True confession: I kinda like technology–sorta a lot. There’s a really cool feature on my phone. When an unknown number calls, I can choose one of three buttons on the screen. Two of them are typical: Answer or Ignore. But the third button is unique.
The third option is a button that says Screen Call. If I select that, then a very human sounding voice answers my phone, and asks the caller to give their name and the nature of their call. As this computer driven conversation is taking place, it’s all transcribed in real time on my screen. I can literally see what the caller is saying, and then choose to answer, or to ask for more details, or to send a brief message.
I’ve had any number of callers get a little freaked out by this feature. People who spent their professional lives calling people remark, “I’ve never heard anything like that…I wasn’t sure how to respond…where can I get that feature” and so on.
Here’s my point. We like to call screen in life, too. Especially when God calls. Maybe we don’t hit the “ignore” button, but we don’t answer, either. We want more details. We want to see it spelled out in front of us, “God, what in particular is the nature of your call…what’s your agenda?”
What’s remarkable is how accommodating God is to this approach. He will often give us detail after detail after detail. (There’s a whole collection of his details in a unique collection of 66 books.) Or he’ll keep calling and saying, “This is your heavenly Father calling. Please pick up the phone.” We often suspect God has an agenda and a mission that we may or may not want to hear about. I believe that for the most part God is calling simply because he wants to connect with us. With you. He’s your heavenly Father. And you’re his son or daughter. No other reason. Usually. But if there is, it’s worth hearing him out.
So if God’s number shows up on the screen of your life this week, how will you respond? Will you hit the “Ignore” button? Will you “Answer”? Or will you choose the “Screen Call” button? If so, I would suggest that God’s responses can be read in real time on the screen of your life.
P.S. If you want more info on how to recognize God’s calling, be sure to check out our latest series, “Answering God’s Call.”
It’s often the little people who don’t have a voice. You know, the ones who are “seen but not heard.” There’s a real danger when this happens.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “children should be seen and not heard.” Which, if you’ve ever spent a day with a toddler who is learning the word “why,” you can certainly understand. However, when someone or anyone is “not heard” they can soon become “not noticed.” And that can be a very dangerous situation. (Think about what went thru your mind that last time you realized that you were completely unnoticed.)
The church is often seen as the domain of the older generation. Our programs, our conversations and our decisions are often made BY and FOR grown-ups. At the same time, untold books and articles lament the loss of young adults in today’s church community. Could that be because their voice has not been heard? Or that their concerns have not been addressed? Or that their ideas have not been considered?
At Seneca Creek we’re committed to standing with and for those who are not yet adults (as well as those taking their first steps into adulthood). Our staffing and ministry decisions are guided by the belief that today’s children and students are not “the church of tomorrow” as much as they are the church of today. PowerHouse, Ignition, and Quest are part of how we put these commitments into action. And to all the staff and volunteers who give of themselves in these areas, I want to say, “Thank you!”
- Thank you for choosing to be strategic in spending your time.
- Thank you for being patient with kids, students, volunteers and staff.
- Thank you for making Seneca Creek a place where age-appropriate content meets the real world questions and concerns of today’s kids and students.
- Thank you for the untold hours you invest, and the uncounted prayers you pray for the “little people.”
- Thank you for helping us make sure that they have a voice, a place to grow, a community to connect with, and adults who demonstrate what the church is designed to be.
Over the years we’ve had the privilege of watching kids and students grow into amazing adults who take their faith and their gifts and their experience at Seneca Creek and make a difference for the kingdom of God. Maybe you know some of them. They are a living testimony to what happens when the “little people” have a voice.
And regardless of where or how you serve, thank you for making a difference.
P.S. Don’t miss this Sunday, June 16, as we highlight our current students and unveil some exciting news for the students and young adults!
Ever notice how often church people get into fights? I read a comment recently that shed some light into this corner, and if you spend any time around churches, you may appreciate it, too.
The quote was addressing the tendency in the church to have battles about traditions vs. new ideas.
A little back story.
Churches have traditions. Actually, just about everyone does, but the church seems to specialize in traditions. From the way we dress, the language we use, the forms of greeting and gathering, to the style of music, preaching, praying, and more. The rallying cry of those holding firmly to their church traditions is often, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Therefore if God isn’t changing, neither are we.
Similarly, as the world evolves and changes around us, many church people will embrace change just as vigorously as some embrace tradition. Change the look, the feel, the language, the music, the coffee, the preaching, and more. Their rallying cry is often, “Behold I am doing a new thing.” Therefore if God is doing a new thing, we should get behind him in that matter.
Maybe you resonate with one of those positions or the other. Too often the two sides clash in the church. The lines are drawn between “relevance and reverence.” The results can be ugly, unappealing, and unhealthy. There’s a good chance that some who are reading this blog will have flashbacks and painful memories of living thru one of those clashes.
The quote I came across recently addresses this dilemma. It goes like this.
