Showing posts from March, 2014

Luminous Friday: Has God's mission seeped into our bones or is it a hobby?

On this sunny Friday, I would like to ask a question about who we are as Christians. In contemporary circles, we Christians like to talk about being “missional.” That usually means we want to make it a high priority to make a difference in the world through acts of compassion, mercy, and justice. I lead a missional church. We often remind ourselves that we are there for the “89%.” That’s the 89% of people in the Sacramento region who don’t attend church. We are convinced that the church is perhaps the only organization that exists for the sake of the people who don’t belong to it.

As much as I embrace and participate in the missional movement in today’s church, I often wonder whether we have pushed the missional question deeply enough. It’s easy to make “missional” something we do rather than who we are. Church drifts into becoming about the 11%, with the 89% being served only to make the 11% feel better about themselves. I have sometimes called this “churchianity.”
How can we push t…

The story of a "divine appointment"

The Christian community has coined the term "divine appointment." It's when you go out to do one thing, and you're basically minding your own business, and then you suddenly discover that God has you in the right time and place to do something beautiful for his kingdom. Divine appointments are great surprises, and they remind us that God is operating on levels we can't discern. This morning I want to tell you a little story about a divine appointment that happened to my dad and me a couple of days ago. I hope this story lifts you up. There's also an instructional point to it.

My dad and stepmom live in Glendale, CA, and my family was visiting them. One of the things dad and I always do is go for walks. (For those of you who know me well, that should come as no surprise.) His neighborhood is packed with old houses rich with architectural character, so it's always a lot of fun for me. And dad and I enjoy a close relationship -- something I will always be th…

Do three purposeful deeds today (Friday Soulfest)

In today’s Friday Soulfest (for more on Friday Soulfest, see below), I want to talk about one of the most fascinating discoveries I made when I was doing research to write Luminous. It can lead to a profound shift in our thinking.
As I was writing, I remember pondering how sin wrecked God’s world, and he went on a mission to make everything right. I knew theologically that part of this mission was the Father sending the Son to become a human being. As I was chewing on that, I looked again at John 3:16-17. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Then I wondered, “Doesn’t this word ‘sent’ show up in other things Jesus said?” I found a reference. And then another one. I ended up going through all 21 chapters of John, marking every time Jesus made some comment about being sent by the Father. What I …

The power of commending someone

I don't usually wake up a stress case, but I did this morning. It's one of those weeks when everything lands on my calendar at the same time. So as I was trying to connect with God this morning, all I could think about was being stressed. Then, completely from left field, God utterly transformed my morning with a simple practice that can transform your day too.

As I was praying during my morning devotions, I decided to be quiet and listen for a couple of minutes. One of my to-do's came to mind: write a letter of recommendation for someone from Sanctuary who is seeking employment. I was overdue on the letter, and it was one of the tasks that has been on my mind. Except this time when I thought about it, I felt God nudging me to write the letter as part of my devotion to him. I thought, "Okay, I'll do whatever you want. Besides, it gets something off my plate." (Gross! I'm not proud of the selfishness, but it's part of the story.)

So I sat down at my la…

The main thing that keeps us from making progress in our spiritual lives (Friday Soulfest)

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how very little happens in the spiritual life without us making a decision and sticking to it. We are good at drifting along, blandly negotiating the status quo. We get up, get ready, go about our day, eat dinner, probably watch a little tv, and then do it again the next day. Maybe God is in the mix somewhere, but we are nagged by thoughts that we aren’t really giving him our all. There is usually some issue in life – sexuality, finances, work relationships, worry, greed, etc. – that is hovering in and out of the edges of our consciousness, persistently suggesting that we quit doing things that are self-destructive and turn to God. However, we are good at letting the hurry and demands of life crowd out that voice.
And so we go on, blandly negotiating the status quo, making it through another day and another week, talking about how we want to turn a corner in our spiritual lives but not seeing it happen. If we are brave, we admit that we lack c…

How prostitutes found church in a local butcher shop

Lately at Sanctuary we have been noticing how a simple greeting at church can open someone's heart to God. It's about treating a visitor with respect. Today I want to follow that train of thought with a story from Eugene Peterson's memoir, The Pastor. It involves a butcher shop, a group of prostitutes, and church.

Peterson grew up in Montana, and his father was a butcher. As young Eugene learned the trade in his adolescent years, the butcher shop became an apprenticeship in the intersection of grace and relationships. Peterson writes,
That butcher shop was my introduction to the world of congregation, which in a few years would be my workplace as a pastor. The people who came into our shop were not just customers. Something else defined them. It always seemed more like a congregation than a store. My father in his priestly robe greeted each person by name and knew many of their stories. (p. 39) The real test of this and any congregation is how they treat the town's &qu…

How to make a Friday truly Happy

This being the first Friday in Lent, let’s do some life-giving self-examination. This post is another Friday Soulfest (see below for more on that). And today I’ve got some thoughts on why Friday is the perfect day to get clear about our priorities.
Think about it – Friday is the only day of the week when most people end their work/school week and begin to play for the weekend. Friday is both workday and play day. Friday touches a lot of important areas of our lives. It reveals a lot about who we are.

Today I have a day full of work – more work than I can possibly do. I hope to get to the gym before dinner. Then Susan and I have a great night planned, going to dinner and seeing a music show with three other couples. So today there are multiple important elements of life converging: work, fitness, and marriage/play/socializing. These are all good things to do. The question is, will I use work and people for selfish ends or will I walk through this day and weekend as God’s selfless ser…