the good news conspiracy

Jesus messed up everything.

The religious brokers had a great gig going. They were responsible for judging others. They were the rules makers. They made a good living making the kingdom of God unattainable to most. But Jesus messed them up.

This is what Jesus had to say about these Pharisees – these religious egomaniacs:
Matthew 23:4 “They crush people with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”

Jesus came to earth and revolutionized religion. He broke the power of legalism. He set free those who had been held captive by excessive regulations.

Jesus was The Gospel. He came to bring good news.

The only people who don’t like Good News are the ones who gain money and power from bad news. Everybody else loves good news.

So here Jesus is, in the face of the haters. He confronts the hypercritical judges. He won’t let them get by with replacing God’s laws with human-made rules.

These Pharisees were insecure. They were confused. But instead of reaching out to God for help, they did their best to drag others down with them, and they did so with great pride and self-righteousness. Jesus exposed all of this publicly. He foiled their plans to destroy others. And they hated Him for it.

Jesus comes in the face of pain and brings peace. He confronts sickness and brings healing. He breathes the love of God on sinners.

Jesus led a Good News conspiracy.

a mixed bag

When I was a little kid, my mom would occasionally (OK, rarely) allow me to select some Brach’s Caramel Royals candies from the grocery store. It was a candy-junkie’s dream – an entire vat full of tooth-rotting treats. They sold the stuff by the pound but I never got a full pound. That’s because my mom knew I was a pig and would eat ALL OF IT, immediately. However, my gluttony served a practical purpose; my brothers would’ve eaten it all if I hadn’t. –

Connect this with a leadership observation. I receive a mixed bag of responses to my leadership responsibilities. Today I had three separate conversations with leaders who are of a different cultural background than me. These leaders were amazingly respectful and gracious. They made me feel important, they were careful to honor me as their leader. This sometimes happens to the point that I feel a bit uncomfortable. Conversely, I find that some folks I lead who share my ethnicity and cultural background are less likely to present themselves as respecting their leaders. Rudeness is sometimes not uncommon. And making the leader feel important is not always a top priority. It is truly a mixed bag.

I had a favorite Brach’s candy flavor – chocolate. I would eat the others first; the orange, the maple, the vanilla…, but save the best for last.

I also have a favorite response to my leadership – the nice one. I like positive. Supportive is good, as is cooperative. If I could choose, I would select respectful every time. It feels good to feel good. It could be tempting to gorge myself on my favorites. I may even want to “pick over” the flavors I am not crazy about. But it is a mixed bag. I have to learn to enjoy the not so gracious responses to my leadership as well as the gracious ones.

God, help me to appreciate the variety. Help me not to select only my favorites. Help me to value the not so great flavors. And help me not to pig out to the point that I get sick.

is the gain worth the pain

We are in process of initiating change at our church. This mention should not raise concern, you should get concerned if we ever get to the point to where change stops happening. But I bring the point because we are now at the place in the process where the resistance to change begins. We knew it would. It is like clockwork. You cannot implement change without living through kickback. But this episode inspires me to assist someone else who is considering an effort to fulfill a vision.

If you plan to initiate change, it will be painful. Some will oppose you. And you have to be sure that it is worth the cost.

Frankly put, if the proposed change results in the loss of someone who is more important to you than the fulfillment of the vision, stop now. Some of the greatest change agents in the world have no long-term friends. There are times that you are better off staying put, even becoming stagnant, than to move ahead alone.

But then there are times when you would rather be alone in the desert of your vision than to be in a crowded cesspool of people who can’t or won’t move forward.

You have to decide: is it worth it?

Strong leaders have to know the difference between crowd approval and critical mass. You need a certain number of people to pull off your idea. But you probably don’t need a majority of popular opinion. Insecure leaders won’t get this. If that’s the case, no offense, but your leadership level is limited.

If God has given you a vision and you are certain about that…If you are possessed with doing whatever it takes to realize the desired future…if you can live with the fact that some people will demonize you for leading change…lead on!

The gain will be worth the pain.

is this unrealistic?

Live up to the life to which God called you!” Ephesians 1:6b (NCV)

There is no doubt, God has bigger plans for us than we are living. Most people would agree that they are living beneath their potential. But there are some who think I am Pollyanna when I talk about the possibility of doing something extraordinary in life. There are some who have given up. There are some who have been consumed by cynicism. I have heard, “you are too idealistic.”

I guess if you refuse to believe that there is hope for anything more, God will allow you to stay stuck where you are. But try to muster enough faith to believe that God still has hope.

