Take Up Your Cross

Many have already heard the popular quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that says, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

Indeed, Jesus calls us to ‘take up our cross’ if we are to follow him. Can you imagine being lost out in the desert alone? No water. No food. No hope for survival. Suddenly a man steps from behind a rock and tells you to follow. So you follow. As you talk, you discover that he’s been here in this desert for quite some time. He must know how to survive!

Then he hits you with the truth. He’s survived the desert because he died there. What? He knows the secret to living where no man can live – you have to die!

That scenario just doesn’t make sense does it? You can’t live if you’ve already died.

But that’s exactly what Jesus did and exactly what he is doing and exactly what he calls us to do. Where we may say “You can’t be alive if you’re dead.” He says “You can’t really live until you’ve died.”

What do you think?

Father’s Day

I had a nice, relaxing Father’s Day yesterday. I love being a dad. Our youngest son climbed out/fell out of his crib after nap time, so we pulled out the old toddler bed. Our 3 yr. old son fell in the toilet while playing in the sink, so I threw him in the tub – he hadn’t flushed yet! Our daughter actually had a fairly benign day with no major melt-downs.

My wife and I wondered what we did before we had kids. I said homework and quick trips to Estes Park… But I understand a little more fully, the love of God for His children – now that I have my own.

I love the kids in my youth ministry. I pray for them and would do just about anything to see them loving God more completely. But nothing compares to the way I feel about my own kids. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. To see them passionately pursuing their God given ministry will be more joy to me than anything I can imagine.

I thank God for the Godly father he provided for me. I pray I’ll follow the example he has been for my brothers and me, of a man pursuing His Father as he leads his family through the unknown.

Wow!

A friend of mine just e-mailed me this link to an awesome soccer video. It takes a while to load, but check it out…

Ball control!

OUCH!

I had a kidney stone Sunday. I woke up about 5:00 with a little pain that kept getting worse. Finally at about noon, I went to the ER where Dave hooked me up with some wonderful pain medication and a ton of fluids to try to push the stone through my system.

The stone passed on Monday morning and I spent the rest of the day recovering. Kind of had a morphine-hangover headache, so Monday wasn’t too pleasant either. I feel much better today, though, but still kind of ‘off’.

This is the second time I’ve had this – and from what most of what I’ve read, I’m guessing it won’t be the last. The first time I was in about 6th Grade, much too young for kidney stones, but…

Just some advice…DRINK A LOT OF WATER>>>

Where are we going, Daddy?

Ok, so I’ve been dialoging with a bunch of people from everywhere over the past couple days about some stuff that is bouncing off the inner walls of my cranium like a bunch of subatomic particles in a bathtub. (I have no idea what that would really look like but at this point…who cares!)

We’ve been talking about the emergence of technology and how the fusion of personality/humanity/technology has created a new kind of person. This person lives in cyberspace as much as he lives ‘here’. How do we use technology like blogs and msn and whatever else is coming down the pipeline to be Jesus in that world?

The question that I asked a couple days ago on this blog is rolling around in all of this too… What defines the church? I’ve wondered what a church without walls would/should look like for a long time – I’m now seeing one possibility. The self imposed boundaries (masks) that exist in face to face interaction (even in the church) are often (though not always) set aside upon entrance into the ‘blogosphere’.

I know, I know, there are definite dangers present in the anonymity of cyberspace, but can you imagine how deeply we could connect with each other when we lay aside all pretense? And in drawing near to each other with intent to draw nearer to God, how we could strengthen the community of the Kingdom?

This stuff may make absolutely no sense to you, but I hope you’ll consider this: the world is plugged in as never before. If we are going to be “Jesus with skin on” in this world, we’ll have to be “Jesus in binary…or html…or java…or pdf…or…you get the picture.

Students/Church/Future?

It’s been said by well intentioned people that students are the future of the church.

But if that’s so, what are they now? pre-church disciples? not-quite-ready-for-primetime parishioners?

No. A bunch of kids following Jesus through life, shining his light in the dark corners of their world….is the church – now.

Where did we get the idea that only a “mature believer” is a part of the church, and immature ones have to live in a holding pattern until adulthood?

On the other hand…

Were the leadership of a local community of believers entirely in the hands of 16 year olds….whoah! Can you imagine the passionate, disastrous course of that church? Yikes! They might go down in flames, but what a way to go! (A much more attractive alternative than the grey pre-death rigormortis that many churches have chosen.) And what Phoenix could God raise up from the ashes of the young church’s plight?

I know, I know…this argument is way oversimplified. But the church has segregated itself by age far too long. Young and old are not diametrical opposites. Young and old are part of the same Body. What if leadership teams did include some youthful perspective? What if the enthusiasm of youth was directed toward building the Kingdom – not the youth group? What if the wisdom of age tempered the steel of young passion?

Defining Moments

What defines the church?

Not (Who) what SHOULD define the church, but what really does determine how we are known and how we know ourselves? How do we decide what we do (ministry-wise)?

I just came out of a meeting of elders and architects discussing the future of a congregation. This is part of an ongoing discussion for the past 5 years about needed building and facilities updates. We looked at plans for a completely new facility and compared to plans for extensive remodeling/adding to the existing building. Cost is similar, so that’s really not going to be the deciding factor on what is done.

