Tuesday, April 1, 2014

WHY I LOVE THE CHURCH YOU HATE

I LOVE THE CHURCH - Not Lifehouse Church or any particular church but THE Church!



Have you ever seen a couple that just didn’t look compatible? And you thought,

“How did he attract her?!” or “What does he see in her?!”

I had that happen to me. A professor, who clearly thought more of my future wife than of me, provided a short, one line reference for me,

“Patrick is marrying up.”

Blunt, but I didn’t and don’t disagree. Marrying Laura is the greatest moment in my life and may be one of the few decisions that proves that I’m smarter than you think I am. I expect people to speak well of and be kind to my wife. I want to cherish, love, protect, and provide for Laura.

So, if someone said they liked me as a friend but not my wife, I’d have a problem with them. A BIG problem. In fact, I wouldn’t consider them to be a friend at all. I would… oh, never mind…

In the current church culture and Christian generation, it’s trendy to say that we love Jesus but not His Bride.

We are devoted to, filled with worship toward, and desire to be closer to Jesus. But His Bride, the Church, not so much!

It’s popular to bash churches - Her styles of service are outdated or too trendy. Her taste in music and expressions of love toward Her Jesus are too loud, too traditional, too showy, too boring, too… And don’t get me started on Her leaders - Her pastors are hypocrites, immoral, all business, and too focused on being celebrities. We condemn Her theology - it’s too much of this or not enough of that. And Her preaching - it’s too much love or too much wrath or too much... And Her worst feature is all the people who are part of Her - they are full of problems, dysfunction, politics, and they are either too fanatical or don’t live the message they hear enough.

We see and share all of His Bride's flaws and faults. We criticize and politicize. We gossip and rumor. We critique and judge - every decision, expenditure, person, and part. We attack every failure and condemn every shortcoming. And I guess, we should. Like white blood cells attacking infections, their is an element in the body that God designed to destroy and eliminate foreign, infecting disease. There are parts of the Church that are foreign to the Sacred Truth of the Scripture. There are false teachers that are wolves among the sheep. There are cancer cells that, if not dealt with quickly and removed, metastasize and spread and destroy the health of the Church body. But these are not the Body. They are outside, infectious elements invading and corrupting Jesus’ Bride. He loves Her, protects, provides, and cleanses Her.

When Jesus returns to receive His Bride, He will receive a pure and spotless Bride, because He will ultimately sanctify her of all her imperfections and faults.[i]  His loving sacrifice and the power of His resurrection will transform what was corruptible and mortal into the perfect incorruptible and immortal Bride of Christ.[ii] Then, He and His bride will celebrate and feast from "banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” [iii]


Jesus loves His Bride the Church. [iv]  He loved Her, both in Her present state and Her future state, so much that He gave His life for Her - to provide Her with love, grace, salvation and protection. He died to rescue and protect Her from the corrupting power of sin, death, and hell.

Jesus confronted and challenged the forces of darkness that were and are at work trying to destroy her. How? By putting Himself in between Her and Her accuser and destroyer. He put Himself in the way, by making Himself the ultimate target of sin, death, and eternal destruction. [v]  He stepped in between Her and Her attacker by becoming the bulls- eye of the fatal death-blow by stretching His hands as far as they would reach and exposing Himself to scorn and the curse of sin. He died so She could live. He rose to give Her the power to live forever in His love and victory.

So, how do we love the Church, the Bride of Christ, with the same sincere love that Jesus demonstrated?  The dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter in John 21 provides key principles to guide us.

REMEMBER JESUS LOVE FOR ME IN MY IMPERFECTIONS.

