Thursday, April 24, 2014

 

Longhorns for Christ and the future of the church

So I got to do a retreat for the Longhorns for Christ campus ministry from the University Church of Christ in Austin recently.  And I think I learned some things about the future of the church.  So from Cary and Jinny McCall and their students, here they are.

Relationships and fellowship are going to be a big deal.  These students were intentional about sharing life together.  They went out of their way to include everyone in the games, study, worship, and down time.  I think communal life together is what keeps us all focused.

They are serious about reaching people for Jesus.  One of the students told me about how God had worked in her life to connect her to Christians and to LFC.  I later found out she was baptized at last year's retreat.  Several I met are going on Let's Start Talking trips this summer.

They agree on the big things and don't let the other things divide them.  There was a wide range of opinions about various things but they looked for unity not division.

They like to share the story of what Jesus has done, and is doing, in their life.  Of course I was the resource person for the retreat and we were talking about how to share our stories and the story of Jesus.  But still, they could talk about their journey with Jesus.

Worship was fun.  It always is with university students.  Serious, spiritual, and celebratory.  One reason I still like hanging around campus ministry.

They get that their identity is in Jesus and not just in their major or their dating relationships.  Which means they will end up doing real vocational ministry.

Of course, there were some issues that bothered me.  They hang out around the campfire until midnight -- or later.  Not sure, it's possible I blacked out.  And they don't get up early.  Stay up late, sleep late.  Two things that are hard on an old guy.  

But I was encouraged.  I think the future is bright.  As long as there are young Christians like these who are serious and intentional about sharing their faith and living life together in Christ... well, I think the future of the church is going to be just fine.  

So thanks Cary and Jinny for letting me hang out with your group.  And thanks Longhorns for Christ.  I like that you keep the emphasis on the last part of your name.  I am excited to see what God does thru you in this world.  It will be amazing.

Keep telling the story.  I will too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

 

Did God really mean what he didn't say and not mean what he did say?

I want to be the first to admit I am no great theologian.  I am not fluent in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic.  ThI do speak English fairly well and Texan very well.  I don't have a DMin.  I am not the sharpest tool in the shed.  But I think the Bible was written so a guy like me could understand it.  So even a guy like me could explain it to others.

But here are two things I just do not understand.

I do not understand holding an absolute position based on something God did not say.  You can form opinions from things the Bible is silent on, but it is hard for me to accept that God is absolutely against something unless he says he is against it.  It just seems God could have clearer if it was that big a deal.  So I wrestle with the whole "God is against instruments in worship because he did not say he was against them."

And I have trouble with an absolute position based on explaining why what seems to be very plain cannot mean what it says.  Some of the current arguments about women's roles in church leadership and worship spend a lot of time explaining how the principles stated in Scripture can't mean what they say.  You would think God could have expressed himself more clearly if that was really his intention.  I have trouble with "this is so clear anyone can understand what it really means even tho I have to explain why what it says is not what it means."

But as I said, I'm not real smart.  So you will have to keep explaining how God meant what he didn't say, and didn't mean what he did say.

Or maybe God said, and did not say, exactly what he meant.

Simple enough for anyone to understand.

Just my thoughts, but I sure don't think God can be happy about all the fussing and fighting over what he said.  I do think that is pretty clear.

Even for a guy like me.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

 

The Easter sermon I won't preach... but wish I could

I love Easter.  Of course, that may be because I am a big fan of the resurrection.  Love the opportunity for people to invite friends and neighbors to worship.  After all, it is the one time of year that many people entertain the notion of going to church.  Lots of visitors will come to church on Easter.

So it is a great opportunity to proclaim the Risen Savior.  And I will be speaking this Sunday.  Not preaching but doing our Communion thought.  And I will talk about resurrection.  I will encourage us to live a resurrected life for a risen Savior.  I will encourage visitors to engage in conversation with us.

I will pray for visitors who want to know more about Jesus.  I will be looking for visitors, asking them to come back, seeing if they would like to know more.

We hope to have visitors from our Eggstravaganza on Saturday.  We are hoping for lots of neighborhood visitors.

Our faithful members will think about the Resurrection like they do every Sunday.  Actually, every day I would hope.  And I so want them to be involved in inviting, welcoming, and sharing with visitors.

But there is one group I really wish I could preach to but probably will not.

The Christians who don't get it.  That's who I wish I could really talk to.  The ones who don't think about Jesus any more.  The ones who show up for their one assembly of the year.  The ones who think they are OK.

But they aren't.

I wish I could say how they are missing the point.  I want to share with them how they are not OK.  I want to say quit being offended because we thought you were a visitor.  I want to say Christianity is so much more than membership.  That baptism is not just some step they took to get saved.  It was a death and a resurrection into new life.  The life they quit living somewhere along the way.

I want to tell them to wake up, return to their first love, and start fighting Satan.

