BEhave

Have you ever had your mouth washed out with soap? What did you say to receive such a punishment? I vaguely remember the first time I swore in front of my parents. Elementary school recess has a way of exposing young minds to new vocabulary . . . much of which we do not fully understand . . . but we still enjoy the reactions that the words seem to invoke. I made the tragic mistake of once using some of those phrases in front of my parents . . . which only resulted in rub-a-dub-dub (if you know what I am saying). Then there were my middle school years – an era where I spend much of my time being one person at school and a completely different person at home. I knew enough to know that if I ever swore at home my father would come down (and come down hard). Well, the inevitable took place . . . one day I slipped and used the Lord’s name in vain. He stopped everything and said, “What did you just say?” I lied, “Dad, I hear it all the time at school . . . it just came out . . . I never swear, you know that.” One compromise leads to another.

That is the odd aspect of obscenities . . . our words tend to set us a part. I was in a minor accident my junior year of high school – with four friends in the car. After the fact, one of the younger guys said, “I am impressed, Jud, you didn’t even swear.” Right or wrong . . . language was one of his measuerements of integrity. Like it or not, we learn from the examples of those around us (and those placed above us in authority). Julia had her first taste of Tabasco sauce because she chose to use an inappropriate word (repeatedly, I might add). However, as parents, Jana and I are also quickly discovering that many of the words we don’t like Julia to use . . . she first learned by hearing us (i.e. “freakin'”). Pass the Tabasco.

If integrity is so important to us, why do so few of us have it? What tempts us to tarnish our own character? What do we settle for instead? Do we act like Jesus Christ no matter who is around or not? Are we undivided in our allegiance towards God? Would others say that our actions are marked with such qualities as honesty and courage? Have you ever wondered what your reputation really is (what people say about you when you are not in the room with them)? How many of us have fallen prey to being dishonorable a time or two (or three) – choosing to compromise our convictions for a quick and easy gain? How many of us have been dishonest in our lives (lying cheating, or stealing)? Would we tolerate that behavior in someone running for public office? Finally, how many of us have been disgraced in the midste of our mistakes – losing the respect of others (ashamed to even being around them because of what we did)?

Behavior matters. Actions do speak louder than words. Our student ministry is continuing our Fall Focus on Ephesians (Be: The Church that God Dreams of). Paul challenged the early church to begin (going somewhere by refusing to stay where they were), placing their lives below God’s authority, believing in his grace (for ourselves and others), belonging to his family, knowing that we are his beloved (he has given so much for us), becoming a united team, and choosing to walk beside our teammates for a common cause. The next step in truly being the church is to understand that behavior is not what we think, feel, or believe – but simply what we do.

The church’s belief in God should change their behavior in the world. I must begin with a small but significant clarification, our behavior will never earn our salvation . . . but our behavior is a our very best response to our salvation. He changes us from the inside-out. The following teaching needs to be spoken in the contest of relationship rather than out of mere religion . . . out of love for Christ rather than legalism before other men. That being said, Paul challenged the Ephesians to walk in the love of Christ – to truly give themselves up for others (as Christ first did for them). He wrote in chapter five, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them” (vv. 3-7).

His warnings are simple and yet profound. Avoiding all forms of sexual immorality (the Greek word is porneia – where we get our English word for pornography). Sexual immorality is anything that is outside of God’s design for sex . . . which was created, by him, to be enjoyed in the context of a lifelong covenant marriage between one man and one woman. However, the Ephesian Christ followers were inundated with sexual sin from every angle. Many of the largest pagan temples, in their day, practiced and profited from prostitution. The culture screamed, “Pleasure yourself at the expense of others!” Not a whole lot different from the world we find ourselves in . . . our culture has build an empire out of the porn industry (some statistics say that pornography brings in as much as 14 billion dollars a year). We don’t like to talk about human trafficking too much . . . many of those modern day slaves become prostitutes on our streets . . . some research has claimed that there are over 17,000 sex slaves in the United States alone (many of them under-age children). I guess that pornography is not a victimless crime after all.