First, each of us must remember how much Jesus has loved us. He loved us extravagantly, in spite of our shortcomings, failures, sin, and betrayal of Him. Think about Simon Peter’s track record of offenses against Jesus - he overacts, misspeaks, becomes the voice of Satan, lashes out in anger, and finally, betrays Jesus three times. But in John 21, after His resurrection, Jesus introduces Himself to Peter for the second time while he’s fishing. The quick version – Peter, the fisherman-turned-fisher-of-men turns back to fishing. But his turning point, just like when he met Jesus first, he’s not having any luck catching fish. Empty nets. Someone from shore shouts,

“No fish? Try the other side of the boat!” Then, full nets.

“Wait, what? That’s got to be Jesus!” Then… the moment when Peter was reminded of God’s love for him.  Jesus asks Peter,

“Do you truly love (agapaō) me more than these?” And Peter responds,

“You know that I love (philéō) you.” So Jesus says,

“Take care of my sheep.” They have this exchange twice. Jesus asks Peter if he has unconditional, unfailing love for Him, but Peter explains that he feels a brotherly love for Jesus. Finally, Jesus questions if Peter even has this brotherly level of love, and Peter is hurt,

“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” (summarized from John 21:15-17, NIV). Peter needed Jesus love and had little but friendship to offer. Jesus gave all for Peter, and even after Peter experienced the resurrection of Jesus, he was only on the receiving end of Jesus’ generous love and grace.

By our very need for salvation, we were corrupt and imperfect when we came to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We were sinners saved by grace through faith. [vi]  We were stained with guilt and weighted by shame. Then, miraculously, amazingly Jesus gave us new life. [vii]  Now we cling to His cross of death as our instrument of life. He loved us when we were unlovable. [viii] He forgave us when we deserved judgment. We need to remember how much we have been forgiven, and that this wasn’t only at the start or just one time, but an ongoing reality. [ix] We needed, need, and will always need the Cross of Jesus.

We are only on the receiving end, and have nothing to offer God except what He gives us by His grace. When we are reminded of how much we have been loved and are being loved by God, we are humbled in repentance and overwhelmed by grace. We remember that we are not part of God’s Church, Christ’s Bride, because of our performance or perfection, our righteousness or theological soundness. We are only and always chosen by LOVE.

Jesus renewed His love for Peter, and reminded Peter that he was loved, not because of what he could offer, but because of what Jesus already offered.

LOVE JESUS' BRIDE, THE CHURCH, IN HER IMPERFECTIONS.

Then, in response to the awareness of His love, Jesus invites Peter to “take care of my sheep.” [x]

What does a shepherd do in caring for his sheep? He protects them from danger, provides them with safe and lush pasture. He frees them from fear and want. He tends to their needs and cares for their wounds. A shepherd loves his sheep, and the sheep follow and know the shepherd’s voice.

Jesus commanded Peter to care for His sheep with this level of attention and compassion.

We must learn to love the Bride of Christ with the same humility that we receive the love of Christ. Jesus loves Her as Himself. He loves every part of Her. And He loves those who love Her. And rejects those who reject Her. We must fall back in love with the Church – Jesus’ Bride. We must cherish, honor, and care for Her.

The best way to show that we care is by actually caring.

We don’t need to fake our tenderness. We need to genuinely be tender. We don't need to "put on" a gentle spirit toward those within the church and offer grace to those who are sinful and comfort to those who are hurting. We need to actually DO IT! Compassion is action!

Love demonstrates herself through loving behavior.  [xi] So, if I love Jesus, I choose to love His Church – all of Her – the organized and house church, the mega- and the micro- church, the stained glass and theater church, the suit-wearing and not-so-much wearing, the rural and the urban, the hip-hop and the pipe organ church, the underground and the American church, the global and the local church, the mainline and the marginalized church. I love all her theological nuances and novices. Her variety and the splendor of her diversity.

LOVE MY PART IN THE CHURCH IN THE MIDST OF MY IMPERFECTIONS.

We don’t have to be every part, just our unique part. But we do have to enjoy Her and appreciate Her diversity and uniqueness. We must honor the fact that we, individually, are not the only part nor always right. We must be willing to appreciate that there are different churches reaching different people using different methods with different non-essential doctrines governed differently.