“The church [must seek] to worship and obey the unchanging God while making it a priority not to raise change or stasis [read: tradition] to a place of idolatry.” (Jon Thompson)
Put another way, “Tradition isn’t God, and change isn’t God. God is God.” God doesn’t change. He is and always will be who he has always been. (The question of God “changing his mind,” is another conversation for another blog.) But change and tradition are not God. The temptation is to elevate them above their proper place. When that happens, idolatry is knocking at the door. And the war machine is warming up.
It’s a war that doesn’t have to happen. The way to avoid it is to get clear about God, tradition, and change. Get clear about your hardwired personality temptation (Some are wired for change, some for tradition.) Figure out which of the three you’re going to worship/elevate. Then live in peace. Shalom!
Let’s face it, not everyone is going to agree with you. Or with me. Even Jesus couldn’t pull that off. But does disagreeing have to lead to hatred, hostility, and name-calling? There’s a better way.
When faced with disagreement, no matter the subject, here are six helpful steps to a better way to disagree. I believe these are actually modeled in Jesus’ own record of disagreements with others.
- Ask why. The other person has reasons for believing what they do. And while it can be tempting to assume those reasons are stupid or ignorant, why not give the other person an opportunity to clarify? Asking why is a great way to foster better understanding, even if you still disagree.
- Listen. The reason it’s hard to listen is we’re often formulating our own response while the other person is talking. But there will be time to formulate our response later. The only time to really listen is when they’re communicating. If we’re honest, most of us know when someone is truly listening to us. It feels so much different than when they’re simply waiting their turn to present their case.
- Remember that you’re on a journey. You arrived at your position/beliefs over a period of time. Probably most of your life. There’s a good chance that you haven’t always believed/thought what you currently do. And there’s even a chance you may one day change your beliefs. This step helps create a respectable level of humility as we engage with others.
- Remember the other person is also on a journey. I’ve had countless conversations with people who are on similar journeys to my own. They’re simply at a different place on the journey. Let them proceed at their own pace. Give them time and encouragement to think, reflect, engage, and even possibly come around to your beliefs. It won’t happen overnight.
- Remember that you’re created in God’s image. When your beliefs or your personhood is attacked or belittled, rest in the knowledge that your value is unaffected by the words and accusations and beliefs of anyone else. God made you, and God gave you value and worth. Whether you’re in the right or in the weeds, you are still an image bearer of your Heavenly Father.
- Remember the other person is also created in God’s image. When you’re tempted to think or say unkind things about the person who disagrees with you, when you want to challenge their intelligence, or their morality, or their culture, or their track record, remember this is a person who is deeply loved by your Heavenly Father. Imagine someone saying those same unkind things to your precious child…would you want to hear that? We can be honest and even disagree without destroying or dehumanizing someone made in God’s image.
Six simple steps to avoid being a jerk. Simple doesn’t mean easy, but it does mean we can choose to implement them. What will you choose the next time you face disagreement?
There’s currently a trending conversation about preachers and the money they spend on their shoes. Check out #PreachersNSneakers. Kinda crazy, actually.
Maybe you think it’s cool that some preachers wear $1,000 sneakers. Maybe you think it’s immoral. It makes me wonder. If Jesus were preaching and teaching today, what would he wear on his feet? Sandals? Birkenstocks? Chucks? Allen Edmunds? Five-finger shoes?
We may not be able to answer that question, but we have some clues.
- The prophet Isaiah, in describing the Messiah, commented that, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2)
- Judas had to identify Jesus with a kiss so the soldiers would know whom to arrest in the garden. (Matthew 26:48-49)
- The two men on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus even when he walked and talked with them. (Luke 24:15-16)
The clues all point in the direction of a guy who didn’t really stand out by his appearance/apparel. (His life and teaching are another matter altogether!)
So if everyone else was wearing $1,000 sneakers, then Jesus might do so and blend in. But among the average citizens, he’d likely be wearing the kind of shoes/pants/jacket/hat that don’t attract attention. Because he has a much better way of getting your attention.
He calls your name.
To learn more about this, join us for our current series, “Answering God’s Call.”
P.S. FWIW, most of my shoes (sneakers and otherwise) come from a second hand shoe store in rural Tennessee. Prices average from $10 to $40. 😊
Ever feel like you might have a problem, bordering on an addiction? I know I do.
I’ve said it many times to those who visit my office, “I kinda have a book addiction.” I know the difference between a legitimate physiologically-based addiction and my problem with books. I’m not trying to be flippant about those who genuinely struggle with substance addictions, etc. But I enjoy reading. It’s how I learn, grow, think, reflect, and change.
HOWEVER, I know that most people do NOT share my penchant for books. In fact the statistics show that reading is nowhere near the top of the priority list for the typical American, who reads 4 books per year.
Which brings me to my point. With reading rates continuing to decline, what does that say about the written word of God found in the Bible? It’s easy to conclude that people aren’t reading that book as much, either. Which is problematic, because it’s the one book that has the power to transform human lives.
But I think Bible reading is under-reported. Because people don’t just read about God’s word in the printed book. They read about it in transformed lives. Paul the apostle describes the lives of some of his fellow Christ followers this way:
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:3
People see you as God’s word to them. God’s word of the power of transformation. God’s word of hope, healing, and new life. People are “reading” the Bible when they see your life.
