Archives For Kingdom of God
I am writing this from the Denver airport as my time to fly is upon me. I will give a few highlights from Day 3.
Wednesday Morning Mike Cope “Community in Lars and the Real Girl” – Hebrews
- It’s a movie about church, it begins in church and ends in church.
- Imagining a world where we are not our own.
- Somebody who watches for you.
- The real test for community is the worst things you have done who is up there watching you.
Wednesday Morning Keynote Scot McKnight @ScotMcKnight “Did Jesus Found the Church?”
Major Idea: The church is naughty and the kingdom is nice
– People today love the kingdom but are embarrassed by the church
– The kingdom has come to mean “good things Christians do in the public sector usually involved in the political process.”
- It has nothing to do with the church…people say
- Social Justice? Where did we get this idea of social justice? There is one idea of justice in Scripture. Justice is connected to righteousness and justification.
- Peace…compassion…walking from Cape Town to Alexandria raising money for water.
– Kingdom has been flattened into an ethic: peace, justice.
– “When we flatten kingdom to an ethic we deny the gospel.”
– We have a young group of Christians whose kingdom theory has to do with changed political processes and are neglecting the church.
- But…doing good in a society is a good thing.
- Being compassionate is a good thing.
- Working for peace in our world is a good thing.
- But we do this because we are disciples of Jesus.
– Good work versus Kingdom work
- Did Ghandi do kingdom work?
– The most profound act of kingdom work is when we celebrate Eucharist on Sunday morning.
– “You cannot be committed to kingdom unless you are committed to the church and your commitment to the church is the sum total of your commitment to the kingdom.”
– It is far too easy giving money to Rwanda and not to local people in the church.
– Matthew 16:13-20
- Their options to the question were not good enough.
- Jesus was more than a prophet. Prophetic Christianity is not enough.
- The answer is that Jesus is messiah.
- 1 Samuel 8—“They want a king because they want to be like other nations.”
- Saul collapse
- Eventually they realize that Jesus is the king.
- Peter labels Jesus with the right title. When the Messiah was said all the ideas came to completion: Temple, Torah, Land, Citizens, Command, Covenant.
– When Jesus is the Messiah kingdom will always mean more than social justice.
– Peter had no idea what Messiah really meant.
- Messiah –> Kingdom –> Cross –> Resurrection –> Kingdom
- Kingdom and social justice does not mix well.
– Jesus came to establish a whole new social order. The ekklesia….the church.
– There is an inextricable connection between kingdom and church.
– Church is the only place kingdom work can occur because in the church is the only place where Jesus is king.
– Kingdom never refers to social action in Scripture.
- We have become intoxicated with social power and justice.
– The kingdom is more than an ethic because Jesus is more than a prophet.
– Kingdom work is about telling people about King Jesus. Summoning people in the church as the place where God’s redemptive work is now alive.
Wednesday Afternoon Jon Acuff @JonAcuff “Our Relationship With the Gap”
Our job is hard because…
1) We never feel it is over…
2) There’s no manual for most of the things you do
3) The success rate is really low for youth ministers
4) You run into a period of life most people run from
- 1 out of every 4 girl will be raped by the time they graduate
5) We don’t get to see the end of the song.
Three things of the challenges
– It’s so easy to compare.
– Never compare your beginning to somebody else’s middle.
– Always play to the size of your heart not to the size of your audience.
– If you tie what you do to the success/failure of it you will disappoint.
– Measure your obedience not your results
– God will not be handcuffed by my failures or unleashed by my successes.
– It only bothers you when you do things that matter.
- You are not a youth minister…
- You are woman.
– The best way to fight those is to share those. Fears fears community.
– The higher you climb in leadership the harder it is for you to be honest.
– “Enough” is a slippery slope
– If you ask “fear” when you will have enough experience it will be later.
– Fear always says, “This is forever.”
– What to do with voices
- Write down the voice…
- Answer it with truth
- Share them
– We are not good with criticism and compliments
- Critic’s Math – 1 Insult + 1000 Compliments = 1 Insult
- We have the ability to lose heart with insults.
- Are you giving power to the very people you don’t need to give it to.
Those were the extent of my notes. I did not attend an afternoon class because I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Scot McKnight and Rusty Pettus for an hour and talk theology. Scot was gracious enough to extend some time just to talk and share some coffee. He even bought my coffee which he did not have to do. Before I close this blog I want to share something I did on my way back from Denver. I visited the Century 16 Theater in Aurora where 12 people were killed by James Holmes. Tragedy. Just like praying at Columbine I wanted to reflect and pray at the theater. To the left is a picture I took while driving to the theater.
Tomorrow I hope to reflect on the week with some implications.
Great day I experienced with classes, super-sessions and keynote messages from some of the finest people in Christianity. I typed 10 pages of notes yesterday so I cannot include everything here but I want to give you some highlights that stood out to me.
Tuesday Morning, Mike Cope “Spiritual Intubation: How Community Keeps Us Alive” The Wizard of Oz: Revelation’s View of Community
- “No church ever existed in a pure state. The church is made up of sinners. The fleas come with the dogs.” (Eugene Peterson)
- Four characters who are known by their deficiencies. Much like Christians today.
