More Than 40 Days

Today marks the beginning of Lent and many people will begin giving up something they really enjoy as a point of focus and preparation for Easter.  Typically we give up things like coffee, television, Twitter, Facebook, a certain food, etc.  I think this can be a very good challenge, but let’s not get it twisted.

These are not “sacrifices,” they are setting aside a luxury that few people in the world get to enjoy.  They can be a focusing point for us and for a brand new believer this might be a very good first step.  But someone who has been following Jesus for a while shouldn’t view giving up these little luxuries as a sacrifice and ought to be very leery of feeling super spiritual because they gave them up for 40 days.

Consider putting forth an intentionally gospel focused challenge for yourself this Lent season.

Battling Your Relationship With Shame

Discovering who we are inevitably leads us to discovering the reality that we're not who we desire to be - at least in ways.  Shame and guilt over past sin or current struggles can paralyze us....completely.  We feel separated from God, the people of God and the things of God.

We have to understand, though, that shame creeps in because we wrongly identify ourselves in sinful actions/tendency/behavior.  At it's core this misplacement of our identity is because we view ourselves as bodies that have a soul versus a soul that has a body.  

It may seem like a matter of semantics, but it's not at all.  It's an entirely different identity.  If we view ourselves as a body that continues to sin and do what we ought not - cf. Romans 7:18 - we inevitably end with feelings of shame and guilt.  However, if we view ourselves biblically and through Christ as a soul that has been made new, our identity is beyond our fleshly limitations and actions.  This is important to understand because our identity, then, is not found in sin, but instead in who God has made us to be spiritually (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14).

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I Can't Think Of A Better Word, Sorry

In a world where Christians, in the name of holiness, arrogantly distance themselves from everything "secular"......and like the Pharisees, can't figure out what it means to be "in" the world but not "of" it........

In a world where Christians, in the name of holiness, arrogantly stand back and bash non-Christians for living like, well, non-Christians......

We need to check these actions and attitudes with the scriptures.  I have a word I sometimes use to describe this type of activity.  But I want to warn you, this could be bad.  I only use this word in conversations where people know my heart and theological convictions.  Posting it publicly like this could get me in trouble.  I don't mean to be rash by using this word, but I honestly cannot think of one that better describes this type of activity by the very people that are supposed to be following the example of Christ.

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Generational Values Hindering Relationships

Let’s be honest: connecting people of different generations is not the easiest thing to do.  We face obstacles like core values being different, older people being intimidated or frustrated by the younger generations, younger people not feeling the value of having an older person in their life…to either generation not knowing how to connect with the other.  There are ways we can help with these things (for more on that see chapters 7 and 8 of this book), but there is another issue that is just as obvious – if not more.  We just don’t talk about it as openly.

Younger people are desperate for an experience they know is Divine.  Of course not all desire this, but many just want to experience God, walk with Him daily, be a part of what He’s doing and be used by Him.  Sure, experience based pursuits can be incredibly dangerous if they are separated from truth.  But experiencing God can also be rooted in truth.  And this is what I find many college age people seeking.

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Meeting Urgent Needs - no strings attached

On Saturday we put on a free clinic for under-insured people.   There were over 1000 people that showed up.  Appointments started at 8am, but the line began way before that!  When we opened the doors, the energy was amazing!  So fun to be able to bring a hot cup of coffee to these people and just hear why they came.  We had to completely transform a high school to make everything happen (picture of one of 3 dental rooms on right), but by doing so we were able to offer:

  • Medical examinations (including X-rays and free prescriptions)
  • Dental Work (cleaning, extractions, fillings – also included X-rays)
  • Vision Testing (including free eye glasses to anyone in need)
  • Podiatry (foot care)
  • Immunizations (gave out over 600 shots)
  • Lunch (hamburgers, hot dogs, turkey sandwiches, pizza)
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"There's A Lot Of Stupid People Here"

I work from coffee shops.  In my church we have space for an office, but nobody works from there.  Why?  Well, because I have no opportunity to meet anyone new (Christian or non) from the "all-mighty church building."  I've had an office for many years so I don't think it's a bad thing.  In fact I think it can be helpful at times for many different reasons.  But personally, for me, in this season of my life, it's not best, ideal, or even healthy.