Regardless of how many hours someone may spend reading a book, even if they read no books at all, they can still read the Bible. Your life is the Bible for non-readers.
What is your life saying to those who are reading you?
Something to consider as we consider how to live out our faith.
You may be feeling the sugar crash after all the chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. Easter is fading in the rearview mirror. Or is it?
Easter is about being raised to new life. First Jesus, then his people.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:20
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
So why doesn’t it feel that way? Why are we often stuck in the tomb? Why do our routines and relationships often feel lifeless? Why does the week after Easter feel so much like the one before it?
Here are two possible reasons:
First, we might believe that Jesus promises a rose garden. Not literally, but sort of. In fact, Jesus faced routines and relationships just like we do. He had difficult people in his life. He had to repeat himself over and over to people who didn’t seem to be paying attention. He was misunderstood, mistreated, and more. His resurrection didn’t erase all that, and it doesn’t mean we won’t have to work through challenges, either. But it DOES mean we can do it with a different source of power, and a different perspective. It’s possible to be looking for the kind of life that Jesus not only didn’t offer but didn’t experience. The troubles of this life (and they’re real) are NOT the whole picture. And they’re NOT forever. And they’re NOT bigger than God.
Second, we may have a fascination with Jesus more than a following of Jesus. He is a unique and interesting figure. We like to hear about him. We might have been in the crowds if we lived in Judea or Galilee in the first century. We might even know a lot about him, or be able to quote some of his teachings. But there’s a difference between a fascination and a follower. (One famous preacher/author has even talked about this as being a “fan” vs. a follower.) If we’re simply a fan, or fascinated, but NOT a follower, then we probably aren’t able to follow him out of the tomb and into a new life.
So if Easter hasn’t changed your life (yet), here’s something to consider. Beginning this Sunday, April 28, 2019, we’re going to address this challenge. If you’d like to learn more about living in the Easter reality, raised to new life, then please join us for our new series, “Answering the Call.” It will be available on podcast soon.
P.S. Hope United is almost here! Mark your calendars for May 18th and join us for this remarkable celebration of diversity.
Sometimes I simply have to yield the microphone to a better voice, a voice that speaks with depth and wisdom about the monumental events of Good Friday.
The voice belongs to Fleming Rutledge. She’s a former pastor/priest who has become an outstanding author as well. The following link will take you to a slightly longer-than-usual article that contains some powerful insights about the implications of Good Friday for every follower of Christ. Implications that extend well beyond one day a year. Implications that may cause us to think differently about our faith, our community, and the cross.
I trust you’ll find her comments to be thought-provoking and life-giving.
Next week is often referred to as “Holy Week” in the Christian tradition. Maybe you don’t have any tradition associated with it other than Easter eggs and family dinner. But if you’d like to make it a memorable week, here are some practical suggestions.
(optional) Saturday, April 13
Begin a 10 day Lent reading program available for a small fee here.
Sunday, April 14, (Palm Sunday)
Re-read the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 21:1-11. Picture yourself as part of the crowd, cheering the long-awaited king who is coming to set you free. If you missed the message in our current series on this event, check out the podcast here.
Consider inviting a friend to one of the Easter Sunday gatherings. You can send them this link.
(optional – start an 8 day reading plan here.)
Monday, April 15
Check out this thoughtful section on the meal Jesus shared with his disciples that last week. It’s helpful to remember this is an event to be shared together as the followers of Jesus. How has the community of faith shaped your understanding of Jesus?
Tuesday, April 16
Read Mark 14:12-26. Consider setting a place at the table for Jesus. Then imagine him joining you for a meal. During that meal, he says to you what he said to the disciples about his body and his blood being for you. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving.
Wednesday, April 17
Read Matthew 26:36-46. We’re not the first to struggle with prayer. Choose a time during the day when you can stop for 30 to 60 minutes and pray. Instead of praying for yourself, try to listen for the needs of those around you. What is God’s concern for them? Join with God in that concern by praying his desires for those who come to your mind. It’s okay if this is a struggle.
Maundy Thursday, April 18
Read Mark 12:28-31, and John 13:1-17. “Maundy” Thursday is from the Latin word for “mandate,” or instruction. Jesus’ instruction or mandate to his followers is to do what he has done. It is to love and serve one another. Choose one act of service you can do for someone today, then go do it.
Read John 19. How much would you do for a friend? Allow the reality to sink in that Jesus death was for you. He didn’t go grudgingly to the cross, but willingly, out of his great love for you. Write a short prayer of thanksgiving to Jesus.
Saturday, April 20
This is a day of waiting. Think of an area in your life where you’re waiting for something to change. Sit in that space of not knowing when. Imagine being in Peter’s sandals on that first Saturday. Jesus is dead. Hope is gone. What’s needed is a miracle. All you can do is pray. Pray for God’s miracle where it is needed most in your life right now.
Read John 20:1-18. The miracle has happened. The clouds are giving way to blue sky. Hope has returned. The King is alive. Join us for a victorious and joyous celebration at 8:00, 9:15, 10:30, or 11:45!