Paul also spoke of guarding our hearts against all aspects of greed – simply the lust for more of what we cannot have or that we do not need). So much of our time is wasted on going too far, with too much, all the while way too fast. We spend money on what matters most to us . . . where is it all going? The Apostle also warned the church to keep clear of obscene conversation (foolish or coarse jokes). Would Hollywood comedies survive without always resorting to the lowest common denominator? Such talk harms those who are compelled to listen in – pushing them to think about things that they may be vulnerable towards. How many of us, claiming to follow Christ, chat away as if he is not always with us?

How effective would the church be if only we would walk in the light of Christ – instead of hiding in the darkness. Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 8-20).

Shouldn’t we reflect the qualities of the One we claim to follow? I am speaking of showing respect towards the opposite gender – seeing them as a person instead of an object. How about showing generosity towards those who are in need? A light has the ability to penetrate the darkness – lighting up an entire room. A light also has the capability to reveal that which is hiding (our obedient behavior can actually show how damaging and destructive disobedient behavior is – not to shame others but to save others). Shouldn’t we represent the characteristics of the One we claim to follow? Do we still struggle with the tendency to squander our time, talent, or treasure? In order to follow the attitudes and actions of our Lord, we will have to continually be filled with his Holy Spirit. What if we spent as much time seeking his empowerment in our lives as we do searching after the latest thrill, gadget, or applause?

Again, behavior is not what we think, feel, or believe – but what we do. That is what separates the world-changers from the wannabes – the light from the look-a-likes. What is so different about you since Christ? What still needs to change in your life? We can learn a whole lot from Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus in Jericho (as told in Luke 19:1-9). Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. There were two very important aspects to this job. First, he was a sale-out for personal profit . . . neither the Romans nor the religious leaders respected him. Second, he was rolling in the ‘Benjamins’ (I guess correct first-century ebonics would have been ‘Caesars’). His life probably resembled a Kanye West video that no one was watching. Even with all his wealth . . . he was not happy . . . he was still searching for something bigger to believe in . . . so much so that he decided to join the incoming parade of onlookers (Jesus was coming to town). However, he could not see anything due to the size of the crowds (he had little man’s syndrome, I am sure). He was so curious he chose to climb a nearby sycamore-fig tree.

While walking by, Jesus actually stopped to say, “Zacchaeus, come down. I must stay at your house.” He either knew his name out of divine providence or because Zacchaeus was that infamous in the region. Nevertheless, He came down at once & welcomed him gladly. Obedience is never delayed and rarely disgruntled. An interesting side-note, the crowd was a bit taken back that such a holy and popular figure would give such a terrible thief the time of day . . . they muttered amongst themselves, “He has gone to be guest of a ‘sinner.'” Jesus has a special way of seeing in us what we don’t even see in ourselves. Zaccheus was so transformed by his encounter with the Christ that he immediately proclaimed, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor. If I have cheated – I will pay back four times amount.” Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Jesus did not invite Zaccheus to follow him because he had cleaned up his practices . . . but out of an undeserved love for him. Zaccheus’ natural (or supernatural, really) response was to change . . . to look a little more like the One who gave him so much.

What must we, your church and mine, do to reflect and represent Jesus Christ? What must we not do? One step might be just to retrain our thoughts (which determine our actions according to Philipians 4:8-9). In a different letter to a different church, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, lovely, and admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, whatever you learned, received, heard, or seen in me . . . think of such things and then put them into practice . . . and then the God of peace will be with you.” We must remember that integrity is unwavering and uncompromising. Little things do ruin the whole. I am convinced that the American church must rediscover the altar . . . not only to allow God to transform our hearts but also so that he can compel us to transform our culture. I pray that we might repent (turning from our sin and returning to our Savior) . .. but also that we might recreate the world around us through faith. Our behavior must align with our beliefs.

