The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

Where am I Leading Us?

When as a church leadership you decide to take your church on a journey through confirming vision/mission/purpose and doctrine/theology; you have to confirm your own thought and positions. The leadership team (pastors and myself) has begun the journey of discussing where each of us stand on what we have determined to be the essentials.

This has been a tremendous experience because it has forced me to rethink and remember why it is that I hold the positions that I do. This has led to an intense time of study in which I have been reminded of where my positions have come from. Sounds simple enough, right?

This leads me to my next thought… how can you lead when you don’t know where you are going? Obvious answer, you can’t.

As a church leader I have enjoyed rekindling and remembering the why and how of where I stand.

Let me give an example –

Here are some ‘bottom line’ type stuff we are talking through:

  • We believe that humanity, both men and women, were created in the image of God and designed to be His image bearers on this earth.
  • We believe that our first parents sinned against God and that everyone since is a sinner by nature and by choice. Sin has totally affected all of creation including marring human image and likeness so that all of our being is stained by sin (e.g. reasoning, desires, and emotions), making us incapable of coming to Christ apart from His grace.
  • We believe that because all people have sinned and separated themselves from the Holy God that He is obligated to save no one from the just deserved punishments of hell. We also believe that God in His unparalleled love and mercy has chosen to elect some people for salvation.
  • We believe that the salvation of the elect was predestined by God in eternity past.

There are a few words in there that upon first reading scared me a little. Ok, scared me a lot.

So what did I do? I went back to the Scriptures, back to sources I trusted and find out why those words scared me and if they should even scare me at all. As it turns out, they shouldn’t scare me. The words that scared me are biblical words used in Scripture to speak of something specific and to describe the work that God is doing in my life and in the life of the rest of humanity.

Why was I scared? Because I had forgotten why I understood and believed what I do. I had forgotten the biblical nature of the words. I had forgotten where I came from.

This is dangerous. I had a bible college professor who used to say, “Don’t believe something because I tell you it is true, believe it because you study the bible and know it to be true.” Excellent advice. It is dangerous for us to take a stand that we don’t understand. It is dangerous for us to assume what we believe is true if we can’t back it up using Scripture. It is dangerous for us to get complacent in our theology/doctrine/beliefs that we forget the why. The book of Jude reminds us to earnestly contend for our faith, which is a call to know not just what we believe, but why.

I am glad that we have been chasing down the essentials. Now I remember why my essentials are essential to me.

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen is a specific sect of Buddhism. And the pursuit of Buddhism is enlightenment. There was your very brief lesson in Buddhism.

If you have ever looked for a book on either Buddhism or motorcycle maintenance, you have no doubt come a across a book with the same name as this post. I haven’t quite figured out how they are related… but let me attempt to draw a connection:

Enlightenment is the pursuit of a state that is marked by the absence of desire and suffering. Sounds good. Working on my motorcycle sometimes brings me a sense that I need not desire anything more in life and a sensation of not suffering, but being totally blissed.

Sometimes.

More often, it is a struggle of constant frustration/suffering and intense desire for the stupid thing to be fixed.

So where is the enlightenment? I must be doing it wrong.

I had an experience like this last Thursday. I spent hours on tuning my carbs (I have four of them on the cursed bike I ride!), trying to adjust the idle. I was reseting the air/fuel mixture and adjusting the idle set screw. It took some time, but I was able to get it set to something that was reasonably close to what should be normal idle for the bike.

So I did what any normal person does at this point… I rode the bike. The stupid thing reset its idle to run high again. I don’t understand it. I just ride it. I would rather ride the bike at a high idle than not at all. I rest satisfied that regardless of what is causing the issues with the idle, I have done all I can to remedy it. It may be time to take it to a friend who certainly knows better.

I went out yesterday to ride the bike for a lunch appointment only to find the battery is dead. There could be any number of reasons for this. Even giving myself the credit I deserve, there’s a high degree of possibility it is a result of my shoddy wiring. I’ll jump it today and we will go from there. Who knows, could be a simpler explanation. Or at least a simple one that easy to find and fix.

