Blog Archives

Perfect Church (Part 2) – Theocentric

I began this blog a year and a half ago. I started writing part 2 just a week after part 1 and forgot about it. I was going through my saved drafts and found this unfinished thought. So here it is, all pretty and revisited. Please read the first part to get you up to date.

No seriously, go read it.

Really, It won’t fully make sense unless you click here and go back and read it.

Its not that long, just a quick read to get you caught up. Please…

Ok, now that you have read the first installment, read part two starting… now!

What does God want for the church? As we look at the early church we will find church in her purest form. No big budgets, or large auditoriums, and no coffee or doughnuts . I’m not saying these things are wrong for the church. I’m just wondering what the people of the early church did without thousands of dollars in equipment and coffee to get them going. It must have been a boring service.

How did the early church entertain people, keep people interested, and make them feel welcome without these things? Well the answer is pretty simple. They loved…

Misconceptions*

I cringe when I hear people talk about going to a church because they feel good when they leave. That couldn’t be any further from the point.

A little less obvious misconception is the idea that we should go to church to “get fed”. People choose a church because they learn a lot or the church serves some need of theirs well, like childcare, art, business contacts etc. A good thought, but not the reason for church, and definitely not the ultimate goal of the church.

We also hear that people love their church because it is entertaining and they love the music/dramas/videos. OK, I think you know where I’m going by now. I’m sure Paul hired a band and rocked out to some killer worship music before he spoke to the people of Ephesus, or Rome.

I don’t think God’s intention for the church was any of these three things. All three of these things make church a “me first” concept. It wasn’t until our generation that church even considered being entertaining. The church was started to be centered around God or (if you would like me to use big words) theocentric.

At the heart of the church should be connecting with God, doing the work or God, and spreading the  radical love of God. Anything else is extra gravy on the potatoes.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  -Hebrews 10 24-25

In Ephesians Paul explains the purpose of ministry to the church body, he says ministry is meant… 12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  -Ephesians 4:12-13

In other words, the church is built to serve. We are a community of believers that “spur” (as the ASV puts it) each other on to love deeper, reach further, and ultimately serve our community, our nation, and our world.

One interesting side note*

Notice in the verses from Ephesians that Paul says it in this order. To equip people for works of service so that they may be built up until we reach unity in faith and knowledge. How do we get to faith and knowledge? First we serve. How does our church grow and build up? First we serve. Paul does not suggest that we study the scriptures so we know enough to serve. He does not suggest that we become a large church so that we can serve. He says to serve to become wiser in the scriptures. He says we serve to grow our church. He says, first we serve.

The perfect church is not “me first”. She is “Christ first”. She is centered around us (the Christ followers) utilizing our gifts, strengths, and passions to love as Christ loved, by serving our community, our nation, and our world. She is theocentric.

Advertisements

Puttin’ On The Ritz

In Life Group tonight we talked about finances. We spent a little time going over what the Bible has to say about stewardship, responsibility, and money. If you believe in the God of the Bible you should believe that everything we have is Gods. No exceptions, everything we have, everything we worked for, everything we made, everything we’ve been given. ITS ALL HIS!

I will not be spending any more time on that concept, but I could talk for years on it. I am writing to talk about a story that one of the women in the group talked about.

She was talking about going on a vacation when she knew someone who worked at the Ritz Carlton. So they got a great deal and stayed there one night for the experience. She described her feeling as she watched people spend money as if it was free. People paying $80 for a cup of tea and desert like it meant nothing. She talked about her attitude as she questioned why these people could live so extravagantly when so many people are jobless, homeless, and hurting. Its like their concept of money is just ridiculous.

As I listened I was just thinking about how many times I have felt this way. How many times have we looked at what someone else spends their crazy money on and been frustrated at their choices, and their lifestyle. Have you ever done this? Can you relate?

Lets step back and change our perspective. If you are reading this you probably live in America. You have a roof over your head, clean water, and enough food to survive. You probably own a car, or a computer, or a cell phone that costs $50 a month. YOU ARE RICH! Most of the world would walk down your street and be in the Ritz. Why would we spend more money on a phone then 99% of the world gets paid? Seriously! 99% of the world makes less than the average American pays for their cell phone bill! The $2 we would spend for a glass of tea at a restaurant would feed an Ethiopian for two days. Think about that next time you order a $10 mixed drink. The car you drive…if you own your car it makes you wealthier than %90 of the world. If you are lucky enough to make a salary of $35,000 a year then you are in the top %1 of wealth in the world. YES, %1, that is not a typo. YOU ARE RICH!