- Showing of who Oz really is. “The great Oz has spoken, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
- It’s a great distance from Colorado Springs to Pergamum.
- In Pergamum it was very, very different.
- Everywhere people went they told two stories: the power of Rome and Greek gods and goddesses. Everywhere they went they are told that they are caught up in and how could they not believe it. It “has to be true.” Every market, athletic event, silver item told them about temple worship.
- Where is the Pergamum church of Christ?
- A tiny…insignificant few.
- Imagine holding on to the story of Jesus while walking among the temples and other places where the minority is huge.
- Have you been the minority?
- Power, honor, identity was wrapped up into gods and Rome not Christ.
- Persecuted Christians get it
- “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators.” G. K. Chesteron
- Deep Community is anchored in Jesus
- Deep community has to be eschatological in nature.
- Deep community is at its best when it is part of a mission…a larger story.
Tuesday Morning Keynote Kurt Johnston @kurtjohnston “Deep, Redefined”
- Have you ever stopped and thought about all the things in youth ministry that you don’t do very well? We are great at trying to control the perceptions of other people. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great at creating perception of us.
- Four truths I have learned that have 1) pointed out my shallowness and 2) led him into a deeper experience in faith.
- Life is a squiggle
- I need a travel partner
- Busyness will keep you in the shallow end.
- When you begin to have a long view of youth ministry
Tuesday Super Session Frank Viola @FrankViola “The Missing Ingredient”
Observations about ministry to young people:
- Catch30 Crisis – Human beings go through developmental stages as they get old. When they are 30 they reassess every decision they made in their 20s and they either abandon what hey believed or abandon them. You don’t know where someone is spiritually until they are thirty. You could not serve in the house of God until you were 30. Jesus did not begin his ministry until he was 30. Young people need to be prepared for this.
- There is a difference between youthful enthusiasm and spirituality. Most of the big Christian movements are built on youthful enthusiasm. The problem is that many operates on youthful enthusiasm and the well runs dry
- You can’t pass on to those whom you minister to what you have not experienced yourself.
- I have to prepare them for the forgotten beatitude. Blessed is he who is not offended by me.
Other Notes from class…
- If you cut the bible in any place it will bleed Jesus Christ.
- Moses and Christ
- Creation and Christ
- Isaac and Christ
- Jacob and Christ
- Conclusion – #1 – Find Christ in the bible. #2 – Do business with the Lord
Tuesday Afternoon Class 1 Josh Graves @JoshGraves “The Bible Jesus Read: Genesis 1-2”
2 Timothy 3:14-17; John 5
- We need a more mystical understanding of Scripture. But also how it calls us to new spaces.
- “All Scripture” does not exist yet and he has in mind Torah.
- Inspired…he does not infallible, inerrant. They never show up in the bible. Sometimes the most important work we do is not learning new things but relearning old things.
- 2 Timothy is not about proving Scripture over science but it is about inviting people into God’s world in order to see the world differently and “to do something about it.”
- These stories carry the freight in any given culture.
- God can’t help but to create. He is in control. The things God creates would not be believable if we have not seen them.
- Everything else that has creativity or imagination that somehow it is all linked back to the God who started.
- One of the ways Genesis invites us to go deeper and that we live in a good creation. Does not deny the dark side of life but he made everything and called it good.
- Most people who tell the story of God begin with Genesis 3 and not Genesis 1.
- We have to introduce paradox to our students. Life is full of joy and pain. Paradox is one of the greatest contribution to the Western world.
Tuesday Afternoon Class 2 Sally Gary @centerpeaceinc “Reaching out to Teens Who Identify as Gay and Lesbians”
Many who struggle with same sex attraction but still love the Lord. Struggles do not divide us.
Starved for Intimacy. Facebook and its struggles for intimacy. Question is: How can we meet this need? This desire for community. There is a great need for this connection.
What teens learn from the world: Glee, Modern Family.
What teens learn from the church: Nasty messages about homosexuals from the church
What they need is looking for a safe place.
How to be a safe place?
Deal with our own fears.
- Change our thinking
- Change our language
- Be consistent
- Model the Love and Acceptance of Christ
Tuesday Night Keynote Frank Viola @FrankViola “God so loved the world vs. Love not the world.”
The world in the New Testament is used in two ways…
- Speaks of the material universe. Jesus of Nazareth is this world’s true Lord.
- A system or network or order of things designed to draw us away from God.
Historically Christians have taken two postures: 1) Retreated from the world’s system (Isolationism) 2) Enmeshed by the world and married to it.
The most miserable person is a Christian who is living in a way where deep inside them they are told to give something up and they can’t. When we are in community with other Christians the Holy Spirit is clearest.
The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what is of the world.
2 Kind of legalists: 1) Salvation by works 2) I am going to take what the Holy Spirit has shown me personally and make it a law to you.
