Feeling God’s love-presence-power…

The question came up on Sunday, “so what can you do when you can’t really feel God in your life?”  So if you know God loves you but you can’t feel it, or you know God is powerful, but it’s just an abstract concept…what do you do?  Feelings are important, because even though we don’t admit it, what we feel is where we live.  If you can’t feel safe in an airplane – you probably aren’t going to be flying anywhere soon.  And if you can’t feel God’s love then you won’t be able to live like the people who do.  So what can we do?  How can we problem solve this? Continue reading

Top 5 Reasons NOT to talk about the Holy Spirit (and why they’re dumb)

Here’s a quick top 5:

5. “It scares off non-Christians.” If you believe in God then you believe in God’s Spirit and things like that. Non-Christians know YOU believe it: So it’s no use trying to hide it. We shouldn’t try to “sell” a version of Christianity that (we think) is palatable to our unbelieving friends; instead we should do our best to be honest with explain fully the more difficult and hard-to-believe things. Continue reading

pastor as nutritionist

Normally I think of a pastor’s job on Sundays like that of a chef. It’s the preacher’s job to take the Scripture passage and bring out its true flavors, while making it tasty and palatable to lots of different people. The text needs to be fully cooked to help break apart the proteins and fibers so that they’re tasty and easy to digest. An under cooked sermon can sometimes go down the wrong way and make people sick; or at the very least it won’t taste very good. An overcooked sermon can be like a pile of mush covered in ketchup, unidentifiable from the original ingredients, not doing justice to the text. But there’s a SECOND part to this cooking metaphor. It’s a pastor’s job on Sundays to also act as a nutritionist. To make sure the guests are getting a good variety of nutrients from the text: not just one thing, but a little bit of everything… being especially attentive to the nutritional foods that are neglected or avoided. Continue reading

don’t judge, criticize, complain…[leadership]

This is just for people who want to be leaders…the number one rule for being a leader at CF (something that I need to learn to follow as well!) is: “do not judge, criticize, or complain about anyone.”  So when Jesus said “do not judge or you too will be judged…” (Mattthew 7:1), he wasn’t saying “don’t make judgments.”  So you need to buy a car, vote for a candidate, fill out someone’s job performance questionnaire, decide whether to work for a crime syndicate…that means you need to make a judgment: decide what is right or wrong for you.  You should judge those things to the best of your ability.  But what Jesus was saying was: you may not judge people.  You may not expend mental energy on whether or not such and such person is doing their best, doing right or wrong, is being good or is not.  If you want to be a LEADER, this is rule #1!  And here’s why… Continue reading

Faith and Resurrection

There’s a very understandable mistake people make about the Resurrection. It’s miraculous that a man should die and come back to life, so people think we’re supposed to take this resurrection business on “faith”… that faith is what we use to believe that Jesus was resurrected. But that’s totally wrong. The resurrection was not something the early church had to exercise “Faith” to believe – it was a crazy fact of their local history: The tomb (that was guarded by centurions) was empty, and no BODY was ever found; this is a historical fact to this day. The disciples who ran for the hills and hid (when Jesus was arrested), came out in the open and said they saw Jesus! Also historical fact. Afterward more than 500 people claimed to have seen Jesus at the same time, and they claimed Jesus taught them for several weeks. Understandably, around 2000 of the people who saw Jesus (and were in Jerusalem on pilgrimage for Passover) decided to stay…because they didn’t want to go home at that point. And along with these claims there was a radical shift in values and behavior from the once conservative and very-Judaean minded disciples… Now they were on a mission to embrace non-Jews as brothers in Christ, and tell the whole world about a Messiah who went to the Cross and returned!

Continue reading

Some facts about Good Friday

Before I knew anything (really) about Jesus, I became interested because of Good Friday…  Apart from Bible teaching, here’s what we know:

1. Jesus was a real person in history.

2. For three years, Jesus was also a very public figure who taught openly that God was near and that our Sins could be forgiven.

