Thursday, March 31, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Trust is an integral part of our life - from trusting our mechanic, our dentist, to trusting everyone who is driving on the same road as we are. Spiritually, it is the foundation of our walk with God. A great example of trust and loss of trust is seen in Matthew 14:22-33 when Peter walked to Jesus on the water. My favorite OT verse on trust is Psalm 20:7 and the NT is Romans 15:13. I also like the NIV in John 14:1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me."
As a life quality or as character, trust is the most important, most fragile, and the most difficult to repair. Trust is: a firm belief in the honesty and reliability of some one or thing; a confident expectation and hope placed in someone or thing, and something entrusted to a person. Spiritually, it's God. God is love = trust; 1 Cor.13:7 "love always trusts." It is the message and purpose of the Bible - God can not violate a trust - He is the ultimate in trustworthiness!
My "Dirty Dozen" ways a trust is violated or broken (just to name a few). A trust as been violated when...
1. You don't tell the truth or you misrepresent it.
2. You judge or criticise without communicating and finding out all the facts
3. You don't keep your promise or commitment
4. You break a confidence
5. You gossip (violate the trust of the one talked about and the one talked to)
6. You leave someone out who should have been included
7. You speculate or assume w/o communicating
8. You don't speak up and/or defend a friend or a loved one
9. You fail to respect the feelings of those who expected you to
10. You ignore or forget something that is very important to friends or family
11. You humiliate or demean friends or family in the presence of others
12. You don't practice what you preach
Why is trust so important? There are THREE FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES OF TRUST
1. Trust is the foundation of integrity! A. Every act of distrust destroys character B. Integrity gives inner joy & peace - distrust steals it C. Your values or lack of values define you * Why did Peter "weep bitterly" after his third denial of Jesus?
2. Trust is the foundation of our relationships! A. Closeness is determined by trust B. W/o trust there is no relationship - only co-existence C. Guard trust at all cost! No compromise! No rationalizing! No excuses! * Remember Adam? "The women you gave me..."
3. Trust is the foundation of our walk with God! A. "I made you - trust me!" Seek Him! B. "I love you - trust me!" Seek Him! C. "I will take care of you - trust me!" Seek Him!
Conclusion: Do you trust Him to sit on the throne of your heart?
Thursday, March 24, 2011
A liberal is no longer someone who questions the authority of the Bible or the reality of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us -it's the folks who do new things in their assembly. The conservatives aren't those loyal to God's Word, but those who refuse to change anything they did in the 50's. The progressives are just the folks going faster than us. They would all be better if they were "just like me."
I've been labelled all three at different times by different people and for different reasons. I think I am all three, at different times and for different reasons. If I had to pick one, it would be the one I've almost never been called. Spiritually, theologically, and as far as church stuff goes, I'm a "dyed in wool conservative." Why? I'm am only driven by one thing, and that is loyalty to God's message. That loyalty has caused me to throw out some things I have been taught in the past, and it has caused me to rethink everything I've ever learned through the years. Some of those things were reinforced, while others where adjusted to fit my understanding of God's will. If the Bible says it, I believe it, but I may not believe your interpretation of it, just like I don't believe some of the conclusions I held twenty years ago. Still, I can't tell you how long it's been since I had a REAL discussion about scripture with someone who disagreed with me or was upset about something I taught. We don't argue scripture anymore, we argue preferences.
Where God allows liberty, I'm all for being liberal. Where God wants growth, movement, and a "living and active" church to match His "living and active" Word, I'm all about being progressive. Ask me to ignore His Word, replace His truth with our traditions, or promote law when He calls for Spirit - and - like I said, I'm a conservative.
Have you ever thought about how much Jesus was a "label buster"? His people were saying, "Those Samaritans are worthless," and He told a story about one who has become an icon of neighborliness and compassion. His people were saying, "Women are not very important - they're just property," and yet He offered "living water" to a women that his disciples were surprised he even talked to. The world labelled Tax Collectors, the blind, the sick, the adulterous, and the thieves, and He said, "Don't keep them from coming to me."