But that would offend some.  Some of our faithful members would feel the need to apologize to the visitors.  And we would run the risk that they wouldn't come back again next year.

And I still wish I had the guts to preach that Easter sermon.  But it is two different audiences.  And I would rather speak hope into the non-believing visitors.

But I hope they don't get confused by the Christians who don't get it.

Jesus was not raised for one day.  He was raised to bring new life every day.  Now and forever.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

 

What did you know and when did you know it?

A couple of my friends had important insight to the discussion of supporting organizations.

Cody and Eloise said it in different ways, but the point is valid.  How much due diligence can you, or should you, do about an organization?  And how accountable are you if you find out disturbing things after you have donated?

Personally, I am very much a "relational" giver.  I give to people I know.  Or to organizations where I know those involved.  I am heavily influenced by a recommendation from someone I know and trust.  And I do think that is a legitimate vetting process. You can do more.  There are websites that have core beliefs or "our philosophy" pages.  There are public financials available.  You can read newsletters and other publications.

But I have to admit, I am much more driven by the mission and by the relationships than by anything else.  And personally, the mission that most drives me is to tell the story of Jesus.  I like groups doing that.  I am intrigued by groups that combine relief efforts and talking about Jesus.  If the telling about Jesus part is not there, I am not prone to be as generous.  And I do check to be sure there is a message that I think reflects Jesus accurately.

So I won't give to people or organizations that do not agree with my core convictions and passion.  And neither should you.  I believe what I have comes from God and I want to honor him with how I use those resources.  So I am going to support efforts that I believe do just that.  You can disagree with me, you can think I am judgmental.  That's OK.  I don't have to answer to you or honor you.  You are not the source of my blessings.  God is.  So I am going to do what I believe pleases him.

But what happens if I find out later that a ministry I supported was not what I thought.  Someone was embezzling the money or they were teaching things I do not believe.  I do not worry about that.  Give with a clear conscience and I do not believe God will hold you accountable for what you did not know.  But I am responsible after I find out.  And that can a reason to stop giving.

A couple of other thoughts.

I would rather be a generous giver that did not use great discernment than a very wise and insightful person who was stingy and selfish.

And I would rather have this discussion with real givers than those for whom it is just theory.

So God help us to use wisdom in deciding where to give back to help your Kingdom grow.  And we ask for more that we can give more.  Thank you for you gifts.  We will pass them on for your glory.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

 

Thoughts on giving and sin...

First of all, this is not just about World Vision and their decision to, or not to, have employees in same sex relationships.  But that situation did trigger much conversation (?) about when to stop giving to an organization.  I guess it was conversation.  Most of what I saw was pretty one sided.

So here are a few of my random thoughts about using my time and money to help children, poor, widows, and needy in a fallen world.

My benevolent giving is done in a Christian context.  I appreciate all the organizations that do good in this world with housing, food, medical care, and clean water.  But many of them are not doing these things in the name of Jesus. So while I am thankful good is being done, and I may even eat at their fundraisers, I am not going to invest significant time or monies.  To me as a Christian, I think the resources God gives me are to be used to his glory.

I think there is a difference between sin in an organization (which is in every church and non-profit I have ever known) and organizational sin (by which I mean endorsed or policies that I believe are sinful).  And before I go further, I understand that everyone may not agree with where I draw lines concerning what I will, and will not, support.  That's OK.  I don't answer to you. I have to be true to what I believe God teaches.

If an organization is doing good works in the name of Jesus, I think that is wonderful.  But if I become aware of teaching or practice that I do not believe reflects Jesus, then I will not support them.  If I find that a group devoted to helping children has a policy that says it is fine for overseas workers to engage in casual sex while away from their mates, I think that is not reflecting Jesus.  I would withdraw my support.  That would apply to any endorsed behavior I believe to be contrary to the teaching of Jesus.  And yes, that does include endorsement of same sex relationships.

Or I would not support a group that would say baptism is not important.  That is fundamentally different than how I read Scripture. So I would not support their activities.  Or one that would teach everyone is going to heaven anyway, whether or not you believe in Jesus before he comes again.

So someone will ask...But how can you withdraw support from anyone who is doing what Jesus would do?  Feed the hungry, heal the sick, etc.  If they are not reflective of Jesus, then they are not doing what he would do.  And remember, there will be organizations doing Kingdom work that you can feel good about giving time and money to.

But please be careful about your criticism if you are doing nothing to help the poor, hungry, and sick of this world.  I would prefer that all of us be personally involved in ministering to the needy of this world.  And certainly we should give from what God has given to us.  You lose some credibility when you tell everyone that they should not give to certain organizations when you are not doing anything yourself.

That is sorta like opposing abortion while not doing anything to help mothers and babies.  You may be right in theory but it is hard to see past your practice.

But I also think practice must be rooted in belief about Jesus.  So I will act, pray, speak for, and give to people and ministries who do Jesus things in Jesus ways.