3. Jesus allowed himself to be betrayed, tortured and killed by the government because he believed he would take the punishment for the world’s Sin on himself.

4. Jesus taught that those who are saved by Him, should imitate him with their lives, giving themselves up to save others.

To my early college non-Christian mind, this was CRAZY.  But…I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the whole world was this crazy?  …And it gave me some incentive to start asking questions and find out more about this Jesus.

what do you live for?

Here’s a little spiritual homework assignment that can change your life: take out a piece of paper (or open a new doc file) and write out in one sentence “what” you live for.  What is it that if you did not accomplish, your life would be a waste – and if you do accomplish, even if you lose everything else, you will feel you’ve been successful.  Take some time with this.  The hard part is you ALREADY have an answer to this that you never admitted to yourself or put into conscious thoughts.  Then when you’ve done that, beneath it, make a list of things that you DO during the week, and explain how they go toward doing “what you live to do.”  This is to double check: the majority of things you DO should be related to what you wrote for “what you live to do”…  If it doesn’t then go back and reconsider what you put down in the first line, to see if there might not be something else you’re really living for…

Now we know things go wrong when people live for the wrong things… even if they’re “good” things, unless they’re things really worth living for – we wind up not really “living.”  So we want to think about this and live for something WORTH living for…  At this point, maybe you’re expecting me to tell you what you should live for – but I’m not… Instead let me ask you: what do you think Jesus would say?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section…

what you see…

Things are not always as they appear.  Everyone else might look to you like they have it all together: they never get lonely or scared or bitter, they have no issues…  But the reality is different from appearances…  And because we can’t see what’s really going on underneath – when it comes to other people – it sometimes encourages us to pretend that we’re “okay” too.  But the truth is underneath the cool spider costume, you’re broken, tragically flawed, in need of God.  The spider ain’t real, it’s a costume and an illusion. In the same way, a lot of what we show on the outside is just an illusion, and the first step is to admit that…  Take off the costume sometimes, and spend some time with two legs. That’s what fellowship is about: real people without costumes.

[Btw, as far as Halloween costumes go, this is one of my favorites – and although we do value “being yourself” at CF, if you want to come sitting on a fluffy spider, that’s fine with me!]

Advice & the Bible – or why I read…

People LOVE giving advice.  Someone whose life is in shambles will gladly give younger people advice on how to live, and then authenticate it with “trust me, I know from experience…”  Single people love giving friends advice about relationships.  People with entry level positions are quick to give younger people career advice.  And there’s no harm in this…  It doesn’t hurt to get another opinion: even a broken clock is right at least twice a day…  But as long as you’re open to advice I really think the Bible has some good things to say…  Now I totally understand when someone hears one point of view, but decides to do something else… At least they were open to listening to it, right?  And it’s up to you to choose what YOU will do – and besides we all learn from a bit trial and error – they’re our mistakes to make…  But what I am NOT okay with is if someone doesn’t even know what Bible’s advice might be… God should know a thing or two – and if your stupid friends (because we’re all stupid sometimes!) can give you life advice, then surely we ought to be open to what the Bible might say… Continue reading

Cats, Dogs, and Conversion

It would be awful to be a cat in a dog world and be expected to live like a dog…if you were a cat!  And likewise it would be awful to try to live like a cat…if you’re a dog (or a monkey)!  So live and let live is a good motto here… Don’t try to convert other people to your way of life: “it’s great that it works for you, but it’s not for me,” says the monkey to the dog and cat.  So if you look at super traditional Bible Belt Christians, and think, “that’s NOT for me!”  You’re right!  THAT is probably not for you… Or if an urban hipster type sees a Latin Charismatic church and thinks, “that’s NOT for me!”  He’s probably right!  But…that doesn’t mean that GOD is not for you.  God isn’t out to turn dogs into cats or monkeys – the kind of conversion I think God is after is to take stray dogs, and give them loving homes and food and shelter… to convert them from “strays” to “rescues.”  Same with cats. Continue reading