An indifferent church isn’t a church

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I read this quote a little while ago, and just couldn’t agree more. I have lots of thoughts on it, lots of ideas how this should shape us. But I think my thought’s will convolute the power of this simple quote. So all I would say is this: we should read this thought, and let it drive us into action because its true.

If a local Church falls into indifference as to what is going on in the rest of the world, it is certainly not a Church. John D. Zizioulas

Thoughts?

 

“Jesus Fights Bad Guys Daddy”

IMG_6616The other day I saw Asher drawing intently. He was just really going at it and was so excited. And he said “Look Daddy, look at what I drawed”. I asked him what it was and he said, “It’s Jesus! He’s ALIVE Daddy! He’s Alive!!”

I thought that it was really very cool that he knew that Jesus was alive. I felt like…well that I was a good dad and even better pastor. And then I asked him what was happening on the other part of the page and he said, “Daddy those are the bad guys, Jesus is getting them.”

“Oh” I said, “Jesus is fighting and getting all the bad guys?” And he looks at me seriously and says, “Yep daddy, Jesus is getting the bad guys.”

I thought to myself that maybe I wasn’t as great a dad/pastor as I thought. Because Asher is all boy and is always turning things into weapons (like tape measures) and batarangs (like hangers). He’s always dancing around being a ninja, a knight, or an angry bird. He loves to wrestle, and I thought this was all just influencing his thoughts about Jesus.

Until of course I realized that Asher is right: Jesus does fight the bad guys.

Sometimes when we think of Jesus we just think he is all “nice, meek, and mild”. We hear that Jesus is love (which is true) but then think Jesus is passive (not true). We imagine Jesus just being a really nice person who lets us do whatever we want, smiling all the time. But that’s not really the picture that the Bible paints of Jesus. Yes Jesus is love incarnate, but love isn’t passive. Love actively stands against injustice, love actively stands up for the hurting, love doesn’t let the status quo reign. The cross is the supreme self revelation of God – revealing God to be self-sacrificial love. But the cross is also the place where Jesus does fight the bad guys of sin, death, darkness, injustice, and evil.

So while I don’t want to read too much into a 3 year old’s drawing of spots, and red marker – I think Asher is on to something. Jesus is love, but Jesus is also a protector. Jesus is also a savior from evil and injustice. Jesus does fight the bad guys, not in the way we would with violence and retribution, but he does fight the bad guys none-the-less.

Of course Asher probably wasn’t thinking about how Jesus fights the bad guys with non-retributive love and self-sacrifice when he drew his picture…but either way he is on the right path.

On that day Asher reminding  me about an important part of who Jesus is: getting the bad guys. So today if you are struggling in a tough part, Asher would want to remind you that Jesus is with you, standing up for you, and standing against the dark. I think that’s a good reminder.

The Power of Submission

handheld-relationship-1551596-1279x1585I’ve been learning the power of submission and submitting to the right authorities. I know it sounds a little odd. I know it sounds a little unmanly. It sounds a little well – like being a doormat. But here is what I have been learning, that the more I learn to submit in the right relationships, the more those relationships flourish. 

I know that this sounds counter-intuitive. I know that for many people authority is a bad word, because of how abusive, power-hunger, and wrong some authority structures are. I get that, and we should stand against injustice, we should not acquiesce to abusive authority that dehumanizes and demeans people.

Yet I think in our reaction against bad authority, evil authority, abusive authority we have swung to something also unhealthy: a preoccupation with control.

Because sometimes when we resist authority its for the good of someone else. Sometimes when we resist authority its because its abusive and wrong and we are seeking new and life-giving forms of leadership. Sometimes when we resist authority its because it is oppressive and wrong…And sometimes we resist authority because we are selfish and like control.

The idea of submission is not popular because we have romanticized the idea of being authoritative, self-reliant, in control, and autonomous. We don’t like giving anything over to anyone else. We don’t like letting someone else direct us. So we resist authority, we resist submission, and in the end we harm ourselves and our relationships.

The truth is that in some relationships submission isn’t right, because there is no trust there and the authority is abusive and wrong. But the flipside is also true that there are some relationships where submission is necessary for thriving, where trust is deepened with submission, where love can flow better when we give up control and this idea of being self-reliant.

I have discovered this reality that submission can be beautiful in my marriage, my deep and trusted friendships, and most importantly my relationship with God. That when I give myself over to trusting those who look out for my best interest, give up pretending to be self-reliant and secure, and allow myself to submit to those key relationships around me: my life and relationships are better.

I think we resist the idea of submission because we have seen bad authority structures, and bad examples of submission. Yet when we look to Jesus he practiced this all the time. He submitted his will to the will of the Father, he was self-sacrificing, and only moved in harmony with the Spirit and the Father. And I think that this is a beautiful example of what the power of submission can look like.

