Archive for January 2012

Are We Called To Protect our Community?

January 31, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W. January 31, 2012

We often think of our law enforcement officers as “protecting our community?”
But what about churches? Do churches, and Christians, have a responsibility to protect our community?
The answer, in case you’re searching, is yes! Not that we will start carrying firearms around, but rather we’re called as communities of faith to protect the neighboring communities around us.
In Colorado Springs last year there was a significant rise in violent crimes. Our safe place is not as safe as we would like to think!
So what might we do?
Pray for the protection of our community!
If God could protect the Israelites as they were standing on the edge of a vast sea with an army rumbling towards them, headed by an angry Pharaoh; then perhaps the Almighty can also heed our petitions for a hedge of protection around our community.
Christians are great at bemoaning the deterioration of society. We can easily begin sentences with the words, “It used to be that…”
But sometimes there’s a disconnect between bemoaning what is and seeing our responsibility for being the visible presence of Jesus.
Last year a lady killed her two children and then herself within a mile of our church building. The tragecy of the situation was that she had no one close to her that could see her growing sense of purposeless for living. Her closest friend, besides her spouse, was a Facebook friend two states away.
Perhaps a commitment to praying for the protection of our community would have helped create some light in this woman’s tunnel.
Perhaps we need to go to our knees for our teachers, leaders, the elderly lady who walks cautiously down the sidewalk each day to get her mail, the kids walking to school, the new mom who needs words of encouragement.
And just as much, perhaps we need to pray darkness to stay at a distance, to pray for evil to be exposed, and pray for reconciliation in the midst of brokenness.
Just an idea!

Granddaughter Gazing

January 24, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W. January 24, 2012

Someone once said that “Grandkids are God’s reward for not killing your own children when they were teenagers.” It’s an extreme statement that has a hint of truth in it.
Yesterday I was asked by my oldest daughter and son-in-law to watch my granddaughter Reagan (good presidential name) for most of the day while they were at work. Reagan turns one on February 9. She’s walking light a shaky tightrope performer, and climbing stairs with a safety net shaped like an adult trailing behind.
It was a wonderful day of watching, mimicking, and warmly-confusing communication. I found myself fascinated with her alertness, how she played, and the different noises and partial words that she shared.

Psalm 139:1-2 “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.”

She had a couple of “little people” that she was having some kind of conversation with. She brought them to me, put one in my hand, took it back out of my hand, put it back in my hand….you get the picture. As an adult who is purpose-driven I was trying to put some kind of purpose to the action. “What does this mean? What is the next step in the “little people in the palm” project?
After a few minutes I got with the program! It didn’t have to have a purpose! It was simply what one year old’s do. She was simply making me a part of her world. I relaxed and just treasured the depth of the moment.
And it was deep, because I allowed a one year old to touch my spirit.
Lunch consisted of a dinner roll cut into pieces, cut up mandarin orange slices, Gerber cereal puffs (I don’t know if they are tasty or not!), and a sippy cup of juice that she drank like a person who had walked through the desert all day. I watched with interest. Reagan has a healthy appetite. No whining that she doesn’t want to eat her peas and carrots yet. That will come in about another year. Each bite she stuffed! Her two front lower teeth would make faces at me.

Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

I watched. I gazed. I allowed myself to live in the moment, and not worry about the long list of items to be completed the rest of the week. It was cool!
I have to admit that when Reagan went down for her nap I stretched out for a few. A sabbath rest came on a Monday couch. When she woke up again she was ready for action!

Psalm 139:17-18 “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”

A day of granddaughter gazing impressed upon me the acutely aware my Father in heaven is interested in who I am, my thoughts, my conversations. Perhaps He desires a bit of “little people sharing time” like I was blessed with. No objectives to be met, no timelines to stick to, just a keen desire to be with Him, as He unconditionally is with me.

The Method or The Essence”

January 20, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             January 19, 2012

In looking at the past one hundred years or so of the church there are several emphases, or movements, that have been trumpeted, and “seminared.” I remember in the 70’s and early 80’s that there would be a “Sunday School Convention” held each year in the Detroit area that was huge. The virtues of Sunday Schools and the different tools and curriculum to make them dynamic were featured, and thousands of pastors, teachers, and church leaders flocked to the convention center to hear the latest methods of successful Christian education.

