I Have No Idea What I’m Doing!

It’s true and I’m kinda glad.  When the prodigal son came home to his father he was at the end of himself.  (Luke 15) He had tried all of his ideas, followed all his plans, lived the way that he wanted and he was truly at the end of his rope.

Now I haven’t been a prodigal in that I went into another country and lived like the prodigal- wine, women and the wild life.  But it is easy to have a lot of plans, a lot of ideas, and an expectation that things will go exactly like I planned.

Jesus said that we lose our lives to follow Him. (Luke 9)  To me that means that we lose our plans and our expectations too.  Jesus that we do this to see the Kingdom of God.

This takes away any idea that our performance is what it takes achieve what God requires from us.  The prodigal son had completely messed up his life and simply returned to his father.  There was NO worthiness or ability on his part to heal the bond or to rescue himself from his failure.

Many of us may not be prodigals in the same way but we may be when it comes to our seeking to be something or someone in order to reach God’s “standard”.  The father in the story didn’t send the son out to the servants quarters nor did he tell the son that he would have to earn his way back.  He opened his arms and welcomed the son back.

So as we embark on our next plans, our next goal or our next destination we must realize that we are the same as the prodigal. It isn’t about our performance; instead, it is about our proximity to our Father that matters.

Or for those of us that may be the prodigal – we’ve been far from God or we’ve completely ignored him the answer is the same but even better.  No matter what we have done God opens His arms to us not based on our worthiness or based on our ability to undo our sin.  He opens his arms based on his desire to see His sons and daughters come home.

Book Review: In Constant Prayer

I’m not the type of person who gets caught up in formality.  I tend to want life to be straightforward and simple when possible. I try not to make simple things complex and I look at my faith simply. I believe that faith is simple at its core.  When you believe in something to the point that you base your life on it you had better know what you believe and why and if it isn’t simple then you run the risk of your faith loosing its purpose in the business of life.

For me I support my faith my several simple practices:  I spend time talking to God, I spend time listening to God, and I spend time expressing to others what I believe.  I believe that if something is important to us that we will connect ourselves to it and want to know more about it and want to share it.

You can name the topic and find someone that is passionate about it. The people that are really passionate about Pro-Football, for example, know the players names, the stats, the game times, the owners names, the coaches names, and about anything that you want to know about their last game.  It’s funny no matter how much they may stink up the field they know their team and support them.

As a Jesus follower I have developed several ways that work for me to know the stats and know my team, and definitely know the team owner and coach.  Prayer is a perfect way to get familiar with God.

In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson is a really good book that has stretched me a little more about prayer and an interesting way to pray.  It really has to do with daily prayer and the praying from prayer books or prayer journals and including scripture.  Now to be honest this is not how I was raised to pray.  It has always been about talking to God normally to let him know my struggles and needs and to throw in a few needs from people I know or family.  Its pretty selfish most of the time.

Robert Benson talks about praying the Daily Office.  I know it sounds pretty fancy but to be honest it is designed to make certain times a day that we pray and to direct our prayers to be more about God, our relationship with him, and the reshaping of our selfish needs into knowing that God is in control and our faith in him is key.

He talks about  praying as the early Christians did.  He encourage the reader to try praying during a fixed-hour prayer.  It is simply a structure where we can live in continuous awareness of God’s presence and reality.

He encourages us to learn what the apostle Paul meant when he encouraged the Thessalonian church to “pray without ceasing, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

The Ancient Practices is a new eight-book series from Thomas Nelson Publishers that covers the seven essential spiritual disciplines. I highly encourage you to read this book and think about making your prayer life more than just a few seconds of prayer before drifting off to sleep each night.

Champions

The past few weeks of the Olympics have been amazing.  I’ve watched more of this year’s Olympics than I have in previous years.   First, because the fact that it was in the UK, which I hope that to visit one day.  Second, because I have realized that I love to watch champions.

The Olympics are unique in that the goal is to take the best and purest examples of a champion and put all of them together to create a level of competition that can very rarely be found.   Between all of the rules for competition, drug testing, methods to insure the most chalenging events in the world and through the mircle of television we can see true world champions compete.

We love a champion.  Isn’t it awesome to watch someone in the best shape of their lives with the sharpest skills in the world perform amazing mental and physical feats?

I think, though, the best part are the stories.  The very human stories that we get exposed to are a picture into the making of a champion.  The stories of struggle, teamwork, and sacrifice

that the indivudal athelets, teams and countries tell are my favorite part.

Among the champions at this years olympics there were men and women, young (13) and not so young (71), different countries, different races, and different sports represented.  Being a champion has nothing to do with these things.

So what then makes an Olympic champion?  Here is a very simple and short list:

  1. Champions are made.  Natural skills are an incredible platform to build on but every champions practices, prepares, and pushes themselves past the extreme.
  2. Champions are motivated  They have pushed and motivated themselves to succeed.  Their confidence is purchased by their sacrifices.
  3. Champions are poetry in motion.  There is something magical about seeing it all come together for them. There is a beauty in their motion and their success.

