Archive for July, 2005

The Jesus Community

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

  Originally uploaded by Life and Lore.

Below are the five messages for The Jesus Community series…

“Participating in a community of grace” – Being a part of the Jesus community requires a commitment to intentionally sharing your life in the most full way possible. Within this community, individuals are encouraged to be vulnerable to each other and to the movement of God’s spirit so that each person’s faith can flourish and grow. Our ability to participate in this intimate relationship with one another grows slowly as friendships are discovered, forgiveness is expressed, lives are set free. Gathered around the table of Christ, we live out the grace that is experienced in the broken body and shed blood of Christ.

“Telling God’s grand story”
– The Holy scriptures that have been passed down from generation to generation are shared within the Jesus community. Within these precious words, we discover that life was meant to be lived in ways radically different from the “old life” that we have put aside. As the fullness of Christ’s message is revealed among his people, God begins to add chapter and verse to his great work of faith that is lived out in the lives of his people.

“Sharing in an ancient conversation”
– As the story is revealed, participants in the Jesus community assume that questions will be asked and encourage the continuation of the “holy” dialogue that leads us to a new understanding of life. Life’s purpose, the reality of God, the nature of love, the basis of salvation, and many more questions that we encounter on the journey to God’s heart are expressed in the conversations that we share.

“Honoring God with everything”
– Throughout the life of our entire community, it is our earnest desire that God will be honored. The very heartbeat of our life is found in our effort to love God, love God’s people, honor his creativity, and express his grace to the entire world. Bringing delight to the Maker of the heavens, the earth, and all creation is not one part of who we are, it is everything.

“Seeing the conspiracy grow”
– And finally, we wait to see God’s power revealed among us. The Jesus community joins God in his divine work to defeat the evil force of sin which enslaves creation and steals away life.  We are foolish enough to believe that hope is real, love wins, and peace is available to the most disturbed of souls. And we will continue in our foolishness, believing that the Kingdom of God is more than a distant hope, but also a present reality. The Jesus community represents an active force which has conspired with Christ to redeem God’s world.

Where I am…

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Now, I hope this doesn’t get me sued…

Stephanie’s cousin and his fiance are coming into to Cleburne today to visit with us. I am doing their wedding in a few weeks so I will be doing my standard pre-marriage counseling stuff with them. I don’t think I go overboard with the content I share with couples. My opinion is that if they want to invest in their marriage, it is going to take effort on their part. Passively listening to me lecture does very little. I mention some thoughts, encourage them to have some conversations, and offer them resources that I recommend. Which brings me to the reason for this post.

I have three of four copies of the books that I recommend, but since I have done so many weddings since coming to Mansfield, they are all loaned out to people. I didn’t have time to reorder from Amazon, so this morning, I had to make a trip to a place that I used to really enjoy visiting, Family Christian Bookstore. It used to be a highlight for me to get a chance to browse the selection at the "Walmart" of Christian book distributors, but after attending Dan Kimballs seminar, "They like Jesus, but not the church," I had a disturbing experience at my favorite discount superstore. I noticed a book in Family Christian that I had not seen before, and it literally made me shiver. I was shocked to see Rod Parsley’s book, "Silent no More," for sell in that store. Now, I admit that I sometimes watch Rod Parsley on TBN (another of the Christian subculture’s crown jewels) because he is entertaining and disturbing at the same time. I watch him because I enjoy seeing the craft of preaching. I am always uncomfortable with the content, but the craft is fun to observe. But the idea that his book would be available for purchase through a major Christian book distributor really worried me. Silent no More was written as a weapon to be used in the cultural war that is being waged between the Nation of Christians (America) and the Nations of Islam (The Middle East). It does fall short of calling for the next crusades, but not by far. The book is irresponsibly written and it represents someone willing to take advantage of people’s fear or terrorism in order to make a buck. After that day, I decided to take my business elsewhere. Rob Bell’s word kept replaying through my mind, "Something can be labeled Christian and have nothing to do with Christ!"

But today I was in a jam… I needed some books, and Family Christian was my only option. So, I returned, and I can’t help but continue to feel that Christian corporations might be doing real harm to the kingdom. There are no books available in Family Christian that would be considered "academic" quality. There are certainly some well written and well thought out books available, but there are an equal number written by individuals with very little thought given to the harmful theologies that their words support. Walking through those aisles, it almost seems like it should be more difficult to get published.

Conversations that disturbed me today while browsing:

Conversation One

Customer:" I am trying to find a bible that has the Psalms in it. Is that in the New Testament or the Old Testament"

Bookstore Staff: "You need a bible with the New Testament in it."

C: "So the Psalms are in the New Testament."

