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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Right and Wrong

In our discussion time last night, we were sharing on whether or not there is a "right" or "wrong" way to worship.

The comment was made that, "there is a right and wrong way for everything."

At first, in my own thoughts, as I was leading the discussion, I readily agreed with that.

However, as we continued to talk, I begin to realize, that perhaps, just perhaps, there is NOT a right and wrong for everything in life.

Sometimes in life, things are not black and white.

Life is full of grays.

We Westerners think in black and white, we have a difficult time handling the grays. Most of the rest of the world does not.

Jesus himself lived in Israel, in Palestine, in a culture and mindset that did not think in a linear manner, having to connect all of the dots.

We do.

There are many gray areas of life.

Sometimes life calls us to live in the grays - and be comfortable with that - knowing that ultimately - God is in control.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Religious spirits

I am often asked about religious spirits.

Here's what I know: Sometimes people are quick to tag the moniker of "religious spirit" on someone if that person doesn't agree with them.

"They have a religious spirit! They have a "Jezebel spirit!", they cry out.

What is a religious spirit?

A religious spirit is one who uses God's Word to do their own will. They spew forth scriptures do "prove" their own point of view, unmindful of the context of the passage itself.

A religious spirit does not carry out God's Word with God's intentions in mind, but only their own.

King Saul in the Old Testament is an example of this: He went and attacked the Amalekites but he saved the best king alive and he saved the best animals so that they could offer them up to the Lord, but he did it for his own best interest and not for the purposes of God.

A religious spirit will use God's own words to carry out their own passions and interests. "God told me this," they say (and I believe God does speak to us with words of knowledge and wisdom).

Let's all strive to use God's Word in an integral way: To do His will and His bidding.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What more could he have done for you?

I often speak with people who wonder if God loves them.

"How can God love me? I've done too much! I've sinned too many times!" they cry out.

Here's what I know. God loves me. God loves you.

He really does.

Let me tell you how much by sharing a story with you.

Author and speaker Brennan Manning tells about how he got the name "Brennan."

While growing up, his best friend was Ray. The two of them did everything together: bought a car together as teenagers, double-dated together, went to school together and so forth.

They even enlisted in the Army together, went to boot camp together and fought on the frontlines together. One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was reminiscing about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate a chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole.

Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar and threw himself on the live grenade.

It exploded, killing Ray, but Brennan's life was spared.

When Brennan became a priest he was instructed to take on the name of a saint. He thought of his friend, Ray Brennan.

So he took on the name "Brennan."

Years later he went to visit Ray's mother in Brooklyn. They sat up late one night having tea when Brennan asked her, "Do you think Ray loved me?" Mrs. Brennan got up off the couch, shook her finger in front of Brennan's face and shouted, "What more could he have done for you?"

Brennan said that at that moment he experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus wondering, Does God really love me? And Jesus' mother Mary pointing to her son, saying, "What more could he have done for you?"

The cross of Jesus is God's way of doing all he could do for us. And yet we often wonder, Does God really love me? Am I important to God? Does God care about me?

Yes he does.

Let's rejoice in that today - and relax in His love.

Monday, July 26, 2010

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

It was great to be back "in the saddle" yesterday, as I spoke on the subject of vision.

At the end of the teaching, I asked our church family to turn in a "let's dream together" insert.

I asked them, "what would you dream for our church if we had all the money, resources, time, volunteers and facilities in the world?

Answers varied, but yet most articulated the same vision: Connect people to Christ, draw closer to God, draw closer to one another.

I liked Cody Wolf's "dream".

He writes (in the context of dreaming for his church) - He dreams for:

Indoor soccer arena
Football field
Ice rink
Weight room
Gun range.

At least Cody was honest.

We do have a dream. We dream of "loving God and loving people."

We dream of reaching our community for Jesus Christ.

We dream of seeing people grow in Christ.

We dream of having 12,000 people come each Sunday to our church at different campuses around the southland.

We dream of having 2,000 small groups, ministering to people in a personal way.

Great Sunday, wonderful worship.

