August 31, 2009

Reckless & Beautiful

Many of us are currently watching every penny. We're in a time & a place where we have been forced to be very intentional & purposeful with our money. This is probably a really good thing for us. Consequentially, this has put us in that same place as churches - analyzing every cent that's spent. On some levels this is a good check of our stewardship. But from the other side, we have had to cut loose some of the things we believe are worthy of our attention & resources. This is where we are.

As Christ-followers we have to be careful that the times we're living in and the state of the things around us don't move us from the standard that Christ has set for us - a heart and movement of generosity, selflessness, and love.

This morning I read the story in Mark 14:3-9 about the woman who anoints Jesus with the bottle of expensive perfume. Reading that she "broke the seal" reveals that she had not used one drop of this perfume for her own benefit - it was being saved for something special. Some of those dining with Jesus - namely Judas - were livid. They were "indignant". What they were was greedy! On the surface they tried to gloss it over as if their "righteous indignation" was aimed at the fact that the perfume could have been sold for a small fortune and the money spent on the poor. I read this and immediately judge these men. But if I'm being honest - and maybe you fall into this trap as well - in this day & time & circumstance we're in financially, there is a temptation to judge and hold in contempt anyone who appears to be giving recklessly to the Lord. We scratch our heads and whisper to each other, "I can't believe they wasted that money. Don't they know that we have other more important needs?" Maybe you don't fall into this trap. Maybe I'm the only lowlife who would do such a thing. Maybe. Maybe not.

If we are so overwhelmed by the Spirit of God to give of something we have been given - to give back to the Lord - in a way that may seem reckless to others, we have no choice but to give. I would dare say this woman didn't consult any of her friends or acquaintances about whether or not they thought this was a wise use of her perfume. That would have belittled the gift. It would have tainted the heart with which it was given. When we begin to allow the opinion of others to dictate WHAT or HOW we give, it starts to become more about us and less about the one it's given to. This is why Christ said to do things like "give" and "pray" in the secret. This is why Christ said it is so hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.

I want to give like this woman! I want the very best of what I've been given to be poured out at the feet of the One who's so generously given it to me in the first place. And I want to be free from the judgement of scrutinizing everyone else's gifts and offerings. God does NOT go through recessions! God's "economy" - if you will - does not ebb & flow with our current financial crises. Be careful how you spend, how you give, how you judge, and how you live.

"I assure you, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman's deed will be talked about in her memory."

August 29, 2009


At The Brook we've spent the last month teaching on our Core Values. We believe that to not only be a member of The Brook, but to be a Christ-follower, there are some simple things the Lord asks of us: to worship, grow, and serve...together! I'm very excited for us to move into this new season as a church, to see what the Lord has in store as we very intentionally simplify WHAT we're doing and HOW we're doing it. Great things are ahead!

Last week we finished this series by talking about the "together" part of our Core Values. One of the points we highlighted is the temptation to think that "together" is just a necessary thing to stick on the end to make it more, well..."churchy". This could not be farther from the truth. The New Testament makes it clear that this is an essential part of WHO and WHAT Christ desires us to be and do as His people. Take a look:

In John 13:34-35, Christ tells His disciples that "Your love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples." He goes on in John 17:20-23 - as He is praying for those of us who would choose to follow Him - and says to the Father, "My prayer for all of them is that they will be ONE, just are you and I are one." Christ is direct and clear. His desire for His people is that we walk through this life and journey toward Him TOGETHER!

In Philippians 1:27, Paul exhorts the church to be "standing side by side, fighting together for the Good News." He tells them that "We are in this fight TOGETHER!"

TOGETHER is not an afterthought.
TOGETHER is not a really nice practical ending to some a more powerful biblical principle.
TOGETHER is an essential! It can't be compromised! It is part of the DNA and character of the church of Jesus Christ.

God's people are called to FIGHT FOR UNITY! It doesn't just fall out of the sky or magically come to us. We fight for it! This takes work. It takes loving those you might not find to easy to love. It's messy. It requires patience and persistence. And with everything it costs us and demands of is worth every bit.

Worship. Grow. Serve. TOGETHER!

