Category Archives: ministry

Judgement and Grace

Grace_Building__New_York_by_olymbos01Since I have been preaching to the youth group, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission, and how the Bible keeps pointing back to that, I have been having the thoughts about judgement versus grace. Brian Zahnd has been pointing out that Jesus preached against the “who’s in, and who’s out” thought.  Then I ran into this post that John Meunier reblogged a post he wrote a couple of years ago. It was where my thoughts have been turning. The thing is that Paul talks about this in Romans 14.

John’s post is well worth the read. Who Wesley would send to Hell | John Meunier.

Why would God End the world?…5/2/2013

Apocalypse_vasnetsovI’ve been trying to share my youth messages that I have been doing. Both by sharing the text, and recording an mp3. However, since I’m having trouble affording hosting, probably only text for the time being.

I had a week where I asked the students what questions they have. One question was “Why would God End the World?”

So here’s this week’s message:

The Jeff Show – #9 Unforgiveness.

Love thy neighbor

Here’s the link to Sound Cloud where I uploaded it.


Here’s the Bible Verses from my talk:

Paul said, in Colossians 3, 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
and Peter said (1 Peter 4:8) 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
And this is because, Jesus, who was God, but also fully human while getting put on the cross said, (Luke23:34a)34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a]

Here’s the Cat video:

Love your…

Part of what I have been riffing on as of late is the whole grace vs. guilt, or mercy vs. sacrifice. Of course this all comes down to Love.

We are supposed to love…our God.
… our neighbors.
…our enemies.

When I see the American Christian church as of late, I see more people, drifting back to what’s comfortable. That is to say, finding a set of explicit dos and don’ts that will make us acceptable in the sight of God. However, we have become so rigidly adherent to the “rules” that we call heresy, if someone tries to stray outside the lines and love someone that they have told that God has turned His back on. However, as I have now listened to the Bible for the 4th or 5th year, and the New Testament the year before that, I’m realizing that as Jesus said in Matthew 23: 15 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. (NIV)

I have looked through commentaries, and despite the interpretations to the positive, we still try to exclude and push away those that that are marginalized. We as a country are drifting away. Not all of us, but this country was based on loving your neighbor. At least that’s what I see when I study history. We aren’t to judge others sins. We are to love them, and through that love, we are win them, so that they will continue to pay the love forward.

As I listened to James Scheer preach this week at church, I was reminded of this. He preached out of James, which tells us we are no better than anyone else when it comes to loving God. The image of cartoon that I saw a week or two before called “Coffee with Jesus,” kept coming up in my mind. We are to love everyone. It’s difficult. When we fail, we have to realize that Jesus died for us so that our failures aren’t counted against us. We have to move on, and continue to figure out how to love everyone.

 

image from Flickr.com:

he(art)geek

More Grace and why I am on this kick

I’m not a great writer. I’m good, to the extent that I do get compliments when somebody reads these posts from time to time, but not great. Sometimes, I wish that more people read my blog and commented on what I had written, if only to learn from others as they read what I said.

However, it has occurred to me that 1. I’m searching for approval from my interactions. This is not what I wanted, I shouldn’t/don’t need validation, but those feelings have occurred, as I recently noted to my wife.  And 2. that I don’t think that I need to be out there among the Christian blogosphere writing who’s right and who’s wrong. Recently, there was another dust up between bloggers which you can read about here, and why that particular blogger decided to step away.

The post is long so if you go there, be prepared to sit and read the post for about 10-15 minutes. He feels that he needs to be a positive voice in Christianity, so closed down his current blog, and will be reopening a blog that will be more positive. I have to say that his take on the exchange between the other two bloggers was right on. There was a Calvinist and a non-Calvinist.  However, as I read the post, there was little grace or mercy. Oh sure, they talked about defending the weak and why they were right, but still there was no grace or mercy.

I’m big on grace and mercy as of late. With the move back to Gaylord, and some other issues, I have been struggling to not lose my cool, because things aren’t the way I want them. Don’t get me wrong, I try to effect change into the situations, but when the advice gets trampled on, I have to remember to show grace. Die to myself, just like Christ.

However, for the foreseeable future, I’ll write about grace and mercy. Everything I have been running into as of late has been pointing me in that direction. I will sound like a broken record probably in the months and years to come. However, I don’t care. I’m going to tell stories of grace and mercy. That is loving God and loving others. That’s what Jesus commanded.

