Life Beyond Sunday
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September 10, 2008 :: Author:
More Thoughts On Love
Over the past few weeks, we've been looking at Jesus' example and command to love people. We've talked about some of the reasons that it's so hard to build quality relationships. Not enough time, energy, or money are all things that keep people from getting involved with their neighbors, co-workers, etc. . .So I was at Lifeway Christian Stores the other day and saw a bunch of Max Lucado and Women of Faith boxed cards on sale (Buy 1 Box, Get 1 Free). Some were birthday cards, but most were just encouragement or "praying for you" cards. It seemed like an easy way to let people know that I was thinking about them, and it's not a huge financial or time committment. I know that it seems little, but loving people isn't about big events, it's about being intentional and genuine in caring for the people around you.
Step 1: Buying the cards (Done)
Step 2: Sending the cards (In Progress:)
July 11, 2008 :: Author:
Everything Rises and Falls On Leadership – Or Does It?
I have long heard it said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” That’s one of those statements I have always believed . . . that is until my wife challenged my thinking recently. Upon return from a trip she made to
she mentioned that she heard one of the people say, “Everything rises and falls on relationship.”
I initially translated that comment in the context of outreach to Muslims and agreed that certainly relationships are important. But might there me more to that statement: Everything rises and falls on relationship?
That led me to think about the Greatest Commandment – the one about loving God. It also made me think about the Second Greatest Commandment – the one to love people. If those are the greatest responsibilities we have in terms of obedience, than everything must rise and fall on relationship.
Lately as I’ve considered how humanism has crept into my thinking I’ve realized that at the end of the day my flesh wants to rule. I want to think it all depends on me. God didn’t design the universe to function that way. He wants us to depend on Him – to know Him and for our lives to flow from Him.
June 25, 2008 :: Author:
Thoughts on Prince Caspian
It took me a month, but I finally was able to see the latest Narnia installment, Prince Caspian. Before heading to the show a friend of mine told me to be on the look out for a scene ¾ of the way through the movie. That was it. Be on the look out for this scene, I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.
FYI – I am not a movie buff. I only see a handful of movies a year, and that includes DVD. So what do you look for when you’re watching a movie hoping to catch “the scene?” Do you look for special affects? Do you listen for a funny catch phrase? Do you look for a good spiritual principle?
My attention was drawn to this scene that took place in Aslan’s lair (Aslan is the Christ figure in Narnia). The children were torn between with what they should or should do in a particular situation. They were torn between what they knew to be right and what their life experience was telling them at the moment. As their conflict increased the white witch appeared on the scene, interestingly enough, frozen in ice. She did not have free reign to do what she wished with the children, only to tempt them to choose her ways instead of what they knew to be right.
When the conflict seemed to be almost too much, one of the children smashed the ice, causing the white witch to disappear. Behind the ice was a portrait of Aslan. I felt this was a clear picture of what the enemy tries to do. Our enemy tries to prevent us from seeing Christ. What we need in the midst of our challenges is Christ and the enemy will do whatever he can to prevent us from seeing Him.
In case you were wondering . . . I didn’t get the scene right. He was referring to a special affects seen at the end . . . which was pretty cool.
June 14, 2008 :: Author:
Being Hungry is Great!
C. S. Lewis once wrote, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
Inside each person is a longing for something better, something greater. People try to satisfy this longing through a variety of means. Money, success, nice houses, family, sex, booze, drugs, television, the internet, and religion are just some of the ways that people attempt to fulfill this insatiable longing. Maybe you have felt this way before, like everywhere you turn the grass looks greener than where you are. Like a mirage on the horizon that looks so wonderful, but you can't ever quite reach. Maybe you feel this way right now. Perhaps you feel this way a lot. I've got bad news, none of the things listed above will EVER fill that longing. They may provide a temporary relief, but not lasting satisfaction.
The GOOD NEWS however, is that there is a promise of being filled. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled." As C.S. Lewis indicated, nothing on this Earth can fill our hunger, but Jesus can satisfy us. He satisfies us by giving us His righteousness, and allowing us to meet and experience God. When you come into the prescence of the one who created you, and through whom all things are held together, what else do you need?
