Responsibility continued

So, my thought continued, is based on 1 Corinthians 1:12-13. Paul writes to the church of Corinth in verse 12 to address some “quarrels” within the community of believers as to who they followed or who they were baptized by, but he then zings them in verse 13 with “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Awesome!
I could just imagine the faces of those who heard these words and their look of “Oh man! He got us!” You see this, I believe, has been the major cause of why churches are failing because the Church is failing. We have put our hope and faith in a denomination or man and have allowed other brothers and sisters to fail if they aren’t with us. We have allowed for the fight of the Corinthians to continue, just in different terms. Some questions that have continued a quarrel could be “What pastor do you follow?” or “Do you sprinkle or dunk?” of which neither impacts one’s salvation.
Maybe these questions aren’t present, but other thoughts are that may cause division. Some other thoughts that are possible “Well, if their doors close, maybe they can join us?” or “Our VBS is going to be awesome, we just need to make sure our VBS doesn’t have any other competition or competes with anyone else’s”. Even in the guise of trying not to compete, we are still competing. We want to do our own VBS, but our fellow brothers and sisters up the road are doing one too! Why can’t we partner? The answer: Because we are not being Christ followers, but church worshippers!
Paul had a great question “Is Christ divided?” This is the question I wish we could answer for the world. When churches are failing and others are succeeding the world may see division. It is not a competition in the Church, but the church has made it one. In the first Church we find people sharing everything to each other in order to ensure they were taken care of (Acts 2:44-45). Where is the first Church today?
If we are called to reconcile people to God (2 Cor. 5), then we must reconcile the Church. The church with the big budget might need to rethink where that money is going. Are programs more important than another church thriving, so the Church can thrive? Are the events happening within the walls more important than allowing other brothers and sisters following Christ to not have any walls around them? We need to rethink the way we work together to change the lives of people. We need to rethink the Gospel for the Church.
I welcome feedback and thoughts. I want to grow as I am hoping to help others grow.

What Responsibility do we hold?

I read an article about churches foreclosing in America. In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks and the year before (2010) there were 270 churches being sold due to defaulting on loans (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/09/us-usa-housing-churches-idUSBRE82803120120309). This is an astonishing number and very unfortunate due to the fact that there are or were congregants depending on that church as a place of worship, a place of prayer, a place of comfort, a place of teaching, a place of grace, and much more.

Now, I don’t know why these churches foreclosed. Maybe it was irresponsible spending? Maybe it was the economy? Maybe it was a loss of members or people willing to tithe? (Don’t worry this isn’t a tithing blog, but we do have a responsibility in that). Who knows what the issue is, but I feel like other churches treat this as the world treats house foreclosures. If your neighbor loses their house it’s a sad deal, but a lot of us go toward the thought of “Man, I am glad that isn’t me!”

I think the other churches surrounding these foreclosing churches feel the same way. “It is sad, but at least our doors are open!” is a thought that might come to mind. My question is this: Should this be the response? What if churches partnered together, regardless of denomination and assisted each other in funding? What if the megachurch up the road decided to give some of their giving to assist the 20 member church down the street?

You see, I feel that this is a sign of reconciliation on earth. The kingdom of God is not for a small group of people. The Church (notice the big C) is meant to be unified and set up to be a light to the world, but if they can’t even help each other during these hard times, then how are we showing reconciliation to people? There will be more on this in a later post.

We hold on to our programs in the church (notice the little c) and praise our givers for making our programs so great, oh yeah we might even thank God. However, down the street there is a church that is teaching the same stuff as us, trying to assist in the growth of the congregants and trying to develop disciples, but they can’t even afford to pay the pastor half of what our pastor is making. Why is that ok? If the Church were to recognize it is not about who founded your church denomination (i.e. Luther, Calvin, Menno Simons), but about WHO leads the church, CHRIST! The One Who came to reconcile His people back to their creator.

The Church is supposed to exemplify this reconciliation, but if we can’t reconcile with ourselves, then how can we expect to reconcile people back to their creator?

We need to rethink how we are working together to enhance the Kingdom of God here and that could possibly begin in our wallets.

Focus

Taking a picture is pretty simple. All you have to do is point the camera, maybe get the object to pose (if it’s human…however I have seen people try to get their pets to pose, but that’s for a whole other post), possibly get the right lighting, and click the button. In the past, cameras had to be adjusted for focus to get the image to look right, but now we have auto focus, which takes it completely out of our control!

Auto focus is a great tool because it gets the image that is in the screen to be focused with no work by the photographer. The image comes out clear and you can post it directly to your facebook, twitter, or any other site you may want it to be posted on for anyone to Google later.

However, there are times we decide to take the auto focus off and trust our own ability to handle the task. Most of the time it doesn’t work and you can have a picture that ends up blurry and you may have to retake it. The issue is, there was something about the image before that made you want to capture it and now you hope to relive it or reset it, if possible, which more often than not is not.