BS: "Yes"

Me in my head: "Please help us Jesus."

Conversation Two

BS: Ma’am, with your purchase today, would you like to add any of our $5 books? We have a great new book written by Billy Graham’s daughter."

Me in my head: Does Billy Graham’s daughter have a name?

C: What’s the book about?

BS: It’s about witnessing. It answers all the questions that someone might ask you about faith.

Me in my head: Really, that book that is only 60 pages long will answer all our questions. Then what the heck are all the rest of the books in here for? Let’s just sell that book.

C: I’ll take it. I just love her.

M: What?

BS: Yes, I really like her too!

M: Please help us Jesus!

Note to self

Friday, July 29th, 2005

I am setting aside Willard’s book, The Divine Conspiracy, for a while. In January, I am beginning the spring semester with a series called, "The Nuts and Bolts," that will focus on the real practical application of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and such. The second half of Willard’s book is almost entirely focused on how to "live in the present reality of Christ’s kingdom." He spends a great deal of time in the middle of the book focusing on the Sermon on the Mount and the foundational role in plays in Jesus’ ethical teaching. I need to remember to do the same with Nuts and Bolts.

Stirring Souls

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

Lm_pbill"We automatically remember what makes a real difference in our life. The secret of the great teacher is to speak words, to foster experiences, that impact the active flow of the hearer’s life. That is what Jesus did by the way he taught. He tied his teachings to concrete events that make up the hearers’ lives. He aimed his sayings at their hearts and habits as these were revealed in their daily lives."

The Divine Conspiracy 114

One of the most memorable dates that Stephanie and I went on in college was to see Les Miserables in Rudder Auditorium while we were at A&M. My best friend, Jared, had sung many of the Les Miserables songs in High school so I was familiar with the music, but was still completely blown away by the performance and the power of the story.

After reading this statement in Willard’s book, I coincidently began watching the movie with Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman. Now, if you haven’t seen the musical or the movie, I don’t recommend the movie because without the music you miss so much, but I have enjoyed both of them… the movie to a lesser degree.

The opening scene between the convict Valjean and the Priest who "bids him to become a new man," may be the most powerful clip I have seen recently in terms of expressing the grace-filled forgiveness of Christ… and it especially conveys how "life" literally is created when forgiveness is expressed one soul to another.

As I think about my participation in telling the "old, old story," I sense a need within my own preparation to tie my thoughts and preparation to great, powerful, moving stories that stir our souls not because something clicks in our minds alone, but also because something raw and foundational within us says, "yes, yes, tell me more about that." I want to tell stories that, "impact the active flow of the hearer’s life." I’ll be honest. When I read those words, and even sharing them now, my mind says, "I haven’t really figured out exactly what Willard is trying to say here," but somewhere different, in the same place that gives me goose bumps as I listen to the passionate music from Les Miserables, my hearts says, "yes, yes, tell me more about that!"

Fall Message Series

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

I have completed lining out my skeleton for my fall talk series, and the last few Sunday nights with our High School students, I have been brainstorming with them themes, questions, comments, and other pieces of feedback for myself as I contintue to work out the details. I am appreciating more and more the process of community interaction and input into the sermon prep process. So, in that spirit, I share my that framework here that I have put together for our High School worship and Mosaic.

“The Jesus Community”
What does it mean to be a member of the Jesus community? During this opening series of the fall, we will explore what it means to be a part of the ancient living stream of men and women who have sought to pattern their life after Jesus. We will be looking at the early church and focus on the question, what kind of people must we be in order to live out the “full” life that Jesus promises to his followers?

“Dating & Relating”
Because God designed us to live in community and build healthy relationships, there are few things more important for our faith development than learning to communicate, understand, and forgive one another. During this series, we will talk about building healthy relationships not only with people of the opposite sex, but also with our friends, family, classmates, and coworkers. (During this series, our High School students will have a Girl’s Retreat and a Guy’s Retreat, October 7th & 8th.)

“Me or the Mask?”
So which one is the real me? The person I see when I look in the mirror or the mask I wear around school, work, or within my peer group? All of us have felt a tug on our hearts to be someone that we’re not, but freedom is found in discovering the person God designed us to be! Don’t miss out on this important series where we will focus on taking off the masks we wear everyday in order to earn the approval and acceptance that God has already given to us.

“Welcoming Jesus”
As Christmas approaches, we will turn our attention to the baby Jesus who comes into our world in the most unexpected way in order to change us forever in ways beyond our imagination. Have you made room for the “full” life that Jesus has in store for you? Whatever your answer may be, we hope you will join us in welcoming Jesus as well as the fresh and incredible life he brings. 

We’ll start here…

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Well, after incredible feedback from the readers, we have decided on a full name for Mosaic.

