“God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25)

Some people don’t buy the whole speaking in tongues thing. They think it’s a bit over-the-top.

Paul didn’t mind it at all. I believe he spoke in them himself. However, he did have a good bit of advice: bring an interpreter.

I love this bit of practical advice.

So often we Christians get so caught up in our traditions and semantics. We have phrases and rituals that make so much sense to us, but to the outsider we are speaking nonsense.

Yes, it’s true that the Gospel can definitely seem foolish to the skeptic. That’s fine. I’ll leave that between the skeptics and God.

But we often bring so much other stuff into the mix. How to sit, stand, dress, sing. We  speak in Latin and old English. I get tradition. I dig it. But we can also get lost in it.

Can someone walk into our midst and know that God is in our midst, or do they just see the stuff?

You can trim the tree however you like, but in the end: is the reason for the season clear?

Let us not lose focus. Let us communicate with everything we do, God is in our midst.

“Children… Your Children… My Children”

There is a cool progression between 1, 2, and 3 John.

In 1 John, he addresses little children (as well as young men and fathers), encouraging them in the faith.

In 2 John, he is speaking to the “elect lady and her children” and rejoices in the fact that some of her children walk in the truth.

In 3 John, there is no “some.” He simply finds joy in the fact that “my children” walk in the truth.

There is a building sense of ownership here, not in terms of possession, but rather of responsibility.

In the beginning, John speaks of children in the vague and general sense, routing them on in a scholarly fashion. Then, we see him draw nearer to them. They are you children, still holding some sentimental value but ultimately someone else’s problem. Then, finally they are wholly and fully his. Their well-being is his “greatest joy.”

It reminds me of Jesus’ final intimate encounter with Peter (John 21:15-19). Three times Jesus asks if Peter loves Him as He asks him to lead His church. Twice, Jesus uses the word agápē, an all-encompassing love, God’s love. Twice, Peter uses the word phileō, a friend or brother kind of love. Jesus changes His word to phileō, meeting Peter where he is at, and Peter responds in kind. Then, Jesus lets Peter know he will one day die for His church, just as Christ died. And indeed, Peter did die that way.

Peter’s love for Jesus ascends through time. He begins with acquaintance, then familiarity, then friendship, then deep affection, and finally love to the point of death. And his love for Jesus reflects his love for the church. John 15:13 tells us that if we love Jesus, we will love one another. 1 John 4:20 goes on to say that if we say we love Jesus but hate one another, then we are liars. We are commanded by our ever-loving father to love our fellow human being with the same love He has for us. They are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. They are ours.

God once asked Esau, “where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:1-16) Esau answered, “am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer to that question is yes. Let us keep them well.

 

 

Barnabas, Son of Encouragement

I love Barnabas. We first meet him, he’s selling his field and giving it to the disciples for use in their ministry. Our first introduction to him is an act of giving. And it just gets better from there.

Barnabas is the first disciple to come beside Paul when nobody else would touch him. Paul’s history as a persecutor of Christians made the believers understandably fearful, but, Barnabas’ perfect love for his new brother drove out that fear.

Not only does Barnabas take Paul in, but he also takes the man with him on his important gospel missions. Pretty soon, he takes a step back and lets Paul do all the preaching, paving the way for Paul the Evangelist, who would take the Gospel to the Gentiles like no other disciple ever had before. Barnabas’ selfless love empowers Paul to become not just a part of the family, but a fully realized individual as well.

Barnabas’ journey takes an interest turn from there. You see, Paul wants to take a return trip to all the places he and Barnabas visited together. Barnabas wants to take John Mark with them, but Paul is having none of it. Apparently, Mark had ditched them on a previous mission and now Paul sees him a liability. Barnabas remains Barnabas though. So, Paul heads off alone.

It just goes to show ya: we are often far too quick to forget that the same God that called us out exclusion calls others too. But God never forgets. He continues to extend the olive branch, sometimes in spite of us.

The story has a happy ending, though. At the end of his live Paul summons Mark to his side (2 Timothy 4:11). That Barnabas love finally got through.

The Beautiful Nuance

There is a subconscious presupposition

that if we belong to this group

or believe this thing

or partake in this activity

that we must do everything that this group

does

and believe everything else associated with this thing

and do all these other activities

connected with this one activity

but that’s not true

or even necessary

the goal is not to be complacent

but to walk a personal walk

to take ownership

of our own unique design

rather than just hold

the company line

Our nuances make us interesting

they are simultaneously scary and attractive

for that which makes us most interesting

also brings attention to us

it is not loud it is not proud

it just is and that screams out like a firework

into the universes

“i am here”

Participatory v. Performative Worship

Yesterday in church, we had two harmonica players

a cajon player and a potential fourth vocalist

Join us up on the stage,

simply because they took the initiative to step up.

At Beer & Hymns we have a room packed full of people

overpowering even our instruments,

except for maybe the pianist and the cajon player.

They shake shakers and play tambourines,

and its all so wonderful.

Of course, there are still a chords and keys,

time signatures and words,

but the semblance of structure

simply gives direction to the holy chaos,

it is a funnel, not a wall.

That is the challenge: to organize programs in such a way

that they invite and welcome everyone in,

so that all can join in the fun,

creating wonderful music together

before God and one another.

Hallelujah, amen!

 

 

 

 

Gone Rogue

I’ve seen it happen over and over again. A person becomes disenchanted with Christianity while still holding on with Christ. Not uncommon. Actually understandable. The breakdown occurs when we separate from the church body and then have to create our own way of maintaining our spirituality apart from it. Many times this leads to new pseudo-churches, even new denominations. It leads to division and this is unfortunate.

We must hold together to remain stronger. We must work out our differences. We cannot do this thing alone. Yes, by no means approach the Word blindly. Yes, admit and explore where you come into conflict with the norm. These are healthy and good things to do. But stay connected. A person can wander into the desert and live, even gain a following, but can they thrive? Do they have the resources to empower others to do so as well?

Good questions to ponder. We must always strive for connection, seeking paths that connect us to each other and to God. When we are planted, we grow. Even if the community is alternative, that is fine and good. Just find community and thrive.

Testify!

She stood up in front of the congregation and said,

“I shouldn’t even be here today

I’ve had seizures that limit my ability to walk

but here I am standing in front of you.

It’s all thanks to God.”

Then she sang “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

Next it was a lady in a wheelchair,

who testified to the necessity of Jesus,

“turn to him before it’s too late.”

Pretty soon it was everyone,

black and white, male and female, young and old

All preaching their own sermonette

Because the Spirit was flowing

and the gateway to the pulpit was open

My friends, do not quench the Spirit

Allow Him to flow freely through you,

to share both your gifts and your story,

so all might be empowered to do the same.

The altar call is sounded,

who will stand?