This is the same thing with life. If we try to control our focus our image can end up blurry. If we miss the picture that is meant to be taken because we are rushed or unaware that the auto focus isn’t on at the right time we miss the perfect picture and hope to relive it again.

I hope this is making sense. We may have the perfect picture right in front of us, whether it be a spouse we are neglecting, a child that we are so busy to acknowledge they grow up right in front of us and we miss their major moments, a ministry opportunity, a job opportunity, a message from God, an angel, and the list can go on and on.

If our mind, heart, and soul are not focused on the right thing the image will end up blurry. Our life will go by and we will forget what we lived. Our priorities help set that focus. If Christ is the center of your life then the auto focus should be set for good because you aim to please Him and go for whatever He wants.

Let’s be honest and say that this is not always the case. Our focus needs to be adjusted so the picture is perfect. The focus needs to be adjusted to see the world from Christ’s lens in order to capture the moment for what it’s worth and not have to come back and try to get it in it’s original state because that won’t happen.

If you are struggling, hurting, missing something it might be time to let go of your personal focus control and allow Christ to provide you with His auto focus. He may help you see and capture a beautiful picture.

How Many Loaves Do You Have?

John 6:1-13-“1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near. 5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

In John 6:1-13 we can find an awesome story of Christ’s miracle serving 5000 men with a mere five loaves of barley and two small fish. This is possibly one of the most intriguing miracles for me. The fact that there were 5000 men (possibly more people than that) fed by Jesus at one time with such a small amount is incredible! This is just another astounding message of God’s provision of everlasting life through His Son “the bread of life” (John 6:48), but what else is He trying to show? Is there something else?

I would say yes. Look at verses 4-7 and notice the interaction between Jesus and Philip. He asked Philip the question and John shares that Jesus asked already knowing what was going to happen. Then, Andrew discovers a boy with the loaves and bread. This is the point I want to focus on. The boy was sitting there, possibly with his lunch, and Andrew took it from him. However, it is not the fact that Andrew took it, but Jesus multiplied it.

In a culture where young people were not seen as contributing members to society, much like today, Jesus once again flipped the picture. He used a boy, not a man, to affect the culture. These 5000 people were hungry, looking for something to eat, and a boy was used to change their lives. The boy was given value at this point, from my perspective. Jesus took this opportunity to show that anyone could be used to change the lives of people. Jesus received the glory at the end, deservedly so, but the boy was still used.

As the Church moves in the lives of people we have a role to play in helping them see that they have fish and loaves to offer in their community. Some people walk feeling like have nothing to offer anything or anyone. Some feel as if there is no hope and they have no value. In this story Christ is revealing in such a small part of it that even the most unlikely person can provide something to change the lives of thousands, if they allow Christ to multiply it.

The fish and loaves in this boy’s lunch represent our talents and our abilities. We may be able to see them, but more often than not we need someone to come and point them out, just as Andrew did for this boy. The boy may not have wanted to reveal his lunch because he may not have seen it as anything of worth. Andrew saw it, Christ definitely saw it, remember He already knew what He was going to do, and they had to call it out. Jesus wants your lunch to multiply it in order to change the lives of people around you.

We all have loaves and fish to offer. Are we willing to let Christ multiply them? There are many people hungry for change; and through Christ’s power your lunch may be what satisfies that hunger.

Same Picture…Different Poses

So, I have been listening to the Carter IV by Lil’ Wayne (stop judging, I listen to it edited). Anyway, it is a pretty strong album, but in one of his songs “Nightmares of the Bottom” he makes a profound statement “We in the same picture, but we all got different poses…” His lyrics are pretty intense following this line because he recognizes that he has a role to play, but there are people who are trying to shut his role down. Granted, I am not going to say that Lil’ Wayne is a philosopher, but at times I can see his words as poetry (I mean c’mon “a milli a milli a mil a mil a milli…” poetry..jk)

On a serious note, Lil’ Wayne is right. We are all in the same picture. God’s big picture is our stage, but we are all playing different roles. Our pose is important because that is what makes the picture look so great.

Have you ever seen a picture with everyone smiling, but there is that one person just staring blankly with no emotion? I have and I completely lose focus on the people smiling and my attention shoots straight at the one with no emotion. That particular pose ruins the picture. Our pose brings value to the scene. God has given each of us a pose to stand in (or be active in) and it makes up his big picture that ultimately brings Him glory. As we walk through life we need to be sure that our pose in the picture is bringing attention to the big picture in a good way and not a bad way.

If you are a follower of Christ, then check your pose. Are you posing in such a way that the attention drawn to the picture is due to the fact that your joy is overflowing due to the work of the Spirit in you? Would people look at the big picture and see your face glowing or frowning? Are you excited to be taking a picture or are you moping along wishing the person controlling the camera (GOD) would hurry up and push the button already? It is time to check your pose.

