Reflections on a Red Nose

26 05 2017

Yesterday was one of those cool days.  People around the country donated over $33 million to help children in need.  Next year I am sure they will be able to raise even more.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Regional Task Force on Homelessness Governance Board meeting.  One of the presenters made the point if San Diego truly worked together we could get homelessness to functional zero in five years.

Currently our city has an estimated homeless population just over 9,000.  That population grew from the previous year despite thousands of people doing random acts of kindness, wearing red noses and shopping at Walmart. (Recent Walmart ads say they contribute to feeding the poor when you spend money with them.)

There is a price to our individualism.  The significant issues in our world are handled ineffectively while we feel satisfied because of our individual efforts to make the world a better place.  It is like putting out a forest fire by each of us taking our own little cup of water and randomly throwing it into the flames.

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to attend two different churches.  One had smart people and was well resourced.  The other was not well resourced but had people who truly were in need.  The two churches are not connected even though they have the same beliefs.  Each had their cup of water as the forest fire raged.

Deuteronomy (24:19-22) and Ruth show ways in which the Nation of Israel established a system of care for those in need.  The New Testament shows the Church being a collective body caring for those in need.

The Church has a strategic opportunity (as it always does) to be a unified force impacting our world.  Lets ask harder questions of ourselves and our leaders.  Issues like homelessness and child poverty can be complex but we have really smart people sitting in our Churches every Sunday morning.

Are we going to let corporations and governments outperform the Church?  I recently finished the book “The New Parish.”  It offered a powerful perspective on leadership.  The authors challenged us to ask the question: What is worth following?  Let that question sink in.  Then, let’s take our cups of water remembering Jesus’ words:

“When I was hungry you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…” Matthew 25:35.





The power of All

6 05 2017

One of the cool things about learning original languages is how it impacts reading the Bible.  Hebrews 1:3 is often translated “sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

When I read “all things,” I naturally limit my thinking to…things.  In fact, the ESV translates “all things” as “universe” which for me means the physical world.  The original Greek simply says “all.”  As I was reading the passage and looking at the Greek, it struck me how powerful the idea of “all” can be.

Limiting my thinking to “stuff” or “things” misses the complexity of life.  We live in a physical reality but we also believe there is a spiritual reality and our minds can take us all over the place.

When I see Jesus Christ in his proper place as sustaining “all,” it is truly profound.  We know from Genesis God spoke to create the physical world.  The rest of Hebrews 1:3 shows Jesus sitting down in the spiritual world.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to “take every thought captive” putting my wandering mind in it’s place.  “All” shifts the focus from things swirling around in my world to seeing God’s larger world.

“All” puts a lot of things in perspective.

I hope this thought will cause you to also pause and reflect like it did for me.  We serve an amazing God who truly has the big picture and sustains all.





Theology of Rest

22 12 2016

I hope you are getting an opportunity to enjoy the Christmas Season.  As you (hopefully) get some time off work or school, I invite you to consider your theology of rest.

What do I mean?  Theology is simply how we talk about God.  How we talk about God shapes our beliefs and guides how we live our lives.

You probably find yourself in one of two groups.  First, you are mature in your faith and have thought about theology.  Second, you see theology as something for the pastor.  You understand God is important but you really don’t think about theology.  But like I said, it is simply the way we talk about God and how that impacts how we live.  Welcome to theology!

I believe rest is a part of our conversation about God.  Rest has to be more than just distracting ourselves or sleeping in.  Rest that involves God should bring peace.  It should provide rest for our mind, body and most importantly our soul.

When I read the Old Testament, I see a system of rest built into the community.  There was a day of rest each week, festivals that included rest and even a year of rest for the land.  I don’t think it was because God had some vacation bug.  I think God wants something deeper in our relationship.  God also knows we have a tendency to get consumed by life and don’t take the time to enjoy our relationship with God or those around us.  Fast forward to today and I see the Church wearing itself out.  Sunday comes every week and someone has to work in Children’s Ministry.  Those who volunteer often work full time jobs and are trying to balance families and other commitments.  Many people just give up or burn out.

There are some simple principles that can guide us in developing our theology or rest.  A great starting point is a verse found in Hebrews 4:9; “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”  There is a whole lot packed around that verse that I encourage you to dig into.  I am just giving you a starting point.

True rest begins in our relationship with God.  Do we have peace in that relationship?  When we have peace, everything else falls into place.  From that place of peace, we can look at our relationship with others specifically why we serve.  Do we serve because of the relationships or the need to feel we have accomplished something?  Next, we can look at our time of worship.  Is it about honoring God with God leading or is it about our needs and comfort?  Finally, there is the practical element of resting, in other words having a day off and even having intentional seasons of rest.