Submission is not erasing our identities, giving up on all our wants and desires, or being a doormat. Submission is literally putting someone else first. And I know that this is the only way that my marriage thrives, that my friendships thrive, that my relationship with God thrives: when it ceases to be just about me.

The truth is if we don’t learn to submit (appropriately) we will struggle in life. Because no healthy relationship is based on unilateral decisions. Those are called dictatorships, not relationships. And subtly our resistance of submission can infect and affect our deepest relationships with God, with our spouses, and with our friends.

So all I’m trying to say in this post is really one thing: submission does matter and its got a bad name. Submission, much like authority, has been abused and used to abuse others. But submission can also be beautiful like in a marriage when husbands and wives submit to one another (Eph. 5:21), like in friendships (Gal 5:13), or in our relationship to God (Psalm 40:8; James 4:7) on in any healthy relationship.

So all of this is to say one thing: I think there is a power in submission. Not a top-down power, not a “might-is-right” power, but a power that comes from self-sacrificial and submissive love that is beautiful when worked out in harmony and unison. And I’ve learned that – that type of submission – can be a really healthy and healing thing.

Love Songs, Commitment, and MuteMath

MUTEMATH_OG_IMAGEI listen to a lot of music. And by a lot I mean I drive my wife nuts with it. But there is one tendency in music that really drives me nuts. It’s the tendency for love songs to all focus on the initial connection, the passion, but in general, not the commitment on the long-term. It seems like most love songs focus on the meeting stage, or the new love stage – not the lifelong committed stage.

And the reason this bugs me is because I think the committed lifelong stage – the we’re in this together no matter what stage – is the most important one. And in some ways it’s the hardest one.

You might disagree especially if you’ve been looking for someone to spend your life with (and you might be right!). But for me in my ministry what I see is sometimes how hard it is for people to keep the love they found in the centre of their lives. As a pastor I so often meet with couples whose relationships have slid, who forget that they got together with that person because they were worth loving, who forget it’s hard work to keep selfishness out of relationships. I just wish more songs would talk about the beauty of lifelong commitment and its realities, and how it’s worth working towards.

And that’s when I came across this song by MuteMath called Light Up. And I really love it. Here is what they sing,

Don’t say enough, we’re not out of love

We just grew up having to find out that

Hearts go astray, sparks slip away

But I have to say, I still light up for you

For you, I still light up for you

Don’t let the tears undo the years

That got us here. We traveled all this way (all this way)

And no matter how we sort it out

Know I’m for sure that you’re the

One for me (the one for me)

I love those lines. They don’t pretend that everything in every relationship is perfect all the time. They don’t pretend that life is always easy. But they also don’t give up on the beauty of finding a future with someone through the ups and downs. That even in the difficulty he sings about still lighting up for his spouse.

And when I think about my future with Krista, that’s what I want. A marriage where we both, no matter what we go through, still light up for the other person not just today but in 50 years.

I love the commitment to the future together no matter what happens, “We traveled all this way (all this way) / And no matter how we sort it out / Know I’m for sure that you’re the / One for me”

So all that’s to say that I think it’s beautiful words and lyrics. And also that I think it’s something worth striving for in any relationship: to never lose the spark, so that whenever your spouse walks in the room you still light up. That’s what a beautiful marriage to me feels like – that whenever your spouse walks in a room – you can say “I still light up for you”. I can say that today with Krista, and I want to be able to say it each and everyday of our lives. That’s what I’m working towards, what about you?

Love is a dream that enables us both to be our Best

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I read this other day by Joan Chittister as I’m working through one of her books. She writes this,

“Love is not a model that makes two people the same person. Love is the dream that enables both of us to be our own best person – together”

And I wish every single couple I’ve ever done a marriage for, or will do a marriage would sit and think about that.

So often in our world today love is seen as making the same, rather than cherishing differences. We love to make people into carbon copies of ourselves, to find compromises where we become almost indecipherable, where we try to find ourselves in other people, and this is well…it’s not love.

Not love in the way that the Bible talks about it. Love is what binds people together and holds them together, but it doesn’t make them the same. Just go read 1 Corinthians 13 – the well known “love chapter”. This chapter is all about how to love and hold people together, but it’s people who are different. This chapter is set right in the middle of a discussion about how to hold together people with different gifts, ideas, and opinions? Paul’s answer is love can do that. Not love that reduces people to common denominators. Not love that erases all differences. Not love that makes carbon copies. But love that enables both people to be their best.

Love, when it is truly love, doesn’t erase differences; it finds a way to hold onto those differences in harmony. Love actually loves people as they are, without tyring to make them into something else. We have a different word for people who try to change others into their version of perfection. We call that coercion, we call that conquest, we call that wrong when we’ve done that throughout history (see the Crusades, “settling” of the new world, or lots of other examples).