You live in the Ritz.

Thank God! No matter how hard we work, we don’t deserve it. We are blessed as a people. We have won the lottery by being born in this amazing country. We are in a recession compared to our past, but still in the Ritz compared to our neighbors.

God only listens to Christian Music.

OK…I admit it!

Jes and I were on vacation last year to Myrtle Beach. We went to the dueling piano bar at Broadway at the Beach (because we love Jokers in Mooresville). We finally got a seat up on the railing and the guys broke into a 15 minute Prince concert. We were sitting beside a couple who wasn’t really talking much but looked to be having a good time. As the pianists broke into “Kiss” the guy beside me leaned over and said, “I know my wife loves this crap, but when are they gonna give us something to listen to.” I guess he had not noticed I was singing along with every word. So I leaned back over to him and said, “Real men love Prince.”

Most people that know me know I am not ashamed of what kind of music I listen to. Justin, Prince, Mraz, Buble (I don’t know how to put the accent over the “e”, but if I could, I wouldn’t, because I call him Michael Buble) Where it gets really interesting is when I tell people I mix that in with some T-pain and there’s my playlist.

Several years ago I had a friend ask me a question when we were talking about me putting my faith in Jesus. He said, “How do you listen to Christian music all the time?” It took me back…

I don’t, should I? Should my playlist be Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and in stead of T-Pain should I mix it up with T-Mac?

So here it comes…close to 5 years later I finally have an answer to that question. I know you’re wondering how it took so long, but that’s not the point. The point is, it took God 5 years to get it through my thick head and now I’ve got it.

What is Christian Music? No, really…what makes some music Christian and some not? What makes some Companies Christian and some not? What makes Chick-fil-a a Christian restaurant and McDonald’s Secular? Is it because they aren’t open on Sunday? Is it because the owners are Christians? I know, it must be because they over abuse the term “my pleasure” and that is what God would want from “His” fast food joint.

Sorry about all the sarcasm.

So what classifies music as Secular and Christian? It’s not that the artist is Christian because you can’t tell me that Josh Turner, Bono, and many other “secular” artists are not Christians. It’s not that they sing about God or Jesus, because Carrie Underwood would have had a Christian hit with “Jesus take the wheel” if she released it as a Christian single. There are tons of songs written by Christians singing about Christ that aren’t considered “Christian Music”. I know, it must be the over abuse of the words “love” and “above” and that is what God would want from “His” music, right?

Enough sarcasm.

Are Chick-fil-a sandwiches any more Christian than McDonald’s? Is a Cook-out shake any more blessed than a Wendy’s Frosty because they have scripture on the cup? NO!!!! In fact, the idea that Cookout prints scripture on their STYROFOAM CUP is kind of ironic to me.

Ok seriously, no more sarcasm!

So here is what makes some music Christian and some not…It’s self proclaimed. The artist says, “I am playing Christian music.” Does this make it any more “Christian” or any less “Secular” than any other music? NO!!!!

All music is created by God, and therefore it is good. Yes, all music! Not just self proclaimed Christian music. All food was created by God, the chicken and the cow. So next time you pray to God to “bless the food” remember that it is already blessed by God. He created it, blessed it, and it is good.

Are you a Christian?

Is the tree outside my window Christian or Secular? Is the box of mac and cheese in my cabinet Christian or Secular? Is my dog Christian or Secular…the couch…the car…etc. Doesn’t this sound ridiculous! It is! It was all created by God, it is good, but it is not Christian or Secular it just is.

Music just is. We as humans can alter it, manipulate it, change it, but it was created by God, it is good. It just is.

Food can be pumped with steroids, flavored, fattened, packaged, and preserved, but it was created by God, it is good. It just is.

So are all people Christian people? We were all created by God, right?

Kinda…

We were created by God, but we are different than the music, the food, and the tree. God gave us a soul and a decision. My dogs have no decision to make, they just are. The tree has no decision to make, it just is. We have a decision to make. We can choose to accept the truth and be as we were meant to be, or we can deny it and be apart from God.

