Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What's with the attacks on Contemporary Worship?

Recently I have seen more and more posts on social media about how Contemporary Worship has ruined the church.  Well, maybe they haven't gone that far but I don't get all of the attacks.  I remember getting criticized for the 7-11 songs we implimented at one of the churches I led.  Some complained that it was 7 words song 11 times.  I just Taylor Swift'd it. (Shake it off) Now I read articles saying that contemporary worship has led to fewer people singing.  Really?  What churches are these people attending?  Our church not only has people singing, but they are almost shouting the songs out every service.  Another complaint is that people don't know the songs.  But at our church they sing songs that are played on Christian Radio.  Not only that but they post the song list every week so people can download the songs on itunes.  Unchurched people wouldn't know old hymns anymore than they would know a new Christian song.  I think many of the people who complain just want their own personal preference.  If we truly wanted to reach a lost & dying world we would do anything short of sin to reach them.

I don't think worship has anything to do with styles of worship but the condition of our hearts & the Spiritual condition of the church.  If the church & our hearts are dead, then the worship will be dead.  Our church just built a chapel & is going to offer a "Traditional Venue" for those who prefer that type of music.  I say bravo!  A church that truly cares about people will find ways to reach people where they are and bring them to where God wants them to be.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Even The Phelps need God's Love & Grace

Fred Phelps, the patriarch of Westboro Baptist Church and the God Hates_______ crew has passed away.  Phelps and his clan spread hate all across our country.  I admit they made me mad. That was until I actually met his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper in 2006.  I had an opportunity to interview her on YouTube and the video went viral.  You can watch it here.

After meeting Shirley, I wasn't angry anymore, I was sad.  I was sad that she had been brought up in such a hate filled family.  I was sad that her son was sitting next to her while she spouted her hate in my microphone.  I wonder if Shirley or Fred have ever felt "GRACE?"

I don't condone or give any excuse for the horrible protests that the Westboro clan has participated in over the years.  There is no telling how much hate they have displayed.  I can't imagine how much hurt they heaped on families who are grieving the death of a loved one.

But no matter how bad they have acted, even the Westboro folks are in need of God's love and Grace! I'm sure there will be lots of people "Protesting" Fred Phelps funeral.  I think that is a shame.  I wish I could be there and have a love fest for the Phelps family.  I wonder what kind of impact it would have if people actually held up "God is Love" or "God loves The Phelps" or "God Loves Westboro?" I'm sure there will be people who disagree with me but I think Jesus would have displayed love towards them.  He would have asked them to turn from their sins but He would have loved them.  I think we should too.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What Bible are they reading from?

I read a story about how the Rock Band Switchfoot was protested by a "Christian Church." Read it here. Now to be fair, I love Switchfoot.  Also, they have never claimed to be a "Christian" band.  They are a band who happens to have Christians in the band.  Their music is obviously influenced by their faith.

When you watch the video by the church it is obvious that they didn't come in love but came for a fight.  Jon Foreman the lead singer of Switchfoot (and devout Christian) went out to talk with the church in love.  It appears he had a case of bottled water that he brought for them too.  Foreman even thanked them for what they were doing.  The church just wanted to argue and condemn Switchfoot and anyone who listens to them.  Later in the concert, Foreman encourages people to treat the church group with love. Wow, what a concept?

Years ago I had the opportunity to interview Shirley Phelps-Roper of Westboro Baptist Church (or God Hates Fags).  John Stickley and I went there with the goal of trying to understand them.  You can watch the interview here.  I was amazed at how unloving Phelps and all of the protesters were.

When I look at I Corinthians 13:13 Paul says, "And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love"(NIV)  I wonder what Bible some people are reading from?  What good does shouting insults and displaying love do?  Jesus even said that God Loved The World!  When he confronted sins of those who needed it he expressed love for them.  If it is good enough for Jesus and Paul, it ought to be good enough for us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The most dangerous people

"For me to live is Christ & to die is gain"
Philippians 1:21
Have you ever met the eternal optimist who never lets anything get to them. They don't just look at the glass half full- they look at an empty glass like it is over flowing. No matter what anyone does to them they look at the good in everything.

