God

Flame Wars in The Church

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A lot of churches today are currently embroiled in e-mail “flame wars”. They must stop!

Did you know you can use salt to put out a fire?  In fact, if you have a kitchen grease fire (and don’t have a fire-extinguisher) you shouldn’t use water, but instead cover it with salt.
Why bring this up?  Because there are some people out there reading this who need to use their salt (Col 4:5-6) to put out some fires.
Have you ever heard of the internet term “Flaming“?  Wikipedia defines it this way,

“Flaming is hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users… usually the result of the discussion of heated real-world issues…”

When it really gets out of hand it’s called a “Flame War“.  Wikipedia wisely remarks,

“Flame wars often draw in many users (including those trying to diffuse the flame war) and can overshadow regular forum discussion if left unchecked.”

Email is a wonderful way to send information to people in a hurry, but it is also terrible at conveying emotion and meaning.  And because of this a lot of churches today are now embroiled in e-mail “flame wars”.

One one side there are people using this God-given technology to incite arguments, slander and spread lies.  On the other are well-intentioned people are trying to help by responding to the emails.  And as these messages get more frequent and made more public as others get CC’d (and some even printed out to share), more people are pulled into the fray.  This is extremely damaging to every part of the church – fellowship, outreach, worship, and discipleship ministries.

My simple message is this: In the name of God it has to STOP!

If you get one of those e-mails, don’t respond to it electronically.  If your heart is burning because of what you just read, bring the war to God (Rom 12:19), and don’t add fuel to the fire.  The water you are spraying to put out the fire may only be spreading the grease and making it worse!  After you have prayed, if so led, get on the phone, or better, go see the sender face to face.  E-mail is too easy to send (and later regret) and too easy to misunderstand.

I entreat you with the words of scripture and beg you to read them prayerfully:

It takes a long time for life to come back to the forest after the flames do their damage.

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”  (James 3:5-12 ESV)

What about you?  Have you ever gotten one of these e-mails?  How did you respond?  Ever been part of a “Flame War”?

Slow Down and Chew

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I read recently about the importance of eating slowly.  Here’s a quote: “Most Americans eat too fast, and, as a result, they take in too many calories before they realize they’ve eaten enough. It takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness.” (source)  Wow!  20 minutes?!?  I finish my plate in 20 seconds!  I’ve always eaten fast, and it’s hard to remember to slow down.

This revelation has other implications to my life which came up in my prayer time today.  I’m working through Psalm 37 and was on verses 7-13 today.  This section begins, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him”, and as I continued certain words were jumping off the page: “be still”, “wait patiently”, “fret not”, “refrain”, “turn from”.  The Lord was reminding me –again– that I need to slow down and just be with Him.

Many times I treat my spiritual life like I do meal time – I wolf if down and move on.  Read Bible – Check!  Pray – Check!  Listen to see of God has something to say – Check!  “Ok Lord, I gave you 5 minutes to say something, now it’s time to get back to work!”

Jesus reminded me this morning that He said “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4).  He followed that up with, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)  What that means to me today is that I need to take the same advice I’ve been given for meals, and apply it to His Word.  So, that’s my advice for you today.

We need to chew longer.  The article says, “Not only does eating slowly and mindfully help you eat less, it enhances the pleasure of the dining experience…. Take a bite, eat it slowly, savor it, and do nothing but enjoy the flavor, texture, and experience….”   We need to do that with the scripture.  Instead of ploughing through 5 chapters at a time, take a small bite of a word or phrase and chew on it for a while.  Savor it.  Taste it.  Explore the texture, meaning and what the Spirit is saying to you.  Swallow and sense what God is doing as it gets under your skin.  Let it digest through your system and spread it’s life-giving essence to every part of your life.

Busyness is Killing The Church

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I wrote this article a while back for ChristianWeek and it feels like it’s time to resurrect it.

