Archive | January, 2014

The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment

31 Jan

This week at Faith Church we take a pause from our study of 1st Corinthians because it is Super Mission Sunday. We welcome Steve Baker from The Global Aid Network, and we are excited to learn about their ministry. We’ll also have a Skype conversation with Lamar & Janice Stoltzfus in Kenya! After worship, stay for a brunch during which time we’ll learn more about GAiN. In the meantime, check out this great article. Let’s discuss!

Holy Soup

We walked through the nearly empty, formerly flourishing space of the Kodak manufacturing plant near our home. The plant manager, a friend from church, sadly described how Kodak plants had been downsizing and closing ever since the advent of digital photography.

“We have a wish here,” he said. “We just want to be the last one standing.” Kodak since abandoned most of its space on this campus. This week the company announced the latest job eliminations.

My friend from church is gone. And I wonder. Is the church the next to go the way of Kodak? I see some chilling parallels.

Kodak dominated the photographic scene for over 100 years. It commanded an 89 percent market share of photographic film sales in the United States. Almost everyone used the brand. And the company’s advertising language of a “Kodak moment” became part of the common lexicon.

What happened since then has become…

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What is the most foolish thing you’ve ever done?

24 Jan

As I write this, I’m sitting in the lobby of Firestone, waiting as they change the oil in my car.  On the lobby TV, they are showing a program about drunk people.  It is the top 20 videos of drunk people acting incredibly foolish.  One plastered guy they just showed was passed out in the driver’s seat of his parked car, with the keys in the ignition, the care turned on, with his foot pressing the gas pedal, with the engine redlining, and smoke pouring out of the seams of the hood!  And the driver is totally asleep.  The people taking the video can’t believe what they’re seeing, and they mercifully turn off the car, but probably not in time to save the driver a burned up engine.

I could tell you a few more stories from the TV, show but I’m sure you get the idea.  Getting drunk is foolish.

There are many things that people do that are completely foolish.  One of the guys from our men’s ministry created a video, part of which shows the foolish things that men sometimes do when fixing things.  View it here.

There are many crazy things that we humans do that deserve the label “foolish”.  I know I can think of some things I’ve done.  I’m sure you can think of a few of your own, a few times that maybe you deserved that label!  Anyone want to share with us the most foolish thing you’ve ever done?

We have a pretty clear idea what it means to be foolish.  But would you ever call being a Christian, following Christ, a foolish thing?  Would you say that the message of Christ is foolish?

Paul says it is.  In our ongoing study of 1st Corinthians, Paul has begun addressing some concerns he has with the Christians in Corinth.  Last week (here and here) we saw him begin talking about divisions and unity in the church.  With that theme as the larger umbrella, he addresses some foundational ideas.  This week he calls following Christ a foolish thing!  Do you agree with him?  And why would he say that?  What does that have to do with unity in Christ.

Join us Sunday as we talk about being foolish.

Are we majoring on the minors? – 1st Corinthians 1:10-17

20 Jan

Yesterday during our continuing study of 1st Corinthians, we talked about BNPs!  After a very encouraging greeting, Paul begins to deal with the problems coming out of the church in Corinth.  First up, people claiming that they are followers of certain Big Name Preachers of their day.  Apollos, Peter, Paul himself and even Jesus.

It seems that groups were forming in the church, divvied up by who got baptised by one of these famous preachers.  Then there was the uber-spiritual group who said they followed Christ!  Paul confronts them all.

Even the group that followed Christ?

Yes, even them.

His point was that even those who sounded spiritual on the outside, claiming to follow Christ, were being divisive, creation a faction.  Paul’s solution is to remind them to pursue a passionate unity of the heart and mind.  He goes on to say that his purpose wasn’t to baptise, but to preach Christ.  His focus was on the mission of God.  And that is the one thing that we Christians from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives can unify around.

But that will only be possible unless we are a people committed to unity of heart and mind.  We need to major on the majors and minor on the minors.

The problem is that too often we major on the minors.  We can spend a lot of time and energy on lesser matters.  Some theologians over the centuries have tried to develop a system for understanding what the major doctrines are and what the minor doctrines are.  A common way to describe this is to use a pyramid with three levels.  On the top we have primary issues, which are the majors.  The next level are secondary issues, which are still important, but they are minors.  The third level, a very minor, and people will have wildly divergent points of view on them.

In the EC Church, our top tier is what we ask people to agree to when they become members of one of our churches.  The list is very small:

1) Belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord;
2) Belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God;
3) Commitment to daily Christian growth;
4) Commitment to giving Jesus Christ your time, talent and treasure;
5) Support of the local church and the ministry of the Evangelical Congregational Church
6) Faithfulness in attendance and participation;
7) Baptism.

Our second tier issues are found in our Articles of Faith, and our third tier issues are found in our Discipline, which is our book of order.

What you notice about the triangle is that the sections get larger as you go down the levels.  There are very few major issues, but we have scads of secondary and tertiary minor issues.  Here’s where the problems happen.  When people try to expand the top tier of their pyramid!  Majoring on the majors means that we’ll keep our top tier relatively small, but we will focus the vast amount of our time, energy and money there.  We will refuse to create factions based on second or third tier issues.  We will work graciously with people, even if they don’t agree with our opinions on the minors.

So are you majoring on the majors?  Does this raise any concerns or your questions in your mind?  Let’s discuss it further.

Big Name Preachers we love!

17 Jan

So who is your favorite Big Name Preacher???

Do you listen to any Big Name Preachers (BNPs) on TV?  Radio?  Online?  Podcasts?

I hear people talking about Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Beth Moore and Charles Stanley.  A lot people have said they really like his son, Andy, too.  Who do you like?  I recently heard of a BNP called Bishop Noel Jones, and I checked out a sermon online…wow!  It was great.  I found this list of the 25 most influential BNPs of the last 25 years.  How could I forget Billy Graham?  He’s the biggest BNP of all.  When I first became pastor, and we were having the church’s outdoor sign changed to reflect the pastoral change, I thought it might be fun to put Billy Graham’s name on there!  In the end we decided not to include a name.  I’m not a BNP, but I sure do like some of them.

I used to listen to the Mars Hill Podcast faithfully.  NOT the one in Seattle, mind you, where you where BNP Mark Driscoll preaches.  I can’t stand Driscoll.  Maybe we should also discuss the BNPs we don’t like!  Wouldn’t that be fun?  But I love Rob Bell, the guy who preached most of the time on the Mars Hill (Grand Rapids) podcast a couple years ago.  There were a lot of weeks that he was not preaching, and that kinda bugged me.  But one time, he preached the whole sermon while people were up on stage building with Legos!  Awesome.  I was so disappointed when he left Mars Hill Grand Rapids!.  So I don’t listen to that podcast anymore.

I also LOVE Ravi Zacharias.  I first heard him preach at Urbana in 1993, and I was blown away.  Pretty much all the other BNPs there were crap, but Ravi…wow.  We were hanging on his every word, and when he was done, we wanted him to continue.  Forget the other preachers and music…get Ravi back on rocking the pulpit.  So I got a copy of that message, and I bet you I have listened to it at least 100 times.  I’ve heard him preach a few more times in person since, and I have listened to tons of his sermons online.  He is the bomb.  He brings it.  He nails it.

So I guess you could say I am of Rob Bell and Ravi Zacharias.

Which BNPS are you of?

PS – Ever heard of Apollos? Cephas?  I heard some people really liked those BNPs too.  More about that on Sunday!  Join us at Faith Church for more on BNPs.

On being in Christ – 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

13 Jan

As Paul gets set to start confronting the Corinthians for their less-than-holy behavior, he starts off with a couple reminders that frame the context.  First, what we studied in 1 Cor 1:1-3, that in Christ they are holy and called to be holy.  Second, yesterday’s passage 1 Cor 1:4-9,  a very encouraging section.  I think I ought to print it out and post it on my office wall.  In the sermon, we went line by line through it.  Take a look at the words, read them slowly, as they are awesome:

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Isn’t that excellent?  Take note at how many times he uses the words “in Christ” or “in him”.  Look at how he reminds them of God’s empowerment in their lives, giving them gifts, keeping them strong, and blameless.  And then he finishes with a flourish talking about God’s faithfulness, especially that they are in fellowship with Christ.