BEhave

Fashion

I had the honor and privilege of participating in an extremely special wedding this past Saturday between to very good friends. One question that I asked them early and often during the premarital counseling was, “What were you thinking about when you first met each other?” I met Michael first . . . about a year and a half ago at a Kirkland Starbucks . . . interviewing him for the possibility of becoming an intern during his senior year at Northwest University. I called Christine, our director of worship, to fill her in on the possibility of him joining the team. All she cared about was if he sang or played an instrument . . . little did she know that he was single and looking. The couple met for the very first time in my office . . . Michael was at our church for a second interview and a facility tour. I asked Chris to come in and meet the two candidates. Michael describes that first encounter as a “movie moment” – the time where the guy stumbles all over his own words . . . all he could do was go home and tell his best friend that he had just met the “most beautiful girl in the entire world.” Christine’s only memories were that she noticed that he was shy (little did she know why) and that he was “quite handsome.”

What stands out to me the most is that neither of them noticed what the other was wearing. They were more concerned with who the other one was and what they were all about. My prayer for the new couple is that their marriage makes a statement . . . going against all of the negative trends of our culture. How can they ensure that their marriage makes a fashion statement? There is an obvious time for decorations (i.e. fashion). The wedding was full of color, beauty, etc. The couple was stunning. Yet, the couple cannot wear their wedding wardrobes everyday (that would be weird . . . besides, grooms have a way of filling in their tuxes quite quickly). Fashion goes out of style. In twenty years their children will be looking at their wedding albums and laughing at the clothing choices. Decoration fades but devotion (i.e. faithfulness) lasts a lifetime. A marriage is only as strong as a couple’s ability to keep their word (staying true to their vows) A marriage is only as healthy as the couple is steady in their allegiance and affection for each other. My hope for all engaged couples is that they spend as much time (or more) preparing for their marriage as they planning for their weddings. Amy Bloom once said, “Love at first sight is easy to understand;
it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle. In other words, anyone can have a wedding . . . but not everyone can have a marriage.

God has called couples to wear their wedding wardrobes. The Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:12-17).

How can we “dress-up” for our spouse? What will we wear? Put on mercy – caring for our spouse when they are hurting. Put on kindness – considering our spouse before ourselves. Put on humility – remembering we also fall short of other’s expectations. We all need gentleness – the ability to listen to the needs of our spouse. We all need patience – offering him or her the time to grow in every area of their life. One big piece of the wardrobe is forgiveness – giving up our right to retaliate or seek revenge. The most important part of our “look” is love – committing ourselves to be the best partner possible. There is also peace – striving to get right instead of just being right, gratitude – thanking God for the precious and valuable gift, and wisdom – understanding and obeying Christ’s instructions. For this couple that we married off last weekend, one of the most exciting aspects will be worship – spending time in prayer and praise . . . together. They are going to have an incredible music ministry one day . . . I just know it.

Concerning all of the family, friends, and those in attendance, what can we do to make this fashion show a success? First, we must be careful to stay off the runway – understanding that this is their walk – not ours). Don’t take sides. Don’t gossip, Don’t stir the pot just so that we can have a spot in their lives. Second, applaud their efforts – praying and encouraging their fashion techniques. Allow them to fail. Allow them to succeed. Allow them to be married. May they love each other as Christ loved the church . . . we need more style like that in our world.

Fashion

ExtraOrdinary

Have you ever been so afraid that you had no choice but to lock yourself in a room? What happened? My brother is six years younger than me . . . so you can imagine the opportunities that came my way to harass him. One of my favorite strategies was to hide in his closet while he was in the bathroom getting ready for bed. I would wait patiently for him to settle down for a good night’s rest . . . selecting that very moment to tackle him and make him suffer. Troy would then seek revenge by waiting for me to actually fall asleep later that evening . . . he would then sneak into my room . . . slap me in the face as hard as he could . . . and then run out as fast as his little legs could carry him . . . seeking shelter behind his locked bedroom door. We loved each other to death. There was one other time, visiting our uncle in Astoria, where the adults went out to dinner . . . leaving Troy and I behind at the house. Our uncle happened to have a great big Rottweiler who scared Troy to death (the poor kid was just eight years of age at the time). The dog began barking at my brother . . . . which caused him to scream . . . which caused the dog to bark even louder . . . which caused Troy to run . . . which caused the dog to run after him . . . forcing Troy into the bathroom . . . where he sat for nearly three hours (the dog waiting by the door the entire time). I could not get the beast to move a muscle. Bad night to say the least.

