Sunday, October 25, 2015

WHATSUP?

LANGUAGE IS FOREVER CHANGING. Spend a day at a local high school and you would find it difficult to follow the discussion. If you’re white like me, place yourself in the middle of an Oakland, California high school at lunch time and I surmise you would not even understand a word that is being said, but those indigenous students around you would not even skip a beat in their communication and their comprehension.

I might be quick to judge the native speaker from the inner-city of Oakland and say that their language is incorrect, but a visitor from over-the-pond in England might judge my language as incorrect as well. The key issue is are we able to understand each other? If we are not, are we willing to take the extra effort, to walk a step closer, to ask the clarifying question, so that we can understand?

What is true about crossing cultural and linguistic borders in our midst can always be said about the language we use within the community of people we call the church, or the Body of Christ. Even though we may share the same locale and possibly the same language, we are not always communicating at a level that is truly understood.

As we greet one another with a “How are you?” or a “Whatsup?” or a “Hey!” or a simple “Hello,” we hold ourselves back from the interaction to which we are called within the family of God. I believe we need to change our language, which will also demand that we change our culture.

The Hebrews have long possessed a word within their culture of which many of us are aware. The word is “Shalom.” We often understand it as the word for peace, and we would be right in our definition. But it means much more, its layers are nuanced. Back in my university days, while studying that great ancient language, our professor walked into class and said, “ma-shalomcah?” In his greeting and question he essentially asked us, “How is your peace?” or “How is your well-being?” It is, as you can see, a much deeper greeting demanding a much deeper reflection than if he had simply said, “Hello.”  It goes beyond our greeting of, “How are you?” For it is asking not how we feel, but how is the peace of our soul.

So, next time there is the opportunity to greet someone, take a moment to consider your language and maybe adjust it ever so slightly so that the love of God can enter in.

Monday, October 19, 2015

TRUE LOVE

YOU MIGHT NOT BELIEVE THIS, but when I was in high school I had a number of girlfriends and I loved each one intensely . . . or so I thought.

The reality was I was not in love, I was infatuated. Love is other-centered, whereas infatuation is self-centered. Infatuation is about getting, receiving, feeling good, thanks-getting, and of course, being the center of attention. Love on the other hand is about giving, offering, feeling safe, thanks-giving, and of course, making the other the center of attention. Infatuation is about taking control whereas love is about giving-up control. In summation, infatuation is about YOU and love is about the OTHER.

What is true in our earthly relationships is also true in our relationship with God. I have come to see, since my early days of following Jesus as Savior and Lord, many say we love God, when in fact our actions look more like infatuation than love.

Let’s take our “Date-Time” with the Lord, commonly referred to as our Worship Service. The Worship Service is our time to express our love to God, and I do believe that we are seeking to do so, but laid against what I wrote above, it often looks more like infatuation than love.  If you believe that this doesn’t refer to you please feel free to stop reading, but if you think this applies to the person sitting in front of you, then keep reading so you know what they’re going through as they read this.

Many of us, when we come to worship, if we are honest, are more focused upon ourselves, than God. We come to get more than to give. We come with the desire to feel good rather than the desire to encourage the other. We come to experience things our way rather than express things God’s way. To put it even a little stronger, we come self-centered instead of God-centered. What we think passes for love of God is sometimes infatuation of self. It is about YOU rather than HIM.

Please understand I am not seeking to make you, or me, feel bad. On the contrary, I want to call us to move from self-absorption to God-adoration. To move from simply being infatuated with God to loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ENGAGEMENT!

I HAVE BEEN PRIVILEGED, over the past three months to officiate at three weddings. Each one quite different than the other, and each one incredibly special. As a pastor, I require a number of premarital sessions of interaction between the couple and myself and over the 38 years of ministry some aspects of those sessions have changed. Some include couples that are in the “neighborhood.” Some couples travel to meet with me, and more recently I have used video communication programs like Skype.

Though the methods have changed over the years very little has changed in the process and the material we cover. Our goal is not just to plan a beautiful wedding day, though we work at that, too, but our true goal is to create a marital environment that will be lasting. We work on developing those areas of the couple’s relationship that will lead to a successful and permanent (til death do us part) marriage.  We celebrate their relational strengths, and we concentrate on those areas that need growth.

Yes, it does take time and effort, but I have discovered that those couples that are willing to work diligently to develop a strong, healthy and God-centered marriage will run the better probability of enjoying a growing and deepening marital relationship. Sadly, I have found that the opposite is also true; fail to do the heavy lifting up front and you run a greater risk of being crushed under the blows that come to all marriages later on.

There is also a spiritual application for the church. The church is not only the Body of Christ, but maybe even more importantly, we are the Bride of Christ. The Apostle Paul writes, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” (2 Corinthians 11:2) The goal of the Apostle was to see the church develop so that he would be able to offer her as a beautiful bride without spot or wrinkle. (Ephesians 5:25-31)  In fact, in the Ephesian passage, the whole earthly marital relationship is but a living example of the Lord’s love relationship with His church.

So, here’s your part: do all that is necessary, as part of the Bride of Christ, to help ready each other for a beautiful wedding ceremony, for is that not what the engagement season is all about? (Revelation 19:7-9; 21:21; 22:17)

Sunday, October 04, 2015

SLAMMING DOORS

MY MOM AND DAD USED TO SAY TO ME, “Don’t let the screen door slam!” She was usually referring to the screen door that had a spring closure on it. I have done my best since then to not let the door slam, and of course I tried to teach my children to follow suit . . . a dad can hope.


This past Tuesday evening I was sitting in my study when I began to hear doors slamming shut. Peering out my window I could see dozens of cars bringing kids to AWANA. I realized for each slammed door there was a child being brought to church to learn God’s Word, to hide it in their hearts and to have a good time doing so.  All of a sudden the slamming of doors and the reality they represented brought joy to my ears.  I wanted to hear more and more slamming doors.


I then got dreaming . . . wouldn’t it be great to hear slamming car doors on a regular basis around here?  Can you imagine, Sunday mornings with the slamming of car doors signaling the arrival of people eager to worship and fellowship together?  How about, Wednesday evenings with the slamming of cars doors representing students coming to youth group and men arriving for Bible study? How wonderful, on Thursday mornings announcing the arrival of women coming to Bible study or to White Cross.


Hear the sound? Get the picture? Would you join me in a prayer of thanksgiving for the car doors being slammed? Would you join me in praying for more cars and more doors and more people excited about what God is doing while we’re slamming doors?


Sorry, Mom and Dad, I think these doors are different. But I will still try not to slam the screen door.