Tag Archives: God

Church Community

Community. It is a nice little tag word that Christians like to use at church. “Be part of community” “Join a community group” “What I am really looking for is a community”

It is supposed to communicate a close group of people that can really share life together. Unfortunately, to commonly our communities look more like a shared social media page than an actual community.

This past Sunday while I was at church we were asked both before and after a short video to answer a prompt, “What causes you to feel / press closer to Jesus?”

“Being in nature really helps me appreciate who he is… When you almost die from….” During the conversation it appeared as though everyone discovered their hands for the first time. One person was picking at their hand. Another yawned, examining their fingers. Everyone paid just enough attention to be able to respond.

After the video the same level of involvement continued. When I pressed one couple as to what they were going to change to make Christ a priority, they listed off reasons as to why it is hard. No commitments. No confessions. No one was sharing a part of their lives with any intent to keep up with the other people, to be held accountable, or to be actually known. They were answer prompts the same way people answer Facebook’s status question, “What is on your mind?” Thrown out to an audience that won’t walk with them.

If we really want community we need to put away the status update conversations, and the when in church relationships. Status update conversations are those that you have because, ‘it is the thing to do’ like standing up or sitting down when everyone else does. ‘In church’ relationships are those you have only at church. Not the weekend. Not in evenings, and certainly not when you need support, to be held accountable, or pressed on towards Christ.

You will really know if you are actually sharing life if you go to your group of people when tragedy strikes, or when you need accountable help. If someone suddenly dies in your family, would you show up to church? I have been a part of several groups I would have. In fact, while I was part of one bible study a very emotionally traumatizing event happened. I went to community group, and slept in the corner. I was able to be un hidden processing what had happened.

Strikingly there was a moment that could have shown the church as a community. A not very old individual had died unexpectedly just a few days prior. I don’t know if the family showed up to church. I don’t know if people cried in the previous service. But I began to really wonder, would most of the families show up to share their pain, or their joys, with the church family when it happens?


Muslims, Fear, and the Church

My passion is helping to connect the church to the world. Unfortunately the church has stood with many parts of culture that are fundamentally against Christ. These are often subtle and we miss them. I am thankful for several of my good friends outside of the Church to remind me of how we are, or are not, portraying Christ.

The gospel and Christ’ calling is more about what we are supposed to ‘do’ than it is about what we are ‘not to do’. My next several postings will be on the church as they can more effectively live out the gospel as a positive endeavor, rather than a negative calling out against something.

I was outside of a church recently when I was approached by a young-ish man. He loudly pronounced that he was not a threat and he dramatically emptied his pockets of his cell phone, wallet, and keys. Threw off what could be called a jacket and tossed down his hat and proclaimed that he was harmless to everyone minus an upside down cross tattooed on his neck. I ignored the gesture, ended my phone call and introduced myself. His name is Jason. He was drunk and coming off of a meth high.

He felt the need to proclaim that he was not a threat because he had been called an ‘Arab’ ‘terrorist’ or ‘Muslim’ before. Normally I would have glossed over this. But recently I read an article by Aziz Ansari giving a brief overview of his experience with racial and religious tensions. Although he himself is often greeted in the street by individuals wanting an autograph (he plays tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation). His immediate family on the other hand has experienced a much different response. They are often called terrorists, immigrants, told to go ‘home’ and other rude or fear inducing public remarks. Specifically he details the fear he had for his mother’s safety just after the attacks in Miami.

He specifically details in his article that Donald Trump’s campaign has increased the fear and tensions he has perceived. Whether it has increased or just brought to the surface what is already there is irrelevant. There is a systemic problem as it relates to the church. This hyped up fear of terrorism and Muslim extremists is pushed mostly by right wing conservatives. A vast majority of whom are Christians. What I want to focus on, and I pray that my reader can readily listen, is the Churches response to Muslims and Arabs in our country.

Here is my central point: Christians should never in any form be a part of spreading fear. There is no Scriptural basis for fear within ourselves or spreading fear to others. Specifically, we are called to only fear God, and to be a neighbor to all we come across.

Muslims should never reasonably fear for their safety from Christians. Even if a terrorist is a terrorist that claims to be a Muslim, what have we to fear? We have Christ who conquered death. Should we spread the fear of God? No. We preach Christ, him crucified and risen again. Fear is not of faith. Christians live by faith. If we perish in the process of spreading Christ’ love, then so be it.

The same is true of homosexuals, transgendered, hippies, pot heads, metal heads, nymphomaniacs, strippers, gang members, prostitutes, pimps, etc.