There are indeed many churches yet ONE Church. And the Methodist cannot say to the Lutheran, “I have no need of you”; nor again the Reformed to the Pentecostal, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those churches within the Church which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those churches within the Church, which we think are less honorable, on these we place greater honor, and the churches that have unpresentable parts we give greater respect, but to those churches which already receive great honor no extra respect is needed. But God builds the Church, having given greater honor to churches and pastors that lack it, so that there is no divide or disunity in His Church, but that each church should care for the other parts of the Church. And if one church suffers, all the church suffers with it, or if one church is honored, all churches celebrate with them. (revised and adapted from 1 Corinthians 12:2-26, NKJV).

ASK YOURSELF IN PRAYERFUL REFLECTION:

  • How have I not loved Jesus’ Bride, the Church? 
  • How do I need to repent and change my attitude toward the Church or a church? 
  • Who do I need to go to and give honor or ask forgiveness for my lack of love toward the unique expression of Christ’s Bride through that pastor or that church? 


 ---
[i] Ephesians 5:27
[ii] 1 Corinthians 15:
[ii] The NET Bible; Bible. English (Revelation 19:9). Biblical Studies Press (2006).
[iv] John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23.
[v] Romans 5:8 and 1 Peter 1:19.
[vi] Ephesians 2:8-9.
[vii] 2 Corinthians 5:17.
[viii] Romans 5:8.
[ix] 1 John 1:9.
[x] John 21:16.
[xi] 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Friday, February 28, 2014

SPOILER ALERT - hate to ruin the ending but...

The producers of The Bible miniseries that showed on History Channel have released Son of God. It's now in movies across the US, and at both theaters right here in Hagerstown.

I haven't seen it, but the Book that it's based on is a all-time bestseller & it better than the movie.

 

Here's my spoiler alert, I know how it ends and I haven't even seen it yet! But the ending is worth seeing, even if you know what's going to happen.

Also, if you've seen the miniseries, and don't think there's any new content - THERE IS!

Read an interview with them here.

Let me know what you thought.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

WHAT'S IMPORTANT?


If your home was burning down, all family was safe, what ONE thing would you save from being burned?

What’s PRECIOUS. The ONE thing you would say "yes" to when you say "no" to everything else?What matters most?

A great nugget of godly counsel on parenting when Laura was first pregnant, we were told to not sacrifice our marriage on the altar of parenting our kids. We’ll still be living with each other when our kids move out of our home. We were challenged to say "yes" to our marriage, even if that meant saying "no" to our kids in certain moments. We needed to learn to treat each other and our marriage as precious.

Psalm 73:26 (NIV), My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

1 Peter 1:18-19 (NIV), For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Our obvious answer – our relationship with God, knowing and being known by JESUS!

But do we live like He is precious?

Have we made Christ the central theme of our life, and the person we love most, and most protective of that relationship? Do we serve, lead, and work like He is #1?

OUR CHALLENGE: SAY “YES” TO GOD EVERYDAY AND EVERY TIME. Not a “no” to everything else, just a change in our priority, thinking, agenda, and focus.

We are challenged to want Jesus at the center of everything else.

ASK: Am I allowing Jesus through the Holy Spirit to lead every aspect of my life?

Saying “YES” is Radical, Bold Obedience. Live a life of "Yes" to God – every time.

You will never regret it. Challenging? Even intimidating? Of course! But adventurous.

Here are some examples with a theme, do you notice the pattern? Noah (Genesis 6:22), Abraham (12:4; 15:6; 22:2), Joshua 1:10; 6:6, Mary (Luke 1:38), Disciples (5:27-28).

