Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Resurrection Hope

It was my joy and pleasure to lead worship at Southwest Church of Christ for our Easter service. It was also a huge blessing to be asked to speak and take our hearts to the Lord's Supper. Here are the words I spoke:

As we celebrate Jesus Christ, our hope, who is risen. And, as we prepare to take the Lord ’s Supper together, I would like us to think about Hope.

We use “hope” to describe a number of life situations:
- I “hope” I get that job I applied for.
- My throat is sore. I “hope” I don’t get sick this week.
- I “hope” I get an A on my final. I need my average to go up before school ends.
- Politicians who declare they are the “hope” of our nation.
- I “hope” we go somewhere good for lunch.
Maybe I’m being too hard on our vocabulary.

The people of Jesus’ day had a different hope.
They had heard the many prophecies and believed this man would come and lead them. They were under the rule of many earthly kingdoms throughout history; Egypt, Syrian, Babylonian, Greek, and Roman empires. They wanted to return to being the chosen people again. So much so, they marched Jesus in on a donkey in Triumph so he could reign and free them from the rule of the Caesars and the Herods.

However, Jesus knew his kingdom would be different. It crushed the hope of many to learn Jesus wasn't there to sit on a throne and build armies. When they saw their King killed, they lost all hope. Where would they turn? Many times the crowds would walk away from Jesus because he wasn’t doing what they thought he was going to do. There are many who are still waiting. They don’t believe the real Messiah was Jesus. So they wait for the real Messiah to come to earth and live up to the picture of hope and kingdoms they believe are supposed to be manifested here on earth and crush and conquer the tyranny they are ruled under. Many of us wonder when that day will come.

The Hope we have in Jesus is bigger than that. The kind of hope we have in Jesus is the kind talked about by the Hebrew author:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Our Hope is alive! Jesus, our Hope, lives! He conquered death and the grave. We KNOW Jesus is coming again for us, therefore, we have hope! We have assurance and conviction that the plan is sealed. Jesus sealed our future with the breaking of his body and the spilling of his blood and by raising from the dead and showing himself to his closest friends. This is known as the Good News…the Gospel.

Through this small meal, we eat and remember the words of Christ. We remember his promise to save us. We anticipate his promise that we will enter his Kingdom. Jesus Christ reigns on his throne. And we eat and proclaim the coming King until the day of his return.


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Rundown - 5

Some things going through my head this week...

- Don't give me a hard time that I haven't been keeping up with these "weekly" updates weekly.
- The standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and Clive Bundy's Ranch/supporters is just more evidence that we do not live in a truly free country.
- I am happy that those who were there were willing to stand up to armed agents.
- I am afraid that there will be a future confrontation that will end in the loss of multiple lives.
- The media will blame the Tea Party.
- They will say they were just nut jobs that weren't thinking rationally. And it was justified violence. And it will keep us subservient to their will and we will have lost more freedom and liberty.
- "We the People" need less government intervention in our lives.
- That includes less taxes, less regulation, and less hoops to jump through just to make decisions on how we live our lives.
- The framers of the Constitution only allowed for our government to own 10 square miles around Washington DC for the "Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings." For them to confiscate land for all use and to "preserve" animals like the desert tortoise (which is not endangered...they recently killed 1,000 because of OVERpopulation) is illegal, yet we have allowed them to continue to take from "We the People".
- It must be Easter time. That fragment was brought out again with different "experts".
- Those that are anti-Christ love to drag out anything that might harm the faith...or at least cause people to doubt.
- I think they totally throw true scientific method out the window in order to make Christians look bad.
- If we did that with other scientific truths we would be attacked severely (and we are a lot anyway), but they always get a pass in the scientific community when it is about Christianity.
- This fragment isn't even in complete sentences.
- It was debunked in 2012 at Easter time when they did it then.
- There will be another fragment or claim made around Christmas time.
- It's pretty predictable. Easter and Christmas. The world spends most of their time doubting. Christians shouldn't give doubt the time of day. The world has enough to go around.
- Look at how they mocked Mr. T at the WWE Hall of Fame...though I disagree with a lot of his theology, but he read scripture and they mocked him.
- Our church is focusing on "Going Deeper" this year and our message at Easter is about Hope; a much better message than a false fragment with 8 partial sentences on it.
- Do I think it matters if Jesus was married? I might. But that argument doesn't matter because it's over something that is void of scholarship. I could ask an equally valid question: Why do they assume it is Mary Magdalene? I think they have too much DaVinci on the brain.
- I think the issue is more about what it does to try to push the egalitarians forward. That's more harmful than the issue of whether Jesus was married.
- I am doubly convinced the egalitarian movement in the churches of Christ are harming our churches and our men and leadership. As I watch them advance, I see more and more of these churches shrinking and closing their doors and men walking away from the church.
- Other unbiblical messages usually follow right behind egalitarianism.
- I'm having the time of my life teaching the Bible and leading worship at our church. They are special people.
- After a 3 year break, I am ready to be in regular ministry work again.
- My sabbatical from Facebook has been great. I don't miss it.
- I miss talking to my friends though.
- I've been reading some great books lately.
- Portland's foray into football isn't doing so hot.
- Our Timbers are having a rough season too.
- Hoping Hillsboro Hops baseball do well this Boston Red Sox are in last place so far.

