Difficult Prayers

Difficult prayers

If you’re connected with me on social media, you’ve seen a couple of my posts about #MayThe4thBeWithYou today. It’s a nerdy holiday and I’m a nerdy guy. I like Star Wars, but today there’s something more important happening besides a bunch of Star Wars fans enjoying a good pun in order to celebrate some fun movies. Today is the national day of prayer here in the United States. It’s a day where Christians all around the country gather throughout the day for prayer services and often the focus is prayer for our government both local and national.

While this it is very biblical to pray for our government (1 Timothy 2:1-4), I think sometimes this call to pray for governmental leaders often overshadows a harder and more important call to prayer. Continue reading

The Gospel and Lamenting

Copy of Misrepresenting the GospelYesterday morning I wrote a post. Then I turned on the news and saw what happened to Alton Sterling. This morning I woke with the thought that maybe I should hold off on my post. Then I turned on the news, saw what happened Philando Castile, and knew that I needed to write something different.

My friend and fellow Westbrook pastor Caleb Trimble preached this last weekend about the Gospel and lamenting. It was almost prophetic that he should choose to focus on lamenting as he preached through Acts 16. If you have the time, you should go and listen to it. Continue reading

Is everyone really welcome?

Has the church failedThis weekend at Westbrook, we spent some time in Acts 8, 10, & 11. These three chapters find Philip and Peter welcoming Gentiles into the family of God. There was some struggle after Peter went to Cornelius, but Gentiles soon became accepted in the Church. Yes, Peter had still had some struggles after Acts 10-11 (see Galatians 2:11-21), but the church as a whole became a welcoming place to Gentiles. Not only were Gentiles welcomed into the church, but it was a place where men, women, young, old, rich, poor, slave, and free all gathered in the first couple of centuries to worship God and participate in the life of the Kingdom.

When I reflect on what the church used to look like and what it predominately looks like now in America, I can’t help but wonder if the church has failed to be like the church in the First Century. In A Fellowship of Differents Scot McKnight writes, “We’ve made the church into the American dream for our own ethnic group with the same set of convictions about next to everything. No one else feels welcome. What Jesus and the apostles taught was that you were welcomed because the church welcomed all to the table.” [1] We’ve let the church become separated. Continue reading

The Next Big Thing

The NextIf you are like me, you like new and exciting things. I am an Apple fan so almost anytime they make a presentation I watch or follow along as various tech blogs live tweet the event. I want to know what their next big thing will be. I want to know what will the next Mac OS or iOS be like. What features will they have? When will the next iPhone or MacBook be out?

You may not be into Apple or even tech, but there’s probably something like that in your life. We’re looking for the next big fad. So many of us want to belong, want to be in the know, or want to be equipped with the latest and greatest.

That was Simon in Acts 8. Typically when we read this story, we think of sorcery or Simony, which is paying for a position in the church. While those are applicable to this passage, I’m beginning to see Simon in a new light as I’ve been reading and reflecting on his brief episode in scripture. Continue reading

Common Life

the bestI know that it might surprise a few of you who know me to find out that I am an introvert. This doesn’t mean that I’m asocial or don’t like people. In fact, I love to spend time with friends and family. What it does mean is that I do most of my processing in my head and find rest in quiet alone (or mostly alone) times. That being said, however, I am coming to recognize the value of being in community with others. By that, I don’t simply mean being around other people. What I mean is sharing our lives, experiences, and even hard times with others.

As a society, true community is a necessity that we have learned to go without. We have created a culture of isolation where we fence off ourselves more and more in our homes around media and our devices. It seems like very few people know their neighbors and share very little of our lives with those outside of our families. And in some ways media and social media have increased our isolation by creating the appearance of being connected with people while having very little connection with others. Continue reading

Why #AllLivesMatter isn’t enough for the Church

Photo Credit: Delta57 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Delta57 via Compfight cc

Not too long after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson the #BlackLivesMatter movement started. Since then there’s been a lot of push back from different sides. One of those sides is from people who say we should be saying #AllLivesMatter and not just #BlackLivesMatter. To a certain extent I agree that we should say that all lives matter. It’s Biblical. Christian theology argues that all people are made in the image of God. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what language you speak, or what country you were born in, you were made in the image of God. We are all equally made in the image of God and we all matter in God’s eyes. I believe, however, that because of what has happened since Genesis 1 & 2, it’s important to emphasize which lives matter.

Whether we want to recognize it or not, we (meaning Americans) live in a country that has a deeply embedded racist history. The most visible of part of our history is slavery, but there have also been points when our country has been blatantly racist toward Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Mexicans, and others of Hispanic descent. I’m sure that list is hardly exhaustive either. Racism is not just an American problem either. I’m sure you could go to any country and pinpoint a time in history and a people that they have been against simply because of their skin, language, or heritage. Continue reading

What Should the Church Look Like?

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What should the church look like? Who should make up the church? These are very important questions that most of us don’t stop to ask. Many would answer that Christians should make up the church. Some would say that the broken, needy, and hurting should be in the church. These are good answers, but Scot McKnight wants to help us answer this question. In his recent book A Fellowship Of Differents, his answer to the question, “What then is the church supposed to be?” is a mixed salad. The church should be made up of a different people. What most of us see and are accustomed to, however, is a group of people who are all relatively similar. While the church that I grew up in had different kinds of people, the overwhelming majority of them seemed to be like me. Continue reading

Fighting against Our Instant Culture

We live in a fast society. Everything happens quickly, if not instantaneously. While it’s nice to have things available whenever we need them, it can teach us be impatient with those things that need time. Spiritual formation and developing mission are among those things that take time. We need to be willing to take this things slowly.

61DJ2UqrooL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_In their book Slow Church, John Pattison and Chris Smith write about slowing down the ways that we do church and cultivating the patient way of Jesus. Initially, the idea of slowing down church may be off-putting to some because either church is boring enough and doesn’t need to be slower, or there needs to be an urgency with which we share the gospel because the world is in need. The good news is that they don’t mean that church services should be slower, although times of slowing down are helpful, and they don’t mean that we need to slow down the spread of the Gospel around the world. Instead what they are advocating is a less franchised and McDonaldized version of the church. Instead of planting churches that are the same no matter their context or the culture of their local community, we need to take the time to cultivate a church that in some ways embodies the spirit of the community (or the “taste of the place” as the call it) and also seeks to meet the real needs of that community. Continue reading

Grace in our Debates

From "The art of boxing, swimming and gymnastics made easy .." (1883)
From “The art of boxing, swimming and gymnastics made easy ..” (1883)

I know I’m at least week late on this, but that’s alright. I don’t want to weigh on any of the debates. I want to talk about the debating. I’ve been thinking a lot about the way debating that has been going on in our nation and I want to comment on how debating happens, especially among fellow believers.

While reading What We Talk About When We Talk About God, I was struck by his chapter on the paradox of talking about God. The paradox of God is essentially the fact that we cannot fully know him or describe him and yet we must. It’s hard to live in this paradox. We want answers to our questions. Bell writes,  “Take faith, for example. For many people in our world, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt.” Many of us want to eliminate doubt. We want it all spelled out for us so that we know what is right and what is wrong. This desire for right and wrong plays greatly into debates that involve theology and morality and it’s this desire that I’ve been thinking about. Continue reading