We will call it…

"Mosaic: A worship gathering for young adults"

Now, we will see if anyone shows up.

For those who are interested in it, here is how we are describing this new gathering.

Starting on August 8th, we are adding a brand new worship gathering called Mosaic for young adults.  Mosaic will meet on Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. in the A&E building, room 222. Mosaic is for college students, young professionals, singles, married couples, young adults working 9 to 5 and studying from 5 to 9, and anyone else who finds themselves in the “in-between” stage of life. The purpose of Mosaic is to provide a place of connection for young adults who often feel disconnected along their journey to discover their own purpose and place in God’s kingdom here on earth. At Mosaic we will lift up the grand story of God believing that God has been dreaming big dreams for our lives! While we celebrate God’s story, we will share our stories, seeking to partner with one another in order to discover more of God and more of what a life with Christ is all about. Do you believe that life is about more than taking up space? So do we.

The “no name” generation

Monday, July 18th, 2005

We are starting a new worship gathering at our church this fall that we are calling Mosaic. I am really excited about this new gathering, but I am struggling with a subtitle for Mosaic to express who we want to be a part of it. Mosaic is an outgrowth of our college age ministry area but it is also for singles, young professionals, and random 20-somethings. Some possibilities:

A gathering for young adults

A gathering of twenty-somethings

Church of the Resurrection expresses it this way: single adults and married couples 18-32 (a little wordy)

As you can tell, my creative mind has hit a speed bump. Any suggestions?

Meaty topics

Friday, July 15th, 2005

Pages 93-95 of The Divine Conspiracy are incredible. If you are reading the book, or intend to in the future, pay careful attention to Willard’s thoughts on those pages. I would love to share some quotes, but I would end up sharing the whole 3 pages. His thoughts express in detail the great hole that modernity has left in our theological framework.

Emergent Apologetics

Friday, July 15th, 2005

Youth Specialties has a good article on Emergent apologetics by Tony Myles. I really connect with the idea of the re-emergence of originality.

Disturbing Ideas

Friday, July 15th, 2005

  Our church invitation t-shirt 
  Originally uploaded by Insane Zamboni.

Like many people, it pains me to drive by churches on a regular basis who decide to plaster the most backwards and unkind statements on their “church bulletin boards,” that border their property lines and broadcasts to their neighbors what they are all about…  And with the delicacy of that task in mind the best that some of our advanced theological minds can come up with is…

“Jesus is coming… are you ready?”

and my favorite…

“If you think it’s hot down here…”   

Really! That’s the best we can do! That’s the image of kingdom living… the image of our faith that we want the world to have in their mind as they drive by our churches and wonder whether there is a place for them in our pews. That’s what the purpose of the church has come too. We are no longer into the life altering, radical adventure, “full” life that Jesus talked about… We’ve decided that the most important thing for us to be known as is the place that guarantees (dangerous word, eh?) a spot in heaven that (wait for it!) isn’t as hot as it is down here!

Some will disagree with me, and think that I am worrying too much about what amounts to a little humor. But let me ask a question in response to anyone who would think, “If you think it’s hot down here,” is funny. Who thinks that’s funny? The answer to that question is simple… People who don’t think they are going to hell think it’s funny. Maybe the average person who attends your church may think that’s funny, but is that the type of “inside” humor that is appropriate to be displayed for the entire world to see. Why not just be blunt and say, “this is place is for us, not them.”

And if Jesus is coming, I have a question. Where is he right now? Is he on vacation like a parent who leaves a teenager at home for a few days? If we believe Jesus is coming, what do we believe about where he has been? Through a few words on a bumper sticker, we have made a profound statement about the world we live in. We have become Deists, believing that God created and then disappeared, but beware… because Jesus is coming back!

I’ll admit, I would support the removal of all slogans, sayings, and other announcements to be removed from church grounds across America because our theology shouldn’t be reduced to sound bites, bumper stickers, key chains, or cute slogans… At least until we find the ability to speak intelligently and responsibly about our faith. Until we are willing to say…

“Love Wins”

“Got questions… so do we!”

“We believe in hope!”

…or how about this one from White’s Chapel’s youth ministry

“There is a God. He loves you. You can know him. We want to help.”

“We live in God’s world… there are fingerprints everywhere.”

“Grace is free.”

The church desperately needs to be reminded that our words matter. We should be diligent in this task of discovering a new language that is filled with grace because there are times when it seems we have forgotten the definition of that critical word… until we rediscover that, we are losing ground… working against the natural flow of God’s love for the world… doing a great disservice to the gospel of Christ.

Maybe that should be our prayer.

God, help us to get out of the way. Reveal yourself!