Are their moments in our lives where we wish we could just hide? In what ways? Consider the times where we choose to conceal ourselves from sight (preventing others from discovering us). All of us have suffered from distressing emotions aroused by impending danger . . . running from a threat (whether it was real or imagined). All we could think about was the possibility of removing ourselves from the overwhelming circumstances. For example, how many of us are doing everything in our power to ignore the headlines of the day . . . the stock market is falling, the housing market is failing, the political machine is roaring, and nations are battling against one another. We cope by diverting our attention elsewhere. Even the church is guilty of seeking refuge in the midst of the storm. Churches settle for either blending into culture or attacking culture . . . neither tactic actually transforms culture. We isolate ourselves from the moral digression (broken families and the insignificance of life) and social struggles (poverty and prejudice) of the day.

The church has always been tempted to hide instead of to help. Just take a look at the first disciples of Jesus. They had been waiting for the extraordinary through five hundred years of oppression (four hundred years of biblical silence). All of a sudden they are invited to follow a teacher who spent his entire existence with the untouchables, the unlovables, and the unlikelies. They watched with amazement as he gave sight to blind, legs to lame, and life to corpses. He was as comfortable in conversing with the religious elite as he was with the cultural outsiders. His mission was simple . . . to seek and to save that which was lost – calling crowds to love God and to love others. Not surprising, there quickly arose an opposition against him and the sense of an inevitable suffering. The result was that the religious and political establishment tag-teamed in killing “the king” upon a cross in the midst of everyday criminals. Where did this tragedy leave the disciples? They must have wondered how they would ever carry on a movement in such uncertain times. Had they lived for a lie? Matters only got worse when they discovered, three days after his execution, that Jesus’ body was missing.

Our church has been going through a series the past few weeks on putting our faith in action (that going to church is not all there is to being the church). Christ followers must take detours in life in order to help others. They must share in new perceptions (seeing people as God sees them). We must take small steps to be about the mission on a daily basis. Being the church is scary. Being the church is unnatural. Here is the good news . . . courage is not removing the fear – but it is realizing that something is so much more important than that fear

God has empowered the church to be the church. The first disciples needed to know that. They were desperate. They had just narrowly escaped arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. John 20 reads “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (vv. 19-20). Imagine what it would have felt like to be under the suspicion of being nothing more than dangerous agitators. The Empire’s Most Wanted. They were probably all gathered together for the sole purpose of planning a quick and quiet escape (without attracting the attention of the temple police or Roman guards). They had even gone as far as to lock the doors in order to avoid a sudden search and seizure. Appearing suddenly in the room – Jesus brought amazement and fear. It was this environment that Jesus selected to appear in his newly-resurrected body (i.e. human body 2.0). He was able to walk through walls . . . but he also still had the scars which identified him (the proof that he was actually alive). There was a small sense of irony in all of this . . . greeting his friends with peace (surprise!). I am sure that the sight of him in the flesh brought a sense of unmistakable joy . . . that his mission was so much bigger than taking down an Empire – but actually defeating the enemies of death, hell, and the grave.

Jesus then repeated the greeting of “peace” (maybe he was trying to get something of importance across to the audience). The passage reads, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (v. 21). He took the time to renew their mission as followers in his movement. They had surely lost all motivation and purpose after seeing the crucifixion. The fact that he was alive made the mission that more urgent and compelling. Just as Jesus had been sent into this world to fulfill his Father’s purpose (finishing the business that he had been entrusted with), he now chose the church to continue the work in his absence (through our words, works, and sacrifice). Here is the extraordinary part . . . that Jesus claimed that the church would do greater works than he had ever done (read it for yourself in John 14:12) . . . because he was limited to one place for one moment while the church can scatter and truly have staying power.