That's what is on my mind this week. These are merely my opinions. You don't have to accept them at all.


Book Review: The Samson Syndrome

Many men feel invincible but deep down struggle with many things that make them feel like weak failures. In The Samson Syndrome, Mark Atteberry addresses several lessons men can learn from the baddest boy of the Bible, Samson.

Samson was strong, but he failed mightily. In the end, he stood strong to be who he was created to be and was honored for it. That is our call too. I liked The Samson Syndrome. It was a fun, quick read with some really funny stories scattered among the helpful advice. I found out this is a re-release of the book with the same name from 2003.

I also really enjoyed the study of the man Samson. It is not very often we get a book that goes in-depth into a biblical person and gives us advice how to avoid their pitfalls in a way that is so practical and biblical. For a book that was released 10 years ago, this was a refreshing read and feels just as relevant today. I really give Atteberry a lot of praise for this book.

I give The Samson Syndrome 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book free from the Harper Collins BookLook program. I was not required to write a favorable review. I was only asked to be honest. The words are my own.

Book Review: The Dude's Guide to Manhood

I love the amount of books that are being released geared toward men and biblical manhood. It's refreshing and it makes me feel like the publishing industry is finally giving us some attention. Men have had to struggle in their faith as the church has become more and more feminized with "Jesus is my girlfriend" songs and women becoming ministers, preachers, and elders and taking the leadership role away from their men. It is a subject I take seriously so I was excited to read The Dude's Guide to Manhood by Darrin Patrick.

In Dude's Guide, Mister Patrick takes us to several subjects we dudes tend to need advice and help with. He gives practical advice about how to treat our relationships, coping with sin, and how to grow more healthy in our daily walk in life, in work, and in being content. Patrick teaches us how it is important for us to be successful in these areas in order to lead our families and our churches to their best.

Patrick's book takes a very easy approach in writing style. It was very readable. Darrin Patrick is the chaplain for the St. Louis Cardinals and also a minister in the same city. So, he uses a lot of sports references for the dudes that like that style. I think The Dude's Guide to Manhood is a great addition to my Man Library. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book free from the Harper Collins BookLook program. I was not required to write a favorable review. I was only asked to be honest. The words are my own.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Flat Scripture

I overheard a couple of people talking theology and they were speaking about how Scripture should be read, understood, and exegeted. I don't really know what conclusions they ultimately made about how one should read God's Word, but one thing they kept repeating is that to believe that the Gospel is about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and that to go and proclaim this Good News to the world was a "flat" reading of scripture. That to do so was too individualistic and lifeless. It robs God the ability to work in and through a community of people for the Kingdom. And, it leaves out the poor and helpless.

I found that pretty offensive. I believe that God's Word is so dynamic and alive. That the words written for the people then and for us now are powerful. The thing is, words have meaning. If we go to God's Word and read it in context, we can determine what was being said and why it was being said. We can apply it in that fashion and use for us today. The Gospel of Jesus is such Good News because it is for EVERYONE.

To say that I can have eternal life through Jesus today because of his great sacrifice is not "flat". It's the truth. And for us to think we're better than The Writer of Scripture is heresy. It's not clever. It isn't encouraging. We aren't called to rethink Scripture in order to keep people coming. We're called to proclaim this Good News to everyone we meet.

The Gospel is for all people, not just poor and alienated people. The rich need to hear this message as much as the poor...because in reality, we are all poor. We are all alienated. We are all prisoners. We all have sinned and need Jesus.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." -- Matthew 5:3
We don't have to reinvent Scripture for it to be alive and amazing. It doesn't have to be a eureka moment every time someone preaches God's Word. We don't need for it to say something different every time out of fear of it being boring and repetitive and "flat". We know from His Word that the message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing.

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." -- 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Paul called it from the beginning of the church. This has been happening for a long time. Trying to reinvent God's Word for today is not Good News. THAT robs God. THAT is what Jesus warned us about.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." -- Matthew 7:15-20
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." -- Galatians 1:6-9
I can tell you that I don't live an "individualistic" Christianity. I am seeking to produce fruit out of the salvation I have received from this Gospel of Jesus. It is a faith full of joy, hope, love, evangelism, helping the helpless, and proclaiming Christ and Him crucified. And I am not alone. I know too many people doing the same thing. You cannot call THAT flat.

In my opinion, the new theologies (which are just recycled old heresies) are the ones that are flat. They are flat wrong. Those theologies truly rob us of the joy in Christ by alienating people from hope. The truth is we are all sinners and need Jesus to save us. What joy he brings when we finally find salvation!

Call me "flat", but I find the true Gospel much more appealing than recycled folly.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Movie: Building The Machine

I am among the many parents and educators who are unhappy with the Common Core State Standards that have been implemented in our schools. I have spent the last year learning as much as I can about it. I believe I have become very informed about where this came from and how it is used. I have been working with others to get it removed and for us to work on something that takes education and teaches our kids the basics of education and gives our teachers more freedom to be creative and yet, not be penalized by state tests. CCSS has been giving us nothing but issues and problems in our home. My son, especially, has been struggling to keep up. As an adult, I have had trouble even being able to help my kids with their homework.

So, I found out there is a film about Common Core. Here it is. Please take 40 minutes to watch it and learn more about the Core.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

When I'm Gone

I had an encounter with Crazy Love by Francis Chan today. Chapter 9 is interesting. He makes a list of people who he feels are living their lives with the "crazy" love that we should have as disciples of Jesus. While I disagree with a couple of the aforementioned people and their teaching, the idea of what people would say of me when I am gone (and now that dumb Cup Game song is in my head) got me thinking.

I made an exercise out of Chapter 9. What would people say about me? What would my legacy be? The future is uncertain, but I have some ideas of what I would like said of me. It goes a little like:

Mike was a man full of wisdom. He always listened to what someone had to say. He was always gentle but firm when it came to helping people grow. He had the Word living in his heart and could recite applicable verses to any situation and he lived his faith as wasn't Pharisaical knowledge with nothing behind it. Mike had a big heart and loved with righteous love. He laughed with those who were joyful and cried with the hurting. His desire was for everyone to forsake evil and he expected a lot from people. If they were lacking, he wanted to help them mature. Mike saw holiness as the most important virtue one could have. He prayed daily for wisdom and searched Scripture for knowledge. He never thought he achieved the kind of wisdom he sought but in many people's eyes, he surpassed it. Mike was the wisest man we knew. He was gifted in leading worship, teaching, listening, loving, and encouraging others every chance he got. He embraced the Gospel of Jesus as the best news anyone could hear. Today, his children and grandchildren are continuing his legacy.
I may not have written this perfectly. Some may disagree with some of these qualities--that they aren't good things to have said. I like to think that this is good even if some of it is difficult to accept. It sounds good to me.

Why did I choose wisdom? I love the story of Solomon and how he could have asked God for anything and chose wisdom. God gave him more than he had asked.

I also heard an account that Socrates was called the wisest man in Greece by the Oracle of Delphos. Ironically, Socrates said, "There could be nothing in me to verify the oracle, except this: I am not wise and I know it, and others are not wise and know it not."

I believe that "Mike is wise" is the best thing I could have said of me and it is something I am striving for. Some day maybe? I am doing my best. I may never know when I achieve it. I also like the idea that my children are learning something from me. I am praying for them to have the kind of maturity that would make Jesus proud.

