Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Relevance of Power

Our church has rallied around three core values and we reference and talk about them regularly. They are Service, Acceptance and Power... Serving People, Accepting them wherever they are on their journey and expecting and experiencing the Power of God. As I prepared to teach a couple of weeks ago I was struck but the significance of that last value... Power.

Serving people and accepting people are not the private domain of the church... there are many great organizations that do an excellent job of serving people and meeting needs. There are many groups who are extremely accepting and love people and receive them with little or no judgment or motive. These things are not inherently 'Christian'.

But Power... the Supernatural Power of God is different. There is nowhere else that it can be found. The church is the primary dispenser of the power of God. Jesus said that we would do the works He himself did and even greater works (Jn 14:12). What He was doing when He said that was commissioning us to be His body. Not just figuratively or allegorically... but I think literally. As Jesus was here to reflect His Father I think Jesus commissioned us to reflect Himself. And it's a hands-on assignment... go be powerful in Him!

As a church planter I have read many things on making the church relevant to its culture. I believe in that philosophy... I really do... but 'exegeting culture' and strategic planning can quickly become a substitute for simply doing the stuff Jesus did.

A church that is reflecting Jesus in words and works, doing and saying what Jesus did and said, is going to be relevant in any and every culture.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Deception of Passion

Is it just me or does there seem to be a real preoccupation with 'Passion' among Christians these days. How to maintain a 'Passion for God'. How to stir your 'Passion for God'. There are worship music series called 'Passion'. A quick look at my own song directory found 11 worship songs with 'passion' in the title and over 200 with 'passion' in the lyrics. I had a youth pastor a few weeks ago tell me that his number one objective was to stir these young people to 'Passion for God'. I watched a youth group recently as they were loudly exhorted to 'release your emotion to Jesus' and to 'show him your passion'.

I love having passion for Jesus and the things of God, but that word in our culture means little more than a stirring of emotions. And if our emotions are the thing that is driving our relationship with Christ... if our feeling are the thing on which we hinge our faith... we are doomed! My fear is that we are grooming a Christian culture that judges their spirituality by their 'goose bumps' and their emotional displays.

Yes, I know that this seems an odd position for me to take... those who know me know that I am a big proponent of 'experiencing Jesus' and 'sensing the Holy Spirit'. Like I said, I love the passion... the emotions... the 'goose bumps'... but I also know what its like to live without them and to still know that God loves you... he's with you... and he's for you.

My relationship with Marie ebbs and flows. We have been together now for over 27 years and the passion and romance is as hot as ever. But there have been seasons in those 27 years where it wasn't so hot... and the emotions were not always in line with the commitments we had made to each other on our wedding day. If feelings... if passion was the measuring stick then we probably wouldn't still be together... commitment is what carries you through the times when feelings fail... and eventually the tide returns and the passion comes back... the emotions come back in line with the commitment.

If our walk with God... our relationship with Christ is anchored only on our passion then we will feel abandoned by God as soon as the emotions go quiet. But that is exactly where faith is found... faith is the substance of something you are looking for and know is real but can't currently see or fully experience (Heb 11:1). Faith holds on when things are hard and God is hard to find. And where does this type faith come from? Faith comes by a 'word from God' (Rom 10:17)... we will never move beyond an emotionally based faith in God, which I'm not sure is really 'faith' at all, if we don't move toward a knowledge of Him as revealed in His word. That type faith is confident and secure in the knowledge of the one we serve even when the circumstances block our heart from seeing Him.

Seek passion for Jesus... desire to sense His presence and to feel His embrace. But know him through His word and let that anchor you in the times you can't feel His touch.

But songs about discipline and bible study are not nearly as much fun to sing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Simplicity of a Word

I was at a 'Prayer and Ministry Workshop' a couple of weeks ago. There were probably a hundred people there and the speaker was modeling the Vineyard style of ministry by giving words of knowledge and inviting people to come forward for prayer. By the end almost everybody had moved to the front of the room to receive ministry. The Pastor of the church pulled me aside and pointed out a young man sitting by himself on the back row and asked me if I would go pray for him.

I went back and began to talk with the young man, Al. He was pretty closed and let me know rather quickly that he really didn't know if he believed in God and had serious doubts about what was going on up on the stage. "A lot of those 'words' could apply to half the people in here.” he said.

I was really working hard trying to find something that would touch him... a word or observation that would reach him. I tested a couple of 'sensings' I had and asked him a few questions... he just simply said "that doesn't apply to me". Marie and Chris came over and prayed and offered a couple of words that also failed to get any response. Just as I was about to give up I glanced at Al and for whatever reason his expression reminded me of somebody that I had ministered to 15 years ago... he didn't look like the guy, just the expression. I thought, "Now why would I suddenly think of that guy?" The only thing I could really remember about the guy was that he was an awesome trumpet player and bass player... so I turned back to Al and said, "Let's change the subject, you're a musician aren't you... you play bass and trumpet." Al's eyes got wide... "How do you know that?"
"I think God just told me that.” I answered.

Everything changed... Al's posture opened up... he began to talk... and the Pastor called me later and said Al had committed his life to Christ. Al explained, "It was the first time I knew for sure God knew who I was."

Here we all were trying to find the deep penetrating thing to reveal Al's heart and instead it was the simplicity of "bass and trumpet". A lesson learned... I think I try to make this too difficult.