For People Who Have Given Up on the Church

disciplesWe have all heard it, “I love Jesus, but not the church.”  It is such a vogue thing to say today.  A love affair with Jesus, but the church is an ugly discard.

Somehow people wish to equate following Jesus as something totally separated from His Body and Bride, the church! 1 Corinthians 12:27 and Revelation 19:7 spell out so clearly the theology of Body and Bride – along with about a hundred other verses!

I loved this well reasoned post by Carey Nieuwhof, posted in 2015, A Response To Christians Who Are Done With Church. Nieuwhof reminds us,

“If you’re a Christian, church is not something you go to. It’s something you are.

You can’t disassociate from church as a Christian anymore than you can disassociate from humanity as a person.

You don’t go to church. You are the church.”

Read the whole post from Nieuwhof, it is worth it!

For those who love Jesus, get busy loving the church!  It is God’s calling on your life!

Is it messy?  Of course!

Hard at times?  Yup!

Exasperating?  People can be that way.

But the church is a spiritual collection of people brought together under the unity of Jesus and indwelt with his Holy Spirit.  The rough edges are being knocked off all of us.

Don’t give up on the very thing God has called into existence and is bringing heavenward to Himself!  Get busy loving and building up the church.  You are called to be an active member of this motley crew. This group of cracked pots that are being transformed into the likeness of Christ himself (2 Cor 3:18)


Praying for a New President

I’m committed to pray for every president of the US.  It is my calling as a Christian clearly spelled out in I Timothy 2:1-2

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

But just what should we pray in our intercessions?  I ran across this article from Mark Labberton about how to pray for a new president.  But here’s the thing, it was his encouragement to pray for incoming president Barack Obama.  He wrote this article in Christianity Today back in 2009.  I was intrigued to see how much his admonition to pray spanned the vast difference between presidents Trump and Obama.

He encourages us to pray for President Trump and his administration for humility, wisdom, and courage.  What a fantastic trio!

In the passage from I Timothy, Paul does not encourage us to pray for only good presidents.  He calls us to pray for all presidents.  And the end game is always the same.  Their service is to help us all lead peaceful and quiet lives.

Two Letters

arlenes-flowers-1024x684I was intrigued to read two letters recently published by the Seattle Times.  The letters were written by the two parties involved in a lawsuit that has made its way to the Washington Supreme Court involving religious liberty and rights for gays.

Barronelle Stutzman is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, WA.  Here’s her letter, posted on the Seattle Times, about why she decided not to provide flowers for a gay wedding.  Ironically, she feels the two men have been and continue to be her friends.

Rob Ingersoll is the gay man who brought the lawsuit against Arelene’s Flowers (with the help of the ACLU), and has now been carried forward by the State of Washington.  Here’s his letter, posted on the Seattle Times.

Regardless of where you land on this subject, hearing firsthand from both people is important.  This is likely a watershed issue that will have cascading effects in our society for years to come.

Here’s the article from the Tri-City Herald which covered the trial that was heard on Nov. 15 in Bellevue following the appeal from Benton County Superior Court.  The trial has ended and the WA Supreme Court now deliberates.  Their decision is likely to be heard sometime in early 2017.  I personally believe that this case will be appealed to the US Supreme Court.



Inspiring Videos on Bible and Theology

Something really exciting has been happening over the last year.  Short video vignettes are being created for biblical books, Bible themes, and theological topics.  Really high quality stuff that is super inspiring.  Let me offer a few examples.

At the top of my list is the Bible Project.  Two guys have gotten together to do narrative drawings (my best explanation) that help explain books of the Bible.  Check this one out on the book of Judges.  They did an outstanding job of explaining an overview of the book along with key themes.

Look on their YouTube channel and find other books along with Bible topics like “The Image of God”, “Covenants”, and “Atonement.” I’m always inspired to watch their simple explanation of God’s word.
I also recently discovered videos on topics related to theology. Try this one from Boston College Professor of Philosophy, Peter Kreeft on “God and Suffering.”  He has a whole collection of these on common questions related to God and theology.

I applaud some really creative people who are finding succinct ways to engage and teach a new audience!  Love it!

Christians Attending Church Less

I have been noticing something.  People attend their home church less than in years past.  By this, I mean fewer times on average per year.   And I am talking about Christians who love their church!

At first, I shrugged off the observation.  Surely it was merely anecdotal.  But it seemed that the observation and trend grew.

