Sunday, June 26, 2005

Join God's Story

A couple of weeks ago, Neal Smith, an elder at First Baptist, sounded a clear reminder that the story isn't about us. It never was and it never will be. Unfortunately, that doesn't usually sit to well with us. We want it to be about us. We want to shine. We want to make Sinatra's song ours - we want to say we did it our way. We want to be the hero, to get the standing ovation, to be glorified. But God will not share his glory with another - not you, not me.

So the key is not trying to fit God into your story, but figuring out how you fit into his. God and his story are far to big to fit into our short four score lifetime. God's story is eternal, and God is the main player in the story.

I know we are used to hearing that there are no dumb questions. Wrong! Here's a dumb question: How do I fit God into my life, my story? That is profoundly wrong. It's backwards. The right question is "how do I fit into God's story?" Learning to ask that, and to be satisfied with small supporting roles instead of the lead role is essential to a glorifying God and enjoying him forever.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

All Screwed Up

I mentioned in my last post that I had a great conversation on Tuesday morning with a couple of guys. We were discussing a chapter in Os Guinnness' book The Call. At the end of the chapter, he makes the observation that "the modern world has scrambeled things so badly that today we worship our work, we work at our play, and we play at our worship" (pg. 152). Saying it like that is certainly provocative, but also very true.

While we could focus on any one of those three couplets, the last one is what gripped me as particularly true of us, and sad. When you go to church on Sunday and leave, how do you evaluate the service. What makes it a good Sunday for you? Is it music you enjoy? A great drama that you thought was funny? A heart touching illustration? If so, what makes church different from a good movie or sit com?

In a recent article that appeared in Business Week, a pastor of a large megachurch is quoted as saying, “[I did] market research with non-churchgoers in the area – and got an earful. 'They said churches were full of hypocrites and were boring,’ he recalls. So he designed [his church] to counter those preconceptions, with lively, multimedia-filled services in a setting that’s something between a rock concert and a coffee shop” (87).

Quotes like that just emphasize how we play at our worship. Let me quote from Sam Storms, "Forgive me for being so cynical, but I don’t think “multimedia-filled services” in any setting are going to help much with the hypocrisy in today’s churches. And if I know human nature at all, people will soon enough find elaborate services with high tech productions as tiresome and predictable as the traditional approach. Nor do I think such flash and sound will do much to sustain the human soul when tragedy or trial or bankruptcy or cancer or teenage rebellion strikes home." (check out his article "The Mega Church and the Mini Gospel).

I like to play. I like playing golf, playing star wars with Caleb. I like fun. Really, I do! But I do not like playing at church. I do not like playing at worship. It's not that I am against fun, but fun must not be the goal! Not at church and certainly not in worship. The goal is God! The result of experiencing God in worship will be joy, not necessarily fun, but deep seated, unshakable joy. That's better than fun any day, and twice as good on Sundays.

I fear that in our pursuit of fun, we have lost the reverence and even the pursuit of God. If Sundays are boring, maybe it's because we aren't focused on God. Who would dare charge the King of the Universe with being boring. This is the God who spun the universe into existence, who sculpted us from dirt, who holds all things in together by his will, who died and rose again to save rebels, who is coming again to wage war against his final enemies. But your right. He's boring (Please note the sarcasm. I don't think it comes across as well in writing as it does in my head).

Lets give up the pursuit of fun and begin a far greater pursuit, the pursuit of God. Being consumed with this pursuit will bring more joy than the pursuit of fun ever will.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Liberty vs. Freedom

Today I was driving from my early morning meeting, pondering some great discussion (I'll let you in on that some time later). As I was driving, I was listening to Mars Hill Audio Journal. The person being interview was talking about early American symbols for freedom and the difference linguistically between freedom and liberty. Liberty comes from the Latin word libertas, meaning autonomy (as opposed to slavery). Freedom is more interesting. It is derived from an Indo-European word pris. It shares its linguistic root with our English word friend. What it interesting, is that this word freedom does not come from a root meaning autonomy, but from one that speaks of being bound to someone, but not in the bonds of slavery, but the bonds of love and friendship.

The connection I was making in my mind as I listened was that the Christian understanding of freedom is not autonomy, it is freedom within the bonds of love - love for others and love for Christ. Hence Paul can speak of being set free to be slaves of God (Galatians 5:1, 13; 1 Peter 2:16). Libertarian freedom (absolute autonomy of self) ends up destroying Christian freedom. We were not created and redeemed to be autonomous, but to be in a loving relationship with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don't mean to suggest that liberty isn't a Christian concept. It is, and is the reason we believe we will all be held personally and individually responsible for our actions. However, I think we have completely lost the true meaning of freedom in our quest to throw off all bonds of morality. Let's recapture the idea that we have been set free for righteousness, because we are in a friendship with God.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Being Cross Centered

We are Christians, Christ followers. As such, our way is the way of Christ, the way of the cross. Therefore, we must be, if nothing else, Christ-centered, cross-centered people.

The Bible is certainly cross centered. Everything preceeding the cross in some way leads up to the cross, and all that comes after flows out of the cross. The apostle Paul was certainly cross centered. He said "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2,ESV), and "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14,ESV). Also, Paul writes, "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:22-23,ESV). For Paul, all knowledge was centered on the cross, his hope and joy were centered on the cross, and his message was centered on the cross.

This must also be true of us. If we move past the cross, we have lost our message. Some have the attitude that this would make us shallow. That we should move past the cross, past the gospel, and into meatier, weighteir issues. Let me say this plainly - there is no deeper, weightier or more important or more mysterious and glorious truth than the cross. It is what makes us distinctly Christian.

Everyone talks about God. Everyone. Oprah, Dr.Phil, Muslims, Jews, even pagans. God is frankly quite popular, though I probably should use god with a small g.

We need to set ourselves apart from all this fuzzy God talk and talk in ways that would get us kicked out of synagogues and mosques, and off the talk show circuit. In a pluralistic society, the cross is more offensive than ever. Yet it is still the power of God for the salvation of souls.

I have been profoundly influence by two great books - The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges and The Cross Centered Life by CJ Mahaney. Both are short, excellent reads.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Blogs Move

This is my new blog which will eventually be replaceing encounter.blogspot, aliverservice.blogspot, and fbcworshiplink.blogspot.

Hope you keep comin back!