Pastor: “How you doin’ Bob?”
Bob: “I’m so busy I can’t catch my breath!”
Pastor: “How are the kids, Bob?”
Bob: “They’re busy! I can’t find them most days.”
Pastor: “How’s your wife, Bob?”
Bob: “Really busy…I think…I haven’t talked with her in a while.”
Pastor: “How’s your ministry doing, Bob?”
Bob: “Uh, I’m too busy to get around to it.”
Pastor: “How’s your time with Jesus been, Bob?”
Bob: “Ummm…”
Pastor: “Bob, I think we need talk.”
Bob: “Sorry Pastor, I can’t…I’m busy.”

I’m worried about you Bob, and all the believers that follow in your footsteps. I’m worried about your marriage, kids, ministries and your relationship with Jesus. I’m worried that your body will crumble beneath you, that your church misses you and that you are seeing your faith as time-consuming rather than life-producing.

The unholy trinity of stress, overwork and despair, which travel under the more polite pseudonym of “busyness,” is killing the Christian Church one believer at a time.

The Lord Jesus has made me an under-shepherd to His sheep, but for some reason many have started to run in circles at breakneck speeds, and I can’t stop them! But, what about you, Bob?

I want to talk to you. Perhaps God has granted you a moment of solace, most likely forcing you to stop as a result of “nature calling,” and you have brought this article with you. Can you just pause there for a moment? I want to say a few things.

First, I want you to embrace this minute. Yes, this one. I want you to thank God that you have been given a minute to stop and listen. I think you’ve been fooled into believing that you need to be busy to be significant. You don’t. Right now you have stopped and are not being “productive,” but you are still significant. God loves you right now. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Implicit in that statement is that God is not as interested in your production value as you think He is.

Second, I want to tell you that your body has a message for you. You’ve been putting it on hold for some time now, but it keeps calling back and asking to speak to the manager. Here’s the message: “I’m tired!”

When Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” He was talking to you.

Bob, your adrenal gland was designed to be used in case of emergency, but you’ve been living off of it! In fact, you’re addicted to it. According to Dr. Archibald Hart, adrenaline is not only energizing, but it provides a sense of elation and exhilaration. And you’re addicted.

Have you noticed that you’re grumpy, tired (which is why you drink so much coffee), and afraid to stop or you may not get started again? Your body is asking you to take a Sabbath. And Bob, one of these days it’s going to force you to take one whether you want to or not.

Finally Bob, before you go, ask yourself something: Are you passionately pursuing things that really matter—things that God has created you to do? Or are you building sandcastles on the beach that will wash away with the tide of time?

I’m afraid that when you look back you will have so many regrets, and I don’t want that for you. I love you and God loves you. So Bob, make time to talk to me this week and let me help you get things straight, okay?

To Those Who Are Consistently Late For Church

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English: Alarm clock

Ok, I’ll admit that this may come across a little rant-ish, but I want to give a message to those who are Consistently Late for Church.  You may want to print this one and pass it around.

(First obvious question: “Are you talking about a certain person/family?”, the answer is “No. This problem is quite broad spread.” Second obvious question: “Does this apply to new-comers or non-Christians?”, the answer is “Very No. This is for those who have been attending for a while.” Third obvious question: “Does this apply to super-snowy days or when weird, occasional, morning set-backs happen?”, the answer is “No, of course not.”)

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t be Late for Church:

1. It’s Disrespectful to the musicians, singers, ushers, servants, preacher, nursery workers, teachers, and anyone else who showed up early to get ready on time and who is working on a tight schedule.

2. It’s Distracting for those who are trying to concentrate on the service. No matter how quiet you think you are, people notice, and it distracts them from what they are trying to do — be attentive to the speaker, worship God in song, run the powerpoint, etc. Though they may not show it on the outside, even those on stage are distracted, Oh, and all the people you are waving at — are even more distracted. There are enough things distracting people from worship in this world. Don’t be one of them.

3. It shows a Consumerist Mindset. You’re treating the church like a restaurant or a grocery store. Showing up consistently late means you believe that this church must meet your needs, your way, on your time. That’s not how a family treats each other. You need to repent of your self-centred attitude ask yourself what you can give and not merely receive from the people around you.