The Church as God’s voice to the world needs to be a place of safety for all others, with self-sacrificing reasonable caution. Should a twelve year old girl have spoken with Jason? Of course not. But any other college or high school male could have. If I become a victim of a very small pool of people intending violence at a church, then so be it. Christ calls us to fear him alone, so let it be far from the church to cause people to fear anyone but God.


Justifying Fashion for the Church

Often in Christianity we have to categories. Those things that are sacred, and those items that are secular. Recently I have been seeing more and more how this dichotomy is dangerous and even harmful to the Christian church. There are many perfectly good enterprises that are given up in pursuit of a life that is only sacred.

                God created a world for us to enjoy. We are called to follow Christ wherever we are at. Are plans are to be committed to the Lord whatever they are so long as they are in the character of Christ. When looked at this way, there is a great deal of life that is free to be enjoyed that is normally considered secular.

                Fashion for example. I have had the past had a great deal of difficulty spending money on anything related to clothing. I am more than my clothes and none of it will fit me for very long anyway. I never knew what to do with my friends who invested in a hundred dollar pair of pants, or three hundred dollar shoes. We are very quick to judge this as a waste of money that could be given to the poor.

                But, even a slight comparison to our other judgments will find this lacking. Do we judge the individual who spends three hundred dollars on a ski trip? Or buys a car with leather seats and A/C instead of a minimalist design with no power windows or air conditioning. Do we judge the one that remodels their kitchen? I have never heard of that. These are all things that are ‘expected’ as normal and good. But the judgement is arbitrary.

                Furthermore, I categorize fashion and clothing as one of the arts. How we dress and present ourselves can be as much as a form of art as a canvas. Matching colors, styles, seasonal clothes all with your particular body type in order to convey an image is an art. Especially if that dress conveys an image of your personality in line with who you are. I would be curious to see a fashion guide based on personality.

                Finally, how we present ourselves is important in ministering the gospel of Christ. Just as overtly expensive clothes can make those who are less ‘fortunate’ feel bad, so too cheap of clothing can cut off certain peoples. If you want to minister to the wealthy or LA and Hollywood culture, you had better dress like it. Clothing can also spark conversations.

                Use your money wisely, and follow Christ. In some cultures, it is considered rude not to wear your best. We are the ones that have to look at you all day, not you.


Listening to God

I have asked many pastors how we know when we hear the voice of God. We are encouraged to seek him and desire him and to follow his will for our lives. Most of those who profess to be Christians want to follow his will.
Maybe I am alone in this, but often I find it difficult to differentiate between what I think may be the pulling of the Holy Spirit, and the weird food and hot sauce I just ate. Or simple mood swings. Sometimes I am told that I am just not close enough to God and that I will ‘know’.
There are times when I will admit I have felt the move of God. The actions I was lead to do and the “crazy-random-happenstance” that ensued that was more than just coincidence was evidence. I don’t discount that. However, the very next day I have moments where I am just not sure and I will never know. It could just be a gut feeling.
Generally we are encouraged as evangelicals to spend more time on our knees in prayer until we have a solid answer. To pray and listen until God moves. Usually the implication is you will just ‘know’, it sounds rather mystical to me.
I posit that God works in much more mysterious and wonderful ways than just providing a feeling.  He talked to Adam and Abraham face to face, to his kinds through prophets, to his prophets… well not sure how, to Moses through a burning bush, and to Balam through an ass.
Our God is creative. He can communicate a direction or a message through a friend, a book, a thought, a prayer, or even a prophetic message. Perhaps we should expand our faith, and importantly, our view of God’s communication and creativity to include, however he wants to communicate. When you seek to hear God, remember to look for him in whatever way he chooses to show up. The Israelite’s were expecting a warrior, and he showed up humble lowly.


Developing from belief, to doubt, to love

The next several postings describe my journey from love to doubt and back again. I started off principally and without effort believing in people and my ability to love them towards that which is good. Various experiences broke down my faith people and my belief that my life makes a difference.

This has some bearing on an argument that I had been having with my sister and my mother for some weeks now. According to them there is a specific point in time when someone comes to a self-realization. A moment when they become self-aware of who they are. This point marks when they are an adult and able to make wise decisions and frankly, in a place to choose a spouse and significant life choices. My position has been that one is always continuously changing and growing. The moment when you believe you have arrived you have no longer arrived.

However, looking back I do see a distinct change in my beliefs that is a better mark of maturity. I observed and believed that my actions, feelings, beliefs, and entirety of life effects those around me. From something as simple as frowning or smiling in public, to larger items such as telling the truth verses lying. The mark of our life is how we respond to God’s love.

