Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Getting past our discomfort level with non-Christians--what about homosexuality?

I often point to the fact that Jesus spent time with those who were non-religious and far away from God, including those who were shunned by religious people--prostitutes and tax collectors.

Who are those shunned by religious people today? Anyone who is engaged in sexual immorality--adultery, pre-marital sex, or homosexuality. While most Christians struggle to spend any time with non-Christians, they might be able to conceive of hanging out with non-Christians who do not engage in behavior which makes them uncomfortable.

But how well do we do in reaching out to those living an "alternative lifestyle"? Not well at all. We usually stay as far away as possible. Our ministry to this community and to those who have AIDS has been terrible. But Christ has called us to go to all peoples, and he died for everyone. The problem is that we rank sins, not recognizing that our sins--such as pride, materialism--are just as abhorrent in God's eyes, even if they are socially acceptable. We have no problem inviting over the rich young ruler, but the prostitutes don't get invited in. Remember, Jesus ate dinner with prostitutes. This was no less scandalous among religious people then than having a gay person over for dinner in today's time.

This weekend we have a high school reunion of some of our music friends that we are going to. I have been looking forward to seeing old friends and re-connecting. Some of those from the music program, however, are now living alternative lifestyles, and they will have their same sex "spouse" with them. This group won't be going to the "official" reunion, but will be getting together with some of us in a different setting. I'm sure they are fearful of judgment and condemnation amongst the larger group.

As much as I seek to follow Jesus' example in loving all people and taking them where they are, I have to admit that I had a bit of angst when I found out about the situation. We do not believe that homosexuality is morally okay. But Becki and I are going to find a church friend in Edmond to watch the kids, and we will go and seek to be Christ to this group. We will not feed into stereo types of Christians being harsh and judgmental. They know that I'm a minister now, and I'm sure they are looking to see how I will react. We need to love people regardless of circumstance and share Christ with them. We can't do this without spending time with people. And we must love them before ever calling them or inviting them into a different live.

Well, it should prove for an interesting time! Please pray for us that God would guide us in our words and actions, that we will help people along their spiritual journey and not hinder.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Getting Out of the Christian Bubble

In his book, They Like Jesus But Not the Church, Dan Kimball speaks of the "Christian bubble" that the vast majority of Christians live in. Here is what he says:

"During this phase, we stop praying daily for those who don't know Jesus and instead pray for our church's latest building project or latest program. Other than maybe at an office Christmas party that we have to go to, we rarely ever hang out with non-Christian firends or go to moview with them. For the most part, only Christians are in our circle of peers.

We begin buying little Christian stickers or put metal fish symbols on our cars, and we even have a few Christian T-shirts. We set our radios only to our favorite Christian radio shows, and most of the music we listen to is Christian. We make a trip to the amustement part that has the special Christian day each year featuring Christian bands.

We find ourselves regularly used Christian words and phrases and cliches, such as backsliding, prayer warrior, fellowship, quiet time, traveling mercies. The transformation is complete. We have become citizens of the bubble."

This description is no exaggeration. It accurately describes the lives of most Christians. We must get out of this bubble, and be the kind of people that hang out with non-Christians, love them, befriend them, get to know them on a real level. This can't happen in a Christian cocoon.

Do you think most Christians live in a Christian bubble? How can this change?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Spiritual Growth Requires a Commitment

I always make fun of those commercials that promise dramatic weight loss from pills or absurb diets. I recently heard an ad for "the cookie diet." Sounds right up my alley. I love cookies.

But despite my resistance to these ads, I have to admit that I like the thought of improving myself by just taking a pill. (Come to think of it, that may be the roots of addiction, but that is a subject for another post.)

But the reality is, most good things in life come as the result of hard work. Is this really different for spiritual growth?

Kyle Strobel, author of Metamorpha: Jesus as a Way of Life, says this:

"A lot can be learned about the church's current worldview by examining the way it has neglected the Christian life as developmental journey. As a culture we avoid anything that requires a lengthy commitment of our time; we want our food fast, our dieting easy, and our entertainment now . . . Not only does this approach [to spiritual growth] fail to take reality seriously, but it fails to take the reality that Jesus wants to walk with us, teach us, and show us around his kingdom. That requires an investment of emotion and time."