“The gospel spreads best not through force but through fascination” (Shane Claiborne)
Dinner in Colorado Springs: Uchenna Ethiopian Restaurant
This was ranked #2 in Colorado Springs by TripAdvisor and it was awesome. I had Yebeg Alecha which was tender pieces of lamb marinated with butter then sautèed with ginger, garlic, and 12 spices. There were no forks but you had this roll that you put the meat and the sauce in. It was excellent. The owner’s name is Maya and they cooked everything to order so it took a while but the food was worth it. They have mostly organic food and a substantial vegetarian menu. I have never tried authentic Ethiopian cuisine but this was a must! Went a left the owner looked at me and said, “Go in peace.” I love her already.
You can read the first post in this series by clicking here.
Satan is doing his best to make sure 2013 is a year you wish would never have occurred. He is using his schemes to concoct the deadliest, most sinful potion imaginable with one purpose alone: to thwart the plans of God for you. Here are the remaining things Satan will do to destroy 2013 for you.
4. He will confuse you with success
What? You heard me right. Success. The “American Dream”, the do-it-yourself mentality, the “if it’s to be it’s up to me” kind of attitude will haunt you this year. Success is not bad but the confusing point of success comes when we think all of it came at the hands of our own initiative. Then we think we are invincible and pretty soon there is no need for God. In a nutshell we become deists (And all of this talk about returning to our forefathers who were essentially a bunch of deists) .
3. He will specifically cater his onslaught to something you struggle with that nobody even knows about
The Hebrew author calls it the “sin that clings so closely” (12:1). I don’t have to define that for you do I? Odds are, you know exactly what I am talking about. That pesky little critter crawling in your heart has done some serious damage and besides you, two people know about this: God and Satan. On one hand God is trying to offer you freedom from that depravity but on the other hand Satan is trying to enslave you holding you tight to that sin. 2013 will bring a lot of different things but one thing is for sure: your sins will find you out one way or another.
2. He will try to divide your relationships
Unity is something that will be a challenge for every organized group. Satan finds some of his best work on the front lines of churches who are fighting for the kingdom of God. Satan tries to divide marriages by creating atmospheres of disloyalty and distrust spreading lies and causing couples to end what used to be a strong relationship.
1. He will do his best to freeze your dreams
The other day I was watching my girls talk on this phone (an old iPod of mine that broke) and they were carrying on two different conversations with people who did not even exist. I chided, “What in the world are you girls doing?” They responded back, “We are imagining dad, leave us alone.” I smiled. Grown-ups quit dreaming and I think they do this because fear grips them into a state of paralysis and what could be becomes, at least to them, what will never be. Satan freezes dreams.
So there you have it. The good thing is that the power of Satan has already been defeated at the cross. Satan has no control over those whom God has chosen in Christ and if we place our allegiance to the lordship of Jesus then what can Satan do to us? Make 2013 the year that you finally become a servant to the master and do not let Satan destroy you.
I was watching Shrek 2 with my kids the other day and noticed something that sparked my attention. Shrek and his wife Fiona (both ogres) visit Fiona’s parents who are the King and Queen of the kingdom Far, Far Away (I feel like my maturity is dropping). Fiona’s parents never met Shrek and the encounter is fraught with disagreement because Shrek is an ogre and he can’t change that. Fiona and Shrek argue because Shrek feels as if Fiona is challenging who he is and who he can never be (a beautiful prince to please her “Mummy and Daddy”) and so Shrek leaves the castle. He meets Fairy Godmother and finds out she has a potion that could change his fate. The potion is called “Happily Ever After” and it is supposed to make their dreams come true. Shrek and Donkey both drink the potion and Shrek turns into a handsome person while Donkey turns into a white stallion. See video below…
The problem is that Shrek’s happily ever after is only skin-deep. He is still the same ogre and his looks are at best superficial. As it turns out, his happily ever after was right in front of his eyes the entire time. This leads me to the point…
Don’t drink the “happily Ever After” Potion…It sucks!
Seriously, how much time, money and resources have you wasted chasing dreams that in the end, do nothing but leave you brokenhearted and empty-handed? Think about every “new” thing that marketing gurus are trying to get you to buy and their gran pitch is that in some form or fashion this new “thing” will somehow make your life better. It will make your life easier. It will make your dreams come true. But you have to buy it. Insert sigh here.
Your happily ever after potion could be a relationship that you are in which has become toxic at best. Or it might even be the pursuit of a relationship which has captivated your passion and you think to yourself, “If I just have this relationship then my life will be happily ever after.” When those dreams don’t come true your life…
…to put it bluntly…
It’s not God’s fault either. You bought the potion Satan sold you and ignored the warnings God gave you and your crappy life just might be the direct result of your own folly. Why? Because anything less than glorifying God is idolatry.
In your possessions…
“Because life does not consist in the abundance of things” (Luke 12:15).
“Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:22).
Life is not about a “happily ever after” it is about a “glorifying God forever.” There is no potion for that. There is no quick fix for that. And if you put your life, your worth, your energy and your passion in things that hold a temporal value then life will suck.
So don’t drink the potion.
Drink, instead, from the water which gives life and life eternal (John 4).
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
This is a beautiful praise Psalm that coincides with the praise theme that God is universally present and sovereign. Sovereign is a fancy word that simply means God is king and reigns over all of creation. It is said that David wrote this Psalm (or it was for David…) and we are unsure as to the situation when David wrote it. Perhaps you could imagine David strolling through his kingdom on a donkey or a hummer and he looks at everything that is around him. Immediately he asks the people to stop so he can have his scribe jot down a few lyrics he is thinking about. As he looks at everything he is moved by the vastness of God’s awesome power and the only thing due to God is giving him the glory!
