saying-—what comes from God—is meant to go through you—and into the world—one person at a time.

Kind of like the game of golf. Setting people up to send them out. One of golf’s immortal moments came when a Scotchman demonstrated the new game to President Ulysses Grant. Carefully placing the ball on the tee, he took a mighty swing. The club hit the turf and scattered dirt all over the President’s beard and surrounding vicinity, while the ball placidly waited on the tee. Again the Scotchman swung, and again he missed. Our President waited patiently through six tries and then quietly stated, “There seems to be a fair amount of exercise in the game, but I fail to see the purpose of the ball.  Campus Life.

We can’t miss the purpose of the church. Like in New York City when the Mayor, Mayor Koch had a radical idea. He wanted to solve the plight of the estimated 36,000 homeless men and women who were dealing with a host of issues ranging from drug abuse, mental illness to long-term unemployment. After crunching the number, the mayor had calculated that if each of the 3500 churches in the city cared for ten homeless people the problem would nearly be eliminated entirely. The church leaders rejected the plan. Another swing and miss.

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 When the church becomes all about a spiritual high, a momentary rush, a drop of entertainment we’ve lost our true calling. If you think you can be a Christian by yourself, in your bubble, without getting messy—you’re mistaken. If you think that being a Christian is going to get you spiritual points and then costs you nothing—no sacrifice, no endurance, no saying no to your old self—than you are wasting your time. In fact, we get two radically different equations starting from the same location.

My life + My Desire + Good News= Momentary Modification

My life + God’s Desire+ Good News= Enduring Transformation

A lot of people stay away from churches because they don’t look like they desire. When what you’ll come to find is that the church you want isn’t found, it is formed.  That we don’t come to a church, we are the church—when we come together. Meeting needs bigger than one person can meet, teaching truth bigger than one person can convey, changing lives in more profound ways than one person could plan.

 

Don’t Ask Me That: What Now?

That is where a lot of people are at… We have found so far that because of what was—events rooted in history, because of what is—reliability of the words, that all that is left is whether we should trust the Bible for in our own lives.

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What Now? In 2 Peter 1:21 he makes a pretty powerful claim about the promises in the Bible-21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

You know people just like I do, they look at the Bible like a speech from a politician, with distrust. They assume that Scripture to come together so perfectly around the historic figure Christ had to be altered after the fact.  A change here, a detail there, and BOOM! They figured all those OT prophecies could say whatever was necessary. The only problem was a young shepherd boy lost one of his sheep. In 1946, he not only found his sheep, but he found the Dead Sea Scrolls, caves full of 981 manuscripts in the modern day West Bank—from hundreds of years before Christ lived—with the exact promises from the OT.  Promises like from where the Messiah would be born, raised, tribe he would descend from, how he would arrive in Jerusalem, what would happen while he was there, how he would die (before crucifixion was invented),  where he would be buried, what would happen on the third day, what would happen to his followers, where their power would come from, etc. Hundreds of promises. Continue reading “Don’t Ask Me That: What Now?”

Dirty Jobs: Running Towards Reconciliation

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyWWXSwtPP0

Pain of this nature can be devastating, many don’t recover from it. It harkens back to the story of Hosea in which Hosea’s wife follows a natural path of adultery, deception, and lies. Yet, beyond marriage, if we are honest, there are a host of situations that leave us seemingly cut off, distanced from a sibling, estranged from a parent, bitterly divided from an old business partner.

Today, we finish our sermon series called Dirty Jobs, looking into the story of Joseph to see if there is any hope of restoring what is so utterly broken, to see if there is the possibility of putting back together the pieces when they resemble Humpy Dumpy—all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put him back together again. Our series has taken us through some of the grittiest, nastiest, and most practical areas of our life—jealousy, lust, waiting, shepherding, and today we get into the most challenging: Running with Reconciliation. So in Genesis 44 through Genesis 50 we are going to see the road towards reconciliation.

A survey of scripture will show you just how critical this issue is to God: Jesus calls on us to be peacemakers, Hebrews exhorts us to “strive for peace,” 1 Peter talks about a love that covers a multitude of sins. So often though our response hurdles our faith and hammers back when we feel hurt, just like a man who left work one Friday afternoon. Being payday, instead of going home, he stayed out the entire weekend hunting with the boys and spent his entire paycheck. When he finally appeared at home, Sunday night, he was confronted by a very angry wife and was barraged for nearly two hours with a tirade befitting his actions.