As I have been in the process of writing this post two things have popped out at me. One, is what Rob Bell said in his latest video (at the bottom) and the other is Brian Zahnd in several sermons lately. It’s about the saying, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” I think that Rob is right when he says that the problem is that we have lost the childlike wonder, because churches have told us dos and don’ts. Brian Zahnd says that the community of the church (body of Christ) is needed, but the church itself has been going down a dos and don’ts road for about 100 years or so. That there is a shift beginning to happen. I agree.

We can’t be loners. We must be a community. We must show grace and mercy to those within our community and those outside.  When they fail, and we will all fall sometime, we can’t be about dos and don’ts, but be about love. People (and specifically the media) give Christians such hard time because of what we are against, because typically it is said without love (not that they are interested in that, remember if it bleeds it leads). We should be more.

Jesus gave grace and mercy to the woman caught in adultery, not condemning her, but sending off with, “Go and sin no more.” What if we did this? What if we granted grace and mercy, and told people to go and sin no more? I’m starting to think that more people would be willing to come to church and live life together in love, than is happening now.

Here is what Derek Ouellette (the blog writer) concludes with:

Brothers and sisters, that’s why I’m moving on. That’s why I’m creating a blog around “inform.inspire.imagine.” That’s why I want to find new, creative ways to pass along my ideas, without tearing down another person. I want to exhort without attacking. I want to teach without ad hominem. I want to see people grow. And I want my place to be a place that contributes to a positive image of God’s Kingdom online.

This is the same tact that I am going to continue with on my blog. Maybe someday more will read it and realize that this is what we always should have been doing.

HT to John Meunier

The Jeff Show #7 – What Do You Desire?

Creative Commons license-some rights reserved by thanker212

Recently, I feel like God has been leading me into something. I’m not sure what, but the verse that much of this feeling is based on is Matthew 9:13, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners (NIV).” Couple this with  what one theologian calls  the “Jesus Creed,” Matthew 22:37-40, “…‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (NIV).”

I see a lot of pain in this world. You can tell me that people should do “this or that,” but if the “this or that” (I’m talking about the Law) is hanging on to these verses, then don’t forget that we are to love one another, and show mercy.

During my time as an adult volunteer for the youth group, that is something that I have seen time and time again. Well meaning adults, telling the students what they should do, without any grace or mercy attached to it. This kind of starts a path down legalism within a person’s life. Which then reminds me of the line in the Orange County Supertones song Go Your Way,

“Not long after my rescue
I let my failures get me down
My sin had robbed me of the joy I had in you
Then you saved me from that too”

While I was listening to a sermon, within the last six months, the parable of shrewd manager was taught. So many look at the parables as morality stories, when they are so much more, and in this case, this parable isn’t a morality story. It has always puzzled me until I heard this sermon. If you’re not familiar with it (Luke 16:1-9), the manager was crooked, and the owner was going to fire the manager. Since the manager wouldn’t beg and was too old to do anything else he went to each of the people who owed the owner something and cut their amount owed. Now, the owner could have had the manager arrested and restored amount owed by the debtors, BUT…he didn’t, the manager risked that the owner, who was an honorable man would show him mercy and wouldn’t raise the amounts on the debtors.

God is like this. We are so crooked, but God will show us mercy.

With that in mind, I’m starting to see so much of the political process, not in left and right, Republican/Democrat, or anything else. I vote, but I don’t put my hope for change in anything that is tainted by humans, we are too self-centered. I vote for where the mercy is. I wrote that I lean libertarian. I’m willing to let people do whatever they want, but if they find themselves hurting, then I am willing to show them mercy. I’m here to love the Lord with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my heart; and my neighbor as myself. Which brings me back to learning what this means…I desire mercy and not sacrifice.

I Saw This Article about Sin

Grace

If you remember from the past, I wrote a series on Grace and Guilt. Here is a post from College Ministry Thoughts:

Shame/guilt and conviction are not equals.  In fact they couldn’t be more opposite.  They stem from different “sources” and lead us to two completely different places.

This fits in with what I was getting at, but didn’t get around to posting about conviction. You should read the whole thing.

via Sin is serious, but….

The Jeff Show – #4 – Who should be served by the church?

Recently, I feel like there has been a growing amount of reading material that has speaking to me about Grace,  as I meditate on it. You know, helping your neighbor, and loving your enemy.