What will determine our course of action is how we choose to be defined. Will the buildings that we have (or don’t have) define us? Will the ministry that we want to do define us? Or will we truly find our identity solely in the heart of God?

As I think back, I can think of so many examples of churches which are defined by their buildings. I know that the world in large part will always define us that way, but I’m thinking more of how we in the Kingdom define ourselves. It is so easy to lock ourselves into thinking we are where we meet. Or even that we are the meeting itself.

But what happens when the Body of Christ thinks of itself as… the body of Jesus… His shoulders (with His head on top) and chest (with His heart beating within)? What happens when we really live and move and have our being in Jesus? What happens when the local community of faith is joined together in order to proclaim the Kingdom and awaken the spiritually dead all around us?

I intend to find out.

Bubble Ministry…

It seems like too much youth ministry is happening in a bubble. Observing the way many churches do youth ministry, the consistent picture is one of young students involved in activity with each other, but not necessarily with the rest of the church body. I definitely would not be one to say that there is no place for age-based ministry, but wouldn’t it make more sense if it was done in the context of an ageless church ministry?

I hear people lament the fact that students “leave the church” after graduation and entry into young adulthood (some may come back, some may not), but is it possible that they’re not really leaving the church – because they’ve never really been a part of the church? Is physical presence at a majority of youth functions enough to make a student a part of the church? What if they’re also regular attenders of Sunday morning services? What is it then that transforms a student from being a participant of the ‘youth group’ to an integral body part in the Body of Christ?

It is not youth ministry in a bubble. As long as youth ministry is primarily done ‘on the side’ of the church’s overall ministry, kids will ‘graduate’ from church attendance. When youth ministry is a fusion of young people and the ministry of the church, then students who are following Christ will become involved in the work of His Body. Students need to seek opportunities to participate in the service of the larger church body (outside the youth group). And congregations need to find ways to engage the energetic service that is available to them in the sea of young humanity surrounding them (beyond setting up tables for the upcoming dinner, please).

It is time for churches to burst the youth ministry bubble, and to embrace and work alongside the young followers of Christ they will find inside.

Success – A Crown That Will Last

I found this great definition of Success from Impact Ministries/Deeper DTI, and though it may be unconventional, I think it is essential because all else that is truly successful will be born out of intimacy with God.

“Success is developing intimacy with God.”

  • An individual who is developing intimacy with God will make an impact on the Kingdom of God.
  • A team of individuals who make an impact on the Kingdom of God will have a fruitful ministry
  • We do not aim for ‘making an impact’ and we do not aim for ‘fruitful ministries.’ These two situations supernaturally occur when an individual develops intimacy with God.

We can’t control ‘making an impact’ and we can’t control ‘fruitful ministries’, but we do have control over whether we are doing anything to develop intimacy with God. It is a matter of our heart and priorities. We can’t allow anything, including ministry for God, to crowd intimacy with God out of our lives.

I know that’s not the stuff the American Dream is made of, but I think that is the highest hope any of us can have: to know the unknowable God!

The 19th Century Scottish author, Thomas Carlyle, wrote “Every noble crown is, and on earth will forever be, a crown of thorns.” When we think about success, we need to keep this in mind. Whatever success is, it must be of eternal significance. We want the best for the people we love. Jesus himself asked “Who would give his kid a rock when asked for bread?” We want those we care about to enjoy what we’ve missed, to experience what we’ve only dreamed of, to have what we’ve always wanted.

But we must remember that our dreams should focus on the eternal. Nothing we gain or achieve on this earth will last, except what we do to make an impact for the Kingdom of God. We want to succeed in life, but we need to remember that success doesn’t mean having more than the next guy. That’s why I love the definition from DTI.

There is nothing that we can have or do or feel or accomplish, that means more than knowing God. Intimacy with God is our ultimate aim, and we don’t lose out on anything in life by putting God first. He knows how to give good gifts. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.”

Put God first. Get to know Him. Gain a crown that will last.

Grape Juice on the Carpet…

I just read an article that mentioned a church in England that doesn’t meet for worship. Ok, well they do meet, but only once a month! How can they even call themselves a church when they don’t even meet together on Sundays? How can they afford a staff or buildings when they don’t even get to pass the offering plate once a week? It sounds like all they do is meet in little groups and clusters at each other’s houses and coffee shops. They get together to talk and laugh and play and grow. These people seem to really care about each other and are genuinely trying to follow Jesus together and make a difference in the world. But they only have a worship service once a month… how can they call that a church?

On the other hand…

I know tons of people who “go to church” every Sunday. Most of them don’t have anything to do with each other on Monday through Saturday, but every Sunday they’re in the same building at the same time, singing the same songs. I’m not sure most of them even know each other, but they at least recognize each other’s faces. Because they see each other faithfully, once a week singing along (or at least moving their lips a little), listening to the sermon (or at least propping their eyelids open and feigning interest together), and putting checks in the offering. And they call that church.

But how can we call it church when it only happens for two hours a week? How can we have fellowship when we see each other next to never? How can we call it worship, when most of us pass through 6 out of 7 days without a single thought of God? How can we call ourselves the Body of Christ, when we aren’t even remotely attached to each other 85.7% of the time?

God I hope we can become the church You want us to be.