“Right” or wrong?

February 22, 2008

There’s something about confession that screams authenticity.  Authenticity of course, is a desired trait these days, unless you’re a televangelist in need of a new jet, in which case, a lot of make-up is probably more important.

There’s also something about connecting that people want to do these days.  I’m a huge fan of connecting as you might be able to see here, here, and here.  Meeting people.  Learning from people.  Growing because of relationships with people.  These are all very high on my list.

One problem with connecting with God or people is that those connections are inauthentic, or at best, surfacy, without confession.

Now when I say confession in this context, I don’t mean sitting in a booth sharing with some person you don’t know how you skipped church 6 times last year and you were mean to your aunt Thelma, though you probably should get that out.  But when I use this term, I’m thinking more along the lines of the actual denotative definition.  That confession is acknowledgment or admission.

So what are we confessing?

For starters, we could confess or acknowledge or admit that we need something more than what we can supply in and of ourselves and that’s why we desire to connect with God and/or other people.

I believe this is an excellent starting point.

“Hi, my name’s Bob.  What’s yours?”
“Hi, Bob. I’m John.  I don’t have a lot to offer you.  I probably could use your help in so many areas.  I’m a work in progress.  I don’t have all the answers.  Whenever I meet other people, my mind races as to whether or not they like me or even want to have any kind of a conversation with me. In fact, I’m thinking it right now Bob, but let’s not talk about that.  Also, you’re much more successful by so many standards than I am, so I’m thinking there’s no more I can offer you in our relationship.  So…Any last words before I leave?”
“Of course, I do, because I’m the man.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  You’re right.  I am successful and I am looked up to by the fledgling likes of you.  I am not a work in progress, I am finished.  The perfect superhuman minus the costume, because my wardrobe is impeccable and costumes are for halloween, hardly a normal holiday for adults, unless you worship Satan, which I don’t because, once again, I’m the man.  See you later John.”
“See you later Bob.”

Okay, so maybe confession is not all there is. Perhaps admitting the truth is not the only remedy.  In fact, as Peter De Vries said, “Confession is good for the soul only in the sense that a tweed coat is good for dandruff – it is a palliative rather than a remedy.”

So perhaps there’s more along the path to connecting authentically than simply confessing, maybe there’s repentance.  Not only do I not, not know everything or have it all down, and not only am I admitting this, but now, I’m telling God, or you, or whoever, that I’m going to make it my lifes goal to make it right, possibly even to do whatever is necessary to take the issues I have admitted to you and work on them.

So in between confessing, or admitting that I’m not the end-all, and connecting authentically in a way that I really desire to, is nothing more than an act or acts of contriteness.  Having that sense of needing something outside of myself to make it, and then actually desiring that “rightness.”

Sometimes we’re afraid of “rightness” or “righteousness” because it has been hijacked for millennia by power hungry pharoahs, kings, czars, caesars, presidents, popes, priests, and pastors who use the term and principles as a means to the end of power, control, and riches.  The problem being that “rightness” is an internal quality, not different than love or peace, that God gives each of us to truly succeed in this world that He has created.  Granted like the aforementioned qualitites, it has exterior effects that show us the “rightness” of our actions, but the effects are not the sole measure for what is right, just as giving a gift is not the sole measure for love.

Other times we just want to be who we want to be without any use for “rightness”.  This happens where I’m from in New England and in the deep, deep south all the time.  A New Englander or a southerner with a hard personality wants to be honest and authentic, no matter who it might hurt in the process.  Because “I gotta be who I gotta be Motty.”  There’s no good reply to this except to walk away from that relationship for fear of bluntness standing in the way of “rightness”

I think “Rightness” is what we lack in our culture today.  We want to confess. We really want to connect.  Perhaps we just don’t know how to make the jump?

Until next time…

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“Do I need to pray more?” 

This is a question that I frequently ask myself.  This morning I’ve been bombarded with things online, in books, and in letters, that have talked about prayer, so now I’m wondering if God’s trying to get my attention.  If so, I’m all ears.

Already a few weeks ago, I was thinking that my communing with God needed to become more of a priority if I’m ever to succeed in this life.  That He must be my strength and my deliverer from forces and distractions that will inevitibly come my way, and attempt to push me away from Him.

Now this week at Fellowship we come up to a message that has been planned from some time on prayer, and my thoughts are focused on this wonderful privilege of talking to our Creator.  Also, with a friend, I’m reading this devotional by Charles Spurgeon.  Guess what today’s subject was?  Prayer.

