Tag Archives: Jesus

Childlike Connectedness

Tuesday Re-mix –

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:1-3

Have you ever noticed that, when it comes to choosing playmates, children don’t seem to be bothered by any of the same concerns which we hold? When we find out that our child has taken more than a passing interest in another child, we have a thousand questions about that child…and we are frustrated when our child doesn’t know the answers to ANY of them. Where does she go to church? What does he believe? Who are his parents? What does her daddy do for a living? Where does he live? WHAT IS HIS/HER LAST NAME? And when we ask, we get nothing from our own child about any of these concerns. Because children just don’t care about these things when choosing a playmate.

Of course, the longer they live in the world, the more and more the world teaches them about what “really matters” when it comes to judging people. Unless they are intentional about staying childlike, they begin to lose this ability to connect with anyone and everyone irrespective of outward appearance or social status or even belief systems. This makes me sad. And I believe it makes Jesus sad too.

This post comes on the heels of last week’s post about generational differences in the church today, specifically, how Gen X’ers and Millennials tend to BELONG first, and BELIEVE second and what that teaches us about how we connect with people in the church. Today, I am pinning …

Spelling “Success” for the Church

Tuesday Re-mix –

“Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man…

“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

Luke 6:20-22, 24-26

Even before He started the revolution he called “the church”, Jesus established clearly and often that God would not measure its success in any ways we would like.  According to Jesus, here are some ways NOT to measure success as a church:

1.  Amount of resources. This is not just about financial wealth (though there is that too).  Riches include other resources as well, such as human resources (i.e., gifts, talents, innovation, leadership, etc.).  Be honest, even for the most Spiritual among us, when we see a beautiful young, talented, dynamic family join the church, doesn’t our heart skip a beat or two, thinking about how much “better” our church just became?  But when the homeless person walks in off the street and joins (if we will even permit that to happen), do we feel the same way?  Jesus spoke to this so often, yet we still get trapped by the way the world tends to see things.

2.  Amount of physical needs. Even though my local church may …

Sometimes the Only Thing Missing in Ministry is Jesus

Tuesday Re-mix –

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5

O.K., I know virtually nothing about the commercial fishing industry. I’ve never even seen an episode of The Deadliest Catch. And I certainly have very little knowledge of what that industry looked like 2000 years ago. I suspect that Peter and the guys had been through a very long, very hard night of tossing their tangled nets out and dragging them back in empty…I suspect that they were as skilled as anyone at this particular trade but that their very best and most strenuous efforts had been completely fruitless on this particular night…and I suspect they were exhausted and disappointed and frustrated. But that is all speculation on my part, because I don’t really know much about fishing. Nevertheless, I have a theory about what was going on in Peter’s mind when Jesus, the carpenter/teacher/NON-fisherman, wryly suggested that they pick up their nets and head out and try again one more time. I contend that what Peter was thinking in his head at that moment would NOT have made for good scripture.

Very much like Peter and James and John, we have developed some real expertise when it comes to “doing church”. Given hundreds of years to develop our systems and our understandings of scripture, we have a strong sense of what works and what does not work. We study our culture and think we’re pretty knowledgeable about the best ways to teach and to minister and to reach people. And when we set out to implement a ministry …

An Answer to Jesus’ Prayer

Tuesday Re-mix –

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20-21

I don’t know how you feel about prayer and its power…or God and His willingness to answer prayer.  But if you are a follower of Christ, I know this about you: you are pretty sure that God will at least answer Jesus’ prayers.  Right?  Yes, me too.  So it is with great interest that I watch the church today to see how God answers Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17.  I watch, fully expecting that God will work to bring it to pass…the unity of His people, that is.

I have spent the better part of the last two years on a “communications task force” for my church, charged with the responsibility of mapping out a course for our church to update, renovate, and (in some cases) completely re-think how we communicate both outside our walls and within our congregation.  I have loved it.  It is one of the most rewarding assignments I have ever had at my church.  The discussions have been rich as we contemplate an infrastructure for virtually every level of communication.