Many are gone on vacation. I encourage you, if you are in town, please be faithful in attendance. We need you!

Would you dream with me?

What would you dream for our church if we had all the money, resources, time, volunteers and facilities in the world?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cuts and bruises

Well, I dove in the water during my vacation and hit the ring finger on my left hand and bent it down, shredding the tendons at the top of the finger.

It is officially called "mallet finger," or "baseball finger," and happens a lot in sports.

My finger will be in a splint for 8 weeks.

The doctor did give me the option of surgery, but when he told me that he would take tendons from my finger and hook them together, and then said that he would put a steel pin into the top of my finger, I said, "no thank you."

Especially when I asked him if it would hurt and he said, "yes."

No surgery for me.

During my vacation, I also sat down wrong on a golf cart and took a chunk out of my back, leaving a scar. I sat down wrong on a lawn chair and cut up my backside. I finally stepped on a rock wrong that was in the water and cut my foot.

After all of that I was trying to figure out if God was mad at me or just wanted me dead.

Have you ever had days (weeks) like that?

Anyway, as the song says, "I will survive!"

And....somehow.....some I share my tale of woe...I am not getting much sympathy.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

God's vision for our lives

I am going to start a three week series on the subject of vision this Sunday.

One of the things I am learning is that we all need a vision, a plan, a mission, one specific goal for our lives.

God has created us that way.

You have a purpose for your life.

You have a plan for your life.

Our responsibility, being led by the Holy Spirit, is to find and acquire that plan.

I just had lunch with John Schwider, who knows God's plan for his life and is passionate about it. Ministering to foster kids. Leading them to Christ.

I think of Jon Hollowell, Scott Borchers and Mike Muchowicz, all who are realizing God's vision for their life: Starting an Upward Basketball ministry for boys and girls.

I think of Leisa McNamara who's passion is ministering to girls through our Impact Ministry.

I think of David Dewes who has a passion and vision for life groups.

On and on it goes in our congregation.

What is God's vision for your life?

Let me give you an example of this from the life of Chicago insurance broker Bob Muzikowski, who on his way to work on day, saw a derelict ball field full of trash in a gang-infested neighborhood.

Chuck Colson writes:

"The kids there could use a real Little League to play in, he thought. He teamed up with a friend to create the Near North Little League. In "pretty wild" early practice sessions, coaches dealt with 250 boys long on enthusiasm but short on fundamentals. Each game began with a prayer. Cursing was strictly forbidden.

"While I had no illusions that I'd change the world, I had no doubt that God wanted me to play baseball with these kids," said Muzikowski, converted not long before. "My faith had taught me that being a Christian means truly believing what Jesus said about loving my neighbor."

The next year, 400 kids joined the league. Today 900 fatherless kids in 100 Little League teams are learning self-respect and community values. Reporters wonder why a wealthy businessman lives among the poor, coaching other people's kids. Muzikowski answers, "Jesus didn't say, 'When you've paid someone to do it unto the least of these.' What he said was, 'when you have done it."

May you seek God for the vision He has for your life today.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

vacation reading part 2

The second book I read on vacation was a book by Albert Camus entitled, "The Stranger."

The title character is Meursault, a French man (characterised by being largely emotionally detached, innately passive, and anomic) who seemingly irrationally kills an Arab man whom he recognizes in French Algiers.

At the end of the book, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to be beheaded. He accepts is all with a sense of fatalism, after all (he thinks) "I'm going to die anyway, why not now?"

Nothing is worth anything. All is lost.

One writer summarizes the book this way:

"The story's second half examines the arbitrariness of Justice: the public official compiling the details of the murder case tells him repentance and turning to Christianity will save him, but Meursault refuses to pretend he has found religion; emotional honesty overrides self-preservation, and he accepts the idea of punishment as a consequence of his actions as part of the status quo.

It should be noted that the actual death of the Arab as a human being with a family is seemingly irrelevant, as Camus tells us little to nothing about the victim beyond the fact that he is dead. Indeed, Meursault is never even asked to confront, reflect or comment upon the victim as anything other than as a consequence of his actions and the cause of his current predicament. The humanity of the victim and inhumanity of murdering another human being is seemingly beside the point.

Thematically, the Absurd overrides Responsibility; in fact, despite his physical terror, Meursault is satisfied with his death; his discrete sensory perceptions only physically affect him, and thus are relevant to his self and his being, i.e. in facing death, he finds revelation and happiness in the gentle indifference of the world. Central to that happiness is his pausing after the first, fatal gunshot when killing the Arab man.

Interviewed by the magistrate, he mentions it did not matter that he paused and then shot four more times; Meursault is objective, there was no resultant, tangible difference: the Arab man died of one gunshot, and four more gunshots did not render him 'more dead'.

The absurdity is in society's creating a justice system to give meaning to his action via capital punishment: The fact that the death sentence had been read at eight o'clock at night and not at five o'clock . . . the fact that it had been handed down in the name of some vague notion called the French (or German, or Chinese) people — all of it seemed to detract from the seriousness of the decision."

I would sincerely disagree with Camus philosophy of life.

To me life is worth the living - especially because I have a connection with Christ. Christ not only changes my life, but gives me a reason for living. And that in turn, pushes me to accept my responsibilities. I am not the center of my universe - God is.

To me, loving my fellow man, having a relationship with Christ, and believing in something beyond myself are not "absurd" but a fulfillment of the way that God has created us. To love. To commit. To serve. To cherish.

May we all strive for a closer relationship with God.

Monday, July 19, 2010

vacation reading

Over vacation, I read two books, both of them considered "classics."

"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury.

"The Stranger" by Albert Camus.

Let me talk about the first one today.

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel that presents a future American society in which the masses are hedonistic and central thought through reading is outlawed and banned.

The central character, Guy Montag, is employed as a "fireman" (which, in this future, means "bookburner"). The number "451" refers to the temperature at which book paper combusts.

Anyone caught reading or possessing illegal books is, at minimum, confined to a mental hospital while the books are burned by the fireman.

But it is the undercurrent theme that really strikes me as well - it being as current as anything I have read that describes 2010.

Guy's wife, Mildred, is obsessed with watching television that is three sided (it is mounted on three sides of the wall). She watches a family on the T.V. most of the day - interacting with them as well. What it reminds me of is all of the "reality T.V." that you see on T.V.

No time for books. No time for thought. No time for reflexion. Don't forget that Bradbury wrote this novel in 1959!

How prophetic he has turned out to be!

Our lives are filled with google, facebook, twitter, myspace, T.V., movies, texting, on and on it goes.

Where do we find time to stop and think? To reflect?

Information and knowledge has replaced ideas and points of view.

Has the media overtaken our ability to think?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

my country

I love America. I really do.

Having been all over the world, we do have a great country.

I am thankful for the freedoms that we have to worship God.

Michael Blakley writes this:

"While I was attending graduate school in the early 1980s, I stopped for coffee in a Malibu, California, restaurant. Coming from a non-political family, I knew nothing of political activists—but I met one that day in that restaurant.

He told everyone what a mess the United States had become. He ridiculed our government and our educational, industrial, and banking systems. He was on such a roll that he had everyone on his side except for two people: an old man and me. The activist shied away from me, seeing my Pepperdine hat, Ronald Reagan tee shirt, and Wall Street Journal. So he went after the old man.

As he approached, the old man continued slurping his soup and turned his back. The activist sat down at the old man's table and offered, "Mister, if you can tell me just one thing the United States has ever done for you, just one measly thing, I will leave you alone."

Finally, the old man looked up. He licked his spoon clean and set it down on the table. His red face indicated years of laboring in the sun. With a heavy Russian accent, he replied, "Ve hold zees truz to be self-evident, dat all men created equal, life, liberty, perzuit of happiness." Then he went back to the soup. The activist, defeated, could not argue against what the old man had experienced on both sides of communism."

Would you not join with me this week and say a prayer for our country? May we continue to seek God. May we continue to seek God's moving in our country. May we go back to the values upon which our country was founded.

May God continue to bless America!