Spiritual growth is the work of the Spirit. However, the Spirit works best when we make a commitment to opening ourselves to him, committing time, energy, emotion, and effort to growth. We become spiritually fit not by taking a pill or lying in our bed, but by actively purusing spiritual things--prayer, meditation, Scripture reading and meditation, service, and self-denial.

Here is the link to Strobel's book, which I have just begun. I'm looking forward to reading it.


How do you think that we grow spiritually?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Great Things Happen When You Eat Together

I continued to be amazed at the power of food to bring us together. One of the weekly missional practices that many of us at Liberty have adopted is to eat together three times a week: once with Christians, once with non-Christians, and the third time can be with either.

This emphasis upon table fellowship is patterned after the life of Jesus, who frequently was found eating with his disciples and lost people. In fact, the gospels seem to be the tale of one eating after another!

It seems that Jesus knew what he was doing here. Through his table fellowship, he opened doors with people. You see, table fellowship tells people that we accept them, that we are open to them, and that we are no better than them. It opens the door to genuine friendship and the sharing of the gospel.

It is hard to get in these meals each week, but each time I take this seriously, good things happen. This past Sunday night I went out with some Christian friends, and someone who was searching was there as well. To make a long story short, he and I were able to have some meaningful conversation, and we will be getting together soon to talk about his spiritual questions.

Let's find time to share fellowship with others, particularly those outside of our Christian circle of friends. If we do, great things will happen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How well do you delegate?

In his book How to Break Growth Barriers, Carl George gives several questions that we can ask ourselves in determining whether or not we are good delegators. Here they are:

1. Are you afraid your people will make mistakes?

2. Do you frequently take work home or work late at the office?

3. Does your operation function smoothly when you're absent?

4. Do you spend more time working on details than you do on planning and supervising?

5. Is your follow-up procedure adequate?

6. Do you overrule or reverse decisions made by those on your team?

7. Do you bypass others by making decisions that are part of their jobs?

8. Do you do several things your assistants could, and should be doing?

9. If you were incapacitated for six months, is there someone who could readily take your place?

10. Will there be a big pile of paper requiring your action when you return from a trip or absence?

To score yourself, add one point for each "yes" answer to numbers 3, 5, and 9, and one point for each "no" answer to numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 10. A good score, according to George, is 8 or above.

Sometimes we get focused on tasks, and forget to empower people. Sometimes we are obsessed with control, and don't want to let others make decisions or micromanage the ones that they make. Sometimes we want to feel indispensible, and want people to think, that guy does everything around here. Without him, we would be in trouble.

We should not underestimate the importance of leaders. They are vitally important. But one of the best signs of a good evangelist, Bible class teacher, minister, elder or other role is that in his or her absence, the church continues to function and grow. If everything falls apart without us, then we have failed to equip others.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Should the US miltary be used to prevent genocide?

Here is an interesting story from Sen. Barak Obama, a presidential candidate.


In this article, Obama says that preventing genocide is not enough of a reason to stay in Iraq. He goes on to point out other places in the world, like the Congo, where genocide is happening and the US has no presence.

The use of miltary force is complicated politically, and even more so when viewed from a Christian perspective. I understand Obama's point, and the US cannot prevent every atrocity. But by the same reasoning, Hitler was given free reign over Europe and over Jews. The movie Hotel Rwanda showed how the world did nothing as hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in Rwanda due to ethnic cleansing. It was terrible, and you look back and wonder how this was allowed to happen.

I pray that a slaughter of our own making does not ensue.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Healthier Eating

I am now 34, and I am beginning to realize that I cannot eat the same way I used to eat. At least, this is what our scale is telling me. So I have cut out fast food, except for healthy stuff.

I have been going to Subway, but last week I checked out Sub Planet, which is right down the street from the church and close by to Starbucks. They have a great menu. I also discovered today that the day after a Royals win, you can get a 6 inch turkey sub for $2. Now that is a great deal--and it is less than 10 grams of fat. Unfortunately, Royals wins aren't that common . . . But I am rooting even harder now for the home team!

