Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Keeping Centered

Proverbs 11:1-3 "Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight. When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them."

Amplified Bible: “A FALSE balance and unrighteous dealings are extremely offensive and shamefully sinful to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. When swelling and pride come, then emptiness and shame come also, but with the humble (those who are lowly, who have been pruned or chiseled by trial, and renounce self) are skillful and godly Wisdom and soundness. The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the willful contrariness and crookedness of the treacherous shall destroy them.”

Titus 1:1-16 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior; To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—  if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.  For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,  whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.  One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,  not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.  To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

The book of Titus was written to the people of Crete who were known to be off balance on one side or the other. This is a glaring problem in the church today as well. Maybe it has been like this throughout all of history? Godly leadership is not an accreditation or based on an achievement, but on godly character qualities and being submitted to Jesus as is indicated in this passage. Imagine with me three circles...
The center circle is where we need to stand. That is the circle of Christ-centeredness. On the left is the circle of the self-indulgent. This is the circle where people stand and claim faith but live like “anything goes” and any belief, standard, or lifestyle is acceptable. On the right is the circle of the self-righteous. They are critical, judgmental, mean-spirited, off-balance… (picketers, etc) condemning PEOPLE instead of the sin. To be Christ-centered –standing in that central circle is almost like standing in the middle of a teeter-totter. It’s easy to let it sway to the left or to the right. It takes constant effort and a continual shaping of our muscle coordination to keep completely balanced. The problem is that when we sway completely to the left, we are in danger of thinking we are okay in our relationship with Jesus. And when we sway to the right, we are confident in our standing with Jesus as well. Dangerous. Very dangerous. And the world sees this. When we are not Christ-centered, it permeates in our conversation and displays itself in how we love others. On the right, people only see judgment. On the left, people only see a complete lack of conviction towards righteousness. One is not more wrong than the other. Both outer circles are wrong. Neither shows Jesus. But sometimes we are so blinded by ourselves that we can’t see how wrong we are in our little self-circles.
So back to godly leadership... according to God's Word, there is no accreditation basis or achievement requirement. We are simply asked to submit to Jesus, be balanced in our behavior and in our belief so that He can work. To keep us in shape, God has given us some health-maintenance requirements so to speak: (1.) be disciplined. Take time to consistently seek God through his word and communicate with Him. (2.) Be yielded. Surrender daily. Be a filled vessel. Know that if I am empty, the wrong things will dump into me, spilling into the lives of those around me. But on the other side of it, if I am filled with my own self-righteousness, there is no room for Jesus to spill out of me, touching others. It will be all me. Critical, mean, nasty me. (3.) Commit to faithfulness in [a] the Bible and [b] in loving others. This is like an exercise routine. A routine for life. A routine which will keep me in shape so that on that teeter-totter of Christ-centeredness, I won’t sway to the left or to the right. Christ-centeredness. True Christianity.

by Derek Webb:
They’ll know us by the t-shirts that we wear
They’ll know us by the way we point and stare
At anyone whose sin looks worse than ours
Who cannot hide the scars of this curse that we all bare

They’ll know us by our picket lines and signs
They’ll know us by the pride we hide behind
Like anyone on earth is living right
And isn’t that why Jesus died
Not to make us think we’re right 

When love, love, love
Is what we should be known for
Love, love, love
It’s the how and it’s the why
We live and breathe and we die

They’ll know us by reasons we divide
And how we can’t seem to unify
Because we’ve gotta sing songs a certain style
Or we’ll walk right down that aisle
And just leave ‘em all behind

They’ll know us by the billboards that we make
Just turning God’s words to cheap clich├ęs
Says “what part of murder don’t you understand?”
But we hate our fellow man
And point a finger at his grave

They’ll know us by the t-shirts that we wear
They’ll know us by the way we point and stare
Telling ‘em their sins are worse than ours
Thinking we can hide our scars
Beneath these t-shirts that we wear


Monday, June 14, 2010

"We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won't need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don't fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine."
- D. L. Moody

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Like falling in love

Give me rules

I will break them

Give me lines

I will cross them

I need more than a truth to believe

I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes

To sweep me off my feet

It ought to be

More like falling in love

Than something to believe in

More like losing my heart

Than giving my allegiance

Caught up, called out

Come take a look at me now

It’s like I’m falling, oh

It’s like I’m falling in love

Give me words

I’ll misuse them


I’ll misplace them

‘Cause all religion ever made of me

Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet

It never set me free

It’s gotta be

…It’s like I’m falling in love, love, love

Deeper and deeper

It was love that made

Me a believer

In more than a name, a faith, a creed

Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me

~Jason Gray

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Love For Real.

