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Saturday, February 16, 2013

I Wanted a Mercedes

You can watch/listen to the video for this message here.

There was a short season in my life when I was obsessed with owning a Mercedes. It was a ridiculous idea. Kat and I were in seminary in Texas. I was driving a truck for a pick up and delivery service in Ft. Worth and I would often see those beautiful cars while working. Kat was teaching school. Our car at the time was a 1978 Grand Prix and it was many years before we could afford something different. Before we sent the Grand Prix to the junk yard, and while I was still driving it, I had to staple the headliner up regularly. For some of the time I had to get in and out of the vehicle "Dukes of Hazzard" style because the door wouldn’t work. Because of that I often would forget and leave the window down and so it was not unusual for there to be a literal puddle in the back floorboard. Because the windows were down often, there was a bees nest under the headliner. Needless to say, there were a lot of steps between our car and a Mercedes, but I wanted one. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with owning one, but that was not ever going to fit our budget, then or now.

It may be impossible to grow up in this country and not at some time or another struggle with the desire to be wealthy. Perhaps that’s universal, but since I’ve only grown up in this country, I don’t know what its like to grow up elsewhere. But it was particularly absurd for me to want a Mercedes when I was in seminary. I don’t know what was considered the poverty line in terms of income in the late 1980’s but I’m fairly sure we were close to it. 

Probably you’ve had seasons in your life where you were struggling financially. Perhaps some reading this are struggling now. This Sunday at Bethany Place we will expose a different sort of poverty. This is a poverty all have experienced at one time or another, all are in danger of it, and some are experiencing it right now. The kind of poverty I’m speaking of is spiritual poverty and Ironically, being reasonably well off can lead to this kind of poverty if specific steps are not taken to combat it. The message from Revelation 3:14-23, will be the last in the series called Ear Training from Revelation 2-3. You can see the text and outline below.

Combatting Spiritual Poverty
Revelation 3:14-22
Ear Training, Part 7
1.    Identify what pleases God
Revelation 3:14–17 (ESV) 14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 

2.    Address problem areas
Revelation 3:17–19 (ESV) 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

3.    Develop a keen sense of hearing
Revelation 3:20–22 (ESV)20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Matt Chandler on Church Membership and Worship

I just listened to a message called Empathy and Human Flourishing by Matt Chandler from Nehemiah 1. You can hear it or download it here: it’s definitely worth listening to. I found his lead in to Communion so strong I did my best to transcribe what he said from the recording. Since I captured it made sense to pass it a long: 
You have not been called to attend church, you’ve been called by God to belong to one. Not just to attend here, that’s not rebuilding the walls, that’s not creating an environment where compassion can flourish, you have not been called to attend church, you have been called to belong to one. There’s no way for us to show one another compassion where we are not known, in order to be known, preferences have to become secondary, and happiness has to be subservient to joy. If you want preference and happiness you will never let weaknesses be known by others. You will hide them and in so doing you will shrivel up the soul’s capacity to live in high levels of joy.One of the litmus test here is have you entered in to the covenant community of faith or are you purposefully staying on the outskirts for one reason or another, but is likely motivated by radical individualism. God would have you put this before you in preference and ease.  Have you grown myopic in how you see the work of God in your life? 
We are going to sing to the Lord and we get confused about what singing is and why it matters. I plead with you, don’t feel like its a secondary part of what we are doing. The Lord commands us to sing to to him, not because he needs to be sung to. There are heavenly creatures on repeat around the ears and the throne room of God. They never stop saying, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. No, God has commanded us sing to the Lord because we need to sing to him because in singing to him God takes what is intellectual and he drives it down into the heart and he connects the heart with the head. As we worship him in song and as we sing what is true about the Lord, what is intellectual connects to what is spiritual and emotional and that’s why God says, “You sing to me with joy, sing to me loudly, you get after me with worship and song.” 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Another Take on Trusting or Trying

I have long been a student of productivity. I don’t remember making lists of things to do growing up, but I had not been in ministry long before realizing there were many things to remember that would be forgotten if not written down. I collected numerous ideas, way, way too many to accomplish in any one day and so there had to be a way to prioritize them. I learned a method that involved writing out a new list every day. That was cumbersome. For a class in seminary, trying to get better at this, I chose to write a paper on the subject of time management, but turned it in one month late! I wish I was making that up.

Eventually software became available for managing tasks. After acquiring such software, I learned I could type new tasks and ideas out quickly and didn't have to re-enter them every day. But there is a tremendous downside to this. You can quickly collect hundreds of things to do, which is ridiculous. No one can focus on that many things to do. More than once I’ve grown a list like that only to give up in frustration and start over because there was no way I could focus on that many things. 

I don’t want to ever give up on trying to get better at this. I’m encouraged at having set some targets for the first three months of this year. I’m going to run in a 10k for the first time at the Monument Avenue 10k in April. Getting ready for that is keeping me on track physically. I’ve long had aggressive reading goals because I need the challenge reading provides. This week I read a book called The Forgotten God by Francis Chan. Reading that book about the Holy Spirit provoked an old question: How can a person rely on the Holy Spirit to empower them to effectively serve God, against the expectations they or others place on themselves to get a lot of things done? The short answer is we both totally rely on the Holy Spirit and we work hard. We must learn to be aware, to trust, and to call on the presence of the Holy Spirit within us to empower us. We also have a responsibility to work with all diligence, offering our best, and sharpening the skills we need to do our work, our serving, and our caring.

Sunday’s message at Bethany Place from Revelation 3:7-13 will also provide an opportunity to probe this dynamic between relying on God and overtly exerting effort to follow Him. I can’t wait to share what God is drilling into my heart this week from this passage. I hope to see you there or that you can listen online when that becomes available. You can see the text and the initial outline below.

Are We There Yet
Revelation 3:7-13
Ear Training Part 6

1. Find encouragement in Jesus regardless of opposition

Revelation 3:7–9 (ESV) “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 

2. Maintain the unique perspective that hardship brings

Revelation 3:10–11 (ESV) 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 

3. Develop a longing for what God has promised

Revelation 3:12–13 (ESV) 12 The one who conquerrs, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’