Monday, January 27, 2014

In Jesus name, Amen.

Since i was a little child, I have been taught to pray (with closed eyes, bowed head, and folded hands mind you) to begin my prayers with "Dear Father" and end them with "In Jesus' name, Amen." To this day I end most prayers that way and of course, I have come to appreciate it not only as the form I learned but as the biblical pattern and practice of the early church. As I preached yesterday, there was simply nothing the first century church did that wasn't in the name of Jesus. Today I'd like to add an extra thought to doing "whatever I do in word or deed... in the name of The Lord Jesus" As I said, we are able to do everything in Jesus' name first by simply being aware of his presence in every situation (ie. Jesus is here). If we begin to realize how present he is in every conversation, every location, every task, and every activity then our words and actions may reflect his name in them. Secondly we noted that we can do things in Jesus' name when we realize we are his direct representation in every encounter. This bestows on us an incredible honor to actually speak words of encouragement and love on his behalf, to actually love and do acts of kindness on his behalf, to represent his presence in the most common of settings. Everything (and I mean everything) can be done in the name of The Lord if we are aware that he is there and that we become his voice and hands. What came to me today is that if we as Christians were to live like this, we could rightly end every conversation with the actual words, "In Jesus' name, Amen". We should be able to end every conversation with "In Jesus' name, Amen". If we are living out our calling, we can look at every relationship and every task as a prayer that begins by calling on the Father and ends with "In Jesus' name, Amen". I began thinking that my life should really be lived as a daily prayer that begins each morning with "Dear Father" and ends when I lay down for the night with "In Jesus' name, Amen." It's the middle of Monday now, and my life prayer is midstream, but even now I can call on God to Father me through it all and work as unto The Lord so that I can later say that this day was lived in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, January 20, 2014

quarterbacks and preachers

First off, let me give a shout out to Martin Luther King's birthday. His "I have a dream" speech remains one of the best discourses in human history outside the Bible. Still, he was promoting what Jesus came for - freedom. Praying that the church continues to be a place of freedom from all slavery, but mostly the slavery of sin that crosses all racial barriers. Now to football. I am a fan. I like sport and I like all the conversation and debate that goes with it. My wife does not. She's already tired of all the hype, debate, opinion, and argument from all the voices who will weigh in on the big game coming up in two weeks. I'll listen to much of it because it entertains me...but to my point. I have been particularly interested in how much attention quarterbacks get when it comes to winning games in the playoffs...I see some parallels between this high profile job and the high profile role of a preacher. Below are some observations. 1. Both the quarterbacks and preachers get way too much credit. When a football team wins, the quarterback is credited with the win, even though he may not have been the biggest contributor to the outcome and certainly wasn't the only contributor. Now, I must address the reality that there is no real tangible way to measure a "win" for a church. Unfortunately, our culture usually thinks of it in non-spiritual terms like attendance, offerings, and buildings - it's harder to define a "win" spiritually and since all churches are God's, winning is assured. But to my point, when things are good at a church, the preacher often gets the credit - this even though the Holy Spirit empowers it all, the staff and volunteers live out their callings and passions to make it all happen, and the living Body of Christ is designed for growth. In the Old Testament, God often helped his people during the reign of a lousy king, I suspect He still does the same thing with his church. Ultimately, people should never give too much credit to the preacher. The pastor himself certainly shouldn't buy the hype. He simply is not the reason churches grow. 2. Both the quarterbacks and preachers get way too much blame. On the other hand, when a team loses a football game, the quarterback often gets blamed for one or two bad plays. But considering there are 11 men each performing a number of functions on about 100 plays a game - there are thousands of opportunities for failure...and many of them go unnoticed. In the same way, when a church is not going well, the criticism mounts for the preacher and he often ends up losing his job. The truth is, there are hundreds of people with hundreds of conversations and hundreds of ministries, and hundreds of actions each week. If a church is not bearing good fruit, there are many root systems to consider. Jesus wasn't a hit in Nazareth, but not because he wasn't a great spiritual leader. 3. Both quarterback and preacher can reach their full potential without "winning it all". There is a crazy idea out there that a quarterback is no good unless he wins a championship (or several if you're a legend). In the same way, a pastor is often not seen as effective unless his church is in a continual numeric growth pattern, he is speaking at several national events, or he is writing spiritually ground-breaking best sellers. The truth is that God has gifted, placed, and used millions (perhaps billions) of preachers in history to change the world. They may not all make the headlines, but they are all effective as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit. There are great quarterbacks and great preachers, but winning and losing is about the team and the Body of Christ, the church is about all of the parts. Something to remember in a culture of hype.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

calendar reboot

Some people spend some time on New Year's Day making resolutions - a sort of recommitment to improve their lives in the coming year (I'm one of those people) and other's do not, realizing that actions speak louder than words (my wife is one of those people). Either way, this first day of 2014 is a natural calendar reboot that allows us to think of our spiritual journey and how we might grow in the coming year. Here are the resolutions I'm praying for my flock at Eastview in the coming year. 1. That we may become more generous. I pray that every Christ follower gives more money away this year than ever before. That we would share more of the resources that God has shared with us to advance his kingdom through his church. 2. That we would become people of the word. I pray that every Christ follower spends time daily reading the Bible in the coming year. That we would memorize a Scripture a week to "hide God's word in our hearts that we might not sin against God. 3. That attendance in our weekly assembly on Sundays would be a priority. I pray that snow, rain, time change, sports, kids activities or laziness will not be excuses to stay at home on Sundays. That the fellowship of the saints would be a priority for us. 4. That every member would participate weekly in their small group praying, studying, and living together. I pray that our mini-communities within our larger community would become loving gatherings of Christian brotherhood. 5. That every Christian would make a disciple. I pray that we would all pray for, invite, be ready for conversation with as many non-Christians as possible so that at the end of this year we can say we fulfilled part of Jesus "Great commission" to make disciples. May we see 1,000 people baptized into Christ this year. 6. That every member would grow in their faith. I pray that we will be bold enough to ask for miracles and trusting enough to move forward by faith even when it doesn't make sense in human terms. 7. That we would live in joy. I pray that the hope of glory and our promise of future eternal life will allow us to walk through every day of this year, no matter the circumstance with great a confidence that God is accomplishing his will in us.