May 30, 2007

Red Brick Walls

Last summer, I went to Ethiopia with my family. It was an eye opening experience for all of us. We saw things most Americans can't even imagine. As a part of our preparation, we went through an orientation before we left on our trip. One of the things we were taught was to remember that we would be living in a different cultural context. People who live in different cultures think about certain things differently. One way of doing things is not necessarily better than another, they're just different.

Difficulties arise when we forget we are in a different culture and expect everyone to understand what we are talking about, or why we do things a different way. For example, in Ethiopia people are very relational. It's all about relationships. Family is very important. In fact, family and friends are more important than time. Here in America, we are alway in a hurry to get to our next appointment. If while traveling in a foreign country that is more event oriented than time oriented, we may become frustrated with the people who aren't in as much of a hurry as we are. We have to be aware of our culture, and be willing to change our way of thinking in order to adapt.

The American church has done a terrible job of contextualizing over the past 50 to 100 years. We have thousands of churches all around us. Most of them tend to do things as though the year were 1939. We play hymns on organs. We pray in King James English. We do and say things that make no sense to the culture around us.

What if I went to Africa and expected everyone I spoke to to just understand and convert to my way of living? I would not be very successful in my mission. Very few would be interested in my message. But we have done this very thing with church. We have taken something that was relevant 50 years ago, boxed it into our little brick buildings, and now we sit and wait, hoping someone will be interested enough to come through the doors and join us.

I am not advocating that we change our message! But we MUST change the way we present the message. The gospel is relevant to ALL generations. But the way we present it will not reach the people of this generation if we present it the way it was presented last century.

Trying to bring friends to non-relevant church services is like trying to fly people from other countries to America to teach them 'the right way' to live, as if the way America lives is the right way.

No. We have to change our way of thinking. We have to study and understand our culture. We have to go into the world and get to know people and love them and share Jesus with them in a culturally relevant way (which does not mean watering it down).

Are you culturally relevant? Are you living in the world, or have you isolated yourself behind your red brick church walls?

May 23, 2007

Chosen to Obey

It is simply amazing and mysterious that God chose me and you before the foundation of the earth. He chose us to be like Him, to follow Him, and to obey Him. That’s right, He chose us for the purpose of obedience.

Salvation is a mystery to us. The prophets who first prophesied about the coming Messiah didn’t understand what was going on. The angels even want to know more about what is going on (really…check out 1 Peter 1:12). And we so often take this salvation for granted.

Salvation from our sins, because by our sins we are separated from God our creator, is the most amazing and powerful act of love. God sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to live here on the earth. He lived, and died a gruesome, torturous death. But then He overcame death on the third day, rose from the grave, and offered to us the opportunity to experience eternal life with Him.

But that is not the end of the story. While the gift of free life is indeed free, we are commanded to obey as a result. We can’t do any work to earn that gift, but once we receive it our only desire should be to obey the One who freely gives life to us. 1 Peter 1:1-2 says that we were chosen…to obey Jesus Christ. Are you being obedient? What has He asked you to do? Are you doing it? It may be something small or something very big. Either way, remember that you were chosen by God, not only to spend eternity in Heaven with Him, but to obey Him now.

May 15, 2007

A Day at the Lake

Today I went with the rest of the pastors from our church to Cane Creek Park for a time of prayer. It was a beautiful day. We gathered around some picnic tables and listened as Rob laid out for us several of the giants we are facing at Southbrook Church. It is so exciting to hear about all of the opportunities and challenges ahead. He challenged us to go off for an hour and pray individually about these issues. So we did. I walked, read the Bible, and prayed for the next hour. Confessing sin and seeking God's face.

We reconvened and several shared their insights, and how God was speaking to them. Then we headed back into town for lunch.

I love days like today. I love to just get away from the normal routine and pray and read God's Word. It's important. And it is truly amazing to me that God actually hears and responds to our prayers. We know we have a big job to do, but do we have enough faith to move forward? We know there are giants in our path, but can we step up with our little slingshots and nail them in the forehead? The answer is "No!" We can't do it, not alone. We have to have faith. We have to trust God. In and through His power much will be accomplished.

I can't wait to see how God is going to knock down these giants.
That's all for now. If you're dying to know more about who, or what, these giants are, then plan on joining us on the weekends for the next five weeks as Rob leads us through our next series - "Facing the Giants." This is going to be an amazing time here at Southbrook.

May 10, 2007

Let's Party!

It's so hard to believe the day has finally arrived! On Saturday, May 12, I will graduate from seminary! It's taken nearly 12 years, but I've finally made it.

You can come to the graduation located at SES...(10am) or you can just come to the party afterwards (at my house around 1pm).

I would love to have you be a part of the celebration. Anyone is invited. All I ask is that you RSVP so we can plan for you!

May 03, 2007

Feeling Left Behind?

Check this out: The Bible tells us that God said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Isn’t that our biggest fear? That we will be left? That we might be forsaken? Nobody wants to be left alone. Nobody wants to be on the outside looking in. We all want to be a part of something. We all need community.

That community presents itself in many different ways for different people. Starbucks is a great example. People go to Starbucks and pay more for a cup of coffee (or tea, or whatever) than they typically would. Why is that? Yes, the coffee is that much better. But besides that. People love and need to be a part of something. We all want to fit in. No one wants to be left behind.

“But what about those people who say they don’t want to be a part of anything? They are better off alone? They just want to be on the outside?” Sure, there are those who say that, but aren’t they ultimately a part of those who say they don’t want to be a part of community? You can’t avoid it. We all want to be associated with something.

God said He would never leave us or forsake us. So what? Well, think about things you’ve been a part of. Where are those things now? I was a part of a high school graduating class. But I haven’t heard from over half of them since the day we graduated, and there were only 12 of us! I’ve been a part of clubs and organizations. And inevitably, those clubs, organizations, and people leave, they let me down. We go into things with high expectations, and then we get dropped, and wonder what the heck happened.

God said He would never leave you or forsake you. Think about what that really means! If you give yourself fully to be a part of the amazing Kingdom of God by following in the steps of Jesus, loving Him and obeying His commands, you get to be a part of the family of God. And God promises, that no matter what, He will never leave you or forsake you. You can’t do anything that will turn Him away from you. Once you join the family, you’re in! Pretty cool?

I think so. I know I don’t deserve the love of God. Neither do you. I praise God for His promise to never leave me or forsake me.

Have you thanked Him for that recently?