Jesus was gracious enough to his terrified friends not to leave them in the dust. He went on to say, “And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’ (vv. 22-23). He was providing a helper along the way. Once again we find that the Holy Spirit was given to us for declaration rather than decoration . . . to do good instead of just feel good. As a pentecostal Christian, I believe wholeheartedly in the initial physical sign of speaking in another language (an outward confirmation of an inward empowerment). However, I also believe in the eventual sign of being a witness for Christ. Jesus did not breathe on them so that they could have a special meeting . . . but so that they would call crowds to turn from their sins and towards their Savior (as Peter eventually did in Acts 2:38). I have stolen a dream from one of my favorite authors, Mark Batterson, that one day I will see three thousand people baptized in one day. Maybe MCA will have to rent out the Everett Event Center to do it . . . but if it happened once at Pentecost and another revival occurred in a little-known warehouse on Asuza Street . . . why not off of Washington Highway 522?

Christ is calling his church to the extraordinary . . . that courage is not when we are removed from our fear–but when we realize that something is more important than our fear. Connecting our world to the love of Christ is so much more necessary than hiding in the comfort of a church building. If that is the case, what extraordinary action awaits you? Who will you depend upon? We all need to take time to pray for six people who we believe can be rescued from their rebellion. It is time that our churches truly seek after the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. According to Luke 11:10-13, we can be assured that everyone who asks receives (the doors will be opened). How many of us fathers, when our child requests a meal, would ever give him a snake? If we, in all of our imperfections, know how to give good things – how much more does our Father in heaven give just what we need. That being said, I am fully aware that there are branches of our faith who have tragically misused and even abused the baptism in the Holy Spirit . . . and others who have ignored the gift all together. That is why I am so excited to be able to facilitate a class this January, at our church, on the Holy Spirit (going into the biblical, historical, and prophetic background). There is a time when our churches must spend time at the altar in prayer . . . just slowing down and listening , , , asking God to reveal himself in our lives in a very special and authentic way.

How can we “unlock the door,” actually walk outside, and make a difference? Each and everyone of us should go on a short-term missions trip at least once in our lives. I have never been more excited about next summer . . . the opportunity to go to Swaziland and serve Go-Gos (grandmothers who have devoted their lives to orphans) through water purification and feeding centers. We will be partnering with Doug and Tasha Meyers – missionaries who love the children who have been abandoned to die with the AIDS epidemic. We also are responsible to reach out to the people of our own community . . . part of the reason why I so look forward to our continued ServeSaturday projects (this month we will be raking leaves in the city of Monroe – no strings attached) and our next Trunk or Treat event (where we invite the children of our region on to our campus for a safe and secure night of costumes and candy). Go ahead and be the church . . . open the door and face that which is most important.

ExtraOrdinary

BEcome

What is one of your most unforgettable memories of teamwork? Why? I will never forget the 2006 high school playoff game between Pasco and Bothell in 2006. The final score was 43-40 . . . and took nine overtimes to decide a winner. Nine overtimes! Not only was that the most overtimes in Washington State but the game also tied the national record for the postseason. The BHS coach, involved in football since he was nine years of age, claimed to have never seen a game like that one. He was proud of the Cougars and heartbroken for the Bulldogs. Another great example of teamwork, though I did not see the game in person, was the softball match-up between Western Oregon and Central Washington. Both teams were playing to keep their postseason dreams alive . . . for many of the ladies, their careers were coming quickly to a close. Sara Tuchosky hit her first home run of her career . . . a three run shot that put her team in a commanding lead. In all of the excitement she forgot to touch first base . . . quickly correcting the mistake . . . and in the process blew out her knee . . . dropping to the ground and unable to get up. NCAA rules clearly state that if any teammate approaches the field for a home run then the hit is instead scored as a single (taking her big moment away). In all of the disarray, Mallory Hotlman, a junior all-American, asked the umpire an unexpected question. “Can I personally carry her around the bases?” Imagine the sight of the opposition actually helping a player around the bases – to not only end the game but their playoff hopes as well? When asked about her sacrificial action . . . she simply explained, “We’re never bigger than the game.”