How often do you think about your relationship with the Lord?  The Corinthians needed a reminder of how they had a relationship with Christ, and that God was actively at work in sustaining that relationship.  I can imagine the Corinthians nervously receiving Paul’s letter.  They knew things had gotten out of control in the church.  They knew that they had allowed things to veer far from how Paul had taught them.  I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few of them were feeling convicted even before they read the first word.  At least they didn’t throw the letter in the garbage before reading it!

So what would God say to you?  Would you say your relationship with the Lord is close, distant, dry, thriving?  What God would say is pretty much what Paul says here in 1 Cor 1:4-9. Be encouraged!

If you need to confess and repent, do so, and be encouraged that you are in fellowship with Christ.

If you need to spend more time with him, do so, and be encouraged that he is actively involved in your life!

You Suck?

10 Jan

Beautiful words, aren’t they?

Has someone ever told you that you suck?  I’m not talking about the kidding “you suck!” after you just pranked them.  And I’m not talking about the “you suck” after you just beat your friend in a race. I’m talking about the mean-spirited, angry, spiteful “You suck!” The kind that hurts.  Sometimes it is audible, but more often it is spoken without words, but just as clearly.  For example, there are loads of people and corporations that want to tell us what they think of us.  One of my favorite videos that explains this is:

As you hear in the video, advertisers want us to believe that we suck, but if we buy their products we’ll feel great…that is until the product we bought is obsolete a couple months later, and the new version comes out and we suck again because we have the old version.

And then all the celebrities and their awards shows remind us that they are great, and we worship them because we suck and it makes us feel good to watch them.  But we’re not so beautiful and wealthy as they are, so we suck.

And then there are all the politicians with power in the government, reminding us that we are hopeless to change the world because we suck.  But we feel good when we get in their corner.  But they never really change much, and we still feel powerless, and that sucks.

Sometimes our bosses, sometimes our friends and family, and sometimes we ourselves tell us that we suck.

So basically, we suck.

Or do we?  If we listen to all those voices, we will believe that we suck.

Maybe you believe those voices.  Maybe you haven’t heard the voice of the Lord in while.  Maybe you can’t remember what he feels about you.  How does God feel about you?

As Paul continues his letter to the disciples in Corinth, it is the voice of the Lord that he wants them to hear.  And he wants them to hear it loud and clear.  Maybe read 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 to hear that voice.  Then join us on Sunday as we study this passage further.

On Being Holy – 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

7 Jan

Two days ago we started a series teaching through the book of 1st Corinthians.  It’s actually not a book, but a letter.  As I mentioned last week here, Paul is writing to a church that is struggling to maintain it’s discipleship to Jesus in the midst of the wealthy overly-sexualized culture.

In other words, he’s writing to us, American church.

How should he start?  How would you start?  What do you want to say to the American church?  If you could have a voice to the many millions of Christians across our land, what would you say?  I’d be interested in your thoughts in the comment section below!

What does Paul say?  He reminds them that they are holy in union with Christ, called to be holy.  What does it mean to be holy?

Perfect?  Maybe.

Holier than thou?  Not so much.

You can listen to sermon here, if you want a longer treatment.  Basically Paul is reminding the Christians in the city of Corinth, and he is reminding us as well, that we are holy in Christ, consecrated into a special relationship with our Lord.  We are called to become like him.

Our denomination has a history of focusing on holiness as vital to a disciple of Jesus, and based on 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, Paul is in agreement.  Jesus himself said in Matthew 5:42, “Be holy, as your heavenly father is holy.”  We are to pursue holiness in our lives.

We do this first and foremost through an attitude that believes Jesus lived a holy life, and that he offers to us, as his disciples, a renewal, a change, a new life.  He called it the abundant life, and said he came to give it to us. Do we really believe that his offer of abundant life is better than the options for life that our society and culture has to offer?  Our culture really promotes a version of the good life that seems so wonderful.  And yet Jesus said that he came that we might have abundant life.  Who do we believe?

If we believe Jesus, then we pursue becoming holy as he is holy.  It might be a lifelong journey.  Frankly, for the vast majority of us, it will be a lifelong journey.  There will be struggles, failures, victory and growth.  Praise the Lord for his empowerment and grace offered to us in the journey of holiness.

The pursuit of holiness, then, is not about a program, but about desiring with all your heart to be more like Jesus.

So what is Jesus like?  Check out this classic: