Tag Archives: Christ

a healthy body

Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend and he asked me a pointed question about my morning routines. “So how many days a week do you usually run?” I responded with my typical five to six days a week, depending. He then asked, “Does your body not hurt?” And I thought a bit before my response. Yes, there’s the typical aches and creaks and cramping and soreness, but honestly I actually hurt more when I take off too many days. I thought about what that meant. Some days I wake up and I really don’t want to run. Sometimes I drive to the trail and hesitate for a minute before opening the door. I even recently reflected on this in another post, “I hate running…It seems like the first five minutes are spent just trying to convince my legs that they know how to do this.
Much of the time is spent making sure I’m looking out for cracks or potholes so I don’t twist my ankle or knee. Then there’s the inevitable argument going on in my head about how far I’m going to make it this time. And if I’m running on the roadway there’s always the extra need to be wary of drivers who aren’t wary of me…But in the midst of all of that my heart starts to find a better rhythm. My breath takes on a cadence that convinces the rest of my body that it knows how to do this. The sweat reminds me I’m alive and the clarity of thinking that comes puts much of my life in perspective. The aches that were present at the beginning take on a new feeling as they push me to keep going. So I run on; knowing that this is good for my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being…I love running.”

The clarity of purpose behind my running makes all the difference in the world for me and my body. Sometimes I think we struggle with the idea of clarity and purpose in the church body today. There seems to be division and chaos ad nauseam, particularly in the church in America. And I’m not sure that this is so much an issue of unity as it is an issue of clarity as to what it means to be the body of Christ. The apostle Paul put in this way when addressing the church in Corinth. “…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 Equal concern for each other; we are the body of Christ.

So our clarity is clear for the health of the body. Our concern is not for our own interest, but for the interest of others. We are the body of Christ. And as we have equal concern for each other we find not only clarity of purpose, but unity in the body. So maybe there will still be the typical aches and creaks and cramping and soreness, but we continue to move towards invoking the Kingdom of God in the world. Because this is who we are.

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anticipation

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PSA: This may be the nerdiest blog post I’ve ever written.

I’ve been waiting for today for what seems like forever. For those of you who have read my blog at all or listened to a sermon, you know I am a fan of comic books. And not just any comic books, but Marvel comics; you know, Spider-man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, etc. Well one of my favorite cultural gifts of living in the twenty-first century is that we are living in the golden era of comic book movies. It’s almost as if Hollywood said, “You know who we need to cater to? All those weird 30 and 40 something year old nerds.” And today marks the completion of a ten-year saga for Marvel movies as they release Avengers: Infinity War. Since the villain of the movie (Thanos, the ultimate Marvel bad guy) was teased in 2012, fans have been awaiting this day. If they are like me, they have even reread all the comics they owned that cycle around this movie’s story-line just to be extra prepared. And so I woke up knowing today was the day…I don’t think I’ve been this excited in a long time. And I know that regardless of what I experience tonight, I will still be excited. I don’t think the movie could even let down my anticipation. And this is all over a two hour and twenty-nine minute movie…

Anticipation is a powerful thing. My kids get excited about upcoming birthdays. My wife will start packing for trips sometimes weeks ahead, but maybe that’s because a healthy dose of anticipation is necessary for traveling with a family of six. But anticipation, I believe, can often make the thing anticipated even greater. If you come to an event or happening with all this built up excitement and energy, and then you invest all that big excitement and energy into said event, then there really isn’t any way that you should be disappointed…of course maybe that’s just the eternal optimist in me speaking. However, sometimes I think our anticipation looks more like anxiety. I remember growing up and hearing about Christ’ second coming and always being nervous. Sometimes I would even go over to my grandmother’s house (she lived across the driveway) and if I didn’t find her quickly I would be scared that I missed the rapture. I’m not sure, though, that the coming of Christ is something that is ever meant to be seen through the lenses of fear. In fact, I think it’s something the church is called to rehearse over and over again.

The New Testament scriptures end with the writer of Revelation saying, “The one who bears witness to these things says, “Yes, I’m coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20 And some translations even add the phrase “come quickly”. Now if you’re like me, you often look at the world around you and wish Jesus would come quickly and fix all the brokenness and hurt. You anticipate His return because it will be the cure-all for all the messed up things in the world. But what if we, as the church are called to rehearse, live out His coming again in anticipation in the now? I mean, after all the church is called the body of Christ. And we gather together through the power of the Holy Spirit. What if our presence here is Christ in flesh, Christ having come into the world? Here me out. Christ will come again; I’m not denying this. But what if in the now we are called to live in such rich anticipation that each time we gather we become agents of transformation in a world that could really only be fixed by the coming of Christ? What if each time we met the world would know that His Kingdom is coming and His will is being done through us because this is why we gather? What if each time we prepared to assemble as a church we anticipated the movement so richly that we couldn’t help but be excited and amazed at what God did through us? I think perhaps this is the type of anticipation we are all called to live with. After all, if one of us could get this excited for a nerd movie, think about what we could do if all of us were truly excited about what God can do through us.


but that’s not what I meant

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One of the most important things I’ve come to learn over the last couple of years from being a senior pastor is the ability to be vulnerable. And it really began with a realization of how little control I have over what people hear me say. You see, I say…well and I even write a lot. Even if you just take into account this blog, I’ve written over 65,000 words over the last two and a half years. But I’ve come to realize that I really have no power when it comes to people interpreting my words. I’ve been taken out of context, misquoted, and even lied about. And if it was done to the right audience, then no amount of pleading, arguing or even explaining will sway my words from being misunderstood. I wonder if any of the Biblical writers would feel this way today?

You see, one of the things we as Christians love to do is to latch on to a singular verse and use it for our causes or motivations without considering what we might be doing to the original meaning and context. One of my favorite verses that this is done to is Philippians 4:13; you know, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” You see it on t-shirts, work-out equipment, necklaces or even football player’s face tape. But when Paul was addressing the Philippian church, he had something drastically different in mind. Listen to the context here, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” – Philippians 4:11-12 Paul’s declaration of being able to “do all things” had more to do with powerlessness than power. It had more to do with vulnerability, than strength. It had more to do with contentment in adversity, than accomplishment.

Today my mind goes out to the thousands who have been displaced by Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Philippians 4:13 truly would be a life verse for them. For they have had to leave their homes and and all they know. They have had to accept the help of friends or even strangers. They still may encounter hardships and hurt that they aren’t even aware of yet. There will be trials, temptations, frustration, pain, anger, denial, etc. over the next few days, weeks, months and maybe more. You know, it sounds a bit like this, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” – Philippians 2:6-7 The reason that Paul could declare that he could face hardship and troubles through Christ’ strength is because he knew Christ endured it for his sake. The reason we can endure that which is about to come next is because we know Christ has endured it before.

So may you find encouragement today in reading and understanding the bigger context. And may you find strength in vulnerability, power in weakness, contentment in hardships and the ability to continue moving forward because of Christ and His example.


misplaced curiosity

I love the curiosity that comes with childhood. You see it evidenced all the time if you are ever around small kids. If they have a question; they ask it. It doesn’t matter if it makes the situation socially awkward. Their immediate need to satisfy said curiosity is going to be made plain. I’m sure like me, those parents of small children always cringe at those social encounters when you notice your child catch something strange or different and you see the wheels inside their little heads begin to turn. It’s only a mater of time before, “How…” or “Why…” turns into a, “I’m so sorry…” from you. But we have all been there before. I remember being a very inquisitive child. So much so that often my parents would just turn me loose on our set of encyclopedias for answers (yes, I was that kid). But it seems sometimes that as we get older, our curiosity seems to wane or become misplaced and we just become indifferent to the lives of those around us.

Oh don’t get me wrong, we still like to know things about people…but rarely directly. We love to find out about people from the safety of our own homes and read about their stories from our digital screens and not have to worry about potential socially awkward moments. Think about it for a minute. One of the fastest growing industries over the last couple of decades is celebrity gossip. I can know all about their story, feel like I even know them, and yet I have never had one conversation with this person. Or even the advent of social media. Here we can look at people’s likes, dislikes, kid photos, workout plans, dinner plates, etc. and never even have to talk to them in real life and feel like we are the best of friends. But what is really occurring is that our natural curiosity that creates true and lasting relationships with others has been replaced with something inauthentic, ineffective and indifferent.

I think we are made to get to know one another. I think we are made to be neighbors who love each other like God has called us to. I think that natural inborn curiosity is a way for us to engage one another so that we begin to understand one another and ultimately so that we might be able to share Christ with the world. But when that curiosity is displaced, or stifled, or lost…then what? We keep to ourselves, we engage only those like us and we leave this world looking much the same as it did before we got here. In his epistle to the Corinthian church the apostle Paul says this about engaging others, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” – 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 In order for Paul to share the gospel he became like those to whom he was called. In order to become like those to whom he was called he probably had to get to know them. In order to get to know them he had to be curious about their story and who they were. Are we curious about the stories and circumstances of those we encounter everyday…or have we become indifferent?

My prayer is that God renews in you and I a sense of curiosity that defies difference and social limitations or awkwardness so that by all possible means Christ may save some.


action and truth

Last night we gathered for our regular Wednesday night church gathering. And I’m not sure if it was the result of Daylight Savings Time or the fact that so many have been sick, but we had a very intimate gathering (that’s pastor talk for a small crowd). But we sat around the table and we began to discuss what Relational Holiness/Mission looked like. We talked about healthy relationships in a digital world and helping new people feel connected to a local church body. We talked about the challenges of the contemporary world and how the church is called to embody healthy and whole community as a reflection of the Divine Life of the Trinity. And the best part about this discussion…I was the only one around the table under the age of 40.

The description of the conversation above may have sounded like a gathering of Gen X’ers or Millennials, but I am so excited to say that this conversation took place with people who are old enough to be my parents and possibly even my grandparents. I sat with these amazing church people as we discussed problems that church faces with it’s mission in the 21st century and that had as much or more insight into the dilemma as many of my peers. They spoke about days gone by when they would incorporate people into the local church by having them into their homes, going out to eat with them, having volleyball nights or picnics. Our verse for the evening even reflected this approach to ministry and sharing the gospel. “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

It’s funny sometimes how there truly is nothing new under the sun. Often times the younger generation (present company included) think we have a monopoly on forming healthy communities. But honestly this isn’t something we need to reinvent. Our elders have been doing this for a long time…how do you think the gospel got to us anyway? So I have a challenge for us today. Let’s take that passage of scripture from John’s epistle at face value. Let’s not just give lip service to ideas or concepts or strategies etc., but let’s love with actions and authenticity and truth. I look at the world around us even now and am astounded at the words we hurl back at forth at each other…sometimes even lined with scripture. I think we have all had enough words. Let’s love. Love truly. Create churches and communities where people feel loved and connected to something bigger and greater then themselves. After all, Christ himself said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35 Those you are called to love may not always look like you, think like you, believe like you or lead life like you, but that doesn’t diminish or negate your calling to love them. May we find true salvation and holiness in the communities we are called to give our lives to.

 


get a life

Yesterday I bumped into a friend I hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to in a while. We were talking and catching up and then the inevitable question came up, “Well how are things going with you?” I gave the typical ‘good’, ‘busy’, responses and then reflected, “It’s funny, we thought we could have a life outside of the church…” And we both laughed a bit about it. But I haven’t been able to get away from that thought. You see as a pastor, my life is centered around the church. Even on my days off, its not really something you turn off. Our family schedule centers around the church. Our interactions inevitably are somehow based around the church and if you want to have a conversation with us, more than likely you will most easily catch us being involved in church-related activities. And honestly, I don’t think of that regretfully at all.

Paul was writing to the church in Colossae when he had this to say, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-3 Let me clarify something really quick before we keep going, although I may have referred to a specific congregation/schedule/building above, we need to understand that the church is none of those things specifically. The church is a living, breathing, Holy Spirit birthed people of God who are collectively known as the Bride of Christ. So when Paul says, set your mind on things above, or your life is now hidden in Christ, he is redefining the way in which we go about our lives in the here and now. 

I think about all the things that vie for our attention and time these days. We have jobs, school, sports, politics, household chores, bills, play-dates, parties, gym time, etc. etc. and these are how we order our lives. But Paul asks us to set our mind on things above…How then do we do that? We order our lives around the church. And I’m not talking about being in the church every time the doors are open (although every pastor would appreciate that), but I am talking about ordering your life, your conversation, your rhythm around a living community of God known as the church.

One quick illustration of what this does for us. My wife and I recently were at the AT&T store getting her a new phone and the question came up, “Well, what do you do?” “I’m a pastor.” And all of a sudden we found ourselves opening up the door for a conversation, that led to a church visit, that led to this same individual possibly playing in our praise band for Sunday services. Now do all of us have this easy access point into conversations about church i.e. ‘I’m a pastor’? No. But if our lives our hidden in Christ, if our lives our ordered around the church, if our lives reflect our ultimate priority, then we will start to see God use us in new and amazing ways everyday. May you find your life hidden in Christ as you live out the calling of the Bride of Christ, the church today.


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