Each one of these elements has a lot more to it.  I would encourage you to wrestle with them and consider how you look at rest and your relationship with God.  To help I have put together a quick survey you can take.  Hopefully it will prompt some self-reflection and more importantly an opportunity to engage God in an honest conversation about rest.  Remember Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  It will start with him and ends with true rest for your soul.

Self-reflection on Rest

In my relationship with God I have:

Peace                                           No peace

10—9—8—7—6—5—4—3—2—1—0

Serving is more about:

Relationships                           Programs/Accomplishments

10—9—8—7—6—5—4—3—2—1—0

 

When I worship, I am focused on:

Honoring God                            My needs

10—9—8—7—6—5—4—3—2—1—0

God’s leading                           My comfort

10—9—8—7—6—5—4—3—2—1—0

 

I have a day of rest each week

Every week                                 Never

10—9—8—7—6—5—4—3—2—1—0

 

How long ago was my last true vacation?

__Within the last month

__Within the last 3 months

__6 months

__Year

__What’s a vacation?

Do I build in breaks (sabbaticals) in how I serve?  Yes / No

What does that look like?

As a result of answering these questions what do I need to do?

I wish you all a Merry Christmas!!!





A Reminder for the Church

12 11 2016

Yesterday we had a chance to pause and focus on something positive, honoring Veterans.  When we think of a Veteran, we don’t think of a political party or race.  We simply get to acknowledge a person’s service and sacrifice.  Their identity as a Veteran is stronger than any other label.

Those who served know you have very little choice in a lot of things.  You don’t get to pick your Commanding Officer, your roommates (in a berthing on a ship…that can be a lot of roommates!!) or the people you have to work with.  You have to figure it out because the mission of your unit is more important than your personal perspective.  Is there ever conflict?  Absolutely and sometimes that conflict is significant.  It takes good leadership and proper focus to deal with those conflicts.

By now you have looked at the title of this post and you read the last paragraph and you know where I am going.  In my last post I shared my frustration about how segregated out churches are.  If we truly are a body called to work together, we must see segregation limiting our effectiveness.  Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35).  Put that alongside Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount to love more than just the people we like (Matthew 5:43-47) and the bar is set pretty high.  So high in fact the only way we could pull it off is if we had God’s help…hmmm maybe that was God’s plan all along.

If people look in our churches and see great communities but everyone looks alike and tends to agree on issues of politics or other social topics, then the church is really no different than their work’s softball team.  The only difference is they probably feel they can be themselves at softball.

I am not advocating we focus on unity.  I am saying if we truly focus on Jesus one of the byproducts will be a community with unity and a love that is very distinctive from the world.

I was listening to a podcast on a social science experiment regarding bystander intervention on college campuses.  The researchers did not know how to handle an interesting finding.  People they classified as conservative Christians were very likely to speak up if they saw someone discriminating against a person who was gay.  I was not surprised.  I expect Christians to speak up and stand by a person being wronged.  I was proud of the Christians at that college who were being true to their faith.

So what do we do?  We take this strategic opportunity to start building bridges with people different than us.  We work to make our churches distinctive communities.  A good place to start is to reach out to people who are struggling with the results of the election.  Find out why they are having a hard time.  Simply listen and try to understand.  Then, stay connected.  Build a relationship and build a church that will stand as a distinctive light four years from now…yep we will have another election…sorry.

Four years from now wouldn’t it be amazing if there were churches where people worshiped together even though they completely disagreed on politics because they loved Jesus and each other more.  The world would be shocked.  Here is the cool part.  I believe we would also be more effective because we would be a body able to draw from all of our gifts, strengths and perspectives.

What would we tell the world?  We would say we are just following Jesus.  After all he did say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”





Awareness is Painful

17 10 2016

It has been too long since I posted!!  I will hopefully post more frequently but I make no promises!  This morning, as I do most mornings, I was having a philosophical debate in my head.  I have amazing discussions and solve most of the world’s problems.

This morning’s debate was about a reality I have become painfully aware of.  Race is a huge topic in our country and everyone has an opinion.  I believe most Christians hold my perspective; the church is a place for all people.  We take Revelations 7:9 literally: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language.”  We expect Heaven to be racially diverse.  Unfortunately, the Church in the United States is waiting until then for that to be reality.

As I prepare for life after the Navy, I checkout church websites.  Wow!!! The lack of diversity is appalling!  So, I googled multi-racial churches and…I am not sure what our definition of multi-racial is but I sure wasn’t finding it.  The ironic part is this is not new.  I remember racial reconciliation was a major topic in the early nineties with the rise of the Promise Keepers Movement.

What happened?  I think we bought into the idea of church being a “safe place.”  We sought to make people feel “comfortable” with the hope they would grow spiritually.  We fell into a trap.  We slowly settled into our own groups which meant we divided by race.

The culture says faith is a private matter.  It is something that helps people with their emotional well being.  Our safe and comfortable churches shout we agree.  When race flashed as a major issue, the church was left on the sidelines.  We were irrelevant.  Many see the white church as part of the problem.  Meanwhile, the black church is struggling to find the powerful voice it had during the Civil Rights Movement.  We sit divided just like our country.  In other words, we are no different than the world around us with our faith being a private matter that helps our emotional well being.

Racial diversity can be difficult but the Church has a powerful foundation that truly makes us salt and light.  I compare racial diversity like jogging.  Most mornings we don’t want to get out of bed.  However, when we do it consistently, we build endurance and more importantly we can run when we have to.  Somehow we stopped jogging in the nineties.  The consequence today is instead of running out ahead of our country and inviting them to consider the power of the gospel, we are huffing and puffing and falling further behind.

We have to put on our running shoes.  The Church is God’s ambassador to a world that desperately needs hope!  Let’s stop being safe and comfortable and start being relevant and engaged!  The starting point?  Take a look at your church’s leadership page.  What do you see?  If it is all one color…you may need to go for a jog.





But I assumed…we did this together

18 09 2015

In my last post I assumed we were equal.  It is a critical starting point to helps us keep a proper perspective and enables us to engage with God and one another in a profoundly powerful way.  That is important because of of my next assumption…we do this together.

Ephesians 4:15-16:

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

I was listening to a Ted Talk on poverty.  I was frustrated because ever time the speaker mentioned a bright spot in dealing with poverty it fell right in line with what a healthy church should be doing.  However, the only way the church can effectively mentor, provide safe places for at risk youth, support people facing a wide range of struggles and make sure we are grounded on God’s truth is if everyone is doing their part.

Sadly we have a tendency to see our organized churches as a spectator event instead of a team sport.  I do not want to minimize the countless small acts done behind the scenes by dedicated Christians living out their faith.  However, we are so much more effective when we work together.

Football season is upon us! Imagine if the coach told players to play where they wanted and hopefully score.  There would be chaos as 3 people try to be the quarterback and 4 want to be receivers.  There would be no one on the line because that is not very glamorous.  You get the idea.

I believe the Bible is clear we are suppose to be one team lead by God with everyone having something to contribute.

The implication is we need to rethink how we do church.

The difference between reality of what the church is suppose to look like and what it actually looks like is so overwhelming only God could straighten it out…maybe that is not such a bad thing.

Unity and working together is hard.  It makes us uncomfortable and we will have conflict.  It is also incredibly rewarding.  Imagine Jesus truly being the leader and people from different races and political ideologies working together.

If you are a Christian I encourage you to spend some time in prayer inviting God to reveal your role on His team.





But I assumed…

2 09 2015

What if you went to Chick-Fil-A and saw a hamburger on the menu?  They would have some explaining to do and they may want to rethink their ad campaign.

We have expectations and those expectations lead to assumptions.  I have been convicted about the importance of key assumptions we need to effectively live out our Christian Faith.  I will spend the next few blog posts talking about them.

Assumption one:  We are equal

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” -Galatians 3:28

In the United States we love to believe we get it when it comes to equality.  We point to the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”

Of course, we gloss over “all men” did not include slaves or women.  Isn’t that how it often goes?  We say everyone is equal but our actions often reveal some different assumptions.

The biggest assumption I see when it comes to Christianity is “my sin is bigger than other people’s therefore I can’t be forgiven or be a part of God’s plan.”  Too many people sideline their relationship with God and others because of this.  If we can grasp that we are equal then we recognize that sin is sin and we all struggle with it.  We have to hear Paul’s words, “no temptation has overtaken you but what is common…” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Once I realize you and I are the same, then I see there is hope.  Sin is put in proper perspective and managed by God’s grace and transforming work in my life.

For those who have overcome sins in their life, there is another dangerous assumption: “I am not like them.”  This assumption often plagues those inside the church.  We acknowledge that we were once sinners like “them” but we add a subtle twist to the story of God’s grace.  We take credit for our victory.  We will use spiritual terms but our actions show what we really believe.  Those with this assumption often make decisions for God about who is in and out.  This was exactly the mindset of the Religious Leaders Jesus fought against.

This idea of being equal before God has very big implications.  It sets the stage for all of us have the chance at redemption and helps us stay balanced as we grow and mature in our faith.  It builds bridges and helps us connect to others…all others without discrimination.

Today there are lot’s of discussions about racism and discrimination.  Political solutions look bleak as politicians label and attack anyone who has a different point of view.

It is an amazing opportunity for the Church.  We can step in and truly engage our world in a uniquely powerful way.  We see everyone as someone just like us.

Do you really believe we are all equal or do you find yourself making assumptions that limits you or excludes others?

If you do not see us as equal, I invite you to pray and consider the implication of being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  When we grasp our equality, it is an incredible truth that ripples through our life.  It will deepen our relationship with God and each other.