What would you want said about you?
What steps are you taking to get there?
How can I be an encouragement to you to take a step forward in doing it?
Do you have someone you can share this with who can keep you accountable?
Pray about it and ask God for wisdom in what steps you need to take to get there.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Christian Boycotts

 With all the controversies that happen daily with people and companies, you would think we had an epidemic of foot-in-mouth disease. It seems that every day another company insults Christians and our beliefs. They don't think they are being offensive until there is an uproar. Sometimes, the uproar is necessary. We're called to point out false teachers when they try to subvert the Word of God. But there are also times when we should be silent.

The Noah movie is out now and many Christians are really angry about it. The movie is directed by an atheist and the reason Noah builds an ark has more to do with a green environmental objective rather than hearing from God that the world is wicked.

World Vision's president decided to loosen their hiring policy to be open to homosexuals as long as they are married under the law of their state. Then he back-pedaled from the pressure of all the outraged Christians who rightly claimed that while the state may recognize these unions, as Christians we should not condone them.

I am okay with boycotts of companies that you do not agree with. I am NOT okay with making it a public boycott and screaming that we should all boycott these companies. I think our response as Christians should be to do what we feel is right and that which makes our conscience clean. If you choose to boycott a company, politely tell them why and leave it at that. If someone asks you about that company and whether you shop there or use their service, you can politely tell them why you don't. I just don't think it is helping our witness to call publicly for boycotts.

I like World Vision and their mission. The decision to allow homosexuals to be employed is theirs alone. Likewise, it is up to me whether I will give them my business or not. The same goes for the Noah movie. The same goes for a number of others I have chosen to not give my business.

That is my decision. There are some companies I will not associate with because of their contempt for people like me. To be like Christ is to pray for all of them and the issues they have. As for Noah, I don't know that I will go see it in the theaters only because it doesn't sound like it isn't faithful to Genesis. I will probably catch it on Netflix to know what it was about and because the special effects looked amazing in the trailer. I will encourage everyone to support God Is Not Dead in the theaters and on May 6th at 7:30pm to find a theater showing Irreplaceable by Focus on the Family. Both are filmed with an aim to honor God.

If you choose to boycott them or World Vision, please keep it between you and the company. Screaming that you are boycotting World Vision and everyone else should too is only going to hurt the many children that need sponsorships. If you already sponsor a child through WV, you should contact them and let them know you are not happy with their decision, but keep sending money for those kids. They need our help.

The Christian thing to do in all of this is to make the decision for yourselves. If it is a matter of a false teacher, call them out, but do it gently with scripture to back it up. But please remember we are hurting our witness of Jesus when we mistreat others...and I may not be completely consistent in every boycott I choose. There are likely companies I endorse that do the exact thing the companies I boycott do. That is why it is important to keep these to myself.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Communion Thoughts: March 23, 2014

I had a rare opportunity to lead our church with some thoughts for Communion on Sunday. I know some people wanted to hear them but weren't there. So, I thought I would share them here for you. A few people told me they were helpful and good thoughts...I am glad they were. My prayer every time I get an opportunity is to uplift those who are listening.

I hope they are encouraging to you as you think about the Lord's supper.

For the Bread:
Matthew 26:26
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body…’”
Jesus was clear that this meal was the living embodiment of him, his example of life and death. Every time going forward, these disciples would gather to eat and break bread with one another in homes, with friends, family, strangers, they would remember all that they had seen and heard. It would live in their hearts. The smell of bread baking would remind them of the teaching Jesus had done and help them remember their purpose to share the Gospel with everyone they meet. They would treat one another as brothers and sisters. Family.

Paul would tell this story again to the church in Corinth and we read now in 1 Corinthians 11. That as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we would be proclaiming to the world that Christ physically died but he rose again for us. THAT is Good News.

Paul then fittingly goes on in the next chapter to talk about us being one body. He speaks of one body with many parts, how we all have a purpose and need one another…and I believe Paul is bringing us full circle today to what Jesus was also doing in breaking bread with his brothers.

As Jesus proclaims that this bread is his flesh and by eating it we are making a bold declaration, it is a tribute to what we are actually doing together. Just as the bread is being broken in front of them and hearing that this is his body, Jesus looks across the table as we are doing today and proclaims

THIS [I held my hands out to the people of the church] is my body.

As the body of Christ, by breaking bread together and communing in his name, we are taking a bold step to proclaim Christ’s death until he comes again. When I take and eat, I think about how every barrier must fall as I eat together with my brothers and sisters. To eat this bread means I must love again as I have been loved by Christ. Past pain, issues, disagreements, and hatred must be no more. I am no longer mine alone, but I am now part of a chorus of voices proclaiming the one thing the world needs to hear. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, our very Savior is alive! Believe! Follow him as I follow him!