Any thoughts on healthy or unhealthy eating? Has anyone seen "SuperSize Me?"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Prayers for non-Christians

Whenever I ask for prayer requests for the lost in a class or a life group, I usually get one response and 20-30 blank looks. Obviously, lost people are not on our hearts most of the time, or we would not struggle so mightily to come up with a name.

However, two Sundays ago, I told our Contagious Christians class that we would be praying for the lost the following Sunday, and asked them to come prepared to pray for people by name. I passed out short forms which listed friends, family members, co-workers, or neighbors that we could pray for. I am glad to say that our class really responded. I don't know if it is because people are given time to come up with people, or it is the written format--probably a combination of both--but this approach seems to work well.

I believe in prayer for the lost. We have seen some amazing progress in the faith journey in some of those close in our lives who are non-Christians. This can only be God at work.

Do you find or it easy or difficult to pray for the lost? Why?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Funerals, Surround Sound Basements, and other matters

Well, sorry for the blogging delay. Last week was a catch up week from being gone, and then we had an unexpected death in our church family. Funerals always present opportunities to minister to people, and to show Christian love and kindness. This held true last week as well, and I was glad to be able to help the family. The church really came through as well, as they always do. This church is so loving and servant hearted. Despite another busy week this week, I should be back on daily blogging status now.

Personal tidbit--we are about finished with our basement. They laid carpet on Friday, and I have the surround sound going. It turned out very nice. Should make for a great fellowship room. We had some neighbors and friend over on Saturday for Emily's birthday party. They watched a movie scene or two, and were excited about some movie and devo nights in the new room. Pretty cool.

Yesterday AM I spoke on the explosive growth found in the early church and in China, and last night I spoke on letting God be judge, rather than us. Both seemed well received, which is good, for they both had challenging elements on how we have thought and practiced.

No wisdom to offer right now--still a bit tired from the long week. But looking forward to this week. We have many visitors from the community signed up for VBS--thanks to all those who invited friends and passed out invite cards! Later.

Monday, July 09, 2007

How do non-Christian young people view Christianity?

Here is an excerpt from a blog post by Kurt Frederickson. Kurt and Eddie Gibbs are at Fuller Theological Seminary, and they write a blog together. Kurt provides some interesting research on how young people who are not Christians perceive Christianity.


David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, shared the results of new research that investigated how young people (16-29 years) who are not Christians perceive Christianity. They wre asked “What is your current perception of Christianity?”
- 91% said antihomosexual
- 87% said judgmental
- 85% said hypocritical
- 78% said old-fashioned
- 75% said too involved in politics
- 72% said out of touch with reality
- 70% said insensitive to others

What do you think of these stats? How can we overcome these perceptions? Check out Kurt's fuller post at http://www.netbloghost.com/tiggertalk/?p=75.

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

Becki and I got back in on Saturday. We had a good trip.

To all those who emailed or called us while we were gone, we will be catching up on our messages today.

Here is a passage from James that I stuck out in my mind this past week:

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:12-13).

For some reason, despite having taught the book of James 2-3 times, I had never caught the phrase, "mercy triumphs over judgment!" This really has application today, doesn't it? There are all kinds of publications that regularly pronounce judgments on other Christians. Any time we do this, we risk bringing judgments down on us.

Where is the patience? Where is the kindness? Where is the humility that we might be wrong on some issue of worship, structure, leadership, or other issues? Does mercy triumph in our publications?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

At the Beach

Here are a few pictures I made up from our time at Ventura Beach. These are low-resolution pictures, but the originals on these are simply stunning. Many of these will make for great background slides for ministry, but a lot of them will probably end up framed in our house.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Vacation Time!

Well, I finished up my class, and my Becki flew out to California to join me last Wednesday. We are spending some time together on vacation. Yesterday we went to Malibu beach, and tomorrow we are going to Ventura. I won't be blogging much this week, but I'll catch you guys when I get back. Please pray that we and our children have safe trips this week. Check you later.