Read Hebrews 11:38-12:3 - become people if faith that the world is not worthy of... Fix our eye on Jesus ALONE. My focus, my desire, my portion.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews gave a long list of people who said "YES" to God to give us an example, to embolden us to say "yes" to God, to live devoted to Him, and to shrug off anything and everything in our life that is getting in the way of that "yes." His final challenge and encouragement, "Don't grow weary or give up!" Don't stop saying "yes" to God, even when all around you are "no's." Don't lose heart. Don't quit. Don't turn from faith in God.

When all else fails, all is lost, all is burned and gone, I (we) have Jesus. He is my Author, my Finisher!

This radical “YES” obedience doesn’t get easier but heavier as responsibility increases. Every responsibility increases the stakes of saying YES to God. Feels like RISK – becomes trust. When we learn to trust His voice and obey, regardless of the circumstances, contingency plans, feasibility.

Learn to say "yes" NOW while the stakes are smaller than they will be in the future. Learn to say "yes" today, tomorrow has it's own worries.

ASK: How do I need to make Jesus the center of my heart and life? In what area of my life or prompting from God do I need to say "YES"?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

SET YOUR ALARM AT 7:14 - STOP & PRAY


Join a movement of prayer at 7:14 am AND pm. That's it!

Pause for prayer every day at 7:14 am and 7:14 pm.

As another way to unify our church and join with churches in our region and around the nation during these 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer, we’re encouraging the entire church to pause for prayer at 7:14 am + 7:14 pm every day.

We chose this time based on 2 Chronicles 7:14, which says, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

It’s simple way to begin and end your day with prayer.

(Tip: to receive helpful reminders about the 21 day fast on your cellphone, text the word “lifehouse” to 313131.)

At Lifehouse Church, we have offered a prayer guide with daily Bible reading, prayer themes, and a devotion. We also have a prayer guide available for any church to use that is non-Lifehouse specific (PDF and Word files). We also provide a daily Bible-reading plan that follows the sermon passages for each week and series. So, download or pick one up this weekend, and dig into reading the Word of God.

For resources, check out: http://714movement.com, download the app, watch an inspirational video, even by a ebook that offers a prayer guide for 28-days.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

WHY WOULD I WILLINGLY STARVE MYSELF?!

Personally, I go into the New Year carrying both the growth and filth from the pervious year. As to growth, I hope I gained wisdom and experience, and have drawn closer to God. BUT there is also baggage or filth on me from the past year. This is stuff I don't want to drag through a New Year. Gain weight, bad eating, sleeping habits Carry sin and regrets from past year into new – un-confessed, unchanged. Don’t want to be the same person I was last year. Don’t want to carry same struggles. Want to start NEW! Want to be closer to God. Who do you want to be this time in 2015?
Why we fast?
  • Fasting is turning our physical hunger into spiritual hunger.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those that hunger & thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled!”
  • We are not naturally hungry for God, so we use our natural appetites to help us focus our attention on God and stir our spiritual hunger for God. Our cry during fasting seasons is, "I want to want God the way I want food or drink or other desires."
  • Rather than trying to impress God, fasting is allowing God to impress Himself onto and into us.
  • Rather than trying to lose physical weight, it’s a means of cutting the excess out of our lives – spiritually, mentally, emotionally.
  • Rather than fasting as a means to manipulate God, it’s giving God greater control over our heart, desires.
  •  It's a biblical mandate and a basic discipline of Jesus-followers. Throughout the Bible many key figures fasted (MosesDavidEstherDanielNehemiah), and namely Jesus fasted for 40 days before He began His formal ministry. The apostles and Jesus-followers of the early Church followed Jesus' example and fasted regularly (see Acts 13:2-3).
  • We fast to leverage our natural appetites as an alarm to keep focused attention on God during a season of prayer. In essence, every time I get hungry, it's a reminder to pray and meditate on God's Word and continue to seek His face.

Daniel 9:19 (NIV), Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

Our prayer when we fast?

"Lord, listen in when we pray. Lord, forgive us of our sins as we come to you in confession and repentance. Lord, respond and move supernaturally on our behalf. Do what only you can do, so that your name and fame spreads through our lives."