I want to be a champion.

Ok, I will not be an Olympic champion but champions exist in all aspects of life not just sports.  Our lives can be lived past the extremes.  We can be champions.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to yo” (Philippians 3:12–16 ESV)

Do you want to be a champion?

 

What is Church?

This is  a somewhat controversial question.    It does mean different things to different people of different faiths.   I adhere to a Christian faith which for those reading who are non-christian may disqualify me from the discussion.

I am currently reading a book by Hugh Halter and  Matt Smay called The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community.  It is the story of Hugh Halter’s journey to attempting to discover how scripture describes church.

I have been taken by many statements in the book but one statement in particular concerning the revolutionary change in the christian church that was brought on by the Emperor Constantine has me thinking:  “The church was no longer defined as ‘a people who’ but rather ‘a place where’. Before Constantine the church was known as a group of people who lived a certain way and treated others in ways that reflected this belief in Jesus Christ.  They lived this way so profoundly and loudly that they were persecuted and even killed for their actions and beliefs.

Now in reality the statement reflects a lot of history and much of it positive.  Constantine took a small-ish religion and brought it to the forefront of the people of the time.  But the long lasting repercusions may be causing a need to change the paradym of church somewhat.

Many will say this requires us to move back to a simpler less institutionalized model.    I think to do so would alienate a generate of church attenders.    Some would say that it just means they need to get on board with this change or get left behind. I think this is troubling since this would in affect create reverse discrimination to those who attend church.

I think that it comes down to something that I heard Andy Stanley say today from the stage at North Point Community Church.  As followers of Christ we must represent  the true nature of our God instead of the humanly interpreted system of church (I am paraphrasing fairly I think).  Andy was simply echoing the words of Jesus when he said to love others.  (John 13)

Easy to say, s0 extremely easy. But my question with Church, religion and faith has always been, “But what does it really mean – right here, right now?”

It seems to mean that just like Jesus we go into the neighborhood.  In the Message version of scripture John 1:14 says: “The Word (meaning Jesus who is often called the Word) became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”

I believe that until people see the glory with their own eyes and the work and generosity of God’s people that Church will not happen.

We need to step out of the building and into the street and begin to wake up each day saying what will God’s love require of me today.

Also check out The Tangible Kingdom on Amazon as well as the North Point Online services at http://northpoint.tv/messages/nponline.  These are great resources to discover or re-discover Church for yourself.

 

 

New Beginnings

It’s funny how we sometimes look at life.

When I was a kid I saw that last week of school as like a new adventure.  I saw myself on the precipice of something new.  Days of no homework, playing outside, and unhindered goofing off.  Normally by the second week or the second day of summer break I was bored.  There was nothing to do and it seemed like I was waiting for vacation (that was a month away) or a day that we would go somewhere and do something!

It was really my perspective that caused the boredom.  That last week of school I was ready for a change and by the second day of Summer Break I was ready for something to happen that would fulfill my anticipation of Summer!

My family and I are at the precipice now.  We just moved to Goose Creek, SC.  We have been waiting with anticipation for this move.  Everything for the last few months has been in anticipation of this move.  It seems like it would never happen and suddenly (quite suddenly) it has!

Now what?

  • Well, first of all I am still working for the company where I have worked for the last 4 years.  I’m excited about working from South Carolina and am already seeing better productivity.   A new surrounding and a new brightly lit home office seems to be energizing me!
  • Secondly, we are going to plant a church!  I’ll be a bi-vocational pastor for a while I think. We are willing for growth to be at God’s pace even if it is slow. Our goal is to meet people and become a part of our community.  We hope to start a community coffee-house (God willing) and to serve our community.  Our hope is that a church will blossom from that.    Our intention is to plant a church but our goal is to make disciples by moving into our community. (John1)
  • Lastly, we are going to live focused on our Heavenly Father more than we ever have before.

That is the thing about perspective.  For us this is a new beginning.  We’re the same people with much of the same calling and goals but this is a new place with new priorities.

For Stacy and I, it is the beginning of the second part of our lives.  We are in our early 40s and are beginning something completely  different.  It is a true new beginning.

For me it is a chance to:

  1. Live with more intention
  2. Be a better worker, father, husband and most of all a better disciple
  3. Forget past problems or failures.  I am ready to sing a new song.  (Psalm 98)

My perspective is changed and I am ready!

Our perspective can be a hindrance or a blessing.  It is up to us to recognize a great God who is in control of the outcomes.

Help Launch Our Church

We’re in the process of planting a church in Goose Creek, SC, which is just outside of Charleston!  We’ve got a lot of plans and dreams at this point but very little money to make it happen.  The truth is that we need donors!