I love to meet new people and I do so all the time in coffee shops.

Yesterday I met a wonderful immigrant German woman.  For sake of this blog let's call her Rose (great German name, huh!?).  I'm guessing Rose is about 70 and she moved to the US 4 1/2 years ago.  She is a very sharp lady.  She's "not affiliated" with any religion "Catholic or Protestant" (her words).  She was a part of the "Protestant Organization" for a time, thought about being a Catholic, but is happily not in either.  

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Community Thru A Gospel Lens

I've been thinking about the gospel a lot lately.  And, in fact, I've been doing a series on the gospel in our church.  We're talking about what's at it's core and what it requires of us.  We understand that Christ died for the forgiveness of sins (1 Peter 3:18), but we also understand that he died so that we would no longer live for ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  In other words, the gospel is not just about what we are saved from.  It's just as much, if not more, about what we are saved to.

This is important to understand.

We are saved to a life that's lived beyond ourselves.  Jesus says that whoever wants to gain his life, will have to first lose it.  He says that in order to follow him we must first deny ourselves.  This is at the core of the gospel.  Yes, we are thankful for our personal benefits from Christ's death, but we also understand we are called to something greater: a life that's lived for Jesus.

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Everything Labeled "Emergent"

We live in a world of labels and categories.  Everything has to fit into something.  And perhaps among the widest of these categories is the one labeled, "Emergent." 

I've been told that I'm Emergent.  Sometimes I'm asked, but recently a few people have just labeled me that.  When this issue is brought to my attention I always respond with a question, "What is your definition of Emergent?"  I had one person tell me that I'm Emergent because I used the word "journey" in a message.  Another was concerned because I did an overview of a book of the Bible (Ecclesiastes) in a talk versus going verse by verse and phrase by phrase.   I've had another person assume I'm Emergent because my churches website didn't have the exact words, "Triune God" anywhere on it (as if I don't believe in a "Triune" God simply because it's not explicitly articulate on a website).

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Awkwardness Of Present Giving

It's amazing to me how stressful it is buying presents for people, especially at Christmas.  Some people might say it's not stressful (some might actually say they enjoy it), but it's still a pressure.  For some reason we feel like it's a "need" to buy someone a gift at Christmas, their birthday, wedding anniversary, Valentines day...

It's actually to the point where our feelings get hurt if someone doesn't buy us something for these occasions.  Is that not weird?  Is it not weird for our culture to be at a point where we feel loved and cared for as long as someone buys us something?  It's almost as if our joy of receiving the gift is based on the fact that we feel loved and cared for.  I'm not a psychologist, but again, think about that...is that not at least a little weird? 

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Feminine God...

There is much discussion today about masculine references to God.  Questions arise as to why it is we always refer to God in a masculine way, when the fact is He is Spirit - neither sex.  Some woman perhaps have felt like they are undervalued when God is constantly referred to as a "He."  Some (men or women) suggest it's simply a cultural idea.  It's said that in the times Scriptures were written men dominated society and therefore it would've been absurd to refer to God as a female.  And some suggest today is different.  And thus now only refer to God as a "She" - some in spite, but some simply feel more comfortable.  Possibly more accepted.

I recently had a very good and interesting conversation with someone that has a hard time with only masculine references.  This person was to the point of frustration and, frankly, bitterness.  This person preferred feminine references and only feminine references.  Admittedly it was partially out of spite and to prove a point, but that's just where this person was.  Which I appreciated the perspective and conversation.  

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Every once in a while I have something happen that I think others might be interested in reading about. And, before it makes its way into a book, it usually ends up on a blog like this.


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