Sunday, April 26, 2009

Afterwords--Take Off Your Prison Clothes

"This is the end, but for me it is the beginning of life." These were the words Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke to an English officer and fellow prisoner as two men arrived to lead him away on the day before he was executed. Bonhoeffer had previously written, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."
The prison doctor later wrote of observing him on the day of his execution, "Through the half-open door of a room in one of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, still in prison clothes, kneeling in fervent prayer to the Lord his God. The devotion and evident conviction of being heard that I saw in the prayer of this intensely captivating man, moved me to the depths."

Long before that early morning when he was ordered to strip naked and walk to the gallows where he would be hanged for his participation in the resistance movement against Hitler's Nazi regime, Bonhoeffer had already laid down his life. Being stripped of his prison clothes, facing injustice, facing death itself was not nearly so daunting for a man who had already crossed what Craig Groeschel calls the Third Line of Faith. That's the line where one moves past loving Christ enough to benefit from Him (1st Line) or even contribute comfortably to Him (2nd Line) to loving Him enough to lay down your life and follow Him where he has already death.
What do you need to be stripped of? What prison clothes are you desperately holding on to? Are you willing to take off those things peacefully, calmly, willingly...even joyfully as Bonhoeffer did, and make your way naked to the gallows with Christ? What part of your life are you still "leading" rather than simply following Christ? Cross the Third Line.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Leader's Trap

The most dangerous temptation for a Christian leader may be the temptation to focus on leading others rather than following Christ (cf. John 21:17-19). Whether you are a pastor, a parent, or just a peer to people you work with, it's easy to give all your attention to where others are in their journey, where they need to be, and how you can get them from one point to the other. But in doing so, it's possible to lose sight of where you stand yourself--in relation to the footsteps of Christ.

If we follow hard after Christ, we will find ourselves mingling with people who need leadership--not so much ours but Christ's. And it will be our following Him that they follow, not our pointing the way. People need models not pointers. Isn't that funny when you think about it? In focusing on leading you can stop following, but if you focus on following, you will be a leader.

"Be imitators of me as I am of Christ"
(Paul the Apostle) 1 Corinthians 11:1, etc.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter After-words

Wow! What a day! So many new faces that I couldn't keep up with them all. As I stood at the back of the room today, I remembered what it was like to have 30-40 people in attendance almost 4 years there were 263! And those weren't just nameless faces; everyone of them has a story and every one of them was connected to someone without whom they never would have come to The River Church.

Some of the stories in the room today:

  • A long time professing agnostic who is having his assumptions challenged by seeing real people live out a real relationship with Christ...and welcome him to journey with them
  • Students who came with friends to hear great news while their moms and dads slept
  • Multiple people who once assumed that they were doomed to live in bondage to addiction forever, but are now experiencing freedom and real life in the risen Christ
  • People who have been broken by divorce who are experiencing healing in relationship with the one who will never leave them
  • Households who spent years immersed in man-made religion and are now getting to know the simple truth of the genuinely good news that forgiveness is free to those who receive what Jesus already purchased
263 stories...For some of them, Jesus hasn't yet come to play a pivotal role. But He will. For others, Jesus has already become the pivotal "switch" in their story who turns things from dark to light.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Desperation: Mother of Invention & Prerequisite to Change

Desperation, not necessity, is the mother of invention. Food is necessary, but it's famine that makes you figure out new ways to get it. For proof of my theory, look no further than the neti pot. Popularized by Oprah and Dr. Oz (& heck no this is not an endorsement of Oprah!), the neti pot is a little "teapot" you can buy in any pharmacy which is used to clean your sinuses by irrigating them with saline solution.

It's not the pot itself but the procedure that looks so strange. The very idea is one that neither has nor would ever--EVER--occur to me (pouring water into one side of my nose and allowing it to drain out the other with the help of a long-necked little teapot, that is). But with the onslaught of pollen, the prospect of my head exploding from sinus pressure, and the raving of others who swear by it. I thought "Why not?" Long story seems to have worked. But that got me thinking...

I had the testimonies of friends I trust who'd used the neti pot successfully before me. Hey, we all had the endorsement of Queen O and Dr. Oz, right? But here's the question, how desperate was the first person who decided to wash out his nose and sinuses with some saline solution and the help of his long-necked teapot? That dude or lady had some kind of headache. He or she was desperate for a change, for the sinus problems to go away. Really, really desperate! Desperation led to the unthinkable...what would never have been considered before. And what do you know? It worked!

How desperate are you for change? Are you willing to try something previously unthinkable? Are you willing to try something right in front of you in a whole new way (i.e.--teapot for a nasal rinser)? The solution may be right in front of you...maybe you're just not desperate enough...yet.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quote to Note

This week's "Quote to Note" is once again from Mark Batterson's Wild Goose Chase. In fact, Mark dropped a couple of hammers on me this week (I'm sharing another one on Easter Sunday as we kick off "Switch"). Here's one to chew on for now:

"...spiritual maturity has less to do with long-range visions than it does with moment-by-moment sensitivity to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And it is our moment-by-moment sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that turns life into an everyday adventure."

Sure we have to know where we're headed in life, what we're trying to accomplish. But can we be honest? Many of us stick a goal on the horizon and then make it our idol. We become so focused on that goal that we stop paying attention to God. If it's a God-given vision, we'll get there. But God may very well have a meandering course planned for you along the way that sends you to places, experiences, and people that you did not anticipate. That's adventure! And that's far better than the tunnel-visioned course we tend to set for ourselves. If we are so focused on our long-range goal that we are ignoring God's voice in this moment, we may very well miss a turn--and miss an adventure God has planned for us and others! God is just as concerned about our journey with him as He is the destination.

"The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps"

"A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?"

We have a tendency to find comfort in some point of certainty in the future. We want the 1,000,000 candle power Q-beam view of what's coming. But God wants us to walk with him now in the soft glowing lamplight that illuminates only one step beyond where our feet are now, that illuminates His heels so we can follow close.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

Don't focus so much on the horizon that you lose sight and sound of the one you are following. Listen close and follow closer.