Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hate Going to Church?

A lot of people I know--many of whom profess to be Christian--hate going to church.

In Acts, Luke writes of the early church, "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts" (2:46).  Every day!?  It seems like a lot of people can't handle once a week.

You don't want to go to church?  There's a problem there.  Maybe it's the church--it just isn't doing what the church is supposed to do.  Maybe it's you--you just aren't really that big into all this Jesus stuff.  Either way, there's something missing.  If you truly believe the problem is with your church, do something about it--fix your church, or find a better church, or supplement your church with a small group or something like that.  If the problem is you...get fixed.

It Just Takes A Moment

Rahab was a prostitute.

If you have selected prostitution as your profession, you have made some terrible decisions in your life.  Rahab had.  Had Rahab continued on her journey the way she had been living, things would have just gone from bad to worse.  She would have been killed and no one would remember a thing about her or that she had even existed.

Instead, in a single moment, she changed course.  By deciding to cooperate with God's people, she saves her own life and the lives of her family members.  She became part of the community of God's people.  Not only is she remembered for helping the spies, she also makes her way into the genealogies of David and Solomon, but also in the genealogy of Jesus.  The Son of God carried her DNA.

Prostitution is one of those careers that no one wants to be in.  Bad circumstances and bad choices lead people there, and bad circumstances and bad choices keep people there.  Rahab probably felt trapped.  A lot of us feel trapped now and then.  If we keep our eyes open, there's no telling when we will have that moment--our moment to do the right thing, to embrace the plan of God, and let God work in our lives to improve things.

Any moment can be a good moment.  It may not be that life-changing once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity moment, but it can still be a moment that makes life better.  Perhaps, in this moment, you can choose to accept God's call on your life.  Perhaps, in this moment, you can choose to improve your marriage.  Perhaps, in this moment, you can extend an extra bit of time to love your kids, or start exercising, or eat healthier.  Life is full of choices.  Choose to make the most of this moment.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Considering Job

This ties in directly with the previous post.

"Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.  And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason" (Job 2:3).

Do you maintain your integrity in the face of troubles?  Could a holy God describe you as "blameless and upright"?  Could a fallen man even describe you (honestly) as "blameless and upright"?  That's kind of a high standard.

Reach for it.

Are You Living It?

In 1 Thessalonians 2:10, Paul writes, "You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed."

Wow.  That's pretty ballsy.  I don't know too many Christians that are willing to actually say, "Hey, look at me, I'm living the way I've been telling you that you are supposed to live."  That takes some guts, because we all have our moments and fall short of what we expect of ourselves and what God expects of us.

What if your goal today was to simply live today in such a way that you could speak like this about today?  Can we live like that for one day?  I think that's doable.  And if we can do it for one day today, we can probably do the same tomorrow.  One day at a time, and pretty soon it's a habit.  Why don't we do this?  It would be hard.  Even more importantly, it would pretty much have to rank quite high on your priority list to do it.  I guess that's why people don't.

Maybe that's why so many people think Christians are hypocrites.  Maybe they're right.

Don't be a hypocrite.

Waiting For It

"The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.'"


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Responding to Jesus

In Matthew 2, we read about the Magi and Herod, both searching for Jesus.  Both believed, and both wanted to find the baby, but they went about it very differently and for very different reasons.

A truth that is demonstrated here is that anytime we are exposed to God in any way, we will always be changed in some way.  How we are changed is largely up to us.  We can either draw closer to God, or we can rebel against him.  The Magi faced the truth, and devoted their time to finding Jesus to be closer to him.  Herod, in response to the same truth, felt compelled to find Jesus to stop him from ever becoming king.  Herod didn't want to himself be closer to Jesus--he just wanted to make sure no one else did, either.  His response is paranoid, fearful, aggressive, and violent.

Herod was obviously a nasty guy.  What kind of king orders all male babies under the age of two to be killed (verse 16)?  Can you imagine how you would feel and how you would respond if a government leader sent that order out in your community?  They don't have to--in this country, we murder our own babies when they are inconvenient, and no one has to force us to do so.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Be Strong and Courageous

It's not too many of who actually hear God speaking to us.  Still, God doesn't change, and good advice is always good advice.  When God put Joshua in charge of the nation of Israel, he gave Joshua some pretty clear instructions.

"Be strong and courageous...Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law...meditate on it...Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:6-9).

Did you ever notice in school that if your instructor says something two or three times that it was going to be on the test?  The same thing is true in Hebrew literature.  Repetition indicates truth and importance.  In these four verses, God tells Joshua to "be strong and courageous" three times.  That's because it's important!

Too many of us just aren't courageous.  We worry a lot.  And, the habit of lacking courage actually makes us weak.  God wants something far better for you and for me.  Has he not commanded us?  Be strong and courageous!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A List of Nasty Traits

"Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (Romans 1:28-31).

See that, kids?  Disobeying your parents is on the same list as murder.  Be good!

