Growing up, I said the Our Father prayer a lot.
A lot. Multiple times a day.
It was part of my religious tradition. Most of the time, I mumbled it as quickly as I could.
For what it’s worth, my Dad tried to help me understand that mumbling the prayer without understanding what it really meant wasn’t the goal. He wanted me to understand it. He wanted me to mean it.
I remember sitting with him in the car one afternoon while we went through every phrase. He did his best to explain to me what the terms meant. Why we would say these things. Why it mattered.
It didn’t take. Continue reading
The genuine gospel is much bigger than the individual. It is a God-sized gospel.
The God-sized gospel teaches us that God is redeeming a people for Himself. This people is to be reconciled to Himself, through Christ, from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Paul describes his personal ministry from the risen Christ. This is crucial for the church to understand. In order to understand, we have to take off our “ME-centered” glasses and put on “God-centered” ones.
I have a problem. Maybe you do, too. I bet you can at least relate.
I think from my perspective. Sometimes I pursue my agenda. This probably happens more often than I’d like to admit.
I like to do, what I like to do, when I like to do it, where I like to do it, how I like to do it, and with whomever I like to do it. I like to listen to and believe what makes me comfortable.
I think you do, too.
Sometimes we are good at hiding our self-centeredness. I believe it is possible to have moments where we put others above ourselves. Powerful emotions like love, hate, and disgust can cause us to act contrary to our self-centered nature.
The sinful, selfish nature of human beings is evident early. Tantrums and screaming fits naturally flow from young children who do not get their way.
Adults are usually better at hiding their tantrums. Usually. They may be throwing a tantrum in their heart, though.
Christians are given the gift of God’s grace. Grace is even more powerful than selfishness. We receive this gift when we repent of our self-centered ways and trust in Christ alone.
“Spectator” is not a spiritual gift. It isn’t a calling.
Yet, many church models consistently produce passive Christians. Instead of making disciples they are making spectators.
When people think of a scandal they often think of sex, drugs, and money. Maybe some combination of these things. But not every scandal involves these things. Some are less conspicuous.
Before I was a pastor I was a salesman. I’ve sold many products for several companies. I was involved in retail and door-to-door sales.
Salespeople can get a bad reputation. The fact is, there are many methods used to sell. Some salespeople use methods that are rightly viewed negatively.
I learned a valuable lesson early. It was crucial to my success. Once this principle is understood it illuminates why all the techniques employed by salespeople either work or don’t.
Different methods. All based on the same principle.
The principle is easily understood. It happens in every sales situation. Most people don’t even realize that it has happened.
There are only two factors to understand: 1. Cost and 2. Value.
I used to be a salesman. I sold a lot of different stuff. I worked retail. I did door-to-door. In all my various jobs my function was essentially the same. I was the link between company and customer.
Successful companies know their customer demographics. Many sales meetings revolve around numbers. Persons are statistics. The customer becomes a set of numbers, preferences, and habits. Really successful companies cater their goods and services to a target demographic.
When I began in pastoral ministry people assured me that my experience as a salesman would be beneficial. They said there was a lot of overlap between pastors and salespeople. But when I open my Bible and read about Christ’s church I see a beautiful design that is so much different from a business.
When Jesus walked the earth He rebuked those who failed to understand the difference.
Every job has certain occupational hazards. One of the hazards of being a preacher is getting funny looks or outbursts from the people you are preaching to.
I’ve been preaching and teaching for about a decade. I’ve seen some interesting things in that time. I know I missed a good amount in the years I preached without my glasses. I couldn’t really see anyone clearly past the third or fourth row. Now, I see it all.
By far the most hostile and aggressive hearers I’ve encountered are those who have heard me preach outside of the church building. When proclaiming God’s Word in the open-air you should expect a little more… colorful responses. Preaching in the safety of your own church building tends to minimize the negativity and hostility.
But not always.
Once when preaching on everybody’s favorite subject – obedience – a young woman emphatically crossed her arms, made eye contact with me, then stuck her tongue out. Her body language perfectly communicated her distaste for the topic at hand. She wanted to make her dissatisfaction with my topic clear to me.
I get it. Teaching obedience isn’t popular. It can be labeled as being legalistic. But it’s part of the Great Commission whether we like it or not.
When I was a kid I gave my mom a lot of grief. I was angry, argumentative, and full of energy. Every parent’s dream.
I remember one particularly difficult day. I was acting out. My mom was exasperated. But it was all about to change. Peace was right around the corner.
My mom grabbed the phone off the wall. (Back then it was attached to the wall with a long, curly cord.) She shook the receiver at me and angrily asked me point-blank: “Do you want me to call Santa Claus and tell him how you’re acting?”
Let’s all settle down for a minute. Let’s not do anything rash. Let’s not do anything we’ll regret or that can’t be undone.
No. Clearly I do not want you to call Santa Claus.
I’ll be good. I swear. Put. The. Phone. Down.
I believed she had the ability to fulfill her threat in that moment. I didn’t even think to call her bluff. I never asked if she really had his number. It seemed to me at the time like the kind of thing adults could do. I believed. And I changed. At least, temporarily.
Our family is memorizing the book of James together.
As a parent, I’m delighted to hear my children recite the words of Scripture each week. The older kids are doing a great job. It is easier for some than for others. All of them are putting in the time required to learn.
The younger kids are also participating by hearing us recite what we’ve learned. They, too, can recite big chunks of Scripture that they’ve memorized simply by hearing their siblings and parents practice. It’s not required for them but it is adorable.
As a Christian, the practice of memorizing Scripture is always fruitful. Hiding God’s Word in your heart and meditating on it day and night has wonderful implications for your character and formation into Christ’s likeness. I’ll never stop being amazed at how often the passages we’ve memorized become immediately relevant to daily life and interactions.
Part of our memory section this week is James 1:21-22.
When I was a bachelor I didn’t cook. Now that I’m married I still don’t. I eat much better though because my wife cooks.
In college I don’t think I even owned a plate. I know I had a plastic cup. I might have had some silverware but it probably belonged to my roommates. It didn’t matter. I didn’t need it.
Left to my own devices I only ate fast food or microwaveable food. No dishes. No prep. No cleanup. No fuss, no muss.
It was easy. Clean. Convenient. Fast.
It was also unhealthy. Very unhealthy.
The appeal for easy, clean, convenient, and fast doesn’t just affect bachelors. The same unhealthy approach is often applied to discipleship.