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cultural versus Political FREEDOM of SPEECH - BIG DIFFERENCE!


Since the recent uproar and media furor over Phil Robertson's comments in an interview with GQ, many have argued for the protection of his freedom of speech, including me (read my blogpost on why the issue has little to do with homosexuality & what's really going on?!).

Some have mocked these statements and the argument that this is a matter of free speech as nonsensical. They claim that Phil Robertson exercised his freedom of speech, and was even given an international platform through this GQ article to express that speech. They contend that in no way were his freedoms violated - he wasn't arrested, jailed, or any otherwise politically persecuted by the government. And they would be CORRECT. Phil Robertson did not experience a political violation of his freedom of speech.

But freedom of speech, along with all freedoms are not protected from only political persecution or violation. These freedoms or rights are God-given and to be protected from both political and cultural persecution within limits. There actually are limits to our political freedom of speech, i.e. falsely yelling "fire" in a crowded theater (Espionage Act of 1917 as defended by the Supreme Court).

Phil Robertson, and with him, most of the conservative evangelical Christian community, is experiencing persecution against "cultural freedom of speech." As an American people, our nation was established on the protection of people from being persecuted for their speech. That is not to say that all speech is equal or that speech is without consequence. The concept of cultural freedoms means that as a culture we decide what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. We decide as a people what we will allow and what we will reject.

#AETV had, if written into the contract, the right (read "freedom") to fire or put Phil on hiatus. That right has been protected by the blood of fallen soldiers, and defended in nearly all settings. Even the detractors on Bring back Phil Robertson and Boycott A&E Until Phil Robertson Is Put Back On Duck Dynasty are not decrying AETV executives or producers' right to fire him. They are arguing that it shouldn't have happened and that it was also bad business. They are contending that the viewers that made Duck Dynasty the #1 most-watched show in America want Phil, his views and values. They argue that this company's decision was motivated by coercion from the militant-minded GLADD and LGBT lobbyist groups.

The American political freedom of speech, along with all freedoms, has been defended veraciously through war and legislature. Many have fought to protect the rights of others to say things those soldiers find offensive. That is what freedom of speech means politically. We must be willing to defend all people's right to political free speech, even if we find it highly offensive, within the limits of the law safeguarding our nation from speech that is both dangerous and false.

However, cultural freedom of speech is a more complex and complicated matter. Since, not all speech is equal or appropriate or acceptable, not all speech should be protected from cultural backlash and public shaming. In fact, free speech can be intentional, national, regional or even local and can be persecuted at any or all of those levels. Cultural persecution of speech means that the speaker suffers some form of cultural backlash for their remarks. These can come in the form of being berated, verbally attacked, ostracized or marginalized by a community, and/ or experience workplace and economic mistreatment. I'm sure there is a longer list of means for the populace to demonstrate their disapproval with a person who speaks against what is acceptable, but this is just a sampling.

In general, America has a strong stomach for insulting, even offensive speech, without the speaker receiving backlash. I recently sat on the subway with my children in heard adults around my kids using extremely offensive curse words, and neither I nor any other adult nearby corrected them, and it wasn't for fear of retaliation. I understand that some offense must be tolerated to protect the overall concept of free speech. However, not all...

We can cite examples of what our culture is willing to accept vs. reject. There is some "standard" or measuring rod used to determine what is appropriate and what is hateful. And based on that standard, our society allows or ostracizes people and their speech. Speech may be legal but not cultural acceptable, and when it violates our "code," we speak out against those statements and "boycott" the idea. We leverage media, social media, and community acceptance to tell someone that they are offensive to the overall culture of our nation.  For most, that standard is a guard against speech that incites mistreatment and even harm of people.

What Phil Robertson experienced was a media onslaught and economic attack on his cultural freedom of speech. Mainstream media and lobbyist groups called for his firing, for boycotts of the show "Duck Dynasty," and for boycotts of Duck Dynasty and Commander products. Is this cultural backlash legal? Absolutely. Did AETV have the right to fire and reject Phil's comments and distance themselves from him? Absolutely.

So, what's the point? Our culture is being influenced by a small percentage of highly-funded and very vocal minority groups, who demand that their ideas be considered mainstream while simultaneously demanding that ideas that have been held as mainstream now be considered fringe. This demonstrates a cultural war in the battlefield of ideas. It's a perversion, a twist to make what has been unacceptable throughout human history acceptable, and to make what has been right throughout human history wrong.

This is the fulfillment of this warning by the Prophet,

Isaiah 5:20-21 (NIV),  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

In essence, since there is a standard that drives what is acceptable or unacceptable culturally, we must decide who sets that standard. Many are fighting that "they" get to set the standard based on who "they" want or choose to live. That democracy sets that standard, and as culture shifts, so do the mores of speech. Therefore, what was once acceptable can now be unacceptable and vice versa. The goal, I believe, of those who are trying to rewrite what is "hate-speech" and not is an attempt to transform the standards that drive cultural free speech. They would want not only want their ideas to be considered equal with Christian values, but to reverse the trend to suggest that their standards are better.

This is a war of absolutes, of a standard for the cultural acceptability of ideas.

Christians, and many others who admire and build their life on Judeo-Christian values, would contend that the standard should be based on the values of sacred writing as record in the Bible. Here's a brief list of what I would consider to be the standards that drive what should be free speech (acceptable) versus speech that should be fringe, rejected speech (unacceptable) which violates these standards based on the sacred Scripture:

  • protection of the sanctity of marriage,
  • protection for the sanctity of life,
  • guarding the dignity of human sexuality as a pure gift best set in marriage,
  • that man is instinctively sinful (this requires that Christians be able to identify behavior as such).

So, we would contend that speech that attacks or violates these ideas be marginalized by our culture, and the speaker experience some backlash, depending on the severity of the comments. We don't think people should be hurt or mistreated, but that their ideas not be treat as equal to the good and right.

Evangelical Christian views may not be currently limited politically but their are certainly being attacked culturally. There is a growing tide of pressure to limit these biblical views and values. And there is growing pressure to begin legislating Evangelical and biblical views as hate speech. I can certainly see a day coming, and I fear that it's not far away, when Christian speech about sin, especially regarding specifics on sexual and marriage matters will be labeled as hate speech. First cultural shifts then political. If the culture turns against Christian views and labels them too offensive for public consumption, then politics will follow. Some day, we will look back on this time as the "good ole' days" of free speech for Christians.

What should be done? Christians should continue to speak the TRUTH in LOVE (Ephesians 4:15)! Both are necessary and essential to protect our nation from embracing extreme ideas as acceptable and making the right and good marginalized to appear wrong and evil.

Let our love demonstrate the power of our truth.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

WE DON'T DESERVE THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS (video sermon)

We may be listening too carefully and living the messages of Christmas, one in particular!

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, I'm telling you why. He's making a list, Checking it twice; Gonna find out who's naughty or nice. He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake.

 From very young, we’ve been taught to believe that we receive Christmas gifts based on merit, i.e. the Naught and Nice list. If you’re good enough, you deserve presents. If you’re too bad, you deserve and get coal.

Conclusion – gifts are not gifts at all, but the consequence of a year spent in good or bad behavior.

How good do I have to be to land on the nice list and how naughty do I have to be to land on the naughty list? I mean, “How do you measure the good and the bad to decide?”

So, how GOOD IS GOOD ENOUGH? AND HOW BAD IS BAD ENOUGH?

Watch Lifehouse Church's Christmas message.

SOLA: Part 3 (Full Message) from Lifehouse Church on Vimeo.

Enjoy the message and be encouraged that the GIFT of CHRISTMAS is UNDESERVED! So, RECEIVE FREELY!

Fired up,
-Patrick