August 28, 2009

Much-Needed Therapy

I headed out of town Wednesday for a "study break" of sorts. A friend of a friend allowed us to use their lake house as a retreat. The last 2 days have been filled with productive times of prayer, study, planning, unwinding, and even just sitting aimlessly. Maybe the most therapeutic part of the experience was being forced to disconnect. I made a conscientious decision to stay off Twitter & Facebook for at least a day (I decided on a day & a half) and we had no internet connection where we were. I never thought I'd say this, but it was glorious! We'd only been there about 3-4 hours and I said to Josh (Britt) as we were sitting on the dock, "I haven't been this relaxed in months!" I'm quite grateful to my family, my friends, our church & staff for allowing us to take this timeout!

Looking forward to sharing much of what we learned & experienced in the days to come.

August 20, 2009

Scum Scum Scum...Go Back From Where You Come!

Get in your car. Get out on the main road near your house. Look around (keeping your eyes on the road, of course). As you set out ask the Lord to do this: "Lord, open my eyes to where the 'scum' hang out."

In Mark 2, immediately after Jesus has called Matthew, "Come and be my disciple", Matthew decides to throw a party at his house. He was a tax collector. He hung out with other tax collectors. He also hung out with "many other notorious sinners". And apparently, they were "scum". They were all invited! And so was Jesus. Jesus got invited to the keg party. And He went. This evidently didn't go over very well with the uptight, high-strung Pharisees. Mark actually describes them as the "teachers of the religious law". They were Law Men (enter Western music & tumbleweeds). They were self-proclaimed finger-pointing judges. And they weren't going to let anyone off the hook.

The Pharisees asked the disciples, "Why does he eat with such scum?"

Don't you want to just punch them in the face? Hard!
Who do they think they are calling other people scum? Booze hounds maybe. But scum? Come on.

But let's ask the question: If you and I never go to the people who are in need of Christ - if we never intentionally love and touch and reach out to those who are truly in need of a Savior - aren't we acknowledging the Pharisees' claims? Aren't we calling them "scum" without ever opening our mouths?

"When Jesus heard this, He told them, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor - sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough."

If you choose to take that drive - and pray that prayer - you better pray something else first: "Lord give me the heart to GO to those who desperately need you!" And if we're being honest, you don't really have to get in the car. Just walk up & down your street. Talk to your neighbors. They're there - waiting to be acknowledged and loved. Waiting to know that they're worth something. Waiting. Waiting for you to quit walking by with your head down and say, "How's it going?" Waiting on an invitation to that block party (that you should be planning right now). Waiting for someone they barely know to show up and say, "Hey, we made some cookies and thought you'd like some!" Who wouldn't want homemade Toll House?

Will we risk our reputation? Interrupt our busy schedules?
Will we set the table for the "uninvited"?

Will we eat with scum?

August 13, 2009

Free? or FREE-FREE?

Things seem to be a bit broke right now, right? The economy is trying to crawl out of the tank. Someone you know - or maybe you - has lost their job. Times are tight. But times are good! These times are when we get creative, innovative - when we start simplifying again and asking, "What is truly essential and important?"

As I've thought & prayed over this for awhile now, I've come to at least one conclusion: the basic gifts & freedoms of our faith do not depend on the economy! While I'm very aware that our salvation & our faith came at an enormous price to Christ, the very basic freedoms we have b/c of it don't cost me a penny. There is no one waiting to charge me for reading my Bible. I don't get a bill for my prayers - the more you pray the more you pay. (That was a catchy slogan though!) The most basic beneficial gifts I have in my everyday life from the Lord - to commune with Him through His Word and in prayer - are free! Period.

Oh, but wait. I stand corrected. It will cost me some time. Possibly I'll have to turn off the XM in the car. Might have to give up some time watching TV or playing Wii. But come on - we don't seriously even consider this a viable argument. Do we?

I think we're also skeptics. There's nothing out there FREE today! There's a catch to everything - the fine print. We've moved into double-word territory. You know: Free? Do you mean FREE-FREE? or just FREE? Yes. I mean FREE. Take it. Run. No one will chase you. It's yours.

This goes back to these same age-old questions that we seem to be asking over and over - from one generation to the next. We grow so weary of having someone ask us if we're spending time in the Word. But maybe our annoyance stems from our disobedience. Maybe we get so sick of hearing that we need to pray b/c even though we know we should - and we even know that WE would benefit from it more than anyone - we continue to ignore the ache. We've rationalized that what is probably the pull of the Holy Spirit is just the annoying nag of my pastor. Will he ever shut up about this?

I'm pretty sure you know the answer to that one!