Yesterday, I had a wonderful discussion with a coworker, who expressed his frustration regarding "Christians." This young man is searching for the truth, and wrestling with the realities of this world. He describes walking in the forest near his house and told me he sees God there every afternoon. When he reads the Bible it rings true. However when he visits chruches, he doesn't see God anywhere. My coworker described the churches he has attended, as being about themselves, and vastly different from the God he identifies in the Bible, or the one that made his forest.
I hope that one day he experiences the saving grace and communion with the God he seeks. In the meantime, I am thankful that New Life is a body of people who truly seek after God, and do not look for satisfaction in the things of this world. Praise God that our theology and our reality are not so far apart that they set us up for ridicule.
June 4, 2008 :: Author:
How Athletics Influenced My Christianity
I just love it when people can put words to something I’ve been thinking or feeling and simply haven’t been able to express it. Last week I had a good conversation with my friend Matt. I never got to know Matt that well, but he married my wife’s roommate in college so I’ve known him for quite a while. He and I have crossed paths a couple of times over the years, and recently I felt prompted to give him a call. I’m glad I did.
During our conversation Matt articulated something I needed to hear. He said in the circles we’ve been raised in, we’ve been God-dependent when it comes to salvation, but self-dependent in our sanctification. For those of you who just freaked out with the word, “sanctification,” let me translate. What he’s saying is that we rely way too much on self when it comes to living out our Christianity. Sanctification is the biblical word that refers to the working out of what Christ works in us.
The more I think about this, I realize my friend had hit the nail on the head. Few people I associate with would debate that we can save ourselves, but admittedly we don’t live our daily lives as if everything totally depends on Christ. While we may say that we need Christ, our actions often times speak as though it depends on us. At the end of the day, it’s what I do, not what Christ does through me.
Since I spoke with Matt I’ve reflected on my past and I’ve realized something. What made me a good baseball player made me a lousy Christian. As baseball player I knew that the more worked, the better I would become. As a Christian I can work my entire life and unless God does something, I cannot please God. You see it’s not what I do that pleases God, but rather what Christ does through me that pleases God.
We must learn to be totally God-dependent in all areas of our lives. On the way to being “productive” or in our efforts to “accomplish” something for God we must remember that without Christ we are nothing. In
John 15:5 Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing.” That means we can’t impress God with what we do. However, we can please God when we have faith in Him and rest in what He desires to do through us.
May 31, 2008 :: Author:
Where Are God's Men and Women?
"Where are the young men and women of this generation who will hold their lives cheap and be faithful even unto death? Where are those who will lose their lives for Christ's sake -- flinging them away for love of him? Where are those who will live dangerously and be reckless in his service? Where are his lovers -- those who love him and the souls of men more than their own reputations or comfort or very life?
Where are the men who will say 'no' to self, who take up Christ's cross to bear it after him; who are willing to be nailed to it in college or office, home or mission field; who are willing, if need be, to bleed, to suffer and to die on it?
Where are the men of vision today? Where are the men of enduring vision? Where are the men who have seen the King in his beauty, by whom from henceforth all else is counted but refuse that they may win Christ? Where are the adventurers, the explorers, the buccaneers for God who count one human soul of far greater value than the rise or fall of an empire? Where are the men who glory in God-sent loneliness, difficulties, persecutions, misunderstandings, discipline, sacrifice, death? Where are the men who are willing to pay the price of vision?
Where are the men of prayer? Where are the men who, like Job of old, count God's Word of more importance to them than their daily food? Where are the men who, like Moses, commune with God face to face as a man speaks with his friend and unmistakably bear with them the fragrance of the meeting through the day?
Where are God's men in this day of God's power?"
- Howard Guinness, Sacrifice, pages 59-60
While in France, I was at a loss to answer a worker who asked me this exact question. I promised him I would ask this same question when I returned. Where are the men? Who is willing to reject this world, and embrace the cross? There are whole nations dying. Yet we comfortably prefer to pursue in our lives the things that THIS world treasures, and play blind to the glaring discrepancy in the world. People will not be persuaded to worship God because they see how wealthy, healthy, and prosperous Christians are. This will not impress them. What will convince them is when we embrace suffering as joy, counting loss as gain, and persecution as a sweet gift.