In the 80’s there was also the Church Growth movement which told us, myself included, secrets and guidelines for growing our churches. We ate it up, and started creating strategies to attract people who looked like we did, or was it that we looked like them. Either way we looked alike!

Our region’s Executive Minister (in other words, the head guy, the Baptist bishop), Steve Van Ostran, was talking about these movements to a group of us recently.

As I thought more about it, it dawned on me that we seem to buy into the method, but not the essence. The essence of the Gospel is Jesus, but we sometimes seem to think he isn’t enough. We need some tricks or clever gimmicks to make him more relevant, or more urban, or more suburban, or rural, or wherever it is that we live. A relevant Jesus, we seem to say, needs our polishing and waxing.

And so we look for the next method. What might it be? A Starbucks Coffee kiosk in the foyer? (Anyone who knows me knows that I would go for this!) A celebrity in our pulpit that will attract a huge crowd? A free ice cream day for Senior Citizen’s? The latest and greatest social networking tool?

The method isn’t bad…unless it scoots Jesus out of the picture. We are good at scooting!

I’ve “scooted” down that road a few times! In my library and file cabinets are remnants of a multitude of “method” conferences I’ve attended over the years. Being a User-friendly Church! How to Grow Your Church Through Small Groups. Effective Marketing for the Church! Servant Evangelism! Effective Community Events to Grow Your Church. Worship that Attracts!

I’m “method-proficient”!

I’m like an old Chevy, however, when it comes to being Jesus-dependent. I do a lot of sputtering, stalling, and making noise as I inch down the road.

I believe that Jesus is the essence. I just need to live the way I believe. I don’t believe that would be simply another method. I believe that would be a walk. It seems that it would go right along with something Jesus said. “I am the Way and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I don’t believe we need a seminar on that statement, but someone will probably create one.

Rethinking Membership

January 17, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W. January 17, 2012

The past year in college football has been about as predictable as the European financial community. The only sure thing is that someone from the SEC will be in the BCS Championship game. Other than that…
For instance, TCU announced that it was leaving the Mountain West Conference to join the Big East Conference, but then reneged on that decision when Texas A&M left the Big 12 to join the before mentioned SEC, which left a spot open for TCU…which years ago used to be in the Southwest Conference, which pretty much is what today’s Big 12 Conference is comprised of. Meanwhile Boise State decided to leave the Mountain West in football to join the Big East, because whenever you think of the East, doesn’t Idaho automatically come to your mind? Worse than Boise is the fact that San Diego State, which I believe is on the West Coast, is also joining the Big East in football only.
If you looked back at who was in what league two years ago and compared it to who will be a member of what league next fall, you’ll be amazed.
Schools are influenced more by money and TV guarantees than they are by loyalty.
Thus the changing attitudes about what it means to be a member of something. Sam’s Club will treat you royally…until your membership expires. Try to walk into Costco without a membership and it’s like going through airport security procedures.
I’m a member of the YMCA…no matter whether I choose to go and workout or not. I’m a member of AARP, because…oh, wait! That’s right, I didn’t renew, and they remind me every month with something in the mail. I’m a member of my high school basketball official’s association, even though it means I have to attend even more meetings. (If you didn’t figure it out already, I already attend way more meetings than a person should have to. Some weeks I have more meetings than encounters with God! I’m not bitter though.) I’m a Priority Club member, which simply means that if I need a hotel reservation at a Staybridge Suites I can get about $10 off a night of the otherwise ridiculously high priced lodging rate.
I’m a member of the American Baptist Minister’s Council, which reminds me that my 2012 dues haven’t been paid yet. No wonder I got some stern looks from a few of my pastor friends…who are current in their dues!
The point I’m trying to get around to is that there are so many institutions that treat membership like a Monopoly “Get Out of Jail Free Card.” It gets used only when it benefits me. In like manner, people treat membership like generic Jell-O. If it doesn’t get used it didn’t really cost me anything, and the better brand is on sale this week. Switch!
It seems that Jesus talked about being a follower. Not all of the questions were answered by him when he invited a various assortment of people to follow. Not all who followed in the midst of the initial excitement continued (John 6:60). Not all who followed were consistent in their following. Some followed, denied, and then followed again.
It seems that the church is about followers of Jesus partnering together for the journey we’re in the midst of, and what is ahead. The church is a rowing team that sometimes has to crash into the waves, and sometimes goes with the flow of the tide.
A marriage is a partnership, not a membership. An athletic team that is realizing its potential is a partnership, not a membership. A mission cause is supported and powered by partners, not members. The community of believers, known as the Body of Christ, is a partnership. It demands. It supports. It depends. It encourages.
Think about that when you watch San Diego State and Boise State playing in the Big East title game next December.