Yes, I still catch myself occasionally using labels to define groups, churches, and others who don't stand exactly where I do. I'm working on never doing that, but old habits and old sins die hard. If I'm going to use labels, I need to use the labels that God uses, like "saved," "Kingdom," and "names written in the Lambs Book of Life." Now that's a label to long for.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Here they have commandeered the front yard of a peace-loving suburbanite.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Affirmation is an essential part of our self-esteem. It includes encouragement, reinforcement, praise, support & acknowledgement, and a steady diet of "I'm with you" (security), "You're important" (significance), and "You can do it" (competence). For biblical illustrations I used
1. God's patience and repeated reinforcement of His covenant with the Patriarchs.
2. Abraham and Isaac climbing up Mt. Moriah w/ the knife, wood, and fire, but no sacrifice. Abraham's answer to Isaac's question about where it was, "God will provide." He had come a long way - with God's guidance and affirmation for many decades. Now he was affirming Isaac.
3. David in all of Psalms 23 - talk about feeling God's affirmation?
4. The ultimate - God's affirmation of Jesus at His baptism and transfiguration
5. Paul - over and over - Phil.4:13 & 19, and many more.
Another fancy title: Mike's Five Proverbs of Affirmation
1. The best way to receive affirmation is to give it to others. The personal affirmation we receive from guiding & helping others is simply the principle Jesus taught when He said, "It is more blessed to give than it is to receive." Acts 20:35
2. Criticism that is not deeply rooted in affirmation is destructive and deadly. Oft forgotten by church folks. It was always Paul's practice to praise and encourage first. "Misery loves company" so there will always be folks who tear down rather than build up. Eph.3:29
3. Affirmation is an unselfish act, but when it becomes self-serving - it's only and act. (Nuff said)
4. Affirmation is the easiest and purest form of giving. It's not about money, but caring, giving effort, time, and thoughtfulness for others. It's doing what Jesus would/did do. (Matthew, Zaccheus, Woman at the well, children, etc.)
5. Affirmation is the joy of sowing followed by the rejoicing of reaping! Plant seeds of "I'm with you," "You're important," and "You can do it," and then water, feed, and protect. The results are maturity, strength, confidence, and new affirmers. 1 Cor.3:5-9
A family that only shares a house, food, TV, bills, and nothing else is sick and dying. The same is true for a church family. If we are not affirming one another, which is one of the main ways we help one another develop a deeper relationship with Jesus, we are just a house.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Are you having trouble getting members to come out for special events? Have your "old fashion" pot luck fellowships gotten farther and farther apart with less and less enthusiasm from members? Having any trouble getting people to sign up to be involved in things? Thank goodness for parents who sign up to make sure their kids have a great children's ministry at church. But what happens when those kids move out of the children's ministry? Are those same parents willing to help, or have they "paid their dues" and taking a break - a long, long break?
I'm really not whining or trying to paint a negative picture of the church - though those who don't know me will assume that is what I'm doing. No, I'm just trying to understand what has changed. I'm not frustrated or depressed and yes, I'm still at one of the most wonderful churches in the world. I just see changes happening all over.
Here's what I see, as I put my sociological & theological hat on. It looks to me like we have a clash of cultural perspectives that are bumping into each other at church like an old Bumper Car ride. First, there is the lose of loyalty and commitment to anything institutional, and unfortunately, with all the chest pounding about being a restoration movement, we've let the church become an institution that members are called to support, rather than a family that supports members. So, we see detachment and a lack of loyalty. Second, as I've said before, we live in a consumer society, so church is no longer a tool to pool resources, it's another "what do you have that I need" commodity that all to often can't compete with TV, sports, family activities, and reruns of Seinfeld. Thirdly, there are those who have expectations that church can hang on to all the old things that church use to do that gave so many great memories of simpler times. The cure is more pot lucks, more traditional Bible classes, and narrower options for helping people draw closer to God. It's not all bad, but then again this isn't the 1960's. And the last element in this mix are the folks who just want to do what ever it takes to grow spiritually. They don't have any ax to grind, and they don't HAVE to have their way, but they don't want some external activity to define their walk with God. They have spiritual families, they do personal ministries of compassion for others, and they see themselves a walking with God 24/7. They see the church as a tool for helping others, for promoting togetherness, and for doing things that only a larger group can do, but again - their spirituality is not defined by their church.
The mix is bigger than these four, and most folks are really a combination of two or more, but the real question is, how can a church like that build for the future? Call me old fashion or simplistic, but I believe the answer is and must always be that - it's all got to be about Jesus. Knowing Him. loving Him, and becoming like Him. That will always be the only real standard for any group of God's people - regardless of how the culture changes.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
I began a new lesson series last Sunday about qualities that will help us build better homes. While it is primarily a family/home series, I'm making a special effort to focus on relationship building principles in general so that everyone, even singles, can get something from it. I know several in my church family check my blog regularly, so at the risk of boring them, I thought I would share the highlights (main points) of each lesson when I get back to my office on Tuesday mornings. I hope they will encourage and bless you.