If you are not a follower of Christ, and you continued to read this anyway, awesome! However, please know that you are a part of a big picture. Your pose is important to the work of God and His Son Jesus. Focus on the camera lens, say cheese, because that flash called life is moving quick and my prayer and hope is that your pose is glorifying to God, the controller of the camera.

P.S. Don’t force a smile. That ruins the picture too.

Are We Ripe or Rotting?

I was listening to some music the other day on my iPod and came across a song from my old punk rock days. Well, to be honest, I didn’t dress punk or anything, but I still loved listening to punk. Anyway, H2O is a punk band that I really enjoyed and they have a song called “Ripe or Rotting”. The music is high energy and the lyrics, yes you can understand them, are very strong.

Here are some of the lyrics:

“The clock is ticking but I’m rotting
Tell me are you rotting?
If you’re going to change just do it now
Are you ripe or rotting?
Only you can keep you down
Are you ripe or rotting?
If you’re going to change just do it now
Are you ripe or rotting?
Don’t want to deal with life and it makes you afraid
all the plans that you made
So much potential but you never see
Rotting away but you used to be ripe”

The fact of the matter is we need to be asking ourselves this question. Are we ripe or rotting? The junk we deal with on a regular basis can tear us apart and make us rot away, but we are meant to be ripe. We have allowed certain elements of life hinder our growth and our strength and we fail to ripen.

I bit into a rotten orange the other day and it was very gross. It was kind of deceptive because it was orange on the outside and didn’t have a foul odor, but the taste was definitely rotten. We as humans tend to cover our rot with good colors (i.e. clothes, makeup, jewelry, etc.) and we can mask our odor (perfume or cologne or deodorant…I like Gillette Gel). However, if someone were to look closely or into us they would find hurt and pain that is causing some form of rot within us.

At points in my life I have felt rotten, even in my walk with Christ, but I know that He has made me new. I no longer have to mask my rot because He knows where it is and is working on it regularly. I need to be connected to the One that makes me ripe. At least according to John 15:5 I need to stay connected to the vine in order to produce fruit, especially if I don’t want it to be rotten.

Paul speaks about fragrance in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. He shares “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (NIV). If we are rotting then our odor is going to be rough. However, if we are ripe and flowing in Christ then our fragrance or “sweet aroma” will be enjoyable and draw people near to the good news of Christ.

Am I ripe or rotting? I believe I am ripe. The only issue I have with H2O’s song is the fact that I can’t make myself change, it is through Christ that change comes.

The question I ask is what odor are you giving off? Are you masking your rot? Or are you ripe and allowing the “sweet aroma” to flow?

A Call for Leaders-Living Above Reproach

In Titus 1:7 Paul lays out the rules of living as an overseer or leader. These words have been ringing in my head for the past few months, possibly a full year. As I have heard of leaders failing in big business and ministry alike. Paul writes “Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless-not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain” (NIV). These are strong words that give some high expectations for people called to be in leadership roles.

As I have just recently received my Masters of Divinity with an emphasis in Pastoral Ministry (M.Div) I am now even more aware of my call as a leader in the Church, but also the world. When thinking of Paul’s words in his letter I have a lot to live up to.

According to Paul a leader is to live a “blameless life”, but what does that mean? Does that mean a leader has to be perfect? Does it mean no mistakes? Does it mean that their humanity must disappear? I must submit the answer is a very big NO!

So, what is Paul saying? I think character is the main focus. Paul shares the examples of what a leader should not be. A leader should not be overbearing (a micromanager, a slave driver, or any other descriptive term you can come up with). They should not be quick-tempered, to put it simply, gracious. A leader cannot be given to drunkenness, this could be a hot topic, but I will let you interpret what this means. They should not be violent, which is a good thing. Finally, Paul says they should not pursue dishonest gain, so a leader should not try to make their self look good by taking down their people. This is what the character of a leader should not look like.

So, what does good character look like in a leader? Paul shares “…be hospitable, one who loves what is good, self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined” (NIV). Paul is sure to bring a connection between his words of what not to be and what to be. If you are not overbearing, then you are hospitable or welcoming or loving. If you are not quick-tempered, then you will love what is good and be just. If a leader is self-controlled, then drunkenness and violence will not be an issue.

 Finally, if they walk upright, are holy, and disciplined then dishonest gain is not the pursuit of their work. A leader should be seeking the best for the people they serve, the people that follow them, and the company they work for. A Christian leader focuses on these same elements, but the company they work for is God’s and they seek to bring Him glory above all else!

Being a leader is a major calling in life. We can have managerial roles, we can be a CEO, we can be whatever title the world wants to give us, but without sound leadership we are just a title. I hope my character is that of a leader and not just a title. As a leader I will strive to love people as I love myself, be just and ethical, control myself in my lifestyle, have nothing that people can question about my character, and discipline myself in Biblical principles in order to guide and provide for those God has put in my path.

Question: What defines a healthy leader for you?