We were created by God, we were good. Then we were separated from Him. We have a choice to accept who we are and be “Christian” or deny it and be “Secular”. That’s the difference between music and people.

So my answer, “I am a Christian, but I listen to music, not Christian, not Secular, just Music.”

Questioning God? (Intro)

I have had this idea for the last several years. It all started when I went through a depression in my life. The more I read the Bible searching for a cure for my depression, the more angry I became. It was if my efforts to understand what the Bible was telling me was bringing more questions and not solving the problem I had. I struggled for months with the idea that I was becoming angry with God.

My brain was telling me something like this…Why won’t He answer me? How could I be angry with God? I must be a terrible person to question Him. I don’t get angry over anything, but I am pissed off at God…that just doesn’t make any sense. I must really be depressed.

For most of you who know me, you know that I don’t get angry. I am a very laid back guy except when it comes to sports and politics. I don’t rattle easily and I DON’T GET UPSET WITH ANYONE. So for me to be angry at the person who is love, the person that created me, blessed me, and was allowing me to live, just didn’t make sense to me.

It wasn’t until I actually expressed my anger to God that I started realizing that this was his purpose all along. He was teaching me not to accept what I had been taught my entire life. Get mad, ask questions, and dig deeper. Don’t just be Mr. Nice Guy who knows all the right answers. Speak up and tell me how you feel. I had found the true meaning to a verse i had been staring at for months.

A friend of mine called me and brought this verse to my attention:

Psalm 13: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer.”

I read this verse several times during my depression and always saw the statement of anger. David seemed angry and i was angry. I identified with David and realized it was okay to be angry.

So I had this idea. To help people realize its okay to be angry at God. I wanted to write about my experiences. To let others know it doesn’t make you a bad person. To hopefully get other people to see past their “depression” and realize it is healthy. My conclusion would be to show that not only is it healthy, but God craves us to want more from him, to cry out to him, and to wrestle with our situations and not just accept them.

Fast forward a few years…

I’m reading Velvet Elvis. I believe it is Rob Bell’s first book. (Don’t ask me what its about because so far he has presented so many ideas and thoughts that I can’t remember half of them.) Somewhere towards the beginning he introduced a new idea (to me) and used Psalm 13 as an example.

QUESTION*

He is making the point that questioning sets us free. God wants us to question Him. In fact, the “great” people of the Bible all questioned God when He chose them.

In the book of Genesis, Abraham is told by God what He is going to do to Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham says, “Will not the ruler of the Earth do right?”

When the angels tell Mary she will give birth to the Messiah she says, “But how can this be? I’m a virgin!”

For two chapters Moses tries to convince God that He has the wrong man. God almost seems to get more confident in his decision the more Moses questions.

And David, In Psalm 13, questions God repeatedly.

Its almost as if God chooses the people who don’t just accept what they are told. Why would that be? The idea itself even raises more questions.

Here’s the point…

QUESTION*

Don’t just accept. It has taken God several years to explain to me that the purpose of my life, the Bible, and my experiences are not to teach people to accept Christianity. I am to teach people to question it. To question life, the Bible, and their experiences. I think this is the role of all spirtual leaders. That is what Jesus did. He rarely gave a direct answer to questions about God. Even God himself usually answered with a statement that lead to more questions. Like when Moses asks God for his name, God replies, “I am”. Now that is a definitive answer, isn’t it?  This is what teachers and leaders have been missing. God is making sure I don’t miss this.

So from here…

I don’t know about the rest of the book yet, but at this point if I learn nothing else from it, the point he makes in the introduction is worth the time spent reading. This is where God has been calling me. This has been His Work to get me to the point where I am today.

Jesalyn and I are in a huge transitional phase in our lives. What started as pursuing a selfish dream of mine has now evolved into pursuing The Truth. Pursuing God’s will for my life. And this is it.

This will be the purpose for my new blog, my life, and for the new direction God is sending Jes and me. To continue to get closer to the Truth by questioning and getting others to question along with me. I really appreciate all the support from friends and family we have been receiving the last couple months. I am so excited about what God has in the future and I hope all of you will be with us on this journey.

With Love,

Mike

%d bloggers like this: