shelter, love others

How do we as Christians miss the simple love of God so often?  Why do we continue to allow ourselves and those around us try to complicate God?

I know those are powerful statements, but they’ve been on my heart lately.

Love God

God loves us.

Love others the way God loves us. Unconditionally

 

I could quote scripture after scripture about loving your neighbor as yourself, loving your enemies, turning your cheek, caring for the poor, widowed, and needy, and go on and on, but we all KNOW those.

So why is it so hard to put those into action on a day to day basis??

I’m not talking about “oh next week i’m going to do _____” or  “last summer i _____”  Faith is not a checkbox. You don’t get to “check off”  a “love others” box.  It doesn’t work that way.  Following Christ is a lifestyle, not a to-do list.   You don’t get to say “I did my Christian duty for day/month/year/lifetime”   It DOES NOT work that way.  Yet we often practice this through our actions, words, and teachings.  We do not focus on putting things into DAILY action, we give tangible once in a while, destination opportunities.   Going and serving on a mission trip or taking monthly trips to serve a specific group or weekly meetings with people who can’t come are GREAT things, but those things should be an overflow of our daily lives and an overflow of our hearts, not something we do to meet a criteria list.

Does anyone else see this happening?

I’m not saying it’s easy to love everyone, forgive others, or any of the other things God has called us to do, BUT we aren’t called to do these things on our own either.  God is with us through his Holy Spirit and we were given that gift to call upon when we are in need.  God wants to be in relationship with us.  He wants us to know Him.  God doesn’t give us anything we cannot handle.  I’ve FIRMLY come to believe that over the past several years through my life experiences and watching those around me.  He will be with us if we simply call on Him.  Even if we don’t, He’s still there, right beside us.

My quote calendar today read as follows: “God walks with us, He scoops us up in His arms or simply sits with us in silent strength until we cannot avoid the awesome recognition that yes, even now, He is there – Gloria Gaither

Now, I don’t know who Gloria is, but she get it.  She’s clearly been there.

God is pretty simple and pretty straight forward…..if we let Him be.  So stop complicating things.  Stop trying to tell people they have to fit in certain boxes to be with God/come to church/be your friend/etc.   We are called to love as God loved, and if that means scooping up, then scoop up, but if that means sitting in silent strength, then sit.

I realize this post is pretty sporadic, but I hope you find something in it that speaks to you.  I really feel that when I’m going through something or wrestling with something, God speaks to me through my fingertips as I type, and I know I’ve heard Him in these moments.

This has been sparked by various life events, but they all (mostly) boil down to the fact that by complicating God, and things related to Him, we are DESTROYING the Church as He meant it to be.  By gossiping, twisting, complicating, and adding things on to God’s word, we are doing an EXTREME disservice to ourselves and those around us.

So just be.

Be who God called you to be.  Be where you are and rest in Him.  That’s all we can do, and if we listen, He will tell us the rest.  Rest in the shelter of those in your community, your faith community.  If you do not have a faith community, let’s chat about it.  I’ve learned lately that faith communities take on MANY more shapes than simply pews and stages.  they may be Google Hangouts, fireplace breakfasts, long walks, text messages, or any number of other places.  God is everywhere, not just the Church, so let’s chat about it.

For now, after your mind has been boggled by that post’s sporadicness, I leave you with a beautiful song by Jars of Clay

What if Target Operated Like a Church? | TonyMorganLive.com

What if Target Operated Like a Church?