What keeps us from working as a team? From working together? Why? Sometimes we just are driven by the desire to achieve great things by ourselves. Our egos get in the way. Our insecurities hamper us. Our temper embarrasses us. How often do we fail to see the greater vision because we place ourselves before the mission. I remember back to my freshman year . . . two-a-days at football practice . . . when we were a team focused on winning games. However, that all changed when our star tailback lost his girlfriend to a defensive linebacker. The team then spent the majority of their time devising ways of revenge towards the unsuspecting chap. The best we (yes, I was involved) could come up with was to put a whole lot of Icy-Hot sports cream in his athletic supporter. Sensitive skin, if you know what I am saying. The poor guy could not even make it through the opening reps . . . leaving the field in tears . . . probably a mix if pain and shame. He never played again.

How many of us allow others to limit our significance? I watched, and I am not ashamed to admit this, the movie Gracie. The movie tells the story about a girl, after her brother’s tragic death, who wished to play on the boy’s soccer team in his place (this was before the creation of girl soccer teams). You can imagine how hard she had to fight to change the school council policy (let alone her own family’s opinions). She needed a team in her time of trouble . . . but instead she was left all alone. Sometimes teamwork is as easy as putting the right people in the right places at the right time (dependent upon their strengths and passions). If so, then why don’t we do more of it?

Our student ministry is continuing our journey through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He challenged the Christ-followers to be the church that God dreamt of. They were called to begin (going somewhere by deciding they would not stay where they were), to be below God’s leadership (placing themselves within his big picture for the world), to believe (that grace was given to do good not just to look good), to belong (no longer did their family history have to determine their future heritage), and to be a part of the beloved (that God’s love was so big – and with it they could do big things). Paul then began the fourth chapter by reminding Ephesus that united they would stand but divided they would fall (the quote is courtesy of Aesop, of course).

Said another way, God desires his church to be one in passion and purpose. Paul wrote, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6, NIV). What would the church look like if we would strive to live a life worthy of the calling that we have received? Paul caught this vision . . . willingly giving up his freedom for the cause of Christ (the letter was written from a Roman cell . . . all because he refused to declare Cesar the lord). Some of us have a difficult time grasping the idea that we are called. What if we are not pastors or missionaries? So what . . . a call has little to do with an occupation and more to do with a divine mission of connecting our world (no matter how big or how small) to the love of Christ. The Greek word for “church” is ekklesia (which literally means ‘called out ones’).

Even so, God desires a church that will prioritize their character over their calling (who we are is so much more important than what we do). The church could be a team that works together on the mission . . . if only we would show humility and gentleness. A team considers others before themselves. A team controls their strength to help others rather than to hurt them – to lift them up rather than tear them down. A team is patient and merciful. They see past the quirkiness (or wrongdoings) of others. They commonly refusing their right to retribution and revenge. What would the church look like (let alone accomplish) if only we would do everything possible to keep the unity between our team? Can’t we bind together through the love for Christ and our reliance upon the Holy Spirit? Keeping the peace goes so much farther than the absence of any conflict . . . but is whole and right in relationships between each other. Paul was hoping that the Jews and gentiles would discover their unity despite their past differences. The apostle was looking for them to look at what they had in common. The church, both Jewish and gentile, shared one hope . . . that Christ would return (to rule and reign forever). The church had one Lord . . . trusting and obeying him (rather than the Empire). The church had one faith . . . confessing him as Savior (forgiveness for their past rebellion). The church had one baptism . . . identifying with Christ and his church (publicly by participating in an outward action symbolizing an inward work). Above all else, the church was invited to cal God their Heavenly Father . . . a personal title which denoted an extremely special relationship.

United we stand but divided we fall. If that is the case, what can you give to the team (your local church)? Who can you include in on the mission of making disciples? We can learn a whole lot from Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite women (as told in Matthew 15:21-28). During a meal, he was interrupted by a woman crying out for mercy concerning her demon-possessed daughter. She begged him to heal her. The disciples, seeing the “outsider” as a nuisance, attempted to send her away. Jesus, creatively challenging the quota of the day actually restated it, “I am only on earth for a short time . . . and I must set Israel straight so that they can set the world straight . . . so I have been sent first to the lost sheep of Israel. Why would I take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs?” She pleaded in response, “But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall down!” Jesus did see her great faith and granted her request. The Messiah made the point crystal clear . . . he was including gentiles into his movement (even with the limited time that he had on earth). Going back to the movie Gracie, there came a time in the season where she was subbed into game for injured player . . . and forced to kick an important shot (one that would determine a win or a loss). Though I encourage you to watch the movie . . . whether she made it or not is really not the point. At least her coach was willing to give the unlikely a shot (who in your life is just waiting for the opportunity to seize the moment).