I was perusing through Facebook, one morning, and ran into my union’s Facebook page. There are all sorts of people in the NWSEO that lean in every direction politically. Sometimes, the discussion gets quite heated and off topic from union issues when some of the more politically minded people start squaring off. In one case, there was a guy who had been raised in, blue collar/union is everything, type of family. Sometimes the threads will go on the member vs. non-member of the union. If your not familiar with government service unions, you are not required to join. However, the union negotiates the collective bargaining agreement with the NWS/NOAA, so there are people who benefit from the union without being in the union. This gets to rubs some people the wrong way to the point that some call the non-union people scabs.

I have noticed that in the church, and I’m speaking broadly about the church, that I have witnessed, and read of stories where some people are turned away, if they didn’t do what the people in the church thought they needed to do to earn some service from the church. I’m not necessarily talking about services for the poor, but services for the members.

The gets me to thinking, when do you turn away services to a member or a non-member? I remember that in a church I went to in the past, that another member was annoyed with somebody that the church gave assistance to, wasn’t a consistent church goer and, I think, would go to church somewhere else at times. They felt that there should have been some sort of loyalty to our church. However, I’ve always been puzzled by this attitude.  If we are all believers, but at different places in our story, should loyalty to a church matter, if one is in need? Or do we just ignore them again?

There is a tension. The tension is between helping the person, regardless of their status, believer, non-believer, or someone seeking or not seeking; versus enabling them. Mary and I see this played out day in and day out in our lives. There are people that can be rather maddening in the way that they treat others, and yet come to us for help, usually in a way that seems very manipulative. As I’ve told Mary, we persevere through the manipulation, and help, hopefully to speak into their lives.

However, There is another side to this. Brian Zahnd of Word of Life Church (St. Joseph, MO) says, “Beauty will save the world.” I’m starting to feel that the church in America, has chased relevance,  so far, that instead of being relevant to people, they have become utilitarian (use this product and be cool!). We are in the Box Store mentality that the culture has ushered us down. There is little beauty to left in the world, or in the Christian Church in America. So we give aid, and then people go back to their individual stories, of boring drab lives of trying to acquire things to achieve meaning.

I have to say, that there have been times when I feel like the story of my life has been boring and utilitarian, and other times beautifully written, as if there was an author whom my character actually listened to (Read Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years). Life was filled with astonishing beauty. In some ways, as Mary and I look to move back to Gaylord, I’m looking for an epic story to be a part of, something astonishingly beautiful. When people hear about it, they are brought to tears from the beauty of it. As crazy as things sound, there is something astonishing going on that they want to be a part of.

So who should be served by the church? Everyone, because they need to see the beauty of the Creator in the way that we live. And when they ask why we do what we do, we tell them the astonishing, crazy, beautiful story of a God, who became a baby, to an unmarried teenager, that in today’s world would be just as shunned. Who grew up just like us learning a trade, but turned out to teach the Torah very well, and then took a bunch of unschooled fishermen and taught them what he knew. Somewhere along the line, he managed to make enemies with the local church officials, and the government overseeing the country he lived in. The enemies turned and killed him, but when they did, he took all of the guilt and shame for our rebellious acts, and buried them with him. Then he rose 3 days later, to a new life and body, having given all, to the ones he created…and that beautifully astonishing story continues to go on through the disciples that spread his words to all the earth.

The Power of Story, the Power of the Scene

I’ve been listening to Don Miller‘s, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” Without getting into too much of the book, he realized that life is a story, and that God is asking us to live a better story. In the section that I’m listening to, he is talking about how important scene is. You don’t have many memorable conversations in a coffee shop, or your home, or what have you. However, you do remember the ones that were in an unexpected or memorable place, or maybe did something different in a place you have always been in. I can remember things with our kids, where the scene was different or the things happening were out of the ordinary for the place that they were occurring.

I’m thinking that I’ve been living a boring, mundane story. In some ways, I have, but there have been memorable scenes of conversations over the past 7 years since I met Mary and her kids. I know that I’m not always living a boring story. I’m trying to get into a more interesting one now, again.

In the book, Don talks about a bike trip that he initially didn’t want to do. I would turn into an epic story as he and a group of others were going to ride from Los Angeles, to Washington, D.C. on bikes, for charity. He equated that the beginning would be exciting, but that the middle would seem like they weren’t going anywhere. It would be easy to give up, chose an easier story. Not every story has a payoff. Some just lead into another story.

So, I’m trying not to abandon my story, it seems that there is a part that seems to go on forever. Like the story has come to a halt. I don’t want to abandon it. I need to be on the look out for memorable scenes to have meaningful conversations. I’m trying to be intentional about how my story, and those close to me, how their stories will evolve. That their character arc will bring change into their lives.

I highly recommend this book. I still have more to listen to. I may have to listen to it again.