Then I began to read more and more about others also noticing this.  And I began to talk to other pastors who were noticing the same.  So what’s up?  What are some possible reasons for this seeming shift?

Kudos to Carey Nieuwhof for his excellent blog about this topic.  Carey brought up some potential reasons that I had not considered.  He gives 10 reasons that are truly worth the read.

The two that most resonate with me are “higher focus on kids activities” and “disappearance of guilt.”  In the past, kids activities gave space for parents to attend church AND participate on a sports team or kids club.  Those days are gone.  Fields are scheduled non-stop, and Sunday morning is scheduled just as often for kids activities as any other day of the week.

My favorite story of this happened a few years ago.  My daughter was on a high school dance team.  They made it to state competition.  Guess when they scheduled the playoff games?  Easter weekend!!  That’s our culture today.  And Christian parents often face this challenge of wanting their kids to participate in weekend sports that collides with attending church on Sunday morning.

I also think Carey is onto truth with his observation that there is a “disappearance of guilt” over not attending church.  Honestly that was never the best motivator anyway.  Increasingly it is the job of leadership to help the saints to see the value of corporate worship and to actively engage with God.  When corporate worship feels like just another entertainment option, the church loses – and so do individual believers.

Check out all of Carey’s points.  My guess is that you will find this especially helpful if you are in church leadership.



Lost Treasure

In this age of video everything, it is hard to imagine an event as big as the Super Bowl that has no media footprint.  But that is exactly the case from Super Bowl #1 from 1967.  Believe it or not, the game did not even sell out and it was broadcast on two networks simultaneously (NBC and CBS).  Ironically, with both networks broadcasting, neither kept a video record of the broadcast!

So everyone thought that there were some still pictures from the game but that video was lost.  Then Troy Haupt’s best friend remembered that they had seen reel to reel tapes in his attic that said Super Bowl 1.  Haupt’s father had taped the game at work on reel to reel tapes.  With some coaxing, he went into the attic and recovered them.

The tapes had sat in the attic more than 40 years!  They had suffered some heat damage, but there in herky-jerky motion was the Packers and the Chiefs dueling it out for the championship.

Haupt rightly imagined that his discovery could be worth a lot.  How much would someone pay for the video of the first Super Bowl?  Haupt imagined $1 million for the tapes.  As reported in this article by the New York Times, Haupt’s imagined newfound wealth became like lost treasure.

We have all seen the disclosure run during a football game that says that all the rights of the game are owned by the NFL.  The NFL learned about the tapes and offered a low price to purchase them.  When Haupt and the NFL could not meet on a price, the NFL lawyers went to work threatening Haupt not to sell or otherwise distribute the tapes.  This priceless treasure seemingly just became nearly worthless!  Haupt said. “It’s like you’ve won the golden ticket but you can’t get into the chocolate factory.”

The tapes still have some intrinsic value, and the NFL is the right buyer for the tapes.  You can imagine seeing snippets of that tape at the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton.  I’m hoping that the NFL is willing to pony up and buy the discovered treasure.  Would be a cool conclusion to the story.  As it now stands, it seems like the bully is winning with threat and intimidation.  That works on the gridiron, but falls flat in real life.



What a Children’s Christmas Musical Teaches US

angelsThis Sunday at church, a collection of children will perform a church ritual that has gone on for years. They will act in a Christmas play to tell the story of Jesus’ birth.  Many churches still honor this important tradition.

Dads will jostle with cameras to capture the moment. Mothers and grandmas will oh and ah. A sense of Christmas rhythm will spread throughout the congregation like the sun rising across a meadow on a cold day.

Kids will have some butterflies. Some will be nervous that they might forget a line or stand in the wrong spot. Little do they know that this is often what makes the whole thing so special. The surprises are what we remember and celebrate. Like the little girl one year who lifted her dress throughout most of the performance. To be clear, the little girl was wearing leotards. Yet the mother was nonetheless horrified while the congregation laughed heartily.  Priceless!

Christmas musicals with children are never meant to be perfect because they reflect the nature of Christ’s coming to us. He entered a world filled with our fumbling. He came into our chaos and did something astounding – He accepted us. He gave us a family where we belong. From the cradle to the the cross, He forgave all our imperfections and best intentions. The children remind us about the important maxim from Jesus, “Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God” Matt. 18:3.

Join me in watching the children this Sunday. They have much to teach us about God’s great gift and acceptance of His people.