That’s exactly what he asks the readers and the heavenly beings to do: give God the glory. “Ascribe” is a fancy term that simply means assign or designate. Note why God is designated with glory (vv. 3-9): he is over the waters, thunder, the trees, regions of land, fire, and even a deer giving birth. Notice the contrast in verse 9 between birth of a deer and death of a forest. But the comparison is that both are naked: one entering and one existing. I am reminded of Job when he says, “Naked I came into the world (mother’s womb) and naked I shall return…blessed (or praise) be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
God’s be praised because he is universally sovereign and universally present.
Questions for Reflection
- Give a time when you felt pulled to praise God? What were some words you used to describe God’s glory?
- Talk about specific things (write them down) where you see God’s sovereignty?
- Why do you think David asked God to give us strength and peace to his people (v. 11)? In other words, what is so important about strength and peace?
This is straight from Wikipedia to define what I mean by those with “special needs”:
n the United States, special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological. For instance, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases 9th edition both give guidelines for clinical diagnosis. People with Autism, Down syndrome, dyslexia, blindness, or cystic fibrosis, for example, may be considered to have special needs. (Source)
I was asked this morning by a friend this question that I never thought about: “Why does God give people disabilities?” That was a question I was not prepared for. I assured this person that sometimes disabilities come as the result of accidents but there are many disabilities that we are unsure where the cause comes from. It would be easy to dismiss the question by saying that however I offered her an explanation that does not solve everything but I think is significant.
In Isaiah 43:7 God shares that human beings were created for the purpose of glorifying God. Proverbs 16:4 reads, “The Lord has made everything for its purpose.” In his wonderful paraphrase Eugene Peterson words Romans 11:33-36 this way:
Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Many other Scriptures talk about giving God glory because he is worthy of that glory. Glory simply means we shine the light on that which needs it. So I wonder if a disability or special need should not be viewed as a hindrance but as a gift. Peter writes for us:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:10-11)
What if having a special need could be viewed as a gift to give God further glory that, like Paul, in our weakness we can show our strength? That does not mean having a child with special needs is easy to explain or easy to experience. Not at all. Yet, I am reminded just how present God is with those who have special needs. My wife watches a child during the day who has Down Syndrome and everyday I am reminded of the peace that surpasses all understanding through this child. I wish I cold live love with even a fraction of the endearment this child has for life. That child’s special need is not a hindrance to the gospel… it is the gospel.
I think the deepest, most intimate circle of heaven belongs to those with special needs. There will be no disabilities in heaven and all will be made perfect and right. Our broken world will not keep us enslaved anymore as we will have a new incorruptible body. So often those with special needs teach us more than we can ever teach them. Our churches should have special ministries that reach out to those who have these types of needs and we should equip ourselves to welcome these families into our fellowships. What is your church doing for those with special needs? Do you mind sharing ideas? Share them below…
I am always at a loss with how to address this issue in church. I just feel that God’s kingdom is filled with those who have special needs both with their presence but also their testimony to God. I struggle also because I have four completely healthy kids and I am completely healthy myself. I feel guilt for this. But that is not right. Instead I am reminded of how much God cares for all people.
Watch this short video as I am reminded how those with special needs still speak even when they are weak… Grab a Kleenex.
Preached this sermon yesterday at Main Street and it was well received.
(Romans 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:9-10)
“I think every church should be a church irreligious people love to attend. Why? Because the church is the local expression of the presence of Jesus. We are his body. And since people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus, people who are nothing like Jesus should like us as well.” I just read that quote on Friday and it is amazing how well this fit into the sermon idea that I wanted to talk about with you this morning. A few weeks ago I shared a blog post chronicling my usage of marijuana in middle and high school and I received many warm comments but most of them had to do with me having courage to share that information. In that blog post I wrote:
I am not sure why I am telling all of you this now as many of you are finding this out for the first time. I guess because I have seen a few of my own youth struggle and have heard of so many others that I feel it is probably time to share my story.
Some of you in this audience knew of my past and some of you did not. Perhaps some of you are thinking to yourself, “What is this guy talking about?” The blog post simply told part of my story where I struggled with drugs and alcohol in my middle and high-school days. The struggle could have been worse but it did not have to happen. I tell you all of this to ask this question:
Why did people say that I had courage to admit that I used drugs?
Why does that take courage?
I read the New Testament and people who were responsible for the death of Jesus, the Savior came to Peter asking for repentance and desiring baptism. Smoking weed is nothing compared to killing the savior.
It takes courage to admit things like my broken past not because there is a loss of people in the church who have similar pasts but there are people in this church and every other church who are either afraid of what people might think (i.e, “they will judge me”) or, even worse, they do not want to address those demons of the past. It also takes courage to admit that those types of things because most of time many people in this auditorium spend 45 minutes to an hour pretending to be someone who they are not. This is why so many people who are unchurched do not want to attend a church because they feel like they have to have everything in order before they can be a part of the church. That’s not the way the New Testament church operated.