Our pastor is preaching a series on Philippians & it is my favorite book in the Bible. I love how no matter what happened to Paul he was always rejoicing. His joy wasn't based on his circumstances but on his relationship with Jesus. Next to Jesus Paul suffered more than anyone in the New Testament. He was ship wrecked, beaten, left for dead & inprisoned multiple times. But Paul found reasons to rejoice even in these horrible times.

Paul reminds me of the professional wrestler who is being beaten to a pulp but just when you think he is out he finds new strength & wins the match. People who live wreckless Christian lives are dangerous! No matter what you do to them they win. Paul said if he dies he wins cause he gets to go to heaven & see Jesus. But if he stays he wins cause he gets to preach Jesus! No matter what happens he wins! That is the most dangerous person in the world!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Debt Free living

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8 NASB)
With so much turmoil on the earth, world leaders try every diplomatic way to achieve peace. Nations have summits, visit each other's countries and write treaties. We can't even get along in our own nation, so how do we think we will achieve world peace? National peace? Most people don't even have peace at home. How do we achieve peace?

Have you ever owed anything? Of course that is a dumb question cause we live in a country that is in debt over our heads.  We try to live debt free financially & that prevents us from going places we'd like to go. But we don't feel the financial burdens of having to pay off those debts either. Unfortunately medical bills arise and cause stress, so I do understand debt.  I believe the worst debts I encounter in my care sessions are relationship debts. I've met financially broke people who had joy overflowing because their relationships were solid. They had few regrets. But when I encounter a person who has relationship debts, they struggle to make it through each day. Everyone needs to be loved. Everyone!

As I was studying my Bible I came upon the verse above. I'm sure I've read it 100's of times but today it hit me like a ton of bricks. God doesn't want us to owe anything to anyone but to love them. If you think about it, if we truly loved the way Jesus taught us to we wouldn't have the turmoil we have in our homes. We wouldn't have wars & crime. I realize that we live in a sinful world, but what would happen if just a few believers in Jesus truly loved unconditionally? What would happen if American churches loved and owed nothing to anyone but love? What if followers of Jesus became known for love instead of what we are against?

Maybe the law would actually be fulfilled.....

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why our "WHY" is important

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. Your brother has come, he replied, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound. The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, Look! All these years Ive been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him! My son, the father said, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (Luke 15:25-32 NIV) 
Our ministry began to look at why we do what we do.  I thought it was our mission statement but as we debated and prayed it became apparent that it is found in Luke 10:27--To Love God and Love People. As I was thinking about our "Why" it became apparent that I didn't always believe all of Luke 10:27.  I loved God but I'm not sure how much I truly loved people.  In the passage above you will a young man who loved God.  But he didn't love people.  His father did, but the older brother had God compartmentalized. He was like the Pharisee who asked Jesus what must he do to inherit eternal life?  I think the Pharisee and the older brother both loved God but they didn't love people.  They probably like a lot of us who had a check list that let them know the score with Jesus. 

Before I was called to the ministry I was a High School Football coach.  We always told our guys to give 100%.  But in our Christian life some of us only give 50%.  I dare say most Christians love God, but how many truly love people?  We all know the story of the younger brother in the passage before the one above.  He blew everything before he realized he had everything at home.  He humbly came back to his father.  We see that daily in our mission fields.  But I dare say there are many Christians who are like the Older Brother.  Many of us dealt with Older Brothers/Sisters in our churches.  Many people say they love people, but what they really mean is they want the people to become like them.

I'm going to be transparent.  I was the older brother.  I was blessed to be brought up in a ministry family.  My dad's ministry was to Prodigals and just plan pagans.  I was spoiled and had 2 parents who loved me and shared Jesus with me at a very young age.  I loved God, but I didn't love people.  In fact, I didn't like the people my dad was ministering to.  I thought I was better than them.  I had my check list that proved how spiritual I was.  I read my Bible, check.  I prayed, check. I tithed, check, etc....  If I saw someone who sinned, I would point it out.  I graded my spiritual life vs others.  I was wrong but it was my life. My dad's staff shared with him how I had become a snob and he confronted me.  But it took something to really shake up my life.

I had a friend named Jimmy (not his real name).  Jimmy and I were best friends in high school.  We were both active in our church and were both in a discipleship group together and did everything together.  But Jimmy met a young girl name Suzie (not her real name) and they began dating.  She was active in her church but began pulling Jimmy away from our church.  One day Jimmy confided in me that he was in an intimate relationship with Suzie. I told him that he was wrong, but unlike my judgmental attitude towards others I stayed Jimmy's friends.  One day 3 months before graduation, Jimmy pulled into the school parking lot and asked me to get in his car.  He told me that he and Suzie were getting married that Saturday and he wanted me to be his best man.  He then told me that Suzie was pregnant.  You could have hit me in the stomach with a baseball bat.  Had it been anyone else I would have poured on the heathen remarks.  Had it been anyone else I would have turned my back on Jimmy. But this was my best friend.  I was like the Grinch at that moment.  My heart changed.  I loved Jimmy.  I began to see how Christians especially at my church turned on Jimmy and Suzie.  Despite my attempts to be their friend, they both dropped out of church and today Jimmy is in jail. I could go into more detail, but needless to say, that was when I realized that people mattered to God. 


Up until that point, I looked at people like Jimmy and Suzie as sinners not realizing that I was sinning by my judgmental attitude.  I'm not saying that the inner Pharisee doesn't come up in my from time to time but today I get moved by lives that our changed.  I believe God has called each of us to not only love Him but to love people.  Why?  Because people matter to God.  In the first part of Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories of how much people matter to Him.  A man lost his sheep and went on an all out search for the one sheep.  A woman lost an coin and went looking for that coin.  Then the prodigal left and God allowed him to leave but always was looking for him.  Instead of being like they older brother, God wants us to search for lost people and rejoice when they come to know him.  The biggest party we can ever imagine occurs when lost person comes to know Christ.  Why? Because people matter to God.  So instead of being partial Christians I want to challenge each of us to Love God & Love People.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Is it really Good News?

"Our nation is going downhill"
"We've lost our way"
"Lord help us"
"America is in crisis" 

Insert your own favorite line.  I'm not going to pretend that I haven't had those thoughts.  But how does saying derogatory things about our nation or world in public help us in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ?  Just because we don't agree with something, doesn't mean we have to shout it from the Mountain Tops!  Publicly blasting our someone who isn't a follower of Jesus comes across as mean spirited.  Claiming that we are being persecuted is going to fall on deaf ears. Why do some Christians continually look for the next opportunity to be offended?

This is why I love the Apostle Paul.  He was shipwrecked, left for dead and put in jail but he was constantly giving thanks to God.  He was trashed by people outside of the Christian faith and from fellow believers.  Yet, Paul always looked at things from a positive perspective.  Whenever I read Paul's letters I get a heavy dose of conviction.  What right do I have to be offended by someone who doesn't claim to have a relationship with Jesus?  Why should we expect people outside the church to have the same convictions that we have?

Do circumstances and events in the world point to things getting worse? Yes.  But what time in History didn't?  When I read or talk to people who were around during World War II, that was a time of uncertainty.  I remember how scary things were during the Cold War.  If we believe that complaining or voting certain ways are going to change our world we are greatly mistaken.  The only thing that will change our society at any time in History is to turn to God. But putting "Turn or Burn" signs or anything like that on our church billboards will only turn people away.

I know that when things are rough for me I enjoy hearing good news.  I think the same is true for people who are struggling in their lives.  If things are going well, people don't think they need God.  But when things are tense or their world is falling apart, people want to hear good news.  What better news can we share than the truth that Jesus died for their sins? So is the "NEWS" we are spreading "GOOD" or are we turning people away?