I thought long and hard several years ago about going to Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. That would have altered the course of my life in a bigger way than any other choice I have ever made. Not saying I regret it. But, sometimes I think life would have be simpler if I had done that. Had I not been 1/3 of the way through a MA in Counseling I would have. You know what they say about hindsight thought. Still, tinkering and hacking on my bikes is fun to me. The exhaust is imminently getting hacked up. Now that I am supremely sure it won’t damage the motor.

I like working on vehicles. It’s almost an obsession. When I was younger with less financial responsibilities it was destructive. I had this old Scrambler that I was always working on. I kept thinking, ‘just one more thing and then it will be perfect.’ It never became perfect. So I sold it. I will find photos of it in the attic and post them in a subsequent post to connect the dots for those wondering why I enjoy the suffering that comes from working on vehicles I rely on to get me places I need to be. I am a glutton for punishment. What else can I say?

I hope when you work on you hobby, whatever it may be, that it brings you a zen-like experience of enlightenment, absent of desire and suffering.

Or at least, I hope you don’t cuss like a sailor in front of your kids cuz the stupid thing is broke… again.

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen is a specific sect of Buddhism. And the pursuit of Buddhism is enlightenment. There was your very brief lesson in Buddhism.

If you have ever looked for a book on either Buddhism or motorcycle maintenance, you have no doubt come a across a book with the same name as this post. I haven’t quite figured out how they are related… but let me attempt to draw a connection:

Enlightenment is the pursuit of a state that is marked by the absence of desire and suffering. Sounds good. Working on my motorcycle sometimes brings me a sense that I need not desire anything more in life and a sensation of not suffering, but being totally blissed.

Sometimes.

More often, it is a struggle of constant frustration/suffering and intense desire for the stupid thing to be fixed.

So where is the enlightenment? I must be doing it wrong.

I had an experience like this last Thursday. I spent hours on tuning my carbs (I have four of them on the cursed bike I ride!), trying to adjust the idle. I was reseting the air/fuel mixture and adjusting the idle set screw. It took some time, but I was able to get it set to something that was reasonably close to what should be normal idle for the bike.

So I did what any normal person does at this point… I rode the bike. The stupid thing reset its idle to run high again. I don’t understand it. I just ride it. I would rather ride the bike at a high idle than not at all. I rest satisfied that regardless of what is causing the issues with the idle, I have done all I can to remedy it. It may be time to take it to a friend who certainly knows better.

I went out yesterday to ride the bike for a lunch appointment only to find the battery is dead. There could be any number of reasons for this. Even giving myself the credit I deserve, there’s a high degree of possibility it is a result of my shoddy wiring. I’ll jump it today and we will go from there. Who knows, could be a simpler explanation. Or at least a simple one that easy to find and fix.

I thought long and hard several years ago about going to Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. That would have altered the course of my life in a bigger way than any other choice I have ever made. Not saying I regret it. But, sometimes I think life would have be simpler if I had done that. Had I not been 1/3 of the way through a MA in Counseling I would have. You know what they say about hindsight thought. Still, tinkering and hacking on my bikes is fun to me. The exhaust is imminently getting hacked up. Now that I am supremely sure it won’t damage the motor.

I like working on vehicles. It’s almost an obsession. When I was younger with less financial responsibilities it was destructive. I had this old Scrambler that I was always working on. I kept thinking, ‘just one more thing and then it will be perfect.’ It never became perfect. So I sold it. I will find photos of it in the attic and post them in a subsequent post to connect the dots for those wondering why I enjoy the suffering that comes from working on vehicles I rely on to get me places I need to be. I am a glutton for punishment. What else can I say?

I hope when you work on you hobby, whatever it may be, that it brings you a zen-like experience of enlightenment, absent of desire and suffering.

Or at least, I hope you don’t cuss like a sailor in front of your kids cuz the stupid thing is broke… again.

What is REAL Worship?

Formatting got weird but you get the idea anyway.

What is Real Worship?

Eli Westfall

Matthew 25:35-40; James 1:27

Student-led Sunday 7/25/10

Intro:

  1. CIY Video
  2. Eat the sausage?
  3. Recap our CIY Challenges

T.S.: This leads me into what I feel to be the essential lessons that we learned from CIY:

  1. A. What is REAL Worship?
    1. a. I’m not talking about contemp. vs. trad. songs or style of service here.
    2. b. I’m talking about what is ‘REAL’ worship?
    3. c. What does God think of when he thinks about worship?
    4. d. What kind of worship makes him happy?
    5. B. I think that we can get an idea of what kind of worship makes God happy or what he is looking for when he thinks about worship by looking into the Scriptures:
      1. a. Micah 6:6-8 6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
      2. b. What was God trying to get at?
      3. Mt. 25:35-40 says, 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
      4. D. God says that real worship is caring for someone in need…
      5. E. Not b/c of what we get out of this but b/c they need it
        1. a. We don’t do it with a conscience awareness that God is watching with the intent to reward us
        2. b. We help other b/c it is the right thing to do, not b/c we expect to get praise for it
        3. c. Coincidently in Mt.6:2 Jesus says 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
        4. This passage in Matthew where Jesus calls us out for not helping those around us fits into the verses from Micah in that in v.8 of the Micah passage God says that he requires for us to do justice, love kindness & walk humbly with God… if you help ppl who need help that you encounter along the way you accomplish at least 2 of 3 of those:
          1. Do Justice – it’s just not right for us to  let ppl go hungry, be naked, be sick and not cared for or to suffer the indignity of jail alone (Jesus makes no distinction as to whether they deserved to be in those circumstances or not)
            1. i.      These are the simple things of life that every person should have.
  2. Love Kindness ­– when we do these kinds of things for ppl we do it b/c we love the rest of humanity, or as Lk.10:25-37 in the story of the Good Samaritan expresses are our neighbors.
    1. i.      Helping someone in need is the Natural expression of a heart that loves their neighbor.
    2. Further, what Jesus tells us here
    3. James, the very bother of Jesus, offers some insight into what God accepts as REAL worship.
    4. James 1:27, 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
    5. Let’s talk about religion for a minute… what comes to mind when we think of religion?
      1. Rules
      2. Regulations
      3. Rigidness
      4. Lack of love
      5. institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
      6. What did James mean?
        1. Worship in the sense of the outward expression of religion in ritual or liturgy or ceremony… that is worship, what we do outside ourselves to express worship to God
        2. Worship, James says, is caring for the orphans and widows…
        3. Anytime you see orphans and widows in Scripture, its speaking of ppl who can’t care for themselves.
        4. We see this terminology especially referring to ppl that God has accepted responsibility to care for as in Ps 68:5, 5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
        5. Or as in Zech. 7:6-10 where the Word of the Lord comes to Zechariah, 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears.
        6. According to these verses to be close to the heart of God is to care for those that can not care for themselves.
        7. Zechariah’s complaint regarding the ppl of Israel was that they were oppressing the widow & fatherless, the alien & the poor.
        8. This leaves us with the fact that we can have it ‘right’ on Sunday morning but completely miss the point with what actually matter to God.
        9. Watch this with me, cause its about to get crazy-
          1. Style songs are not what matters
          2. Powerful loving sermons are not what matters
          3. Saying all the right things during the communion meditation
          4. All the programs and activities aren’t what matters
          5. wHAT matters is doing the actual MINISTRY that Jesus started by reaching out to a world that so desperately needs him.
          6. If you were at Friday night’s session with Les Hardin what did he remind us Jesus was called? A glutton and a drunk.  Why? Cause he spent time with tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes.
          7. Are we prepared to do the actual ministry that needs to be done for this community? Or are we going to be contented to let the world die around us with no help from us?
          8. This Wednesday we have the perfect opportunity to get out and do ministry where rubber meets the road… Heart4 Homeless.
          9. Last several Wednesday nights have had great attendance… disappointed will Christ be if our attendance is weak this Wednesday?
          10. REAL Worship is serving the ppl who need it, the orphans and widows, those hungry or thirsty or naked or sick on in jail… are we going to throw our worship away and sit idly by or are we gonna do something about it?