So I recently heard a message on Jesus and the Samaritan woman for possibly the hundredth time in my life. But this time, it was like I had never heard the clear, true message of true Christianity from John 4 before. Well, maybe I hadn’t.

It appears that there are about 6 types of Christians who must truly grieve the heart of Jesus, while also damaging His reputation:

1. The IN-YOUR-FACE guy (“You’re going to hell if you don’t repent!” He’s got bumper stickers all over his car shouting repentance and you’ll find him picketing gay pride events and abortion clinics.)

2. The GUILT-YOU-TO-CHURCH guy (“you need to be in church for your children’s sake.”)

3. The ARGUMENTATIVE guy. (He is driven to debate with you in order to prove to you that he is right. He uses Scripture and experience [and uses them well!] to show you the error of your ways. And mostly, to show you how right he is.)

4. The NOTCH-IN-HIS-BELT guy. (He is driven by an agenda. Wants to see sudden repentance so that a testimony can be built and you can be added to his list of conquests.)

5. The JESUS-SALESMAN guy. (He would see “leading a person to accept the Lord” on a first encounter as an expected course of “soul-winning”. Door-to-door knocking, street preaching, etc.)

6. The DON’T-WANT-TO-OFFEND-ANYONE guy. (This guy is almost as offensive as the 5 characters above.)

Rules of Engagement:

Taking a look at how Jesus communicated with the woman at the well in Samaria, it’s clear to see the perfect pattern of loving socialization we can learn from. (JOHN 4)

He was deliberate. He took advantage of divine appointment. He looked at the encounter with this woman as no mere happenstance but as an organic encounter. An opportunity to establish a relationship ON PURPOSE. He was real. There is a fine line between and organic encounter and an arranged agenda (being able to mark a project [or person] off your list).

Friendship first. Jesus didn’t confront her. He built a relationship with her. (He asked for a drink.) Gentleness is the opposite of abuse, ostracism, isolation, judgment… which is the style of today’s fundamentalist movement. This is too common. This judgment is not the real Jesus. But another Jesus.

To have a spiritual conversation with someone, I need to EARN the right. We need to understand that what can take a lifetime to make may only take a moment to break. Many of us were brought up with the motivation to grab people’s attention with a good object lesson and then ask them to repeat the sinner’s prayer. This is an all-too-common misunderstanding of the discipleship process. In most cases, the person who prays “the sinner’s prayer of repentance” in a one-time conversation is going to experience “buyers remorse”. Much like buying those cool knives that was demonstrated to cut through a penny. “Why do I need 30 knives anyway?... I’m not going to be cutting through any pennies!... Why did I just spend all that money on cutlery?!... I’m not REALLY interested in that kind of commitment!... It just seemed so cool at the time!” The emotional crave for Jesus will be gone in no time. A true bridge to God through Jesus was not really cultivated. That broken relationship was never truly and genuinely restored.

Making spiritual assessments. Trying to figure out where someone is. This is not judgment but an assessment (discerning) of where the person is on their spiritual journey. Are they seeking? Or think they are indifferent? (We must remember that indifference is still an actual part of some individual’s spiritual journey) Or maybe they are just figuring out what a relationship with God is going to take. A spiritual assessment will help as we come to understand what barriers might be keeping them from proceeding forward toward living missionally. (Examples of barriers: painful church experiences, addictions, lack of knowledge of our sinful nature or even lack of understanding God’s loving forgiveness,…)

Practice the process. Know that a relationship with Jesus is not a one-time decision, but it’s about their process. Their growth toward the end of their spiritual journey. Recognize it’s not a notch in your belt.

A key to this whole thing seems to be I Corinthians 3:1-8.We need to wrap our minds around the fact that we are simply God’s hands and feet. We are not the sinner’s savior. God doesn’t NEED us to save the world. We are the body of Christ given an opportunity to take part in loving people toward Him.

I wonder if there were God-believers in Jesus’ day who thought He wasn’t critical enough. He wasn’t judgmental enough. He didn’t scorn the sinner enough. Jesus rubbed elbows with people who lived unrighteous rather than “kicking them out of the family” or “removing them from communication”. Yes, I think there were those groups of people in that day. If I remember my Bible history accurately, these people were called Pharisees. I don’t know… just my thoughts. A little glimpse of the view from my personal little, finger-print covered window.