Hates

The church is the bride of Christ. The bearer of his mission. Though she is not the Kingdom – she is a reflection and a part of it. We are called to know him, be known by him, and make him known to others. You would think that we would take careful notice as to what our God loves and hates. The bible reads, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue,and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19, ESV).

May the church show wisdom to a world that is desperately searching. God will not allow any leader to think more of himself than he should. He will not look kindly on a church that has exalted themselves above the community around them – whether it be out of legalism or liberty.

God’s heart breaks at the sound of false prophecy and false teaching. So many are lead astray either because someone untentionally or intentionally uses or abuses the gospel. Teachers are held to even a higher standard because of the influence taht has been entrusted to them. Truth will have the last word.

Our Heavenly Father is a life-giver. So why are we so comfortable with death? He is a God of justice – but not of revenge. Nothing is worse than taking an innocent life. The church must have some difficult conversations as it relates to abortion, famine, war, and even the death penalty. Remember, even David was prevented from building the temple – and he was involved in God-ordained battles. How can the church bring peace?

He also will tolerate the hearts of those who plot evil others. Those who seek division. Those who want to be right rather than make things right. The church must seek unity in their diversity. Belief and belonging. Then there are those who love evil so much that they go looking for it. Those who cannot function without drama – there is something about these individuals that actually need something to go wrong just so that they have something to do. Along with that, there is no place in God’s body for deception. False witness is so contrary to his character. Such attitudes and actions must be quickly confronted and corrected.

Finally (and possibly of most importance), God cannot have those who stir up dissension. Unending and ceaseless quarreling. Those who lose their temper too often and for all the wrong reasons. The world is watching. What are they seeing?

May we be a church that is famous for our humility, purity, compassion, honesty, and unity.

Hates

Teaching

The author writes, “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gaint insight, for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown'” (Proverbs 4:1-9, ESV).

Wisdom did not stem from the teacher. Solomon inherited much of what he knew from his father and his father’s father. Generation after generation passed on not only what they knew about God but how they knew God. He now passed these thoughts on to his child. The way that his son would live his life would then reflect not only the boy but on the boy’s family name. In fact, the way that this man lived his life would ultimately reflect how other’s percieved the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This morning, as part of a men’s breakfast at our church, David A. Brakke talked about Jesus’ woes against the Pharisees. As part of that conversation he proposed that much of what we do – whether we intend to or not – shapes people’s perceptoin of Christ. If that is the case, how important is wisdom in today’s world? In fact, it is not being wise as much as it is how we are being wise. For example. are you more concerned with knowing the right thing or in helping others discover the right thing as well? Do we have this false idea that we know more than others or is our hope that they would know God, too?

That being said, we cannot shy away from wisdom. Our decisions should look upside down from the world (or right-side up depending upon your outlook). We should live our lives in such a way that others take notice – that they see that Jesus is central – not a philosophy or even faith. The way we treat the oppisite sex, the way we spend money, motivations, priorities, entertainment – all of those things should be different. Legalism without love and liberty without accountability are equally dangerous. May we all be wise and courageous.

Teaching

Voicemail

I used to have a friend who I called often. Her answering machine would have her father speaking the traditional statement about leaving one’s name and number after the tone but then would conclude with Aaron’s blessing. You probably know what I am talking about . . . the bible reads, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenancet upon you and give you peace.’ ‘So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them'” (Numbers 6:22-26, ESV).

Now, I have to confess, I initally thought that this was a little bit strange. I had never heard anything like this before on an answering machine . . . and have not really heard anything like it since. That being said, there was something about that prayer that intrigued me. Something deep within me – though I did not understand it at the time (nor do I understand it competely even now) – wanted that blessing prayed over me again and again. That is the funny thing about the gospel . . . when we hear it, see it, and feel it . . . we want more. Blessings sound good in a world that only knows curses.