Keeping The Columns

January 12, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W. January 11, 2012

When I was back in Ohio recently I went to a basketball game at my old high school. It’s the first time I had stepped foot inside my alma mater since 1975.
But I can’t really say it was going back to my old high school…because my old high school was torn down four or five years ago, and a new high school was built on the spot. (You know you’re getting old when you begin a lot of conversations with the words “There used to be…”! Like “There used to be a hospital there where that Walmart is” or “There used to be 15 cents hamburgers served in this restaurant!”)
So, in terms of going back and reliving the good old days of high school, I can’t really do that, because it’s a different building. I’m sure the lunchroom ladies still wear hairnets, and the bathrooms are still disgusting, but the brick and mortar smell of newness.
Except that when they were getting state funding to build the new high school there was a group of alumni in the area who couldn’t stand to see ALL of the old school leveled. It just wouldn’t be the same (which is true since the old school was built about the time Moby Dick was a minnow). So the alumni, and perhaps the school district, spent an extra million dollars to keep the front entrance and columns of the old school building intact as the rest of the school was being demolished. Going by the school after the demolition was an interesting scene. It looked like a war zone with a few columns standing in the midst of it.
It made me think about when we ask God to do a rebuilding and renewal project in our life. We want the newness…new wine…if you will…but there’s a part of the old life that we want to remain intact.
“Lord, do a mighty work within my life, but leave the columns alone!”
“Lord, I’m tired of the staleness, but leave the pantry items alone.”
“Lord, renew my spirit, but leave my Friday nights out of it!”
How difficult it is for each one of us to let God do a complete renewal and restart in our lives! How difficult it is for renewal to break out within the Body of Christ, because we want to hold on to the columns! To the point that we’re willing to let it cost us even more. To the point that we consider “the columns” more sacred than surrendering to the Savior.

Sectioning Off the Church

January 5, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W. January 5, 2012

I was recently traveling in another state and I drove by a church that introduced itself with a list. The list read something like this:
-King James Version

The list was so long I barely had time to read it all as I passed by. Honestly, I know very little about this church. It could be a wonderful group of God’s people serving in vital ways in their community, but I always wonder why churches seem to section themselves off before anyone even comes through the doors. It is more about attracting our target audience, or keeping the riff-raff out?
My guess is that it is a combination. There is a pull within a church to have people we are comfortable with,
and look like us,
and think like us,
and won’t cause any problems,
and talk the same language,
and drink the same kind of coffee,
and wear the same kind of clothes…
to be a part of us.
There I go with the list again!
To someone who is seeking answers for their messed up lives, and they’ve heard about the Jesus who gives new life and new purpose…a list of a church’s non-negotiables on the “All are welcome” marquee is confusing at best, and, more likely, a turn-off.
Someday we will realize that people are increasingly afraid of the gospel because they think they will be turned into being like many of the people they know that are “church people.”
Harsh statement, and although it’s not meant to be a blanket statement for everyone, there is more truth in it then “People of The Way” care to admit.
What would a church or a community of faith look like if the sign out front read like this:
-Grace Extended
-Mercy Expended
-Forgiveness Experienced
-Peace Expected
-Hope Expanded

Perhaps it is just me, but I might pull over and slowly pull in.
Instead of sectioning off the church, perhaps we should be about seeking the Savior.