Tis the season to shop for Christmas gifts, so I recently made a trip to Target. I love Target because I don’t have to spend a lot of money, and I avoid going to Wal-Mart.After spending a little bit of time in the store, it struck me how different Target is from most churches I’ve visited in the past. That led me to wondering how Target would be different if it operated like the typical church. So, with that in mind, here’s my initial list:What if Target Operated Like a Church?Instead of having men’s and women’s clothing departments, they would be called clever names like Impact and Embrace that are completely meaningless to new shoppers.Each department in the store would have its own logo to go with their clever name. And, of course, all those logos would be different than the logo on the front of the store.The workers in each department would all have their own t-shirts and flyers to promote what’s available in their departments. The youth clothing department would, of course, have the best flyers.The store manager and his wife would be pictured on the front page of the website.You wouldn’t actually be able to buy anything from the website, but each department would have its own page explaining why they are such a great department and the the information would be several months out-of-date.If you are in the shoe department and have a question about flashlights, the shoe department employee has no idea how to help you because it doesn’t have anything to do with shoes.Shoppers would be able to start their own departments so that they can buy the items that they want to buy. Don’t worry…that means there will certainly be a clothing department for singles.Shoppers would also be able to appoint their own store manager and then serve on committees and boards to tell the store manager what to do.The store would only be open one day a week between 9:00 a.m. and noon and on the first Wednesday evening of every month.Hope this makes you laugh. Emily and I did. And, maybe it also challenges some preconceived notions. After all, churches are sort of notorious for worshiping methods and traditions whether or not they actually produce results.What would you add to the list?

via What if Target Operated Like a Church? | TonyMorganLive.com.

Does Your Church Have What It Takes to Reach College Students? Part 1

As you can tell, lately, I haven’t felt personally creative, so I’ve done alot of reblogs. hope you don’t mind!

 

Does Your Church Have What It Takes to Reach College Students? Part 1.

here are three well-established facts regarding Christianity and college students that ought to capture the attention of any gospel-loving pastor: a) college is a time of unprecedented openness to all things, including the gospel; b) many of the great “awakenings,” both major and minor, in our history have started through college students; c) there is a disturbing absence of this age group in many of our congregations.

The following contains the 1st 3 points of a 9-point article that will ultimately be posted on The Gospel Coalition Blog.We certainly do not have this subject all figured out, but anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 of our congregation is college/graduate students, and so we’ve had to learn many of these things by necessity.

1. Whatever you do, don’t shy away from depth or hard truth:

Students are not dumb, nor are the college professors filling their minds 5 days a week. These students are being presented with deep questions, and simplistic answers not only fail to persuade them, but make them increasingly skeptical of Christianity. So take them deep, and do it often. In almost every sermon we try to have an “apologetic moment,” where I explain how this or that biblical truth counters the cultural norms they absorb in their college. The most popular series we have done have related to straight, deep answers to challenging questions.

Furthermore, teach the hard stuff—like what the Bible teaches about gender roles, sexuality and divine punishment. Most students already know generally what evangelical Christians believe about these things (if for no other reason than that we are spoofed by their professors and SNL), so we gain no ground by pandering around it, ignoring it, or apologizing for it. Speak truth convincingly with clarity and grace. Recently I had a practicing lesbian student tell me that she comes to our church because we at least teach the Bible clearly, even though it angers her sometimes. She said, “I don’t want someone just telling me what they think I want to hear. I know what the Bible says. I’m trying to decide if it’s true. I want someone to explain to me what it says and tell me why it’s true.”

2. Preach the Gospel:

The beauty of the gospel, as well as its outrageous claims, intrigues most students. It engages both believer and unbeliever. It exposes the root idolatries that drive our behavior, and reveal God’s radical agenda for the world that calls for a dramatic response. The gospel “secret” is that all the things we want to see produced in students, things like “radical generosity” and “audacious faith,” are produced not by telling them what they are to do for God, but by exalting in what God has done for us. (For more on this, see perhaps my Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. Sorry for shameless plug.)

3. Love on display is often the most effective apologetic:

Francis Schaeffer first said that, I think. Strike that. Jesus first said it (John 13:34–35). We often think the way to convince unbelievers is to show that our smart guys are smarter than their smart guys. True cynics are convinced more, however, by the beauty of Christ’s character in us than they are meticulous logic of our apologetic. (This is not to diminish, at all, the vital role of giving intelligent answers to hard questions). Note that it was when the first church “shared all things in common” and “there was no need among them” that Luke says they had “favor with all the people” and “God added to their number daily those that are being saved.” The church’s greatest persuasive power is in her serving (cf. 1 Peter 3:15; 4:7–11).