The priestly prayer of Aaron was good news. God is one who intends to bless his people – to keep them. He wants to be present amongst his people. He is concerned with protecting, providing, and guding them. That he would have his face shine upon his people with grace. He wishes to shine on us. Shine. Smile. Pleased. Words that we often do not envision in relation to God – maybe because we do not know him as well as we think. May he lift his countenance upon his people and give them peace. Make no mistake – he is paying attention. He is engaged. He is involved. He not only exists – but he speaks . . . he acts on our behalf. And because he is our God – we have his ear. He is on our side (or are we on his side?). And here is the greatest of all good news . . . he brings peace. Not just an absence of conflict. An end to all conflict. Resolution. Restoration. He makes things right again. The way things were supposed to be in the first place. Right with him. Right with others. Right from the inside-out.

This was a blessing not just for the Nazarites – but all Israelites. And all those who were willing to be present with their Creator. Jesus would embody this blessing . . . God with us. God smiling upon us – playing no favorites (his Spirit would be poured on all those who believe). He would bring peace – by way of laying his own life down. So now we bless others – even those who do not yet know how to take it. Those who do not understand. Those who secretly want to call back just to hear the prayer one more time.

Voicemail

Electronic

When it comes to technology, I am more often than not somewhere between the early adopters and early majority. I love new innovations . . . though I do not always fully understand it . . . I am incredibly intrigued by it. So much has changed in my approach with technology in the last fifteen years. We take for granted how quickly we have gotten here and what we have in return. I don’t think that I had an email account until sometime between my senior year in high school and my freshman year in college. And now thanks to Facebook, Twitter, texting, and HeyTell – email might just be all too slow. I did not purchase my first desktop until my sophomore year in college – and now my iPhone does so much more. Just three years ago I was mocking Mac-people . . . and now, aside from my office laptop, that is all I have (and I hope to have).

Everything has now gone digital it seems. I stopped subscribing to the paper five years ago (my Seattle Times comes straight to my email and I am an avid reader of Google News – thousands of news organizations at my fingertips. I fought iTunes. I really did. There was always something about that CD Jacket. The CD tower. Now almost all I have is MP3 songs – whether through Apple or Amazon. With the exception of most worship albums, I never by entire works anymore. My process is typically to Shazam what I like on KEXP and then buy it electronically. I probably have twelve days of music in my laptop – (quantity and variety). Shuffle is my best friend. I even file my documents electronically. And I am much wiser than I used to be . . . I lost all of my early college papers because of that dangerous floppy. Now I back up my sermons, etc. on the server, jump-drive, and Dropbox.

I even journal online. My blog went live in July of 2008 (though I was not a consistent blogger until that following December). I typically use my journal only to take notes on Sundays for the pastor’s message or if there is something far too personal to share on the World Wide Web. This does make me nervous. I worry that I will one day lose all that I have wrote (I am nearing 400 posts now). Not that what I have written is so marvelous – but I wrote it nonetheless. The prophet writes, “And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:2-3, ESV). There is something about passing on what I have and who I am to my children. I am a bit nervous that blogging is a poor substitute for all of that (and yet my children have no shot of reading my journal anyways – my penmanship is deplorable).

But there is one piece of technology that I have refused to embrace. E-books. I am an avid book collector. I love books. I really do. Funny story . . . during the Seattle earthquake of 2001, I called Jana first and checked my books second. Sad but true. There is something about holding them. Storing them. Going back to them. E-books and e-book readers, as cool as they are, don’t give that to me. I am afraid that the new technology and competition will be replaced and I will lose all that I have (much like VHS tapes of so long ago). Obsolete. I was recently given an Amazon Kindle. I love it. I was so grateful for it. I have used it for travel, etc. But after reading an e-book I want to go out and buy a hard copy. Am I crazy?

Which brings me to my final point – a question really. How will history look on the iPad? I have to admit . . . I want one. I have been saving for quite some time and plan to order the second generation when it arrives in April. But for those of you who have the first one . . . how have you used yours? How will it help me considering that I have an iPhone and MacBook Pro? Do you think the iPad will push me over the edge into the world of e-Readers? What do you enjoy about yours? Pros and cons? Personal use? Ministry use? I would love to hear your feedback on this subject.