This world teaches the pursuit of wealth, health, power, success, fame, long life, nice houses, popularity, and self gratification are worthy. Jesus talked about being poor in spirit, mourning, being meek, hungering for righteousness, being merciful, being pure, making peace, being persecuted and insulted as the things worth rejoicing in. Yet we embrace the world.
Where are God's men? If given the choice today, would you choose a million-dollar house, a luxury car, a wonderful spouse, and plenty of money to burn, or the opportunity to become a martyr for the sake of Christ? Which do you desire more? How about the martyrdom of your children? Who will count that as gain?
Where are the men? We are in a great spiritual battle, and it is being fought largely by women. I am privileged to know a few of God's men and women. But fewer men than women. Men, let me give you permission. It is okay not to make a pile of money, to go into the world of business, medicine, law or agriculture and make your mark. It is okay to live in a small house, or rented apartment. It is okay to relocate your family or to "downgrade" your lifestyle. Christ is worth more. Who cares if men think highly of you or if they despise you. Christ is more.
Where are God's men and women who will reject the world and embrace the cross?
May 27, 2008 :: Author:
When It Rains It Pours
Do you ever feel like the problems of life all seem to snowball, one on top of another? That has happened recently to my friend John in
Kenya. Since my time with him in
Kenya a month ago he’s had to endure one challenge after another – none of them easy.
He recently wrote this to me,
“I would like you to know we buried our late father yesterday and surely I preached and shared about the hope of glory, Jesus Christ. My cousins, relatives and mourners were touched by the message. Pastor Matt rest assured that however much the enemy does, I’m stable and firm to God’s vision and task.”
I am always blessed when I hear testimonies like this. They inspire me. I want to have an attitude like this – an attitude that says in the midst of even the most painful experiences, “I have hope.”
I believe Christ wants to produce hope in us. We just need to get “us” out of the way. In order to become the people God intends for us to be, we must die to self. I’m realizing as long as I’m in the way, not much good is going to come out of me, but with God I can expect the impossible.
The change in me isn’t going to come in the mourning over my problems, but with what God does in response to it. Godly mourning brings God’s forgiveness, which brings God’s happiness, which is what I desire. The Lord is with those whose hearts are close to His . . . and He’ll use even the most difficult moments to get us where we need to be.
May 20, 2008 :: Author:
God of Justice
This is a video of what we saw God doing in Kitale and Simbanga Kenya during our two week trip in April, 2008. We visited IDP camps in Kachibora, Endebess, and Shogrund. We came from 3 diferent churches in central Ohio: New Life Hilliard, Ekklesia, and New Life OSU and partnered with a grass roots, indigenous church in Simbanga called Liberty Ministries. God is awesome.
Click the picture below to get to the You Tube video.
May 16, 2008 :: Author:
Get to know me... Jesus
From the Desk of Pastor Matt . . .
In my quiet moments I’ve been hearing God say, “Write. Write down what you are learning.” I’ve tried once to write only to get snowballed by life, but I want to try again. A mentor of mine,
Towns, once told me, “
Reading makes one a broad man. Writing makes one an exact man.” I’d like to work at being a little more exact with everything that has been going on in my heart/head.
QUESTIONS I’M WRESTLING WITH . . .
I used to think I was a church-growth guy. I may still be – I’m just not any good at it. When you’re so programmed to think “production” it’s easy to let your mind think that’s what life is about. How much can I produce for God? What can I do for God? It’s interesting how when something doesn’t seem right or isn’t going right, our natural tendency is to think: “What must I do to fix the problem?”
I’m not sure those are the right questions. Let’s get real – how many books need to be written before we find the answer? It seems to me every author has an answer that is a little better or a little different than the next. I’m not sure another method is the answer.
The more I reflect and talk with Christians engaging the conversation, the more I become convinced the greatest problems do not have to do with what we are or are not doing. The problems are a bit deeper.
Jesus demanded that we not only do right, but that we must be right. In one exchange He told some people that their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 5:20). That’s what you would call an impossible task. And I think that was His point. The life Christ call us to is impossible.
There is a life that Christ calls us to live. We just can’t do it on our own. It must be lived through Him.
The invitation from Christ to us is simple. Get to know me. See if I can’t change you and change things through you.
For More Reflection read