Finally, his wife stopped the nagging and simply said to him, “How would you like it if you didn’t see me for two or three days?” To which he replied, “That would be fine with me.”

Monday went by and he didn’t see his wife. Tuesday and Wednesday came and went with the same results… Continue reading “Dirty Jobs: Running Towards Reconciliation”

Quote of the Day

“Only when the sense of association in society is no longer strong enough to give life to concrete realities is the Press able to create that abstraction ‘the public’, consisting of unreal individuals who never are and never can be united in an actual situation or organization-and yet are held together as a whole.” –Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age

Lord, unlike ‘the public’ allow ‘your church’ to be more than an abstraction. Instead of abstraction allow us to be about tangible action. Allow your church to reach out and touch a hurting world. May your Word fill us, your Spirit guide us, and your grace of Jesus embolden us. Hold us together despite our differences, opinions, and preferences. Allow us to be one as you are one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We love you Lord and pray that everything that occurs today be for your glory. Amen.

 

Dirty Jobs: Wrestling with Waiting

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Frank was a type A personality, he liked to do things efficiently and effectively and so he wasn’t much for being patient. He also didn’t have a long fuse when it came to negative conversations. In fact, patience and bad news seemed to be the epitome of wasteful. Why should he be patient, why should he wait for something to happen? And at the same time why should he read the negative stories in the newspaper or watch the 10 o’clock news, it wasn’t like he could change the outcome. When he got a call from his wife during a busy day at work, she talked slowly and didn’t seem very upbeat. Frank interrupted her and exhorted her to be brief and positive. After all, he didn’t have time. She paused for a moment and then cheerfully replied, “I discovered the airbags in our new BMW work great!” (Dr. Paul Chappell).

Sometimes, no matter how eager we are for good news and for action, there are periods of life where things come to a sudden and drastic stop.  Where we get to discover the airbags of our new car, or cancer diagnosis puts our plans in a holding pattern, bankruptcy makes retirement a dream; grief guts us of any hope for the future. If you’ve been to the DMV on a busy day, you’ve probably experience the frustration of waiting. So far in our sermon series Dirty Jobs, we’ve looked at a few of the dirty jobs Joseph was required to perform in hopes of being a man of God in the midst of a world falling apart. Joseph’s story appears to continue declining series of starts and stops, once the favored son and the hated brother, he was thrown into a cistern and sold as a slave. In the house of Potiphar he excelled as a manager only to be caught up in a miscarriage of justice when his master’s wife claimed he “made sport of her” and now for all his faithfulness and all his willingness to honor God with his life, he is the newest resident of the Egyptian criminal justice system. Even though he has excelled once again behind bars, given greater responsibility—it is still being done behind bars.

If you struggle waiting, you’re not allow. I know a lot of you are baseball fans, some of you are die-hard Cubs fans, others are wise Cardinal fans, but the Wall-Street Journal did some analysis of America’s pastime and found a lot of time just passing by. In their study time begin innings racked up 42:41, time between pitches took up 1:14:49, and all in all, nearly 90% of the game is spent waiting. So baseball game a decree–hurry up!

How do we handle the Dirty Job of wrestling with waiting when we aren’t hanging out for a leisurely day at the ballpark? Although Joseph was in a family line chosen by God, with huge promises, he was left wrestling with waiting, waiting for freedom, waiting for justice.  Joseph’s story behind bars gives us three insights into how to respond in Genesis 40:

(v. 1-4) Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.

WAITING ON GOD OFFERS US A CHANCE TO BE FAITHFUL TO GOD: Continue reading “Dirty Jobs: Wrestling with Waiting”

Some Things Stay the Same

“A revolutionary age is an age of action;  ours is the age of advertisement and publicity. Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere.” -The Present Age (Kierkegaard)

These words came not in the aftermath of another Kim Kardashian story of a chipped tooth or vacation. Instead they are the words from the prophetic tract by Danish author Soren Kierkegaard. While a lot has changed, there is a lot we can learn from those who have come before us.

Similarly, it is God’s Word that still millineum later can still speak with relevance and power into our lives. Let the revolution age come!