Anyone who has ever heard me preach/teach for any length of time, know that I emphasize communication a lot. In this lesson I simply shared two absolutes and then five traits.
Absolute #1: Your relationship is only as strong as your communication. If you don't talk, you don't know one another, and if you don't know one another, you won't care about one another.
Absolute #2: (Surprise!!!) If you don't communicate you speculate! Fact! It's never about doing nothing (because you don't talk), because you WILL fill in the needed information with speculation, which is easier, fearless, judgmental, selfish, and nearly always wrong.
Mike's Five Traits of Communication (I know - it's not very catchy)
1. Make conversation a high priority. Reorganize your priorities, make good choices, and be intentional. (Use bed time, car time, table time, and alone time)
2. Leaders model priorities. If parents don't talk, the kids will walk. Loving parents model healthy communication. If you want to hear from your kids when they become adults, make sharing important now.
3. Communication drives relationships not the TV. TV isn't bad, well not all of it anyway. Use it, control it, learn to have fun and talk about it, but don't let it rob you of real living. Watching shows about dysfunctional families won't help you have a better one.
4. Learn to be a listener! Talking is not always communication. Be honest, courageous, and patient. Learn to respond rather than react. Reacting is all about you, & kills communication. Responding is seeking to understand why they feel the way they do. Listen with the heart.
5. Always keep the doors of communication open! Seek to understand. Don't close the door with anger and impatience. Develop a pattern of reconciliation - a way to heal the relationship.
Conclusion: What sustained the Father & Son through those terrible hours when they couldn't talk? What they KNEW about one another! What will your loved ones know about you when they can't talk to you any more?
Saturday, March 05, 2011
Seeking God - seeking a relationship with our Maker - is the reason we were created. With all the fussing and arguing about doctrine, essentials, and "who's in and who's out," the one thing that transcends everything else - the one thing He wants to see when He looks into the heart of any person - is, are we seeking Him.
One of the many passages of scripture that many know, but few of us seem to digest, is Hebrews 11:6. It is one of those John 3:16 type verses. "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
As I was preparing last Sunday's lesson about "What Are You Looking For," I used this passage to show what God wants us to be looking for. IT IS ALL ABOUT SEEKING HIM! In this simple verse, the Holy Spirit tells us exactly what God is wanting from us. It tells us what seeking God means.
1. It's a relationship not a religion! Many have a system of beliefs, but not a walk with God.
2. It's a reality based on faith! The presence of God must be real and sensed.
3. It's redemption given by grace! He does all the work. We MUST want it!
It's that simple - yet that profound. We complicate it, and we diminish it!
We can (the Holy Spirit said "must") seek a relationship with God the same way we seek a relationship with anyone we want to have a relationship with. Just think about what it takes to have a relationship with anyone - then apply that to God. That's seeking!
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
What IS a great church? Or, what makes a church great? I have felt, and written several times, that our view of church growth comes from the world and not the Word. So, I would say the same is true about church greatness too. When was the last time you heard about a small town congregation of God's people, who love each other, have a reputation for serving their community, and don't know or care if others see them as liberal, conservative, or have their names in the new Where the Saints Meet book, being referred to as "a great church"? No, we all know that "greatness" usually comes from being large, trend setting, attractive, progressive, and well known. And there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, but - they can easily have more to do with quantity/greatness rather than quality/greatness.
How would Jesus define a great church? I believe He would be looking at only one thing - is that group of disciples doing what He intended for them to do? If a congregation of God's people are not fulfilling His purpose, there is nothing great about about them, whether it's a family of fifty, five hundred, or five thousand. A great church is a family of God's people helping one another develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. Are they growing in love for Him by learning to love one another? Are they passionately seeking Him and sharing Him? Are they using the tools He gave to carry out His purpose, or are they worshipping the tools and performing ceremonies that have nothing to do with deepening relationships with Him or each other?
Let these two passages define what a "great church" is in God's eyes.
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." Acts 4:32
"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have a sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." 1 Peter 1:22-23
A great church is defined by love, and what that love compels each disciple to do.