The Diary of God… Prophet/Priest

Yesterday I was having a conversation and I used an analogy to describe me that I had not in some time. I spoke of Ezekiel and his call to be a prophet. “Zeke” as I like to call him had been called as a priest into the priesthood. The problem with that is the whole Babylonian captivity thing. Zeke thought he knew what God had planned for him until one day God changed his mind… or should I say that God changed Zeke’s perception of what his ministry was going to be. Check out Ezekiel 1:2; 2:3; 3:2 for more of the story according to the Scriptures. I wonder if the Scriptures were kinder to Zeke than reality was. It seems as though he went to the new path willingly with no complaints. My journey has not been so easy going. There have been many days of second guessing, rethinking, looking back, and wondering if I had done the right thing. Every time I wrestle with this question God seems to work in my life in a way that allows me to see how he has me where he wants me. My plan wasn’t always to go to Bible College and then go into ministry. But I ended up there and then what you do after that is go into ministry. My ministry experience has been tumultuous. And after graduating Bible College and struggling to find my way in ministry, I fell into case management. I have had a few experiences recently that have been encouraging me in the path that I find myself on. I’m not sure why I constantly struggle with whether I am in the right place or not as far as God is concerned. In the last year I really feel like God has lead me to where he needs me, he is constantly deepening my passion or purpose for the children, youth and families that go unnoticed in the world. There is great ministry to be done by working at a church in vocational ministry, but there is a vast, untapped source of ministry outside employment at a church. This is what I call secular ministry. Watch out for the book about it one day. I often feel that being able to do the ministry of the church is easier when not employed by a church. Honestly, there is a precipice that must be overcome before you can begin to realize this type of ministry. It is real easy to be employed by a church and talk about passages like 1 Peter 2:5 about all being a holy priesthood, but it another thing when we are faced with the task of finding ourselves on the other side of the ministry coin, trying to fit into the ministry of the church. It is not always easy, it takes effort to force ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to minister to those around us. I remember when I was a Campus Minister at UGA, I used to tell our student leaders that it was imperative for them to meet the new visitors. I can meet visitors all day long, talk to them, and take interest in them… I’m a Campus Minister, I get paid to care about them. Therefore it means a ton more when one of the student leaders, just another college student like them, genuinely cares. The same is true about people in general. The “clergy” is paid to care about the world, when one of normal joes do it is out of the ordinary. I was reading a Brian McLaren book a few years ago and I think it was him who pointed out that the Jewish Rabbis didn’t get paid to be Rabbis. They had to work and ind money other ways in order to be able to be Rabbis. This changed my life and my view of ministry. A passage of Scripture that God really laid on my heart several years ago is Proverbs 24:11-12. I have kind of made these my personal mission statement verses. They are the ones that have held me accountable over the years as I have chased after God and attempted to understand the journey he has lead me on. Being a Priest is cool, but being a Prophet is better.

Fast forward two years to where I am today and the story is not over… I am now working a church fulfilling the ‘priest’ aspect of God’s calling on my life.  Why am I here?  Hopefully, to use the skills and knowledge that I gained from the secular ministry in the vocational ministry.  I find that even in vocational ministry it is often hard to do the real ministry of the church.  We get caught up in doing the work of the church that we don’t do the Work of the Church.  Make sense?

Being a priest is great… not everyone is called in that way though…

If we take ministry (prophet or priest variety) seriously, it is hard.  Long hours, hard work, little thanks and lots of hurt feeling because people lash out at you.  People get mad cause they don’t get it.  People want someone to blame when you force them out of their comfort.  People  don’t like being pushed.  People like to be a Christian as far as it doesn’t cause and real discomfort.  People like being a Christian as long as they don’t have to change anything.

In some ways, I hate being a Christian and being in ministry… it challenges me to think of others over myself.  Selfishness is destroyed.  I don’t have the right to be selfish… But then again was God selfish?  Philippians 2:4-8 — 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

Is it Change for the Sake of Change or is it Progress?

On wednesday night we braved new ground with our WednesdayNITRO!. Split into planned small groups. No this was not change for the sake of change. It was change to improve and to make things better. What we are trying to accomplish is make our time together a safer place for the students. It is not my intention to upset or offend anyone. I hope that everybody involved knows that my best intention is for our students. Please feel free to speak to me If there are any concerns.

I should disclaimer myself and state that I’m not in this to keep cows sacred for the sake of it. I like traditions as long we keep them in order for a reason. For instance, I hate to get rid of stuff. Shoes get recycled with glue. Pants get repaired with duct tape. Stuff just doesn’t get thrown out until it is dead beyond the ability to repair with duct tape or gorilla glue.

I point that out to demonstrate that I don’t want to change for the sake of change, I wanna change for the sake of better.

More changes and more plans for the future are coming down the pike. Thanks for the support!