Including Teenagers in the Church: REBLOGGED

6 ways to integrate teens into your church (reblogged from: http://www.studentministry.org/ways-integrate-teens-church/)

Ideas for integrating teenagers into the church bodyI love it that more and more churches are valuing students enough to be intentional about integrating them into the larger church body, realizing that a youth ministry in isolation can have some very detrimental effects. Here’s a few ideas I have for integrating teenagers into the church body and some thoughts on each.

1. Serve in the church service

So far, this seems to be the main extent of “integration,” and it is definitely a good start, but too often we pat ourselves on the back and say, “Hey, kids are serving in the worship band, greeting at the doors, and running the sound system! They’re integrated!”

A few important questions:

  • Does this really make teenagers feel like they have an equal stake in the church along with the adults?
  • Do some teens feel like they’re mostly serving the adults in “their” space?
  • Does it make the kids who aren’t serving feel like the others are “in” but they’re still “out?” (This perception doesn’t seem to be the case as much for adults who aren’t serving. What’s the difference?)
  • Does this really lead to a comprehensive perception among all teenagers that they’re an equal part in the worship experience?

Maybe some of your churches can answer positively to some or all of these questions, and that’s great! I’d encourage you to ask some of the students themselves, too, and hear what they say. Going to the source is always a good idea.

2. Invite teenagers to youth leader meetings

Hopefully our youth ministries are moving toward “youth doing ministry” more than “us doing ministry to youth.” If that’s the case, we need to include teenagers who are serving in our trainings, decisions, and plans. The approach for getting teens involved in ministry should not be adults who determine what the ministry does and then tries to get teens to do it. Instead, invite teens into the process of shaping the ministry from the very beginning. That’s where true ownership really begins.

3. Encourage your Sr. Pastor to speak to them

Often we say, “We want to integrate teenagers into our worship experience,” but then never talk to them once they’re there. Encourage your Senior Pastor to take a moment in each of his messages to speak directly to the teenagers and other oft-overlooked demographics, like young singles and newly married.

Although it might be a bit outside your pastor’s comfort zone, he could also use illustrations and examples that connect with those age groups specifically. In fact, he could teach an entire sermons series that is directly aimed at teenagers! After all, there’s probably been enough aimed at the adults lately. Let’s even it out a bit.

To take this a bit further, have your senior pastor come engage with kids at youth group, too. It’s easy to say we want teenagers to join the adults, but let’s make an effort to “cross pollinate” both directions. The influence your senior pastor can have on your teenagers is often greatly underestimated. After all, he is their pastor, too, not just the “adults’ pastor.” If he joins them in their group and engages with them there, maybe the invitation to join the adults in “their turf” on Sundays feels a bit more genuine.

4. Invite teens to give input into the sermon

Some pastors meet with their staff every week to review the upcoming messages. They collectively give input, share creative ideas, point out gaps, and poke holes in the content so it’s a solid presentation and message when it’s delivered. It would be great to invite some teenagers into that process each week, as well.

Although it’s probably difficult to do that on another evening of the week when teens are not in school, you could at least grab some home schooled kids and ask them to be a part of the weekly brainstorming meeting during the day. They can definitely give input that will help your pastor craft the message for their demographic in ways none of us can.

And I guarantee that those kids will be listening intently when the message is delivered. They will feel like they have a huge stake in what’s being presented because their influence was heard and respected. They’ll retain a lot of what’s taught, if not all of it!

5. Include teens into small groups with adults

A friend of mine who’s a pastor at another church in my town shares a story about their intergenerational small groups. They didn’t necessarily want the small groups to be intergenerational, but because there wasn’t anything else for their children during that time and because the kids were too young to leave at home, they brought them along to their home groups and included them in the discussions.

While he thought the discussions might become a bit juvenile for the adults, he says it actually became very valuable for them. Their young kids speak up and challenge them on so many levels. They have insights and questions they never considered.

One evening they were taking about Good Samaritan and his 8 year old son said, “So, why do we just sit here? We need to go out and help people.” The parents sat there for a second, feeling a bit jarred from the comfort zone of the couches, and had to admit that he was right. So in the weeks that followed, the small group took their kids out to serve in the community in place of their normal meeting time. As a result, the families grew together spiritually and bonded in ways that never would have happened had they been split up into age appropriate groups.

6. Invite teenagers into church board meetings

I suggested this to one church and a deacon said, “No way! I would be embarrassed for my teenager to see what happens in there.” All the more reason to get your act together and have teenagers in there!

Seriously, don’t dimiss this one too quickly. I’m not saying they have to be voting members of the church board, but they can certainly give valuable input and perspectives in an advisory role. Don’t discount this aspect of church as for adults only or, “Teens wouldn’t be interested in this kind of stuff.” Some are! Find a couple solid and spiritually mature teenagers and invite them to be a part of the church’s bigger picture decisions and meetings. Teach them how a church budget works, how your church’s values play out in your decision making process, how church conflicts are resolved, and more.

The key isn’t just to integrate teens into areas that are comfortable and easy for us, but to plug them into every aspect of the church and form the church’s plans around them as much as anyone else. Give them the opportunity to have the same stake in your church that the adults have. Hold them to a higher standard and expect them to step up to it. Many of them will.

.love.people.

this first part of the miniseries which probably wont end up being too ‘mini’ will be about what being a christian is and is not to me anymore…

being a christian is no longer about doing checkbox things and going to church and donating x amount every week.

being a christian is not about going on a certain trip so that you can say that you did or bringing a ‘lost’ friend to church every week for free pizza in class
being a christian is not about hanging out with all of your church friends all the time and listening to the ‘right‘ music and seeing the ‘right’ movies with the ‘right people’
being a christian is not about looking like a super conservative republican who wears the best clothes, drives the best car, and looks like a country club snoot
being a christian is not about being a big wig in the community and making sure people know you (ironically, you’re called to not go around and tell people about yourself)
america has made us think that christians are these great little people who have this cool little book with all these boring rules that only certain people have to follow and you have to look nice and have your shit together before you can join the party or else you’re just ‘ a bad christian’
that is the worst lie we could have ever been told.

its about loving people
all people.

it’s about deeply knowing God and allowing Him to know you and sharing that with those around you.  yes, God knows you whether you tell him about your life or not because after all He is God, but i’ve grown to understand that i actively need to confess to him and tell him about my life and my struggles and areas where i know i need to improve. through this i sometimes realize things i didn’t know about myself.  i think he does that to me.  sometimes we all, especially me, refuse to admit things to ourselves and don’t see them until we tell someone else about them.  this is what i’ve begun to do in my talks with God, tell him about my life so that he can show me things i’ve missed.

i don’t have to talk to him like he’s some high and mighty person looming down with lightning bolts ready to strike.  he’s my friend, my comforter, my father, my savior, my strong shoulder, my guidance counselor, my confidant, and so much more.  i can talk to him more openly than anyone else and can feel his comfort when times get hard, if i talk to him and keep up a relationship with him.

i’ve learned what it truly means to love him.
i was always told to write out a love letter to god telling him all the reasons why i loved him and how i saw his love to me but i never really did that. lately it’s been on my mind.  i haven’t written it out but i’ve thought alot about it…

who else on this earth can you say some of the things i’ve said above about? no one. no matter how amazing my boyfriend is to me, even he cannot measure up to Christ‘s love for me.

on that note, we are called to actively love those around us as we are loved by Christ.
a little over a year ago, the amazing man that God just kinda plopped in my life told me stories about how he was challenged to more actively live that out.  to love those around him as Christ loved him.
i’d never really given this much thought, i treated people well and that was good enough right?
no.

i began to search and see how God loved me and from there i just couldnt hold it in. i wanted everyone to be loved the way i was by Christ and by my wonderful man.

he loves me more than i thought any man could and i see Christ in him in the way he treats everyone around him.  we all have our struggles and he’s only human, but he tries every day to put himself second and treat others around him with the love he feels from Christ whether they act like they want it, treat him well, or even acknowledge his existence.  he works his ass off daily for selfish people yet never gives anything but his best and then comes home and loves everyone else around him with nothing but the best love he can…it amazes me.  i don’t know how he does it, but he does.  for that i am thankful beyond belief that God placed him in my life.

he’s a great example of how to treat people and each day i strive more to pour the love God has shown me into the lives of others because i feel this is what we are called to do.  no reason to hoard something so amazing right?

crazy love.

crazy love.