Chuck, the cigar smoking preacher, opens up with the words, “Prayer is the forerunner of mercy.”  Oh man, that got my attention.  I can never receive enough mercy from the One who I wrong on so many occasions.  He goes on to talk of the Christ-following experience, and that so many times the blessings or favorable circumstances that bring us closer to God, like finding peace and assurance, are as a result of prayer.

Then another friend this week shares with me a letter he received from a friend of his in prison.  I wish that I could post this letter for you.  Maybe I’ll get permission and do it on a different day.  This man is broken and his letter reiks of brokenness and prayer and being led by the Spirit.  For sure, it was convicting (no pun intended).  At the end, in a half-humored way, he writes that maybe someday he’ll open a “prayer cell” (pun intended) where people will be locked up for a day or two with nothing but a Bible and 3 square meals. 

I came out of reading this letter very encouraged, and despite a bit of discouragement from over the weekend.  Thankfully Carie is on vacation and was able to encourage me like she always does.  And now all this stuff that God has put in my lap on prayer.  But the question is…

What’s He trying to tell me?

Until next time…

All I saw was red

February 12, 2008

“I wrote this story in Janury 2001.  Hope you enjoy it.

This story may sound strange, peraps even a bit crude, but O the lessons that can be learned from simple trials and difficulties that enter into our everyday lives.

As I write this I’m sitting in my sister’s living room in Richmond, Indiana. I’ve been on vacation for four days now.  Indiana’s not the most exciting place in the world, but strangely enough, an interesting event has taken place in my life.

On Monday, a blemish begin to appear on my forehead, which by Tuesday grew into a first class pimple or “zit.”  This was no ordinary pimple however, as it looked more like a boil than a pimple.  I heard comments all day on Tuesday like, “How’s your friend there?” and “it must be nice to have a third eye.”  Yes, it certainly was a lesson in humility.  For years, I laughed and joked with people about their small acne problems because my face was always clear.  So on Wednesday, the “zit the size of earth” and me went to war.  I could no longer look at it, so I would rid myself of it.

I prepared for battle by buying some bandaids.  I knew that this was going to be messy.  My dad, who also is a pastor, had asked me to preach on Wednesday evening, and I dreaded the thought of having people pay more attention to my forehead than to the words I was speaking.  I stood in front of the bathroom mirror for about 15 minutes and through a series of painful and disgusting maneuvers, I ridded myself of the insides of this mountain.  And then I was done.

But a problem occurred. I had crushed the zit, but the big red bump remained, as big as ever.  Fortunately, I had the bandaids.  You may be wondering why in the world I’m sharing this story, but there is a great lesson to be learned from this.

Many times we think our lives are pretty good.  You are living within the terms of how God wants you to live, being good, and staying out of apparent trouble.  Other people have major problems that seem to be wrecking their lives, but so far, you’ve found yourself strong during the hard times of life.

Just then something sneaks up on you, and you don’t know where it came from.  It’s bigger than anything you ever thought would happen to you, and you’re entangled deeper than you’d ever imagined.  So you go to war with the problem.  Through prayer, some Bible reading, counseling, and various other ways, God shows you the problem and you deal with it and defeat the ugly mess.

But the scar (or the consequence) remains as big as ever…at least right away.  And discouragement may set into your life.

I’m happy to report the big red zit the size of earth is almost a memory in my life, and there will come a time when that huge mountain of hurt and discouragement, if dealt with properly, will soon disappear.  The pain and the wounds may last a little while longer, but hey, we have the great Physician on our side.”

Until next time…

Field Trip to Panera

February 11, 2008

panera.jpg

I’m sitting in Panera Bread, and asking myself whether or not I would ever come here if it were not for “Free Wireless WiFi”  I really don’t think so.  Maye on occasion if the Mrs. Decided she wanted some frothy drink with an expensive bowl of some tomato based soup, but otherwise, without this bad boy that allows my computer to connect with millions of others, not a chance.

I wonder if the same is true at church. (Rhetorical question, the same is true)  People all the time, when asked, give some pretty spiritual answers about why they go to a church.  Let’s see, “the Pastor always talks form the Bible.” or “I feel real close to God when I’m there”, or “God called me there.”  All of these are pretty good answers, and really exciting when taken at face value.

Now let’s look at the real reasons why 90% of Americans go to church.  Programs for the family.  The pastor has charisma (take your pick, the personality trait or the Spirit knocking him down).  The premises is clean.  Someone said hi to me at the door.  My kids like  the Awana thingy on Wednesday nights.

Of course none of these things are wrong.  What would I expect from a society that feeds off pleasing itself? And if I were to be honest, one problem is the church.  An institution that fed of power and control for thousands of years, and an obvious response to that would be to “be free,” like the teenager arriving at college for the freshman year or the 35 year old man, who’s recently left his family for “freedom”. 