That being said, how can we (your church and mine) show unity towards each other? What can we accomplish together? This is one reason that I love going away throughout the year for camps and conferences . . . an opportunity not only to reach up to God but also build community between each other (to make some memories as a family). Along with that, part of my role as youth pastor is not only to connect this generation to the love of Christ but to the life of the church as well. That is why I am blessed to have a lead pastor who entrusts our students with 1-2 student-facilitated Sunday Morning Gatherings a year. These days are incredible opportunities to building bridges to all generations . . . . as students serve in ushering, greeting, guest table, music and more (many of them are a part of ministry teams throughout the year . . . but this is a day that we do it purposefully as an entire group). I pray for our church (and yours) . . . that next time you participate in communion . . . may you remember the sacrifice of Christ . . . but also may you remember that his body was broken so that the church could be made whole. Become one.

BEcome

Delight

I would recommend Matthew Peters and Elisa Standford’s book titled Me, Myself, & I Am: The Story of You & God for any parent of a middle or high school student who is searching for identity (purpose) and independence (passion). I was fortunate enough to receive three copies in a special pre-release (I have already given a copy to two of my interns in hopes that they might consider using such a resource in mentoring someone). Copies are available at Buy.com for under $12.00 (includes shipping and handling) a piece (http://www.buy.com/retail/product.asp?sku=207976146&listingid=30703561&dcaid=17902).

One of my favorite questions was found on page 74 (the headline reads, “Picture Me Then”). The authors asked me to imagine that “I am in my eighties, living in a retirement center. A great grandchild comes for a visit. I ask her to read the verse for the day on my calendar. It is ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart’ (Psalm 37:4). After reading it aloud, she turns to me and asks, ‘Did he?'” How would I answer that question? With absolutely no hesitation . . . absolutely. I have come to be convinced that God loves to give us what we do not deserve and even what we would never ask for (because we feel so unworthy). I call it the “divine shock and awe factor.” He delights in exceeding our expectations and abilities . . . out of his glory and goodness as our Heavenly Father. Despite disappointments, distractions, and disillusionment – dreams do become a reality in his Kingdom. Did I ever think that I would have the wife I have today? She is way too good for me! Did I ever believe that I would be a youth pastor at such a healthy church? Did I ever think that I could rewrite my family’s legacy? There is not a doubt in my mind that my children will have greater integrity and influence than I ever did or ever will . . . but that I get a piece of building that amazing foundation. Jesus Christ is so faithful and forgiving . . . and he is in the business of re-creating the old into the new. His delight is our delight.

Summary: This uniquely designed book is unlike any book that Multnomah Books has published before. Open this book to any page and take a new look at you, where you’ve been on your spiritual journey, and where you’re going. Out loud, in private, in order, or backwards all the way, this book of questions will have you laughing, praying, thinking, and maybe asking a question or two about yourself. It’s a creative and revealing way to get to know God and you better than ever. So go ahead. Grab a pen and get ready to get real. A new experience of God comes one question at a time in this fun and provocative journal. Questions range from spiritually intriguing ones such as “If you overheard God talk about you – what do you hear him saying?” . . . to thought provoking ones such as “You are on a long car trip with a close friend, who is not a Christian and the conversation turns to faith – what is your biggest fear about what your friend will ask or say?” . . . to challenging ones such as “Do you believe that all of Jesus’ followers have a responsibility to tell others about him?” . . . to just plain fun ones such as “If your life before you became a Christian were a movie, its title would be . . . .” Use the journal as a reflective tool, a way to start conversations with friends and family, or as a spiritual time capsule to look back on years later.
Delight