Job's Prayer

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

That's Some Plan

Most people list genealogies as some of the most boring passages of scripture.  I have learned to appreciate them.  The genealogy of Jesus is the specific example that isn't as boring as it may seem.

You see, as we read through the genealogy, a lot of those names we have heard before in the Old Testament.  There are some really great people in there.  There's David and Solomon, and there's some lesser-known good guys in there, too, like Hezekiah and Josiah.  It's really a testimony of how God has been at work all throughout history to prepare for the coming of Jesus.

They aren't just good guys in Jesus' genealogy, though.  There's some bad guys.  There are some stories tied in there that are rather despicable.  Solomon's mom was the woman that David had an affair with, remember?  Don't even get me started on Tamar.  This is significant, too.  God has a plan for all of us--even if we are failures.

After the genealogy ends, Matthew begins to tell the Christmas story.  After hundreds of years of God planning for this, things still weren't silky smooth and worry-free.  Joseph considered leaving Mary during the pregnancy.  That's a lot of drama.  And the next time someone asks you if you were born in a barn--don't worry about it--Jesus was.

I see some lessons in that genealogy.  First, God has a plan for each of us.  No matter how good of a job we've done to screw it up, God can still use us.  Second, things aren't always neat and easy, and that's okay.  It isn't an indictment that we've screwed up or that we aren't in the will of God--stuff just happens.  Finally, culture is over-rated.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

10 Commandments of Small Groups

I've been thinking about what small group ministry should look like.  What if we applied the Ten Commandments to small groups?  I think it would look something like this:

  1. You shall have no other gods.  Small groups should be focused on God.
  2. You shall have no idols that distract you from God.  That includes your cell phones, televisions, and grandfather clocks.
  3. You shall honor the name of God.  That includes being sincere and truthful when talking to and about God.
  4. Remember the Sabbath.  Your group should have regularly scheduled time set aside to meet together.  Meeting "whenever we can" will soon translate into meeting "never."
  5. Honor one another.  (Jesus said that those who do the will of God are his brother and sister and mother.  Honoring one another is to keep the commandment to honor our parents.)
  6. Have an attitude of reconciliation.  (This is the opposite of murder.)
  7. Nurture healthy relationships.  (This is the opposite of adultery.)
  8. Allow each member of the group to share their thoughts and gifts as they are comfortable to do so.  Don't force it or try to one-up one another.  (This is the opposite of theft.)
  9. Speak with love.  This means offering truth, encouragement, and confidentiality to each member of the group.  (This is the opposite of giving false witness.)
  10. Appreciate and respect what each member brings to the group.  (This is the opposite of covetousness.)  

This blog may or may not include original thought. It was severely influenced by Gareth Weldon Icenogle's Biblical Foundations for Small Group Ministry: An Integrational Approach.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Putting Yourself Out There

As a kid, I got to spend a lot of time with my grandparents over the summers.  I would go for a week at a time, sometimes with my brothers, sometimes with cousins, sometimes with both, and sometimes with neither (but never with my parents).  This is a great experience for a kid.  I highly recommend it.

During those visits, I really got to know my grandparents.  You can project yourself to be whomever you want to project yourself as for a day or two, but over the course of a week (and several weeks in a single summer), day in and day out, your true self will shine through.  I got to discover the authenticity of my grandparents.  Those totally awesome people on Thanksgiving Day?  They're like that 24/7.  I also got to learn their stories.  They told me about growing up, courtship, working in an orphanage, raising children (which is more entertaining when those children are your dad, aunt, and uncle)...all sorts of stuff. 

One of the stories my grandma told me was about when she and my grandpa first started dating.  Apparently, my grandma had a nasty habit of dumping guys for sport.  Well, not for sport.  Basically, she was happy with single life and didn't want some guy to mess that up.  (I can relate.)  What changed when she met my grandpa?  Nothing, really.  Her mother (my great-grandma) told her that she couldn't break up with my grandpa unless she had an actual reason.  The rest, as they say, is history.

I never asked if my grandpa knew back then that my grandma had been a serial break-up artist.  I got the impression that he didn't, but I should have asked him.  I wonder now if he would have pursued her if he had known the high probability that she was going to hurt him.  Would he have put himself out there and taken that chance?

I think he would.  There's two reasons I think my grandpa would have risked his heart to pursue my grandma:
  1. Grandma is that awesome.
  2. Grandpa was that awesome.
Love is crazy like that.

That got me thinking.  Jesus put himself out there for us.  He knew what it would cost him.  God keeps on extending grace, even though He knows full well that more often than not, we're going to hurt him--and we all have.  That's some crazy love right there.

What's the appropriate response to a crazy love like that?  Crazy love is the only response to that.  If you aren't a fanatic about your response to God, I daresay you're not doing it right.

How do you know if you're loving God like you should?  Jesus said outsiders would be able to tell by the way we love one another.  That means it's our turn.  Have you put yourself out there to extend crazy love to someone today?