I grew up going to church since I was a kid. The church my family and I attended was conservative and maybe even a little legalistic at times. I can remember being chastised for playing “Go Fish” and “War” with a deck of playing cards (because cards are used in gambling was the excuse I was given). We were allowed to play “Dutch Blitz” because they were different kinds of cards. Similar “policies” were made about movies, dress code and music. But the church and its congregation loved Jesus, loved the Bible and for the most part I really enjoyed church as a kid. As I hear other people’s horror stories about church, I think I did pretty well. But that’s not what this post is about. I want to talk about “church people”. I wonder sometimes if the kind and style of the church either attracts or creates the kind of Christians that come out of it. Again, I’m not specifically talking about my church or any church in particular but it seems depending on what church you attend determines what kind of “church person” you become. But there are some generalities about relationships with most church people that are bothersome.
Hope is a critical attribute in life. Without hope, we’re done. It’s hope that gives us the energy to push through when things are difficult. It’s hope that helps us persevere when everything in us wants to give up. But the problem is most of what we call “hope” is not really hope at all. We live in a world that is best at “hope so” which is essentially, “this might be ok”. There is little assurance in that kind of hope. It’s all up in the air and circumstantial. It doesn’t change us it just takes our odds from 0% to 25 or 50% — but come on, how “hopeful” is that? The problem is that that is the best the world can offer us. Sure we can do things to up our odds of success, but it’s so temperamental and unstable.
-What’s ahead and Why?
-The Case for Worship
-Extrinsic Action Creates Intrinsic Emotion (The 7 words for worship)
-Style is not part of the equation, but intimacy is
-In Spirit and in Truth
What’s ahead and Why?
We have a unique opportunity ahead of us as a church family. Friday, February 3rd will be our first church-wide worship night at Grace. And as excited as we all are in planning it, I started asking myself why? We’ve been talking about a worship night for years. So, why now? Is it necessary?
We’ve all been there and will be there again…the borderlands. It’s that place between where we were and where we’d hope to be. Some may call it a season of waiting, the in between, a lonely, often frustrating place. Often the phrase that is uttered in the borderlands is, “I thought by now…” We made plans, we had aspirations and life doesn’t seem to be cooperating. Or it could be that an unexpected event threw us into the borderlands. We were progressing, things were moving forward and then all of a sudden we wonder, “how did I get here?” The issue is not how to avoid being in the borderlands. Although I do believe we can reduce the amount of times we end up there, we can’t eliminate those trips altogether. So we must wrestle with what we do when we find ourselves there.
In process…Together, taking next steps toward loving Jesus & loving others.
So let’s talk about what it means to be a Christian. There is a lot of great wisdom for living life in the Bible. We go to most churches and hear a lot about how to live according to God’s design. We discover how to have a healthy marriage according to God’s design, have healthy families, good finances, work ethic etc etc. I too have preached this and believe it. Even if you don’t become a Christian, God’s ways are wise and right. He did create us and learning to live the way He says is the best way to live. Now we could talk about how the power and ability to actually live that way is not available unless you are a Christian, unless the Holy Spirit lives in you. But that’s not my purpose in this post.
Babylon was an ancient city dominant in its time. Daniel and his friends were part of a group of Jews who were exiled to Babylon, a culture completely foreign to the one they knew. As we’ve been working through the message series, we’ve used Babylon as a metaphor for our current culture in America. Babylon was populated by a polytheistic culture which worshipped many different gods. And because of many exiles from different cultures that were incorporated into Babylon it was also a pluralistic culture. As Daniel and his friends arrived on the scene the thought of worshipping one God was a foreign concept to the king and people of Babylon.
We live in an funny time. Everybody seems to want to do whatever they want without being held accountable by anyone. Irresponsibility seems to have moved from being a teenage thing to being a “people thing”. And this culture has made it’s way into churches and the lives of Christians. The scary thing is we are often unaware of it. And unless we decide to first of all admit/notice how far we’ve drifted from God’s design on this topic and then take steps towards God’s best we will continue to experience the same fall outs relationally and personally that the rest of the world experiences.
God cares about how we relate with one another. The Bible is full of practical and insightful wisdom when it comes to relationships. There is a design from the designer for how we are created to relate. However, just as in practically every other thing, sin has corrupted the design. We relate with sinners, in fact every relationship we have is with a sinner. While that let’s no one off the hook, it should make us all a little more patient and full of grace towards each other. And it should make God’s Word a more readily accessed text one connection. Not only does God provide us with wisdom to navigate relationships, but He provides to the power and transformation to all believers in Jesus. There are some who are moderately successful at relating using Godly principles without God (because they are still true!) however, the real power comes from the Spirit of God at work in us and through us in our connections with each other.
It may just be the circles I travel in, but I have not met anyone who doesn’t want to grow, get better or become who they were made to be. Now the desire to grow doesn’t mean that everyone grows. There are lots of reasons why we don’t grow. I will say intentional action in the right areas has major impact, but sometimes we are unclear about what those actions should be and to be honest, they are often very individualistic. So without knowing your story, let me offer one of the simplest and best ways to set yourself up for growth. Start by “creating space”.
We love the word “new”! Hopefully we got a few “new” items for Christmas, people enjoy a “new” car and products that are “new” are almost always “improved” as well. What is it about “new”? The word new has potential and hope particularly that it won’t be what we had before. In a sense, “new” undoes or changes the old. As followers of Jesus, “new” is built into the fabric of our lives. We became new creations when we received Jesus, the old (life before) was gone and the new life had come. Having been a Christian since I was very young, I’ve come to embrace the “new” even more than most. As I sit here at the end of one year and the beginning of another, I have a sense of “new”. I have begun asking myself what will be new for me this year? What do I want to work on? What do I want to let go of? Who do I want to become? What do I wish I was more like? What could my marriage be like? How could I grow as dad? What would I be like if I were a better leader? Questions like these are the place to start as you enter into a new year. The reason is you want to define in a descriptive way the end goal, the desired picture. This will not only help you to know when you arrive there but will also provide the motivation to push forward. I once heard that a vision is a picture of the future that produces passion. If you and I don’t spend the time necessary to develop a vision for our lives we will find any changes will be temporary or we’ll lack the necessary fuel to see our work through to completion. Don’t skip this critical first step in defining your “new”.