What I am going to do this morning is going to take some courage on your part. I am going to ask a bunch of questions and all I ask of you to do is to be honest and raise your hands. If you are visiting with us feel free not to participate but if you are a member of this church I ask all of you to participate. I ask you to trust me in what I am about to do and understand that I am making a point with all of this. Finally, this goes without saying, those who raise their hands are free from judgment on your part. There is only one judge and you are not he. This should make good lunch discussions…
So here we go…
We’ll start easy…
- How many of you come from a Christian home where you church was talked about all the time and you absolutely loved going to services, participating in VBS, youth the whole nine yards? How many of that was you raise your hand?
- How many of you did not grow up in a Christian home as Christ was never talked about or if he was it was only around Christmas time? How many of that was you raise your hand?
- How many of you grew up attending church but then hated going to church because mom and dad forced it on you so you left when you got old enough and then played a little, visited other churches but eventually came back? How many of that was you raise your hand?
- How many of you came from some other denomination before you landed here at Main Street?
- How many of you became a believer after your 20th birthday? 30th? 40th? 50th? Any higher?
- How many of you, your parents are still happily married?
- How many of you are from homes where your parents were divorced either early on or at some point since you left the house?
- How many of you, your parents are married, but not necessarily happily?
- How many of you have experienced divorce?
- How many of you have a master’s level education or above?
- How many of you did not graduate high school but have a GED or some sort of equivalent?
- Any democrats in here?
- How many of you were born in the north above the Mason-Dixon line?
- How many of you were born in another country?
Again this is a safe environment where you will not be judged….
- How many of you have a past in addiction whether it is alcohol, drugs or pornography?
- Last one, how many of you have experienced some sort of abuse (physical, sexual or mental) in your background.
Let’s take a deep breath. There is this lie from the handiwork of Satan himself that says God only saves certain people. As if God loves republicans more than he does democrats. As if God loves people who have been to church their whole lives versus those who just made it. Here is the gist of this sermon, the big point…
“God, by his grace and mercy, wants all to be saved and the gospel is for everybody.”
Let that marinate on your heart rate now. Let that sit in your stubborn chambers where the “ideal Christian” image sits. God saves the person who cusses like a sailor and get’s drunk all night long and God saves the person whose worst words are “silly goose” and who feels guilty drinking a Pepsi. You know what I mean? God saves all of us and we should be courageously unashamed of that fact.
Some of you are walking around saying, “I never tried drugs and I never have touched alcohol and I have gone to church services my whole life and feel like my testimony to God is insignificant.” Hogwash! Praise God that he saw it fit to save you from that situation and now uses your story to teach all families that God-fearing people can raise another generation of God-fearing people. Some of you are walking around saying, “If church people only knew of all the things I have done they would not want me into their church.” First off, it’s not their church it’s Jesus Christ’s church. Secondly, if they really knew about all the things you have done and if they had an ounce of authenticity in them after hearing about the things you have done they would not say, “How horrible you are,” they would say, “How great is our God!”
Don’t you think it’s time church that we become a little more authentic and a little more genuine? I am not saying we have to unload every personal detail every time we come to services but I can honestly say that many of you I know but few of you I know on a deep, personal level. The apostle Paul was very upfront about who he was and how God saved him from the wretched person that he was. There are a ton of verses I could share (especially in Acts where he recounts his conversion story a couple of times) but I felt like this one sums it all up…
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Cor. 15:9-10)
In context Paul is talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and how Jesus appeared to him who was the least of the apostles. He calls himself one who was “untimely born.” Paul is forever having to defend his apostleship to people who think he is a nobody. Imagine the criticism he got:
“This guy is not one of us, he was a persecutor of the church. How dare he think he can tell us how to run this church?”
“He was not an apostle as he barely even saw the Lord Jesus.”
Yet, Paul understood that and in the wake of his past he came to the conclusion that the suffering, the persecution and the pain he causes to the church he could do nothing about right now. He said, “by the grace of God I am what I am.”
I think churches are starving for people like Paul who just puts all of his cards on the table and lets whatever falls to fall. He does not say what he did gives people license to do bad things but he allows other people to see how God can save people from horrible circumstances.
So there is this myth that there is this certain type of person God saves. It does not exist. He saved a rich tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus and he saved the woman caught in adultery, in the very act. How rough would that one be if a woman caught in adultery interrupted our services begging to be saved at the very instant? We would probably escort her out so we would not disrupt the order of worship. God saves all kinds of people. If we want this church to grow we need to be more authentic. We need to be the church that does not seek other church-going people but we need to be the church that seeks the people nobody wants… the unchurched. There are plenty of churches in this county who brag about their numbers when all they are doing is swelling from other churches. We need to be that church where unchurched people look at and say, “I want to be a part of that.”
How do we do that? We started today… honesty, integrity and openness. I titled this sermon God’s Kaleidoscope. One definition for kaleidoscope on Dictionary.com was, “any complex pattern of frequently changing shapes and colors.” Sounds a little bit about what church is supposed to be. As the leaves change in the fall I am reminded about how different people from church are. We come from every background imaginable and the one common theme is that we are all trying to give God his glory and reach others to do the same. We all are spared by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ so that we do not live lives in the “used to be” or “what could be” but we live in the already.