^ a book you should all read.
i could stop there, but i must go on because this book is so amazing so far.  i got it today and am nearly halfway finished with it.
the book is basically about the american church and how it doesn’t necessarily always line up with the church God calls us to have in Acts.  it’s not the church leaders fault, its not God’s fault, it’s not America’s fault, it’s our fault.
i say our very loosely.
the christians are the body of christ. the church is the body of christ.  but has church become a place where we act like the body of christ or has it become a country club or other social arena?
too often i think it has become the latter and it angers me.
i’m not a bible scholar, i’m not an expert, and so i could be wrong in what i say but i don’t think that the american church is what it should be.
i’m sure i’ll write many more notes concerning this or have many conversations about this, but it’s an important subject to me.
crazy love, by francis chan as well as every time i’ve heard francis speak and pretty much every time i read anything related to christianity or the church or overhear a conversation about the church makes me realize that we are not what we were supposed to be.
we are not a place where the needy and the lost feel they can come to.
we are not a place where we can all be honest about our struggles.
we are not a place of refuge.
we are not a place that is ALWAYS working to improve our community and our world.
we are not a place full of radical christians on fire for the Lord who are willing to go to the ends of the earth if He wants us to.
we do not worry about the spiritual health of our members enough
we are selfish.
we are too comfortable.
we are showy.
we are arrogant.
we are judgemental.
we want everyone to act like things are fine because for some reason we try to make Jesus a ten step plan to a nice life.
we do not do nearly as much service as we should yet we have building plans out our asses
we worry about numbers not spiritual on fire-ness
and this angers me.
not all churches are all messed up or whatever and not all churches are the things i say we are, but too many are.  i’m not claiming i have found a church with no problems. i don’t think there ever will be because the church is made of humans and humans have problems. period.
but i do think that we need to start looking at ourselves in the mirror for a bit longer and see where we are and how people view us and start working on changing that image to be the church of Acts that Francis talks about in his talks and his book.
we cannot be a church that is so worried about numbers and building projects that we neglect hte very community we live in until there is a service project that directly affects our members.  we cannot treat our churches like businesses.  we have got to stop acting like everyone has to dress up for church or else God disapproves.  we have got to start making church a place where we can come with our struggles and openly and honestly discuss them without fear of the women of the PTO thinking less of us or our ‘friends’ talking about us to others. we have got to get out into the community and meet people where they are.
thats what jesus did. that’s what God does.
God doesn’t say ‘hey fix all your problems then come to me and we”ll talk about a relationship’ that would be ridiculous.  He invites us with open arms and comforts us in our times of struggle.  think of the ideal love a parent has for their child, unconditional love. no matter how many times the child messes up or strays away, the ideal parent loves their child and would do anything for him/her.  that is how God loves us…..times infinity.
isn’t that crazy?
but it’s true.
and yet we try to act like God can fit in a box, or a building, or a 10 point sermon, or a sermon series.
we don’t tell God what to do or where to go or what to say to who, God tells us what to do, where to go, what to say, and how to live and we damn well better listen.  He did kinda create the entire universe and everything in it and lets us continue to live in it despite all the times we mess up or leave Him or completely disregard his even existence.
how many people do you think would do that? i can’t think of many.
Francis calls us to look at the church, see where we are, and see where we should be, and work towards that.  i haven’t finished the book yet, i’m sure i will soon, but i invite you to read it, or just think about these things.
why are churches this way?
i grew up southern baptist and southern baptists are some of the worst about soem of this stuff.
they seem to always be worried about numbers
and building projects
and programs
and having the best retreats with the best bands and the most students
but why?
what good does a fancy building full of fancy people in fancy clothes do if it doesn’t serve the Kingdom of God?