Thursday, March 26, 2009

Men's Conference

I'm about to get on an airplane in beautiful Tucson, AZ after a great couple of days in southern Arizona. Eric was able to join me for this trip. The time together to process all that we've been experiencing as a result of God's Spirit was needed.

Yesterday I was able to have lunch with Dave Murrow who wrote, "Why Men Hate Going to Church." That was an interested conversation. I also was able to eat with Dave Sonderman who ministers at Elmbrook Church in their ministry to about 3,000 men. That was a great conversation.

The last couple of days have also been very restful. I'm looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow.

Oops, my plane is being boarded. I'll reflect more in a couple of days.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rewriting the Guest List

Today I was preaching on Luke 14:1-24. The topic of Luke's text is hospitality. Jesus said some pretty radical things, both to his fellow guests and to the host of the meal he was invited to attend. The summary of his rebuke was that both the guests and the host were using others to gain social recognition, material benefit, and/or security through their relationships. Nobody was there simply to enjoy the company of the other. Their were perverse motives that permeated all aspects of the meal.

The alternative to such usery is hospitality--genuine welcome simply for the sake of loving others. Genuine experience of hospitality is free from the need to use others. It's free from fearing that others are out to use us. It's only possible because Jesus has already provided everything we're after when we use other people in our attempts to gain recognition and security.

This afternoon I've been contemplating the kind of misrepresented hospitality that some non-Christians have experienced at the hands of professing Christians. I've spoken with some who have felt like a target, not like a person. They've experienced the kindness of Christians that seemed only to be shared as bait to get them to listen or to believe. When they failed to convert their Christians "hosts" simply ceased in their "hospitality." I wish I could have the opportunity to speak to each person who's experienced that to say, "We are sorry."

When God's people really begin to live out of God's provision, out of His ultimate hospitality and welcome through Christ Jesus, we are not only freed from using others in attempts to gain recognition or security, but we are freed from simply using our kindness as bait. It doesn't mean that we don't share the gospel with others. Quite to the contrary we do, but even that sharing is because of love for them, not because we've feigned love simply to get a few words about the gospel in while they are paying attention.

A real understanding of God's love and welcome transforms the way we relate to all people. We are free to risk through generosity and welcome because we know that God is the one who gives what we give. Every invitation to receive hospitality can be received with thanks, not with an eye for gain. Every opportunity to show hospitality can be an opportunity to demonstrate and reveal God's goodness, not with an eye for gain.

I'm hopeful that as a community we can really continue to live this out with greater capacity. I'm hopeful that I can live this out with greater capacity. It's very freeing to be able to see others as image bearers and not as steps toward whatever I'm trying to attain. I've got all I need through Christ!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thy Will be Done

It's Wednesday morning and I can't believe it. Where has the time gone this week?

Today we are officially a family of "big kids." Our youngest has accomplished a full week's course of not sucking on his thumb. Angie promised a small surprise from the store if he could do it. He did. Today in his excitement he tried to talk Angie into going to Target in her pajamas so he wouldn't have to be too delayed in getting there. She talked him down. He's patiently waiting.

A few of the young ladies at CWR are hosting an outreach bible study to teenage girls. The group continues to grow in size. Last night they saw their first converts, two or three. I'm still getting the details, but I am in awe once again of the "power of the gospel for salvation for everyone who believes." I can't wait to hear the stories that come out of that study over the next few months.

I'm reviewing a great book this week titled, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. This weekend I'll be preaching on a peculiar passage in Luke that has Jesus correcting both the guests and the host of dinner he attends, all the while giving great hope for the outsiders who are observing the meal. Great stuff. While I'm on the subject, Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring is another fantastic book on the subject of Christian hospitality. I recommend both works. The latter is less academic and easier to read, just depends on what you're looking for.

Last evening our community group discussed these words of the disciple's prayer: "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." The author of the study we're using, John Smed, broke down the implications of praying that in this way. First we are praying to accept God's will, second to approve God's will, next to enter into his will, and finally to do God's will. For the first time I was able to see how Christ-centered this is. Isaiah 41 explains that God's will is going to be ultimately carried out "on earth as it is in heaven" through Jesus Christ. With Christ as the lens through which we pray, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," one could break down the above implications in this way: First we are praying to accept the person and work of Christ, second to approve of Him and trust Him, next to follow Him, and finally to imitate Him as the Holy Spirit transforms us into His image. I hadn't made this connection before.

I'm excited to discover what this day holds as Jesus' rule is further realized in my life and in His world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Proverbs 3:5-6

It's a passage that almost every Christian has memorized at some point in their journey with Christ:

"Trust in the Lord with all you heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and He will make straight your paths."

If that's true (and I believe it is along with everything else preserved for us in God's word, the Bible) I wonder why we struggle to apply it in our lives.

Maybe I'm alone. Probably. I'm sure that everyone else is living by this beautiful truth. But just in case you're not, I'll speak to my own situation and you can listen in and perhaps grab something helpful to chew on as you walk about through your day.

When I need to solve a problem I begin to tackle that problem as though my ability to take in the data, process the options, and work towards the best solution is all I've got. This mindset assumes that God had no idea my challenge was coming. He's as surprised as I am. But that's obviously not the case. What if the Lord knew what I was going to face? What if He is working all things for my benefit in Christ? What if He already knows the way forward?

Hmm? I'm thinking that leaning on my own understanding would not only be the least helpful thing, it would be absolutely foolish. Why do I insist on doing that, though?

I forget that He's God in heaven, Lord of all--present, past, and future. I don't have to hope that I "get it right," as I lead His people in His mission in Las Vegas because He will get it right. He will "make straight our paths."

I'm glad that Jesus is the church planter, really glad. He will succeed. His name will be made great.

My plans aren't in the trash, they've just been put off to the side while I wait for God to lead.

Me and Angie

Me and Angie
December 2010