Interesting concept, this freedom…

Anyways, churches (at least the outward perception of churches) should be to give people something they want.  It’s an inital attractor.  The trick is to move people past the “programs” of the church or the “feed me” mentality to produce real authentic committed followers of Christ.

How are you doing that?

Until next time…

p.s. coming this afternoon – Sunday Morning Recap

The Answer

February 1, 2008

The game was great last night.  I mentioned here that I was invited to the Celtics-Mavs game last night.  I of course had a decision to make.  The Celtics game was great, and Rajon Rondo was the hero in a 96-90 victory for the C’s.  This was an important victory for the Celtics, who had lost a few games to some mediocre teams in the last couple weeks.  And they did not disappoint.

However, I was not in attendance last night.  I chose to attend my life group. I love the Celtics like I love pizza, roller coasters, and any other of my several sports teams.  But I really love my life group.  Like I love my family.  Ya know, my mom, my dad, my sisters,etc…?  We had planned a special event of nothing more than hang out time, but I wanted to be there for it. 

You see, as much as I like the Celtics, they won’t be there for me if I have a family emergency or if I’m going through a hard time with any number of emotional, spiritual, or relational struggles, or if I just want to hang out with friends.  They might make for a good 2 hour event, and I’ll certainly go again if I’m asked in the future, but priorities are priorities and I’m committed to growing spiritually through the relationships in my life – not the least of which is this group that has been meeting together for the last year.

This weekend at Fellowship, we’ll be continuing our series on “The ATOM Bomb” by addressing the principle of Transformation.  I’m excited to share what I’ve learned in the last few years about this subject that I’m pasisonate about.

What relationships are transforming your life?

Until next time…

My first battle with a blog

January 16, 2008

Wassup!

In 1997-98, I lived in Atlanta, Ga.  I loved the area and the people, I just didn’t like me.  I was a little boy in a big, big world and not overly prepared or trained to handle that world I lived in.  Thankfully God placed people in my life to help me during those times.

I then moved to Massachusetts, where I lived in Webster for a year (I can almost hear the words now, “Can anything good come out of Webster?”), then moved to Holden where I sit today typing this blog. 

This morning I was loking at some old files I have of when I first started “blogging” in a sense as I started writing a daily e-votional for the people of my present church back in 1999.  I had just began to get into the internet in WEBster, and was well on my way to becoming an intermediate by the time I pulled into Holden.  I loved the idea of communicating online, so in late 1999, I started what I called the e-votional.  A term that has since been used by a famous pastor out west for his blog.

This morning I found the first e-votional I ever wrote and I thought I’d share it with you.  So here goes: (written in November, 1999)

OPPORTUNITIES
“Driving through the streets of Holden, one thought kept popping into my head. The same thought continued to flood my head as I sat and ate at Papa Gino’s. The thought: FACES. Hundreds and thousands of faces of people who need Christ. So let me get right to the point by saying it is up to us, the Wachusett Valley Baptist Church (Now Fellowship Church), to reach these lost souls. Christ has given us the power (Acts 1:8) to be witnesses.

This tremendous power for the glorifying of Christ really spells (In the original, I misspelled the word ‘spells’) out opportunity: The opportunity for service, the opportunity for fellowship, and the opportunity for the evangelization of Holden and our world. You may wonder why I seem so optimistic about reaching Holden and the surrounding area for Christ. Well, just look at the numbers, oh forgive me, actually a couple of books after Numbers. . .Judges. Now, go to the story of Gideon. How about those Numbers? 300 Israelites stormed into the enemy camp and crushed an entire nations army.

Yes, Marty, but they must have had some serious weapons, like machine guns, tanks, or bazookas. Actually, try some trumpets. . . oh, yeah and those mighty torches in their other hands. I used to play the trumpet several years ago, and it was an excellent weapon to rid my room of my younger sisters, however, as a tool to defeat an entire army, I just have a hard time believing it was the weapons.

My point is this, although there may seem like only us, we can show the people of this area Christ by simply following the image of Christ. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word image as “a reproduction of the form of someone or something.” Can you see it? Ten Jesus’ walking the streets of Holden? Or how about twenty, fifty, a hundred, or a thousand Jesus’ walking around Worcester County. What would that do to this area? Well, its possible, and its right here. The image of Christ, or as we refer to it: The body of Christ.”

Different boy – Same vision – Different means

Until next time…

A Prayer

January 10, 2008

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves.  When our dreams have become true because we dreamed too little.  When we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.  Disturb us, Lord.”

                                                      -Sir Francis Drake