What a great day. It is grey and overcast. It is finally beginning to feel like winter. I made some home made chicken soup. I ate two bowls and now it is time to spend some time reading until I doze off. I love days like this.
It has become a custom in our house take turns doing the dishes. I figure it is only fair that we all share the work, since we all eat off of the dishes. Another reason we share the chores is to show the kids that dad isn’t exempt from washing dishes (even though I wish I were exempt). From time to time after I do a masterful job of cleaning the kitchen, I will explain to the kids that, “sometimes we don’t like to do a certain job, however we need to always do our best.” This particular day I found myself washing the dishes. Even though we have a dishwasher I like to run a sink full of water and soap and hand wash the dishes then place them in the dish washer. I know it is nuts but it drives me absolutely bonkers when I go get a plate or fork out of the dishwasher after it has been run and there is food stuck to it. I was standing washing a cup and I was reminded of a scripture found in the book of Matthew chapter 23. It reads, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” As I thought about the strong words Jesus had spoken to the pharisees the logic seemed to spur other thoughts. If I am sitting at a table with the most beautiful table settings in the world and the glass is filled with 10 day old urine, no matter how beautiful the dish is it has become useless. Who wants to drink out of that glass. On the flip side. If there is dirt on the outside of a cup that contains fresh sparkling spring water. You might still drink it, (for those of you who camp or hike you most likely do this on a regular basis). It doesn’t really matter to much what things look like on the outside it is what is on the inside that matters. This is specially true with people as Jesus stated. The pharisees were walking around with the finest clothes of their time, (In our time they would walk around with 3 piece, Italian hand crafted suits), however they were dead on the inside. If a persons heart isn’t right, it doesn’t matter what clothes they wear or what job or position they hold. The heart is the most important thing (Prov. 4:23). I have met some wonderful people that have led a hard life up until the point of giving their hearts to Jesus. On the outside they still look pretty hard. On the inside they are made clean. I feel we judge to quickly at times. There are some questions we need to ask ourselves. What does your cup look like? Is it pretty only on the outside? Are you guarding what you put into your cup? If you don’t like the answer to any of these questions, take heed to the teaching of Jesus. “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
I have just finished reading Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church by author Reggie McNeal. It is very thought provoking to say the least. The premise of this book is that congregational Church at large has unwittingly taught that the Church is a building and not people. As a result most churches run on the strategy of attraction which simply means that they run programs and expect that non-Christians will just want to come. Unfortunatly, as recent data suggests, non-Christians are not coming. In fact they are staying away in droves. Reggie McNeal suggests that Missional Communites are one way to engage those who won’t attend a traditional congregational church. Mr. McNeal shares case studies that give great insight into how some of the Missional Communities are structured. I highly encourage every follower of Jesus to read this book. It just may challenge the way you think about your life. If you are interested in purchasing this book, click the link below.
Recently I have been reading, Living on the Edge, by Chip Ingram. This book has many great insights on how a mature Christian should live their lives. Here is an excerpt from my reading today. The topic is authenticity.
“When I have to hidden sin in my life, the real me can’t show up because I’m hiding something, I have to pretend.
So many of us unknowingly ask the wrong questions when it comes to the issue of sin. The questions so many are asking are, “How close can I get to sin without without crossing the line? What rating does a movie have to have so I can watch it without committing a sin? How much can I drink before it’s a sin? How much money can I have before it’s considered greed? How far can we go in this relationship before it’s called sexual immorality? How much can we bend the truth or spin the story before it’s a lie?” We all so this to some degree and it results in Christians who continue to cross lines and cross boundaries that violate their consciences. Once these patterns develop, little private sins begin to take on a life of their own in the secret compartments of our hears. No one knows about them and it takes an enormous amount of energy to keep them hidden. The problem is that sin does not only impact us privately, but every unresolved issue before God will affect others because we are a spiritual, living organism; we”belong to one another” (Romans 12:5).
So her’s how it gets played out in real life. As you meet with a group of fellow believers or with a close friend in Christ and begin to pray and talk about deep issues of the heart, you don’t share what’s really going on because there are areas in your life and your heart that must remain hidden. And so you begin to wear a mask. You begin to pretend. And the grace of God and the power of authentic community are not available to you, nor do you give this power to others. Relationships become more and more superficial, filled with Christian cliche’s and religious jargon. Your soul shrinks and the guilt rises. After a while you find you don’t want to be around committed believers, hear God’s word, or participate in activities that force you to confront your hypocrisy. Loneliness and isolation become your silent partners, while God longs for you to come home, come clean, and be restored.”
There are times in a persons life when they question if they have made a positive impact on the lives of those around them. For me this has been happening the last couple of weeks. In roughly ten days time we have had four people pass away that were connected to our church in one way or another. Two of those people were very active in the church and were greatly loved. As I sat in there funerals I thought about their lives and how they influenced people by just loving the people that came into there paths. I thought about what people might say at my funeral. Would they say I touched there lives in profound ways for the positive. Is it possible that nobody would have anything sincerely honest to say about me that would make my family proud.
Skip forward a week to last night. We are getting ready for worship team rehearsal and I see several people from the church enter the sanctuary from the back door. As I watch them enter I am thinking “they must have just finished a small group”. However as I thought about the members of this “small group” and knowing some of the particulars of their lives I realized they weren’t there for a Bible study. As they continued to walk closer to the platform I asked them what was going on. One persons spoke up and said “we are here for the music”. Then I knew something wasn’t right. I began to think, “is this some sort of intervention”. My mind began to think back, “did I do something to offend somebody?”. At that moment my friend Bill stood up and and addresses me. He explained that I was greatly loved by the church and that they wanted to do something to bless me. So they all pitched in and pooled enough money to buy me something that I had been in need of for a while. Just then a young lady appeared from the area behind the platform holding a sleek looking black guitar case. The group presented me with the case. As I opened the case it revealed a Breedlove atlas series acoustic guitar with L.R. Baggs electronics. I couldn’t believe it. It took everything I had to keep from breaking down and balling like a baby. I have never had such a great gift. I commented on the fact that it wasn’t Christmas or even my birthday. The reply came, “It isn’t about a holiday, it is about love”. To all who were involved in making this happen I would like to offer my sincere gratitude. You have blessed me immensely. The gift will be enjoyed. Thank you for making me feel loved and making me feel like I have made a difference in your lives.
Last fall I had the privilege of preaching once again. Below is the video of that day.[vimeo 30286252]