The point is that love doesn’t seek to squish and squash someone into a mold of sameness. Love is a dream that enables people to both be their best. And that’s something worth striving for.

So in your closest relationships today – is there a way that you can help them to reach their dreams? Is there a way that you can both move towards your best? Does it start with a conversation saying – I want you to find the best and be part of that? Does it start with a surprise or a gift? It certainly starts with some effort, so why not give that a shot.

Finding God on Your iPod: U2 and a Girl Called Grace

On Sunday my wife protested my song choice for this series. It had something to do with picking “songs so obscure only I could love them.” So I promised her one Sunday of a song by a band most of us would know. And that Sunday, was last Sunday. And that band was U2. We listened to and jumped, taught through the song “Grace”.

 

 

The song “Grace” has some beautiful lyrics. And what is wonderful is they give a starting point to hear some familiar words with fresh ears. 1 Corinthians 13 is commonly known as the love chapter. It is read at weddings, and is now so overly familiar that it’s lost some of its “oompf”. So to regain some of that we read 1 Corinthians 13, along with Bono’s lyrics to make some new connections.

Bono sings that “Grace has the time to talk”. And I love that line because not only is it true, it’s also incredibly pertinent and practical. Paul says that love is patient, but for many of us we are so busy we don’t even have time to talk. Time to listen. Time to show love through our giving of ourselves.

Paul continues saying that love is anything but rude, proud, or self-centered. Love, in essence, isn’t aggressive, showy, and loud. Or as Bono talks about love and grace “when she goes to work / you can hear her strings”. Love sounds like strings of invitation, movement, and gentle melody. Pride though as Paul says, sounds like a clanging cymbal.

Paul writes that love doesn’t keep records of wrongs. This is something I wish we would not only know, but practice. But sometimes we’ve heard it so often we forget it too quickly. Bono gets at the same things singing, “Grace moves outside of karma”. Grace and love aren’t record keepers, but forgiveness givers. And lastly, we looked at how love lasts and never gives up. Or as Bono puts it, “it’s a thought that changed the world.”

We tried to use the song to get a fresh glimpse into Paul and our main point: grace and love change the world and change lives. They have changed lives and will keep changing lives if we put it into practice.

So to discern how to put love into practice we ended by reading 1 Corinthians 13 with our name in place of the word love. Because Paul is really giving us a challenge for how to live, not just teaching on the abstracts of love. Paul is teaching us how we are to live. So as we read the passage we asked God to make it true in our lives, and direct us in anywhere we need to start acting differently.

[            ] is patient and kind. [            ]is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. [            ]does not demand its own way. [            ] is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged. [            ] does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. [            ] never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

(Read the passage slowly multiple times, and put your name in the blank, and let God speak to you through it)

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Grace and love change the world and change lives

Teaching Points:

  • All truth is God’s truth.
  • Grace has the time to talk – Bono
  • When she goes to work / You can hear her strings – Bono
  • Love is the opposite of self-centeredness
  • She travels outside of karma – Bono
  • Grace and love change the world and change lives
  • Scripture interprets Scripture

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What is your favorite U2 song? When you read the passage from God’s perspective what jumped out? When you read it with your name in blanks, how did God speak to you? What jumped out?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today talk to your kids about their favorite song. Ask them why they love it, and what they learn from it.

Challenge for the Week: To put love into practice

Finding God on Your iPod: Kings of Leon and the Beautiful War

On Sunday we opened up our series looking at “Finding God on your iPod”. We began by discussing some of the different ways our culture views love.

There is the “Jerry Maguire” view. This is where we seek and find people who “complete us”. People who make up for our flaws and failures and make us feel whole and wonderful. The trouble with this view is that it’s ultimately self-centred. It’s about what someone else does for us (completes us).

The second view we looked at was what is called the Disney view. That when you meet the right person, you just live easy and breezy happily ever after. Johnathon Haidt says this about this type of love:

The modern myth of true love involves these beliefs: true love is passionate love that never fades; if you are in true love, you should marry that person; if love ends, you should leave that person because it was not true love; and if you can find the right person you will have true love forever.

And this too just isn’t true and not helpful.

The last view of love we looked at is what I called, Passive Love. This is the idea where it’s loving to let people do whatever they want, as long as they don’t hurt anyone. But again this is just selfishness clouded in love language.

That’s when we turned to Kings of Leon to give us a different view of love. We played the song Beautiful War, which has this wonderful little line:

            Love don’t mean nothing Unless there’s something worth fighting for. It’s a beautiful war.

And this line is just so true. And this view is actually right in line with the Biblical view of love that we looked at next. We looked at love as sacrifice, as fighting for someone, as dying for someone in John 3.

John says the message we have heard from the beginning in verse 11 is to love one another. John then goes on to define love, to not leave it vague and culturally bound. He says love looks like Jesus dying. Real love is Jesus giving up his life for us. Love is shown by actions, and it’s shown by sacrifice. Or as Kings of Leon put it, it’s not love unless you’re fighting for someone or something. Love is about sacrifice.

This led us to our main point of the day: fight for those you love. But not fighting in aggressive ways. But in ways that look a lot like dying, like Jesus Christ.

Richard Rohr says, Every time you choose to love, you have also just chosen to die. And that’s true.

So we ended with a simple but hard challenge. To fight for those you love. To really show your love to your spouse, to your kids, to those friendships that matter. To decide to really give of yourself to those around you. Because love is meant to be shown, and it needs to be – if it’s real love.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Fight for those you love.

Teaching Points:

  • Three types of love: You Complete Me, Disney, and Passive Love
  • Love don’t mean nothing, unless there is something worth fighting for. Kings of Leon
  • Love is the deepest truth…Love may cost you everything, but it is the only thing worth anything. Michael Gungor
  • Fight for those you love.
  • Love looks a lot like dying.
  • Every time you choose to love, you have also just chosen to die. Richard Rohr
  • Today we like to love until it hurts, Jesus says it’s not love unless it hurts.
  • Love is proved by deeds; the more they cost us, the greater the proof of our love. Mother Teresa.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Have you ever fallen into the trap of thinking about love like Disney, Jerry Maguire, or Tolerance? Who once really sacrificed themselves for you and it really changed you? What did it look like – how did they do it? Who are you maybe being called to love? How might you show them? Who can help you?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Talk to your kids how love needs to be shown. How it needs to be proven through actions. Talk to them about people in your life, who you love. Ask them how you should show them love, and then do it.

Challenge for the Week: Fight for those you love.

Why We Need Words and Actions

11136617_10206457512023468_6356891879295745781_nSo as we were driving to church one day, just Hudson and me, I said to him. “Hudson, Daddy loves you”. And Hudson had this funny little response, “He said Daaadddy (in that long drawn out way) you always say that!” And I said, “I know that buddy, I just don’t ever want you to forget that or doubt that.”

And he said, “Don’t worry Daddy, I know you love me because you wrestle with me, read with me, play Lego with me, we sit together and watch TV, you ride my bike with me, and play with me. I know you love me because we do all that together all the time”.

And that just made my day.

But I wanted to share it for a specific reason, what Hudson’s response reminded me of.  And it’s this: Actions confirm words.

And here’s what that means for me. It is important to say I love you, but it is so much more important to say it and show it.

For Hudson, he doesn’t doubt that he is loved, because he hears it and sees it. The consistency of Krista and I saying it and trying to show it as best we can, gives him security and confidence that he is loved.

And this is my larger point in writing this today. Are there people that you need to show love to today? Are there actions that you need to take to confirm what’s in your heart?

Hudson’s response actually made me think about those closest to me. Would Krista be able to rhyme off a list like that right away? What about Asher, or my neighbors, or my mom or whomever?

My point is: are there people that we love, that we need to confirm it with our actions? Because love isn’t love unless it’s acting, moving, and being put into practice. So today put love into practice and confirm at least for someone, that they are loved.

You Have Something to Offer The World

A gift for youToday I want to talk about a connection between leadership, Jesus, and life.

James Kouzes, and Barry Posner write this in their book The Truth about Leadership.

Everything you will ever do as a leader is based on one audacious assumption. It’s the assumption that you matter. Before you can lead others, you  have to lead yourself and believe that you can have a positive impact on others.

And this is so true. If you want to be a leader, you need to start to learn and believe that you can be. You need to believe that not only do you matter, but that you have something to offer.

And this type of belief in yourself isn’t either arrogance, or shameless self-promotion. It’s not a belief that you’re amazing and everyone should listen to you. Instead, it’s a belief that you have something to offer, something positive to give. And I think Kouzes and Posner are right.

What is interesting to me is that their statement seems a little like Jesus’ statement, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. Jesus’ point is that you can’t actually love your neighbour if you don’t love yourself. If you hate yourself, the hate will pour out all over and you wont’ be able to love your neighbour.

And here is the connection between both Jesus and the quote above: that to be able to lead, or love ~ you need to believe in yourself and that you have something to offer. You need to love yourself, and who you are to best love others. To lead others, you need to believe that you have something – big or small – to contribute to the world. This isn’t about listing all the reasons you are amazing, but instead thinking through:

  • What do I have to offer?
  • What has God gifted me with to gift to others?
  • What positive contribution can I give? What do I love about who I am, that I can share with others?

I think those are good questions to not only help us become better leaders, but better followers of God.