We need people that want to be a part of our church by partnering with us.  This means donating to the work of our Heavenly Father!!  It is an incredible opportunity to see God at work in a new way!  His desire is to be known to those who need him!

We’re focused on our community in Goose Creek because God has called us there.  We are making trips and trying to build contacts but most importantly we want to be on the ground there being a part of the community.  Our goals are long-range and slowly focused on the community.  We want to start a coffee house and a Community Development Center.  We want to make a difference in the everyday lives of the people there, not just on Sunday!  We want to be a vital part of the community by loving people where they are and not asking them to come to us.  We want to lead people to their Heavenly Father so that he can change them and change their lives.  We know this happens best through friendship and time.  We will love that community!

But we need your help! We have wonderful, amazing friends that we have known through the years and we’re asking you to partner with us!  It’s going to take financial support to get this going!  We have a budget, we have our plans, we have our calling and we have experience.  We’re putting more financially ourselves into this than we have ever in our lives because we see God’s hand on it.  He continues to open doors and we keep walking through them.

Would you be willing to support us monthly for 1 year? Your support will be worth it!

You can go out to our Donation page on the SouthEast EFCA district website.  We are listed on the page as Journey Fellowship (Charleston, SC).

If you want more information about the church please go to http://journeyfc.org or you can email me at sidemory (at) gmail dot com.

Life is a journey and we’re meant to live it together!

The Word of God

We (Christians) talk about drawing close to God a lot, but often times it remains a mystery as to what this really means.  I found an amazing example that really stirred up in me deep feelings for my Heavenly Father and the work of Jesus.  It is an amazing video of a pastor reciting the entire book of Hebrews from memory.  As I listened to his amazing presentation of the words I couldn’t help but feel moved by the words I think more so than I would have by simply reading.

We see this explained in Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

We also see it’s effect – an effect that we desire:

I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
I suggest that you watch the entire video:

[Via The Strasbourg Inn]

Bylaws and Plans

I’ve been working the last two weeks on our 501(c)(3) and our church Bylaws and Constitution for Journey Fellowship.

It all makes me think not about rules and regs but about who we are and who we want to be.  In looking at modern Christianity and the roles that churches play and have played I am obsessed in knowing where will we stand?

How will we be inclusive yet not condoning without rejecting those that God desires to reach (everyone)?  How will we handle the pressure of performing and attracting without getting lost in it?
How will we keep the desire to make disciples primary instead of the constant ungodly allure of making a church instead?

These are the questions that we’re asking like young children staring down a new trail into the woods.  We have little or no real understanding of the path ahead, but we know that God has appointed this time for us to begin the journey.

We’re praying through this that God will lead us and that we’ll not stray from His desires.  We know that our best intentions are not even close to God’s ideal plans, but he has and will use us to carry out His plans.

So all of planning and bylaws won’t insure that we do everything right but isn’t that the point?  All of us fall short but we have a Redeemer and a Savior who takes us despite all of that and makes beautiful things.

Why Plant Another Church?

Ok, I think in my first week on this new blog I have probably sounded like I am critical of churches.  That couldn’t be any further from the truth, but I do believe that many people love Jesus but not His Church and I think that is heart breaking!  I think that we have to realize this as we plant churches.

So why plant another church? I believe that the church is really God’s bride.  In other words we are the glory and the beauty of God just as my wife is the beauty and glory of my life.

So I want to be God’s glory and beauty.  Will other’s see God’s Spirit in me?  Can our church be a place of beauty and of healing without being a glossed over or distorted image of Christ? Can we simply be unselfishly willing to stop consuming God and start sharing God?

As we are beginning the fund raising to plant our church in Goose Creek, SC we are focused not on how to convince people to give to our vision or how we can get people to attend our church but instead we are focused on how we can invade our city and be used by God to really change the lives of people.  We hope that people will give money to our God for his purposes and God in turn will use us to do his purposes in our town, our region, and our world.

We hope that our sanctuary is the streets of our town.  We hope that our worship of our Heavenly Father is in our actions towards non-believers.

This will happen most effectively by our being God’s bride.  We will disciple people just as Jesus did to join together and reach the world.  Isn’t that why the Church exists?

 

 

Is Church our Idol?

This are a really hard question!  Simply put – Do we want to see our church grow more than anything or do we want to lead everyone to Christ?

It seems that many of the fallen pastors of our day always seem to have the story that includes the words “you know, I just got lost in it all”.

Don’t get me wrong large “successful” churches are not evil, but it is really hard for them to constantly purse the heart of God because of the struggle to keep things going!  To be honest though it is difficult for any individual to constantly purse the heart of God.

God has the best stuff – he has the best plans, the best options for life, the best success, the best of everything.  He simply asks us to pursue him about all other things.

So how do we stay away from idols?  Pursue God – not the church – not your brand –  not your good name – nothing else but God.

How do you pursue God?

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