If you're so thankful for your freedoms - if you're patriotic - if you're grateful for the freedom of your faith and to pursue the God that created you - I would ask you: ARE YOU EXERCISING YOUR FREEDOMS?

If not, get off your dead butt and do something! NOW!
That is all.

Psalm 119:9-11 (Actually, just read the whole chapter!)
Hebrews 5:11-6:3
Matthew 4:4
Philippians 4:6-7
1 Thessalonians 5:17
Luke 18:1-8

August 10, 2009

Break the Silence!

Silence. We're schizophrenic about it. While most of us are scared &/or repelled by it - spending most of our time submerged in noise - we also pick and choose when silence will be our friend. Yet, at other times we embrace silence, choosing to simply keep our mouths shut. "This is just not my business or my problem" we think. "It's just not my place to say anything". "What if I offend him?" And we definitely don't want to offend anyone! Right?

So...we befriend our enemy. Silence.

I have come to the conclusion that one of the deadliest choices and temptations we face as the Church today is our silence - the things we won't say!

Have you ever loved someone who made a mistake and you just wish they had come to you beforehand – given you some kind of indication they were about to make this life-changing mistake – so that you could stand in front of them as a brother or sister and say, “Not on my watch!” Why don’t we reach out for accountability? Do we just not want it? Does it take too much effort? Or do we just not want to admit the foul things taking root deep inside us? Maybe a little of all of the above. But James tells us to “confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed” (James 5:16). I think we have completely missed the point that the urgency of this is “so that we may be healed”. Not from cancer or influenza or a bad case of dandruff, but from the sin that is digging deep into our soul and plotting to destroy us. James is saying, “Get up, find a brother, cry out loudly and demand that you will not face this monster on your own. You cannot and you will not!”

Consider this: what if David had seen Bathsheeba naked, stepped off that roof, called upon a friend like Nathan or Jonathon and confessed, “My eyes, my mind and my heart are in the gutter. Pray for me and protect me.” Can you imagine? He might have avoided envy, adultery, lies and murder in one moment of confession. And in contrast, what if Paul had not taken the steps to heal the fractures between himself and Peter or himself and John Mark? Would the church have suffered? Would Paul’s ministry have been as effective? Without question, something and someone would have suffered. Most importantly, the Kingdom.

Why is honesty so hard for us? Are we just petrified of offending someone in our politically correct world? Does that pounding in our heart at the thought of confrontation or confession scare us so badly that it paralyzes our whole life? Whatever the case or the cause we have to begin to demand “honesty from the heart” (Psalm 51:6). David had to practically wreck his whole life before he discovered this. What will it take for you?

Here are some things that only the courageous will say:

"I need you to know that way you talk to your husband is belittling him, damaging your marriage & your witness, and impacting your children."

"I've seen the way you look at her. As your friend I need to ask you, 'Are you thinking things that is damaging your heart & could destroy your marriage?'"

"When you said that to me I need you to know that it hurt. I know you probably didn't mean it that way, but that's how it came out."

Here's one ONLY for the brave: "I NEED HELP!"

What is it that you just won’t say? What is it that you’re ashamed to confess or just don’t want to bother the other person with? What words have you anchored to the shore because you just refuse to rock the boat? Whatever it is, ask God to give you the words and the courage and spit it out because quite possibly, if you don’t rock the boat, you’ll just go down with the ship!

Take courage. Be brave. Break the silence!

Dig Deeper:
Matthew 18:15-20
Proverbs 16:13, 19:1, 28:23
Ecclesiastes 4:12

August 7, 2009

When the Church has to Forgive & Restore

Recently the issue of moral failure has been personally in my face. Several people close to me, that I care very much about, have ignored or missed that sin was "waiting to attack and destroy" them. They by all means did not "subdue it". (Gen. 4:6-7) These are not just acquaintances or friends from long ago - these were partners in ministry. Their choices - their decisions - not only had consequences for them but for many others. Sin isn't like a laser - it's more like an atom bomb. There is never minimal destruction or casualties.

But this raises another issue for the church to deal with: How do we "restore" those who have fallen? What does forgiveness & restoration look like for the church?

While there is no way to develop one set of criteria or "rules" by which we go through this process, I believe there are certain scriptures & biblical principles to guide us.

Matthew 18:15-20 is the first place to begin - confronting the person(s) who has sinned. I'll let you examine the process presented by Christ in those verses. But I find it interesting that immediately after Christ shared these guidelines for confrontation & restoration, he gives the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor. "Shouldn't you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?" Restoration has no chance when mercy is absent.

Galatians 6:1-3 exhorts us to "humbly help that person back onto the right path" and to "share each other's troubles...." We have to come to the realization that if this is going to be our heart - if we are going to follow this exhortation - most of the time it is going to be messy, dirty, and by no means "comfortable". Why do you think the story "The Scarlet Letter" was even written? Because, as humans, we have this natural tendency to want to isolate and ostracize those who have "gravely sinned" among us. We feel we need to make an example - to make clear that everyone with conviction and sense knows that we absolutely do NOT condone this kind of behavior. This is why we stand on street corners with bullhorns!

We fear for our children's lives - "What will they think?" We assume that those who are "young" (as Solomon and Paul describes them) are too inept or immature to be able to handle truly processing and learning from the mistakes of someone else. Here it is bluntly: It's just a lot easier to remove the problem!

If we think that someone's sin is grave enough to "cast them...out of the church and into Satan's hands...", then we need to have the guts and courage to do it! If not, we need to ask God to break out hearts and give us the courage to "forgive him and comfort him. Otherwise he may become so discouraged that he won't be able to recover. Now show him that you still love him." (see 1 Cor. 5 & 2 Cor. 2)

Without a doubt we have to keep in mind that for those of us who are "called to equip the saints" there is a higher standard. Being placed in a position of spiritual authority - holding the trust and respect of those who are your "sheep" - comes with much responsibility. There is no question of this or argument against it. But even for those in ministry and in leadership, where & how do we restore them? Do we have the courage to walk them down that path? Or will we let that be someone else's burden?

A great number of people that I love dearly are faced with this burden and these questions. The subject is ever-looming. It's the "Elephant in the Church" as we speak. My prayer: That you call the "elephant" out, wrestle it to the floor, and painfully tame it. That you have the courage to restore. And that each of us remember the question posed to us by our Savior: "Shouldn't you have had mercy...just as I have had mercy on you?"

Restoration is not easy. It never has been and never will be.
If you're waiting on it to get a little easier, my advice is that you get out of the way of those who have the clarity & courage to see that NOW is the time. Never will there be a time that leaders will more clearly rise to the surface. They will be the ones with the courage to show compassion.

And if you find yourself in a conversation about one of these who have fallen - and they aren't present - my advice is you close your mouth, get on your knees, and intercede for them. If not, you will be the one in sin.

Paul told the Corinthians, "When you forgive this man, I forgive him too. And when I forgive him...Satan will not outsmart us." May we never be found being outsmarted by the enemy because we couldn't figure out how to forgive AND restore!

August 3, 2009

Don't Be a Statistic. Be a MAN!

Yesterday as we tried to push a little deeper into what it means to truly worship (as a Christ-follower and as His Body) we hit on some of the other aspects of our worship - giving, praying with & over each other, fellowship, and of course - everyone's favorite - confessing our sins to each other. I know - I hear you cheering right now.

I made a statement during the message, and very much meant it, but I didn't really think through the depth of how important it was until a friend called it to my attention today. The statement was, "I would rather confess to my accountability partner that my eyes had looked at something they shouldn't have than have to confess to my church and my wife that I had cheated on her." This is absolutely true! Every word of it. But I think there's almost an ultimatum there - at least for anyone who's living in the real world, knows their heart is "prone to wander", and knows that when "sin is crouching at your door", you sure as heck better master it! (see Gen. 4:7) Here's what I mean:
I think we (as men) have a choice. We can either decide to put away pride and desperately seek out Godly accountability OR we can prepare ourselves to become a statistic. Period.

We have stopped (or maybe we never started) confessing our sins to each other. It's humbling, messy, and demanding to admit to someone that you're struggling with vanity - or finding yourself tempted to look at porn - or thinking thoughts you shouldn't about someone who is NOT your wife - or considering skimming money off the top at work - or fighting the temptation to be lazy instead of playing with your kids. Accountability is messy!


the consequences of sin - the ramifications of not crying out for help when we very first set our feet on that road - are brutal, painful, and make accountability look like a walk in the park.

It's time to choose. It's time to be a REAL man!
Make the decision not to be a statistic.
Have the difficult conversation so you don't have to have the impossible one!
Don't be a statistic.

For more:
Proverbs 27:17
James 5:16
Galatians 6:1-3
Ecclesiastes 4:12