So we have all been a bit honest. This should help us reach others. This should help us start. We do not have to have this mask put on. “Fake it until you make it” is a cliché for people who don’t know what they are talking about. Let’s stop faking. Let’s stop living in our empty cisterns of despair. Let’s live in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. I am not scared any more are you? Let’s do this church! My name is Robbie Mackenzie. I used to do drugs, I used to drink heavily, I was not a virgin when I got married, I treated God like a genie in a bottle and God saved me from all of that. HIS GRACE REACHES EVEN ME….
 Andy Stanley, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend (Kindle Locations 57-59). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
 The idea from this came from Matt Chandler’s masterful sermon entitled, “City on a Hill – Part 1: A New People” preached at The Village Church in Flower Mound, TX on September 2nd, 2012. http://www.thevillagechurch.net/sermon/a-new-people/. Some of the questions are directly from his sermon.
I am speaking tonight at Crittenden Drive Church of Christ in Russelville, Kentucky and this is my lesson on patience. It’s not the typical lesson on patience you might hear…
I am struggling at speaking with you tonight because the topic assigned to me is one that I immensely struggle with. I struggle with it because it has to do with something that cause counterintuitive to every fabric in which God has wired me. To illustrate this I want to share a personal story with you. I am a youth minister and I consider that a pretty stressful job. If all you think a youth minister does is hang out with teenagers and eat pizza and play XBOX all day is what youth ministers do then either 1) you have no clue about what a youth minister does or, 2) you have a lazy youth minister. . When we are stressed our ability to persevere becomes stretched and unfortunately our impatience is forced against those who are closest to us.
I was stressed this particular day and to make matters worse I had to go shopping with my wife at the place where Satan reigns: Wal-Mart. I am a pretty likable guy unless I cross the threshold of the den of iniquity known as Wal-Mart and then my attitude suddenly goes sour and I forget that I am even a minister. I just lose it. People cutting you off, the cart pulling to one side, the whole in the milk jug, people in the 20 items or less with 30 items. I could go on and on. On this day I was irritable from work and then irritable from Wal-Mart and then to top it off my kids were possessed by demons in Wal-Mart. Again, that’s because Satan owns it but I digress. So the kids are terrible, we are crunched for time and I had a bad day at work. We get home and our routine is that we put all of the groceries on the kitchen floor and after we have unloaded all of them from the van we then begin the process of putting them away. After the second load I come to the kitchen to find my oldest son Kaleb (who was very young at the time) emptying the contents of the bag on the floor. So I lose it. I don’t have to define what I mean by “lose it” because you have been there. I screamed at him (because a 4 year old is supposed to know every rule I have ever created for them) and then told him to go to his room. I will never forget his response to this day. He looked at me, and with tears in his eyes said, “But daddy, I was just trying to help.”
We are closing this summer series out with a doozy. A tough one for us to handle. I find it strikingly ironic that we saved patience for the last lesson. I would have expected us to hurry up and let it be the first one but here we are with it being the last one. What we are going to do tonight is first define patience from a biblical perspective, then we are going to look at some thoughts on why we are not patient and finally I want to offer some suggestions on how to improve.
WHAT IS PATIENCE?
Over and over again I hear good churchgoing people who mean well completely butcher what patience is. There is this pervasive thought that patience is this passive mentality where you sit and simply act as a nice person with a Christian smile on your face. That’s not what Biblical patience is. There is a strong element of waiting that is tied in with patience but the waiting is always about participatory expectation. The Greek words for patience (hupomone, makrothumeo) might be best defined as “steadfast endurance.” It means you bear under intense trial and tribulation. We think an intense trial or tribulation is waiting at McDonalds for them to biggie size your French-fries. Patience is intense endurance under some of the most painful circumstances. To illustrate let me quote a verse from 2 Peter.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness (you already see the first century Christian’s impatience here) but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
God is patient with all of creation so much so that he does not desire to have us perish. The word for perish in other contexts means to be destroyed. God is patient with us. God suffers long for us. Think of a person in your life who constantly has disappointed you and has done everything wrong no matter your wishes or desires. Then think of having an intense desire for this person who has disappointed you time after time to still succeed. That is like God except at an infinitely different level. Think of how many times you have sinned and disobeyed God yet he still loves you at a deep level. That, my friends, is patience.
But in my experience we are impatience with the small things which means we are impatient with the large things. How many times have you gone through a season of suffering, pain, affliction and you threw up your hands and said, “I’m done with you God! The pain is too much. I’m done!” I think we are impatient for a few reasons…
WHY ARE WE IMPATIENT?
We can probably list a bunch of different reasons here but there are two that I can think of that come to my mind that probably stand out more than others…
- WE ARE SELFISH.
Ever since the fall there is one thing that has been on our minds more than anything else combined: ourselves. We think about ourselves all the time and this leads to our impatience. Think about when the people of Israel built the golden calf in Exodus. Their main reasoning for building that calf was because they were too impatient to wait for Moses and they wanted something right now. We are selfish. I wanted to lead and say that we are impatient because of the culture that we live on but then I thought that in order to have culture you have to have people. Our impatient culture is a product of our own impatient people. Every generation might think they are the worst of something but I really think we are the worst generation at waiting. The concept of delayed gratification is about as a foreign as bipartisanship or something else. I see it most often at a fast food restaurant.