While much of our focus thus far has been on how we communicate outwardly (I call that “branding”…see, I am not a marketing professional, so I get to use that word any way I like), I remain primarily concerned with how we communicate within the congregation.  I feel strongly about that, because communication is the currency of relationships, and relationships are the …

When Gathering Together Does More Harm than Good

Tuesday Re-mix –

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  I Corinthians 11:17-18

I once worked with a certain church in East Texas who had more than its share of divisions and unmanageable conflict.  There had been an ugly history of conflict in this church…dissension about a number of different issues over the years.  By the time I had gotten there, the pastor had become the “issue du jour” and was the object of much of the fighting.  Two camps had already formed: those who wanted to keep him and those who did not.  This was the church where I actually had a deacon sit with me, look me right in the eye and say, “I don’t care what the Bible says about reconciliation, I’m not doing it…I’ll deal with whatever consequences that brings in Heaven.”  I didn’t even know what to say to him.  I mostly just bit my tongue, but that conversation is perhaps for another post.

It was this church’s custom to have the Lord’s Supper (or “communion”, depending upon which parlance you favor) on the last Sunday of each month.  The pastor found himself in a dilemma.  He had to decide whether or not to move forward with communion or not.  If he decided to move forward, he would surely be criticized for holding communion when everyone in the church was fighting with each other.  If he canceled it, he would surely be criticized for that as well.

He canceled it.  And it was a right decision.  Because there was so much contention and animosity in that congregation at …

Missional Institutions v. Missional People

Tuesday Re-mix –

In The Gathering, we are going through the gospel of John.  It has been a wonderful study for us!  I still feel convicted when I really study Christ’s “missional” ways and his passion for people…ALL people.  It is just not possible to really come to an understanding of the Biblical Jesus without feeling moved toward people in need.

But even as we read convicting passages from God’s Word, many in my church will be thinking to themselves, “Our church needs to be about feeding hungry people and helping the homeless in our community…our church needs to continue clothing them and providing other help for them…this is something our church needs to do.” And those are good thoughts, but they are indicative of the institutional mindset which is keeping many of us from ever reaching our true Christian potential as individuals.

You see, there is more to the missional mindset than just becoming a missional institution.  The missional lifestyle is a lifestyle for each of us as individual Christians, whether or not our particular church is ever seen by its community as being missional.  The attitude at my own church provides a great example.  Not that long ago, my church was literally blazing trails in the area of social ministries.  We owned and operated a restaurant run almost entirely by volunteers, the profits from which went to feed people in our near-by soup kitchen.  We provided leadership in some of our community’s homeless shelters and clothes closets.  We had a strong presence in several of our city’s project housing complexes.  We provided Christmas meals to between 400 and 500 impoverished families each year.  In this area of social ministries, our institution was a well-run machine.

So, over the last 30 years, each of us as church …

Through Kingdom-colored Glasses

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I was 40 years old the first time I put on a pair of reading glasses.  I had stubbornly defied all the predictions that I would never make it out of law school without needing glasses (presumably due to all the reading law school requires…this is where some of my law school friends who read this blog will surely make some wise crack about how little reading Blake actually did in law school).  It was one evening during my 41st year when I was at my parents’ house and they noticed I was squinting as I read the paper.  Dad handed me a pair of reading glasses and my life changed right then and there.  I could not believe how much they helped!  I had a whole new outlook on life…literally.

glasses1That is what glasses are supposed to do, cause us to see differently.  Thus we have little sayings such as “She sees the world through rose-colored glasses”.  The glasses we wear have everything to do with our outlook.

I have been a Bible teacher for almost 30 years now.  Clearly, there are some books and passages in the Bible which are a sheer joy to teach and there are others which…well, let’s just say they challenge my ability to “keep it fresh”.  One of the passages I LOVE to teach is in Matthew: the sermon on the mount. I know many scholars and commentators believe this “sermon” is actually just Matthew’s compilation and summary of many lessons Jesus taught over a period of time.  I understand that theory and I am not nearly enough of a Bible scholar to debate it.  But personally,  I don’t like it.  I very much …

Are You There for the Wounded?

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Pretty much anybody’s interpretation of Jesus’ ministry has to agree that He was there for wounded people.  Whatever else you believe about Him and His purpose, you would be hard-pressed to argue that point.  Everywhere He went, He was helping physically, emotionally and Spiritually wounded people.  His best-documented sermon, the sermon on the mount, began with some words about wounded people…

Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him and He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth; Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled…Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven… Matthew 5:1-6, 11-12.

The fact is, Jesus looked out over a motley crowd full of hurting people who had been largely ignored by that society and told them, “I have some great news for you.  Heaven wants you, even if nobody around here seems to.”  It is a defining characteristic of Jesus: compassion and care for the wounded.

And it should be a defining characteristic of every local body of believers who claim to be following Christ…every single church, every single congregation.  A large part of being the New Testament church is looking out at our community and seeing the brokenness and trying to help.  That is a given, not really up for debate.

But …