A Children’s Song = the Plight of the Western Church

Moana...it's where we are!

If you’ve spent any time in my house over the past 3 months you’ve noticed one thing above all others. We watch the Disney movie “Moana” at least once a day!

That’s because (for some reason) my 2-year-old LOVES the music and something about the water, beach, little girl, a big adventure – captures her heart. I love to watch her watch it… but the movie is wearing me out!

However, there is a 3 min song near the beginning of the movie that has been speaking to me for the past month as I’ve thought about the words over and over again.

It’s the song that Moana’s dad sings to her about the village. Here are some of the first few lyrics.

“The dancers are practicing. They dance to an ancient song
(Who needs a new song? This old one’s all we need)
This tradition is our mission…”

I know I’m a pastor, but these lyrics hit me right between the eyes as the state of the western church for the past 50-100 years.

We (the Church) are the people on an island to ourselves and are SO SATISFIED with keeping things as they are. Our traditions have become our mission! We’ve lost sight of who we are and who we were meant to be as followers of God. Here’s some additional lyrics.

“We’re safe and we’re well provided. And when we look to the future
There you are, you’ll be okay. In time you’ll learn just as I did
You must find happiness right where you are”

There is something to be said for contentment. I believe that is a peace that comes from God. However, there is also a danger in becoming so stuck in a rut that, simply because our needs are provided for… we have been CALLED FOR MORE!

Out of Context | “If they refuse to listen…Excommunicate them” Matthew 18:17

“Out of Context” is a series dedicated to verses of scripture, often used in today’s conversations, that have little to do with the context by which it was written.

Context | (1) the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed; (2) the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.

Today’s Verse

Matthew 18:17 “If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

This is a signature verse used by many churches to enforce “church discipline” on people that have public sin in their lives, have been confronted by the “church,” and have been excommunicated (cast out) because of their lack of repentance. However, that’s NOT what the context of this verse implies – after all, these are Jesus’ words written by a “tax collector.” Anytime you want to know what Jesus meant by what He said, you simply need to look at the way He lived.

NOTE: I do support the doctrine of church discipline, and there are many great scriptures written in the New Testament to support biblical leadership and the call for Christians to confront other Christians on clear violations of sin in their lives. Paul makes this case very clear in his 1st letter to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 5). However, Paul is very specific about who to judge and how to judge. I don’t believe Matthew should be included in the case of church discipline.

First, we need to go back and see the context of what Matthew is recording when it comes to Jesus’ teaching. Chapter 17 tells us they are in Capernum, and Chapter 18 begins with “about that time” they asked Jesus a question. This question started a time of teaching from Jesus to his disciples and others gathered.

Out of Context | “Ask me for anything you want…You will get it!” John 15:7

“Out of Context” is a series dedicated to verses of scripture, often used in today’s conversations, that have little to do with the context by which it was written.

Context | (1) the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed; (2) the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.

Today’s Verse

John 15:7 But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!

When people often make this statement “Jesus said to ask Him for anything and it will be ours,” there are actually several places that these words show up. They’re not alway’s referencing John 15:7 – however it’s just one of the many that will help me break down why this verse is used out of context so often.

On the surface, every time Jesus makes this statement we assume it’s like a BLANK CHECK! Sure, there might be some conditions to it (like “remain in Me”) but other than that…He said it! Ask Me for whatever you want…it’s yours!

We might not ask for a NEW CAR (right away) but we do have desires. We have needs, and we have circumstances in our lives that need solutions. Often, when we try to engage this verse out of context, we think that adding “in Jesus name” to our request gives it some special magical touch that turns it into a HOLY REQUEST. Even when those requests are not for us, ex.”Heal my mom!” or “Help my son who is wandering away from You!,” we still think that by asking in His name it has some sort of special merit.

Out of Context | “God has Good Plans for You!” Jeremiah 29:11

“Out of Context” is a series dedicated to verses of scripture, often used in today’s conversations, that have little to do with the context by which it was written. 

Context | (1) the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed; (2) the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.

 

Today’s Verse.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

This has to be one of the top 10 verses that I hear Christians use today that has little CONTEXT for when and how they use it.

Sometimes it’s innocent, like an email signature or an encouraging verse for the day.  However, most of the time it’s read (all by itself) by a high school student getting ready to go to college with the promise that God has great things in store for them. Or by the person getting ready to go on a mission trip and are excited about the “good plans” God has in store for them… and no bad plans. Or it’s in a social media post that goes along with someone’s brand new goal in life (new job, new city, new opportunity) in which they claim that God is leading them and has nothing but sunshine and success waiting for them.

God does have a plan for your life. Don’t get me wrong.  He does LOVE that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone to go on that mission trip or move to a new city where He’s given you a job opportunity. However, there are more verses in scripture that better align with those circumstances than Jeremiah 29:11.

I would guess that more than 90% of people who have ever spoken this verse has absolutely NO IDEA the context in which this Word from God was given to His people. However, if you just read the 5 verses before it – it would be very clear.

You Walked Away? Good…I Would Have Too.

Walking Away From The Wrong god.

I wish this title were actually click bait… but it’s true. There are many who have walked away from God, and after talking with them or hearing their stories – I don’t blame them, I would have walked away from “that god” too.

The truth is when I hear a “deconversion” story, (a story of someone abandoning their faith) one of the first things I do is try to figure out what “god” they claimed to believe in. One or two common ones usually show up, but very rarely do I hear of people who walk away from the God that I have put my hope and trust in. It’s usually some version of Him that has been twisted, altered, and changed to the degree that it’s no longer the fullness of God… but a version of a god who they thought was real.

Several months ago, a well-known pastor in Atlanta (Andy Stanley) was catching some serious controversy over a series he did called “Who Needs God.” He was getting a lot of flack from “churched” people, so obviously I was very interested in what he was doing. (I know it’s strange, but whenever today’s Pharisees get angry about something, it usually means that it’s something Jesus might have done!)

In one of his messages, he shared a list of “gods” that people have walked away from and I recognized several of the ones I have also seen in my life.

Here was his list: The God’s of the No Testament
Bodyguard God – he’s here to keep anything bad from happening to you
On-demand God – he’s here to grant our requests (like a genie)
Boyfriend God – you feel him constantly, he’s always with you, and you never fight
Guilt God – he motivates you by condemnation, guilt, and fear.
Anit-Science God – check your brains at the door, God doesn’t want you to understand anything
Gap God – when we can’t explain it, we shove this God in the gap and call it faith

Vision: Change of Pace and Place

I’ll never forget my time in Montana this past summer. Not only was I surrounded by some of the most amazing mountain ranges, but I had the opportunity to drive across one range called “The Road to the Sun” in Glacier National Park. It’s only open for about 4 months of the year. I was there in July, and they had only just cleared the last of the snow off the road to make it open a few weeks earlier. WOW!  It was one of those bucket list items I didn’t even know to have on my bucket list.

Many of the prayers I was praying and seeking God for answers to, came over this 8-day excursion to 6 states, 5 cities, 2 national parks, and hours of flying and driving in between. There was something overwhelming about the GEOGRAPHY being so different than my normal surroundings that I felt closer to God, and maybe more attentive to the experiences I was having and how God wanted to speak through them.  I tried to put it into words, but struggled to do so until just recently.

I’m currently reading “Chase the Lion” by Mark Batterson.  It’s a follow-up book to his first work “In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.”  It is a great book about chasing the dreams God has for you and how to dream bigger.

He tells the story of how Joel Malm was ice-axing his way up Mount Elbrus when he received his big dream from God.  It led him to create the Summit Leaders.  Why go to a conference and passively listen to a leader when you can hike the Inca Trail or raft the Colorado River with other leaders and live an adventure?!

Mark has lived by this saying, “Change of Pace + Change of Space = Change of Perspective.”

A Family Belief… OR… A Personal Conviction

I’m not necessarily in this place personally, but I’m just around the corner with my 12 /2 year old and my 10 year old following right behind.

I’m speaking to the tension that exists between our families’ beliefs and our own personal convictions.  

The longer we wait to allow our kids to substantiate their own personal beliefs and require them to hold to a family belief, the less of a foundation that they will trust in when they leave your home.

Example.
My kids are starting to watch movies where they can hear some choice words that “we don’t say.”  They understand through school, friends, and environments that they are in that they cannot control what other people say.  I want my kids to understand the value of choosing better words to describe or identify something rather than slang, cussing, or cursing. 
The FAMILY BELIEF brings rules that have consequences for using that kind of language in my home. However, that’s not enough to cause my kids to hold these beliefs as a personal choice, especially when they are not in our home!

This applies to all areas of life & faith – our kids HAVE to take steps to make their faith and beliefs their own! It might look different for every family in what areas and ages you want to take these steps, but here are 3 steps I believe can help the next generation go from Family Belief to Personal Belief. 

1. Explain WHY.

Our youth need to know WHY we believe what we believe (I certainly hope YOU know why you believe what you believe). It’s simply not enough to say “because the Bible says so.”  They have to know WHY the Bible is an absolute truth they can trust as a foundation of their lives.  They have to know WHY agreeing with Jesus is not only the BEST option, but often times the one that will cause the most tension in their lives.  When they get to a certain age, WHY becomes more important than the behavior or rule itself.

The Messy Middle

What happened during "after a long time..."

As we kick off another year of resolutions and clean slate thinking on our dreams and desires, I wanted to share a verse with you that has been floating around in my head.

Matthew 25:19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used what He had given them.”

Not the most inspirational passage – I know.

This passage is near the beginning of a memorable parable that Jesus taught as He was getting closer and closer to Jerusalem and all that would then transpire (betrayal, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension). Most people think it’s just a lesson about money,  and it is to some degree.  However, I get lost in this particular verse because of the grand narrative of life and the kingdom of God that Jesus is talking about. 

If you know the story, the master gifts 3 servants with talents (talent = amount of money) to use and invest for Him while He’s gone.  It then says in verses 16-18, that the one who received 5 talents went out and put it to work and got back 5 more.  The one who received 2 talents gained 2 more, but the man given only 1 talent went and hid his in the ground. Most people focus on the one who disobeyed and use this parable to make other people feel guilty.

However, that’s not what has had me pondering this passage for the last couple of months.

It’s these words that get me, “after a long time…”

You see, I think Jesus was talking about our entire lives, and the account we will give for the life we’ve been blessed (by Him) with.  We quickly RUSH to the point of the story where the first two servants DOUBLED their investments and get congratulated by the MASTER (verses 21 & 21 “Let’s party together”).

I get lost thinking, “WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MIDDLE?’ What happened during that period of “a long time…” the life that those persons lived? They obviously didn’t IMMEDIATELY double their investment.  This wasn’t a “one and done” action or decision.  It must have each taken their ENTIRE LIFE to see this come to fulfillment.

MY ONE WORD for 2016

The "What If" Question I Never Planned on Asking

For those that know me well or follow me on this blog, you probably remember me proclaiming my word for the year at the beginning of 2016. “What if?” I know that’s technically 2 words, but when you hashtag it – it works. #whatif.

I’m a dreamer and a doer. I love to have my head in the clouds, but there are also times when I just put my head down and get stuff done. It’s a unique tension in my life that I’ve learned to embrace. There have been so many wonderful “What if…” moments this year that I could fill all of 2017 with blogs to inspire what if’s in your own life. However, this is NOT that kind of POST.

This post is not about all the “what ifs” that got me pumped up, it’s about the ONE “what if” that had me jacked up for almost 10 months of this year.

What if…my heart never recovers?

I almost wish I was speaking emotionally or metaphorically about lost love or dreams that were crushed because of circumstances (almost – because I do understand that this has happened for people who struggle with this question and I don’t want to minimize their experience nor would I wish that on anyone). No, I’m speaking about the very real, odd shaped, irreplaceable muscle that pumps the life-blood through our bodies. MY HEART!

Is There a “Right Way” to Correct Children?

It's not a blog about spanking...

If you were born during a time when you were physically beaten as a child…you’re my people! 

I wasn’t raised in a culture of time-outs, taking electronics away, or writing essays on why I could make better choices.

When I screwed up…I was lovingly (most of the time) physically corrected in a manner that I wouldn’t soon forget.

The boomers didn’t always get everything right, but I appreciated the love my parents put into make sure that I WAS actually disciplined in a way that I was able to connect the dots between my bad choices (behavior/attitude) and the consequences of those choices – discipline.

Now, I don’t disagree that we are living in a different time. Taking a kid’s tablet/ipod/phone away has POWERFUL emotional ties to their behavior and produces a much better result than if you were to take my etch-a-scetch away (or my Rubix cube).

No matter how you choose to discipline, there are a few things that have to happen for it to be REAL discipline.

1. Clear Understanding.

When a child doesn’t know why they are being disciplined, there’s already a problem.  They have to have a clear understanding of what behavior/attitude/choice they are being disciplined for and why.  Even when I had to wait ALL DAY LONG for my dad to come home and reign the fire of discipline over me (just kidding, my Dad was awesome), I knew what I had done, and why I was going to be disciplined. Even when I entered my tweenager years and my biggest issue was my sarcastic smart mouth, my mother was extraordinarily quick to administer a sharp correction (usually a hand to the back of my head) so that I understood IN THAT MOMENT why I was in trouble.  When kids don’t have a clear understanding, your discipline is not doing what you hope it’s doing.