And before you ask, yes I do know any number of organizations helping children that I support personally or thru my home congregation.  Christian Homes. Timothy Hill Ranch.  Rwanda Children.  Dry Bones.  Christian Service Center.

I know of lots more.  I think your church leaders would know of many others.

And there are untold numbers of missionaries doing amazing Kingdom work.  Serving in the name of Jesus and preaching the good news of the Kingdom.  Most of them are helping, serving, feeding, healing, and caring for the poor, the widows, the orphans of our broken world.  Support them individually or thru your local church.

Father, we do live in a broken world and I want my world to know you.  You care about the broken and the helpless among us.  Your son cared when he walked among us.  So bless us with the means to bless others.  Help us be wise in how we give.  But help us to be extravagant.  For you and your glory.  And in the name of your son.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

 

Mimi had a birthday.

So my wife Marsha -- better known as Mimi since we got grandkids -- turned 61 Sunday.  Here is my tribute.

It's OK that I told her age.  Some women wouldn't like that.  But Mimi is very secure in who she is.  She has earned every one of those years.  It has has been 61 years well lived.

She is a great daughter.  She is the main caregiver for her folks.  She is their emotional center and she is the one who can talk to them, be hard with them, and get them to do what needs to be done.  Because she shows her love for them every day.  She spends 2 or 3 hours every day with them, not counting the hours she spends running errands for them.  Helping, talking, crying. laughing, cleaning, being the daughter they raised her to be.

She is also a great daughter to my folks.  She talks to my Mom often, she goes with me to see them, she does things for them.  She has done a lot of research and fact finding for my Mom about my Dad's Alzhiemers and about Hospice care.  She treats them just like her own folks.

She is a great Mom.  I love that she and Julie talk every day about things.  And so do she and Jamie.  She loves those two girls, and you would have to know them well to figure out which one is the daughter-in-law.  Loves being with them.  She has been incredible support to Julie through the horrible three years of Julie's health battles.  She loves to go keep Joe Don and Jamie's three kids.

Fantastic Mimi.  Our 5 grands adore her.  She is fun, loving, supportive, and happy.  She can cook for them, watch movies with them, play catch with them, and worship with them.  Pretty cool Mimi.

Good role model.  It's not just our girls that look up to her. She has a whole collection of women younger than her that see her as their Mom too.  She gives advice, lots of hugs, and prays for them.  They watch her to learn about being a Godly woman, wife,daughter, Mom, and Mimi.

In just over a month -- if the Lord wills -- we will celebrate 41 years together.  I'll say more about her as a wife then.  Just suffice it to say that I am blessed.

She spent her birthday listening to me preach down in Houston.  We went a couple of days early and hung out together.  I even spent most of Saturday at an outlet mall.  It was hard to get her to spend a day doing what she wanted to do. She would rather do for others.

Then listened to me preach both services on Sunday.  Just another reason she is special.

So here's to many more birthdays Mimi.  You make such a difference is so many lives.  People see Jesus a little more clearly when they hang out with you.  And that includes me most of all.

So thanks God for giving us Mimi.  Good move.  Give her many more years to do your business here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

 

Reacting to the Noah Reactions...

I have not seen the movie, so this is not a commentary on its value, artistic merit, or Biblical accuracy.  But I have read lots of reactions to the movie and I am amazed.  So here are a few quick reactions to the reactions.

Of course it is not a "Christian" movie.  It was not produced by a Christian, so why would you expect it to be?  Do not expect non-believers to act as believers would.  And stop being offended when they are true to their world view.  As far as I know, no one involved in this movie ever claimed that it was to accurately reflect the Bible.

I hardly think it is going to destroy our faith if we see it.  Well, unless you think God is now communicating his truth thru movies.  I have a long list of other movies I think are much more damaging to our faith than Noah.

I am not sure it will pervert the world's view of God or Scripture.  If someone out there really wants to know about God, I am confident that God will connect them with one of his people.  I doubt he is counting on Noah to reach this world.

But at the same time, do not try to convince us that this movie is a wonderful Christian experience.  I am amused by those defending it's Christian virtues because it deals with justice, oppression, and the environment.  The fact that there may -- or may not -- be godly themes in a movie do not make it a Godly movie.  Unless God gets the credit, the glory, or is acknowledged... then it is not a God movie.

But this movie may give an opportunity to share the truth about God, the Bible, creation, redemption, justice, judgment, love, and mercy.  As do many other movies, shows, and cultural events.

I do know there has been a lot of  time and effort given to attacking, or defending, this movie.  After all, if we did not spend so much time attacking, or appeasing, our culture then we might actually have time to engage friends, family, and neighbors in real conversation about a real God who deals with real people in a real world.

So maybe I better quit now too.

But God thanks for the real story of Noah.  Help me see and understand your desire to re-create us and our world.  Help me to be part of that.

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