I don’t believe that we can just dream it and it will happen. I do believe that God sees something great within most of us and is trying to get us to also see it.

Let’s set a goal of living up to God’s plan today. We can work on tomorrow tomorrow.

Join us on Sunday at Maranatha Church for part two of One. I like saying that: part two of One.

a humbling response to One

Live up to the life to which God called you.” Ephesians 4:1b (CEV)

Last Sunday marked the launch of ONE, a new preaching series at Maranatha Church that is emphasizing the importance of making God first in our lives. As part of the message, I issued a challenge for people to commit to some very important spiritual foci. The challenges utilize the number 1:

31 Days of Prayer: Pray at least one time each day this month.
21 Days of Reading: Read the per-selected portion of Scripture (list here)
11 Days of Fasting: Give up something (a meal, TV, certain types of foods, etc.
1 Day of Serving: Serve one time this month.
1 Tithe: Tithes (give 10%) at least one pay-period this month.

I was absolutely blown away when I saw the completed ONE Commitment cards.
215 praying
204 reading
171 fasting
174 serving
176 tithing

That is a bunch of response!

People are still submitting the forms online (here) and we plan to distribute them this Sunday to those who were not with us last Sunday.

There was also a huge number of prayer needs submitted. People are expecting God to do some great things! And we are praying for those needs!

I don’t take commitment for granted. Cooperation is not a given. Positive response to personal challenge is significant these days, people are generally slow to follow. But not this group!

We are expecting some awesome things to happen as a result of all of this. If you would like to join us, feel free! You can listen to part 1 here. Be with us next week!

the storm

They should have known better. If Jesus was on board, the ship would not sink and they would not all drown.

I am talking about the disciples in Matthew 8:23-27. They were in a boat in the sea when a huge storm came out of nowhere (actually, the storm probably came from God – at least He allowed it). When the waves began to crash over the sides of the boat, they panicked and ran to awaken Jesus, informing Him that they were all as good as dead. They should have known better.

Jesus wasn’t destined to drown. As long as He was in the boat, they were going to be OK. But they wanted Jesus to stop the storm, so He did. But He also rebuked them for being so afraid and for having so little faith. They didn’t care about that, they just cared that they were on calm waters again.

And that’s how it goes. We want an easy life. And sometimes Jesus calms the storm, despite the fact that we haven’t learned what we need to learn, we haven’t increased in our faith. We still haven’t learned the lesson of God getting us through the storm. We want Him to shortcut the process for us. So sometimes He does. But down the road, we will have to endure the storm again and again until we learn the lesson of trust.

He is powerful enough to stop the storm. And He is powerful enough to keep us safe through the storm.

Sometimes, we have to embrace the storm.

cool is not missional…missional is not cool

You can spot them a mile away. The young, dynamic preacher-leaders of today’s hip churches. They wear holey jeans and elaborately decorated t-shirts. They spike their hair. Their churches are young and energetic and have non-traditional names. They are reaching a lot of people for Christ. And many of them are missional. This simply means that they have, as a focus, the practical delivery of the message of Jesus to those who are without. They want to show the love of God to the world in need. They want to “be the church” rather than just going to church.

“Missional” is most certainly a buzzword in church circles. The concept is not new but the interest is renewed. There are a dozen large conferences around the country every year encouraging thousands of leaders to get their people outside of their four walls and live out the Gospel. Do practical things to meet the needs of people so they know that Jesus loves them. It is definitely in style to be missional.

But being missional is not necessarily being cool and visa-versa. What I mean by this is that one doesn’t have to be hip in order to be missional. I have a great example of this.

This week, our daughter and son in law, while intenerating to raise their missionary salary, visited with some good, solid people. This little church is out in the middle of nowhere, nothing but cow pastures. Their music is old-school. They are very conservative by most people’s standards. But they complete get “missional”. They give heavily to missionaries in other countries. They feed the local hungry. They are proponents of foster care and adoption. They serve their community and the world. They do most of the stuff that is considered by most to be cutting-edge Gospel expression. But the Pastor doesn’t speak at the world-renown conferences – he doesn’t have time to because he works construction to take care of this family. They don’t sing new music. They don’t read or write books about living out the Great Commission. They don’t wear holey jeans to church. They don’t even have a cool website. But they completely get “missional”. They don’t do this stuff because it is in style. They do it because Jesus said to do it.

I am refocusing. These people inspire me. Maybe it’s time to quit talking so much about it, philosophizing about it, stereotyping about it. It’s time to do it.

Cool is not missional…