THIS is my body. Take and eat.

Father, we humbly thank you for this bread. For the hands that made it…and for those that serve it. As we take this together, let us be aware of one another. As we commune, fill us with the love we should have for those that are sitting near us and for those across this room and around the world. As we pass the bread, open our eyes to ways we might serve the person that we share this food and give us strength in our weakness. Thank you for family. Thank you for the body. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!

For the cup:
Matthew 26:27-29:
“...And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.’”
As Jesus continued in this meal, he took a cup of wine and used it to tell his disciples why he had to die. As Jesus shed his blood for us and our sins, he took on our punishment that he did not deserve. He did not want to suffer, but knew of the covenant he had made. It did not prevent him from asking to be freed from the coming crucifixion. Twice, he prays for God to not only save his people but to save him from the punishment.
Matthew 26:39 and again in verse 42:
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’”
“Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’”
Jesus wanted the cup to pass by him; for him to not have to drink it. He knew what it meant. By giving the cup to his disciples, he knew he would be fulfilling its meaning. For him, this cup of sacrifice was bitter. There are traditions in other cultures who drink literal bitter drink because they want to be reminded of what a bitter cup this was for Jesus. Today, we know what a gift and sweet blessing we have been given. We can take some solace in drinking our sweetened cup as a reminder that the Good News of Jesus truly is sweet. We have forgiveness of sins. We anticipate the day we can drink this fruit of the vine with him anew in our Father’s kingdom.

Father, we are humbled to know the sacrifice Jesus made. That in the bitter cup of death, we have been blessed with the sweet cup of life. Let this cup be a reminder that we are to share the cup of Good News with others…to let them know of forgiveness of sins and how it comes from above in Jesus’ name. And it is in his name we pray, Amen!

For our offering:
We have communed together in the name of Jesus. By doing so, we have made a bold proclamation that Jesus is Lord. We have shouted aloud that he died and rose from the grave and lives today. We share that he will come again for his children and we will live together in eternity. It was a great sacrifice for God to send his son into the world. For Jesus it was a sacrifice to allow himself to be crucified for us.
Luke 12:48b
“...From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
We have been given more than we could ever ask. As disciples of Jesus, we are well aware of the sacrifices that have been made for us; sacrifices so much greater than a simple sacrifice of money, service, or time. Because of this, we are called to remember God in our giving. But it should be returned to Him with joy, for it is all His to begin with and He promises so much more. Jesus is risen! He has given us a new and transformed life.

As we pass around baskets, place your offerings inside. We know the joy we have in giving for it reminds us where we place our trust. Pray with me.

Father, lead us to give you all our hearts and all our trust. Lead us in giving back to you in response to the blessings you have given us. Thank you for the cross. Let us be givers to all those we know in our lives. To give to our neighbors and proclaim our giving to be in the name of Jesus for the sake of the world. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Review: Counterfeit Gospels

It can be very difficult to describe the mistakes and differences in why a theological proclamation may not be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There can be subtleties that may make it sound nice and good, but it might be missing parts or the entirety of the Gospel. Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax is a great book that explains the difference between these counterfeits and the true Gospel embodied in Jesus.

Wax takes six of the most common counterfeits and takes us step-by-step through the good, the bad, the noble, and the better way to speak of the true Gospel. Not everything about these counterfeits is bad and he explains why. The six counterfeits discussed in the book are:
Therapeutic: God just wants me to be happy and feel good about myself.
Judgmentless: God won't send me to hell and judge me, the Kingdom is about bringing heaven to earth.
Moralist: God just wants us to have moral and upright behavior.
Quietist: God wants me to be about Him only and ignore the issues that affect people today so I should abstain from politics and voting.
Activist: God just wants me to "live" the gospel and stand up for injustice and the social issues of the day.
Churchless: God doesn't need me to be in a local church, besides, the people are all just hypocrites.
Any of these sound familiar? If they do, you really should read this book. We are called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus to the world and Trevin Wax also does a great job of explaining what exactly the Gospel is and how we do that.

I give Counterfeit Gospels 5 out of 5 stars. Great book!

I purchased this book. I was not asked to give a review, or be favorable one way or another. The words are my own.