Think about the time and effort it takes to cook hamburgers and make French fries. It may take 20-30 minutes of prep work and then the grilling may take 10-15 minutes and so you might have a meal in an hour if you’re lucky. Yet, when we get to a fast food restaurant we somehow lose the capacity to think and freak out when we don’t get our food immediately. If I don’t get my food in three minutes I start sweating and getting irritated. After 5 minutes I am usually livid screaming, “How long does it take to make a Baconator?” If they are longer then 5 minutes I usually say, “Guess they had to go slaughter the cow and pig to get the beef and bacon.” At the core, I am selfish. On a serious level we place time constraints on God as if we know our will better than he does. That leads me to the next point.
- WE ARE LIMITED IN SEEING THE BIG PICTURE
I love the book of Nehemiah. The book is filled with so many different leadership lessons but for time’s sake the lesson I want to share with you from this book is the lesson of patience and sticking to God’s vision. The story of Nehemiah is one of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah commissions workers to build this wall not knowing what the wall was to look like. He simply was there to work and trust that God would lead them through this process. There were all kinds of distractions coming from wicked men who wanted to deter Nehemiah from building this wall. Nehemiah withstands the criticisms from without and probably from within and builds the wall. Now Nehemiah did not know how things would turn out and at the end of the day the people would still be in exile under the rule of a foreign nation. But…he trusted God with both the little things (finishing the wall) and he trusted God with the big things (ultimate purposes of Israel).
Cancer… wars… financial hardship… divorce… sudden death… accidents… genocide. I could go on and on. Like the Psalmist we are oft-tempted to proclaim, “How long, O Lord?” If you are a Christian for longer than a baptism and if you are honest with yourself there are times when you throw up your hands and think, “This is it God, I can’t take this anymore! This Christian walk thing is not all it’s cracked up to be.” I understand your pain. I get it. But we are not given the plans that God contains. Sometimes God gives us a window and let’s us see the big picture but sometimes we are left with more questions than answers. Our anxiety, our impatience, and all of our brokenness should lead us to long for something more. Something deep. Something true.
SUGGESTIONS TO HELP
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:7-10).
There is a lot to unpack here but notice how, at least in the book of James, the themes of suffering are linked with patience and joy (James 1:2). Suffering, persecution and affliction were common in the first century and very much expected. So there was an intense desire for something greater and that’s why the Second Coming of Jesus was a major theme throughout the letters of Paul and other epistles. Patience was not a subject about how to deal with cutthroat bankers or shady investors or slow Taco Bell workers (all though that’s important too) but how do we reconcile the pain and brokenness of this world with God’s redemptive purposes. Their solution was, “we may never find healing in this life, and we may never find peace in this political climate but one thing is for sure, there is something better and we long for that!” How often is the Second Coming of Christ a conversation in your churches? How often is it a conversation in your families? Patience comes from an intense desire to have all things made right through the glory of God. Part of experiencing the Christian life means we bring in now in part what we will experience in full later.
Waiting on the Lord is not a passive, idle response as Paul was strongly opposed to those people who just wanted to go to heaven but did nothing about their faith (2 Thess. 3). Waiting on the Lord and patience as a fruit of the Spirit means patience comes with anticipation! Anticipation means we make ready our lives to wait on the coming of the Lord. I think Isaiah alludes to the same concept in a popular verse:
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (Isa. 40:30-31)
This is most comforting because we all like to know that our life here on earth does not go in vain. We like to know that if we do have cancer that God’s purposes will come forth through that. We like to know that if we do lose a loved one that the glory of God will come forth through that immense pain. That is where patience moves from passive time-killing to steadfast endurance. That is why the other verses in Scripture about make sense when we understand that patience is about endurance…
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom. 8:25)
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Rom. 12:12)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant. (1 Cor. 13:4)
“If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.” (2 Cor. 1:6)
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3)
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thess. 5:14)
“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Tim. 1:16).
We could go on and on but you get the gist of the idea. Patience is more than a virtue, it is a way of life. When it comes to difficult times it is not a matter of if but when and when it comes you must be ready.
So may you be ready. May you look at your impatient lives and discover the source of your angst and may you replace that source with an insatiable desire for what Jesus offers to us. May you who have lost loved ones cling to the almighty who knows all, sees all and understands all and may you long for a day when you will see your loved ones again. May you, who are dealing with cancer or some other life-threatening illness, trust in the promises of God that he will heal you if it is his will but if no healing comes God will use your illness to bring others closer to him and receive glory. May you who are going through difficult marriages and tough finances place your allegiance to Jesus Christ who died, was buried and rose again for our sins. May you who are addicted find healing in your difficult time. May you, who long for Jesus to come, anticipate his coming and help others to do the same. In the word of John in the book of Revelation, “Come, Lord!”
Let me start with my story so that you can understand where I am coming from. First, I have to give a disclaimer. I was taught to be careful when disclosing information about my past as it might give license for people to justify their actions. Sort of a “Well Robbie went through it so can I” mentality. I think the readers of this post know better than that so please do not misinterpret my story as license. Secondly, I am not sure why I am telling all of you this now as many of you are finding this out for the first time. I guess because I have seen a few of my own youth struggle and have heard of so many others that I feel it is probably time to share my story. I have been ashamed of my past and have told very few people but now I am no longer ashamed because the past is what has made me into the man I am right now. In the words of Paul:
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. (1 Cor. 15:9-10).
I hope this post (albeit long) will help you if your child is using drugs or if you are using drugs and are reading this. I certainly did not get mixed-up heavy into drugs but nonetheless…
I was in the sixth grade when I first tried marijuana.
Let that sink in a bit.
I was 12 years old. Some neighborhood buddies and I had skipped school and we had gone into the woods when a guy pulled out this little bag filled with what looked like grass clippings to me. I remember he pulled out this weird looking pipe and put the “grass clippings” into this pipe and inhaled as he lit it. The stuff smelled like body odor with a hint of the smell when one burns leaves. It was my turn to take a “hit” from the pipe. I inhaled and coughed my brains out. I felt nothing… My friends were acting like idiots while I felt nothing.
The next time I tried it was when I was in the 8th grade. My buddy and I went to the top of a hill by the elementary school I attended and I tried it again. Only this time I felt something. I felt good. I felt relaxed. It was amazing. They tell you “Nothing beats the feeling of your first high” and you really don’t understand what that means until you experience it. From that moment on, I was hooked.
I would smoke on and off maybe once or twice a week but I remember longing for the moments where I would be able to smoke weed the next time. After my 8th grade year I moved to Chattanooga and I thought maybe my bad times were behind me but sometimes your past catches up with you and you find the same people just in a different context. I continued smoking on and off. I started attending a Christian high-school and I thought my past was behind me.
I met some Christians who smoked weed as well and my past was not behind me.
The last time I smoked weed was the fall of 1998. I met this girl whose father was a youth minister and I became a Christian and suddenly weed was not important to me. I am not sure if I was addicted to it because I usually did it with other people and it was more social for me. But I did like it. I could share countless stories of staying up at night, running from the police, my parents finding out and all sorts of other stories. I tried LSD once and drank some alcohol but weed was my drug of choice. I did it to escape. I did it because it felt good. I did it because my friends did it.
Shortly after that, I received the news that one of my best friends growing up (who I smoked with) overdosed and died from drug use. I never got to say goodbye.
I was walking in San Francisco this past weekend leaving a Giants-Braves game and I caught a whiff of weed someone was smoking among the crowd. Even almost 15 years without touching the stuff my body had tingles and my mind traced back to those many days.
So why this post? Why my story? I hope to give you advice on what to do based on experience with what my parents did but also watching and learning from others.
HOW TO HELP YOUR TEEN…OR HOW HOW TO HELP YOU.
First off, don’t panic. I saw a stat that said that teen marijuana use is actually more than teen cigarette use. I know that your child using drugs is difficult and somewhat hard to fathom but your child needs your careful, objective and loving guidance and that takes some discernment and patience. I knew of a guy whose parents sent him off to rehab because he had tried some weed. Maybe there was more to the story but it seems it would have been better for them to discern then to panic and make rash decisions. That does not mean minimize what they have done but don’t maximize it either.
Secondly, understand this could be a long road. Depending on their drug (mine was small in comparison) they could be in for a long road to recovery. Especially if meth, heroine, crack, cocaine and other highly addictive drugs are involved. It takes some patience, love and support to walk them through this. Remember, you are wrestling against evil and dark forces and every part of them does not want you to win. Seek the Lord’s counsel and help.
Thirdly, trust has to be earned. They broke trust when they started using drugs and it has to be earned and gained in order for them to have certain privileges. So the questioning of who they are talking to, where they are going, what are the text messages, let me see the Facebook, what did you do at school, and others are legitimate exercises to learn and earn trust.
Fourth, context is key to help. What I mean by that is what helped me was finding the right friends and purging myself of old ones. As harsh as that sounds I knew that if I was going to be clean I had to remove the unclean context. They were close friends but I knew that they would find new ones and maybe down the road when I was more mature and the time was right we could be friends again. I don’t understand why people who struggle with drugs go back to their druggie friends. That’s like saying you hate cold weather and want to rid yourself of it so you buy a house in Fairbanks, Alaska. Makes no sense. Context is key.
Fifth, find a support group, specifically one that is Christian. Ideally your home church network should be that support group but you also need to network among those parents who are struggling in a similar manner. Nobody wants to be alone and it helps to have fellow travelers who have been there and done that and can share the wounds and the victories.
Sixth, love your child unconditionally. They may scream at you. They may run away. They may struggle for years. They may cost you thousands of dollars. They may do unthinkable amounts of evil. But you love them. Unconditionally as Christ loved you. That doesn’t mean they go undisciplined or that they drain your savings but it means you relentlessly pursue them until they live a life of glorification to God. Sometimes we lose the ones we love the most but more often than not teenagers find healing and sobriety from relentless parents and a relentless God.
I hope this helps and has encouraged and strengthened you. What would you add?