Electronic

Glee

Newsflash: Hollywood doesn’t care about your children. They just want their money. MTV has been the poster child of this movement for decades. Glee is taking the torch on this race. The entertainment industry is sly with their approach. They will do anything in order to gain and keep trust. They will say that every student has the ability to choose. That they have the right to choose. That they will do whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want – so why try to tell them any different? They just encourage them to be as safe as possible and hope for the best. They allow them to be children but treat them like they are adults. And they really are not either. But the emerging generations buy it. Literally. They will buy from whomever listens to them – even if they are paying them all of the attention in the world for all of wrong reasons.

Hollywood as figured out what the church has failed to grasp . . . that teenagers are looking for identity and independence. They want to know who they are and they want to be able to do what will get them there. Little do they know that what they want is not what they really need. What they need is integrity and community. Knowing who you are is no subsitute for being who you are supposed to be. Likewise, doing what you want has nothing on being right where you are supposed to be. This is where the church comes in . . . will there be Christ followers who will rise up and lead? Who will be mentors worthy of following? Who, unlike MTV, will actually care enough to say that which they don’t want to hear?

The teacher wrote, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse”—my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors” (Proverbs 1:8-19, ESV).

There are consequences. This is a truth that will never be seen on the latest reality shows. In fact, students must learn at an early age that their actions will not only reveal their character but those very actions will continue to shape their character. Will there be those teachers/leaders/parents who will elect to summon the vision of a generation? Who will not only share but show what it means to be men and women of integrity and influence? Will there be those who will be worthy of following? Can we call this incredibly promising generation to only want the best? To be about the Kingdom? To show patience, purpose, purity, peace, compassion, conviction, creativity, generosity, wisdom, beauty, humility, respect, and so much? Be a teacher . . . .

Glee

Sing

I have heard Mark Batterson say on more than on occassion, “I am certain that there are ways to do church that no one has thought of yet.” He is truly a wordsmith. A gifted author and communicator. I have the deepest respect for him and look forward to the possibility of taking a short-term mission team to National Community Church in the summer of 2012. However, I wholeheartedly agree with this statement with one slight change . . . I am certain that there ways to BE THE church that no one has thought of yet.

I love information. I love to hear to hear what people are doing, how they are doing it, and why they are doing it. This would explain, at least partially, my love for books, blogs, and all things Twitter. My love languages are relationships and resources. I could and would spend all day at Starbucks talking biblical theology and church leadership if you let me. And yet, as is the case with most leaders, what has the potential of being my gleaming strength very much as the possibility of also being a glaring weakness. I can get so caught up with what others are dong that I can fail to realize what I am supposed to do. I want to be a part of a community of Christ followers who aim to be the church in their neighborhood – even if it has never been done before. And still, I have a tendency to mix up Recent with Revelation. When I don’t like what one church is doing I can move on to the next. I am not taking a risk as much as playing by a new set of rules. Talk about short-circuiting the process. This is nothing more than dishonest leadership. I claim to enjoy change . . . but really the only change that I enjoy is the change that I am able change. Where is the trusting obedience in that?

Then I read the Scriptures. The author writes, “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 149:1-9, ESV).

Sing to the Lord a new song. Is it a coincidence that this song is one of the final Psalms in the collection. It is almost as if the authors are are saying, “Here is our relationship with God. Here is our revelation. Here is our worship. You have next. New lyrics. New languages. New instruments. New rythms. Now is the time that you allow God to reveal himself to you. Listen. Grow. Do. Be.

Isn’t it a bit ironic that we as pastors are often the first to criticize those in our churches who complain over not singing the old songs but we ourselves have not had an original idea in years? Now, if you know me at all, you would know that I am the first to read the latest book and research the newest methodology. But along with that, I need to make every effort to fall on my face and ask the most dangerous question of them all . . . what am I to do? And when? I am not saying that everything will be fixed. I am not saying that this is the golden ticket to success – however you define it. This question and response does not guaruntee that your church will grow to to the size you want. You might never receive the book deal or be a keynote speaker at a conference. But this might just be the way towards obedience. To an adventure. To risk. To reward. To transformed lives.

So what will my song sound like? I guess the better quetion is, “Will it please my Creator? Will he turn his face towards me and be pleased? Be proud? Be present?” So let’s enjoy the songs of those who have gone before us and those who sing alongside us – but above all else, let’s remember to sing ourselves . . . .

Sing