I am still developing towards that. The temptation is to view the mark of my life as how much good change I can effect in others. This is a falsehood for whether or not there is a good effect in someone else the good action I choose is before God.


Teach Those in the Church to Serve Outside the Church

I have almost always been involved in some sort of church service or activity. As a small child I attended Sunday school. When I was in college I helped with a small youth group, and after graduation I taught high school and Jr. High. During the week I brought all of my bible college education to the bible studies I attended and attempted as much as possible to help share what I had learned. When I stopped teaching high school and Jr. High I began teaching a young adults bible study.

In total it was three to four years of being involved (with some gaps) directly in church ministry where I got to see the Lord work and people grow in their understanding of God. Then I got promoted to a full time position at UPS. The work hours have since prevented me from being very involved in any sort of small church ministry. Made worse I stayed in hotels at least two hours away for work during the week making attending the same bible study as my home church impossible.

I feel the pull and the desire to see the work of the Lord in the people of God. I love seeing the growth and sharing the truth of God with others. But at times that has turned into an idolization. Serving in church was a standard by which I judged my life. Since I was not directly involved I judged my life inadequate. Lacking. “God what would you have me do?” I would constantly ask. If my actions weren’t directly connected to his body where organizational growth and change was visible, I had problems seeing the value in my actions.

The idolization of being involved in church as the ideal work of the Lord is unhealthy and wrong. Do we need to be involved in “church” yes. We need to have deep close caring relationships with brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is a biblical expectation. The church is supposed to support and lift each other up, bear one another’s burdens and love each other deeply. However, judging my contribution to the Lord’s work based upon my involvement in church is false and unhelpful.

“Lord what shall I do?”

“Feed my sheep” is always the reply. Been that way for years. I always thought that meant his sheep in the structure of the modern church. Ironically now that I am still and listen, the pull I have on my heart is to teach those in the church how to serve God outside of the church.

The Lord is seeking to redeem all aspects of our lives. Our work, our play, our words and even our social media. I want to be one that shows the church (that is all my brothers and sisters that profess faith in Christ) how we are to redeem our lives before God. Now I often become overly technical and analyze every little deed and word, and I will write to that end. However, it is also true that to an extent we must commit our ways to the Lord and let him work in our lives. Enjoying his creation is just as important as carefully choosing how we live.

Tuesday will be blogs on redeeming every part of our lives.


My Broken Crown: Confession of Dishontesty

I am probably most proud of my first post on broken crowns. I love the imagery. So I choose to continue it here.

We all live as though walking through a room dimly lit. Regardless of how much we try we will never be able to see our external, internal, and the spiritual world perfectly clearly. In this room we wear our crowns with an only partial understanding as to what they are. I perceived mine to be shining, and with gems in place. Several scratches and dents, but on the whole perfectly wearable. My fault, I believed, was that I did not always wear it. That is to say I know many things that I ought to do, but simply do not do them.

I was approached by two lights that revealed to me the true state of the world, and my crown I proudly wear.

I am deceitful and lie. Four times now I have lied directly to my family. Countless other times I lead them to believe that which is not true. I tell one version of a story to one group of friends and edit that story for another. The person who I present is ever changing and morphing beyond just situational wisdom. The person I present myself to be does not exist.

Even more with the men that I profess hold me accountable I partition different faults to each. I speak of this sin to this man, and this other one to this. In doing so I prevent any of them knowing just how wretched I am.

When I finally have seen my crown in the light it is not polished, it is dented and malformed and the gems are but shards of glass. I sided with satan and wore a deceivers headpiece.

There truly is only one light that reveals to us the state of our crowns. He is Jesus. He does choose to allow his light to be reflected off of those whose crowns have been tempered, fixed, and shined. I met one of these individuals with a crown shined in honesty. I stubbornly would not bring my tarnished crown to be repaired. Instead I continued to hide behind the covers and fake paint applied to it. By the time I finally came to admit my crown is in need of repair, my dear reflector of the light had gone.

It pained me to see my sister post a meme, “A real man will be honest no matter how painful the truth is. A coward hides behind lies and deceit” It was painful. But pain sparks growth.

So I humbly speak as one that must become worthy of trust. In order to see myself repaired and made whole I must do the very thing I avoided. That is with complete honesty present myself to others and to God. It is only in my last counseling appointment that I was able to speak out and say all of the wrongs I had done, and I pay him to listen to me. The journey is slow and tiresome. Lord have mercy.

Thankfully Christ has a plan for my crown and myself who wears it. This plan included realizations as to who I am, who I am not, that my life affects those around me, that I must speak the truth, that close loving relationships require vulnerability and complete honesty.