4. It sets a Bad Example for others. You are causing people to stumble. For the children, new Christians, and weaker brothers and sisters who struggle with attendance and complacency, you are a bad example. For the non-believers who wonder if people take this seriously, you are teaching them that certain parts of the service are not important, it’s ok to treat people and ministries like commodities, that you don’t need to take church seriously.

5. It Means you are Unprepared for why you are here. If you are coming late for service you are probably not in any kind of spiritual condition to worship God, serve your church, or hear the message. If you wonder why the music isn’t touching you, why the sermon seems hard to follow, why the people seem distant, and why you aren’t growing in God (“being fed”)… it’s probably because you are not prepared to be at church. You are tired, distracted, complacent, disengaged, not serving, and unprepared. Sunday morning starts on Saturday night.

Honestly, it’s really not that hard to get up a little earlier, show up 10 minutes before service, greet people, come into the sanctuary and ask God to prepare your heart for what He wants to do to you today. Try it and see if it changes how you view God, your faith, and your fellow believers.

Great Post: 25 Influential Preachers

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This one couldn’t wait until “Link Friday”!  I just stumbled across a great post by 4given2serve who put together a list of what he calls “The 25 Most Influential Preachers of the Pastor 25 Years“.  I’m not going to criticize his list, nor do I want you to.  I’m also not going to try to argue with any of these men.  Just go and check out this awesome set of preachers and teachers, and then sign up to their blogs, newsletters, podcasts and whatever else you can find.

* Note:  I realize how ironic it is to link to a page focused on popular individuals who stand alone on a stage declaring truth when today is “Fellowship Wednesday”.  I’ll try to do better.

Coffee & Worship

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I drew this for the series because this is how I feel some mornings.

This is the first of some week-long experiments where we take something ordinary and see if we can use it to Worship God, grow as Disciples, encourage Fellowship, and practice Outreach.  And the first thing that springs to mind is the writer’s best friend — coffee.

The History of Coffee

Did you know:

  • Coffee was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed his herd acted pretty excited after eating a certain kind of berries.
  • Coffee beans aren’t beans at all, but are the seeds inside a kind of cherry.

One of the main focuses of this blog is to grow a passion towards making your relationship with God a part of every moment of your life.  That’s why I started “Project: Always & Everything”,“an every growing list of unique, interesting, exciting and challenging ways that we can meet God in our daily lives and practice keeping Him Always involved with Everything we do.”

So in keeping with that idea, I want to brainstorm a bit about coffee and worship.

Worshipping Coffee

For some, drinking coffee is an act of worship — not one focused on God, but in fact worshipping the ever-so-delectable-bean itself.  Think about it.  Worship is to give honour, reverence, regard, homage and sacrifice to someone or something regarded as sacred.  Now run your attitude for coffee through that matrix.

  • If you don’t have coffee for a few days, how do you feel?
  • Do you pursue coffee as a necessary part of your day?
  • How much time, effort, energy and money to you sacrifice for coffee?
  • How do you celebrate coffee in your life? Do you have a sanctified chalice (special mug)?  Do you have any consecrated garments to celebrate your object of worship (any clothes with coffee on them)?
  • When you wake up in the morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, filled with longing and desire to roll that first, hot, delicious, sip across your lips and past your long waiting taste buds — is it an act of emotional worship?
  • Is coffee the first thought on your mind in the morning, and your source of energy and inspiration throughout the day?
  • Is your coffee an idol?

Worship With Coffee

Yes, coffee can become an idol, but can drinking it also be an act of worship?  If we approach coffee remembering that God created this world full of amazing things to enjoy but not worshiped (1 Corinthians 6:12-13, 19-20), have our hearts focused on God in thanksgiving and prayer (Ephesians 5:20, 6:18), then I believe we can redeem our coffee time and make it an act of worship.  How?

  1. Make God your first thought in the morning, and then thank Him for creating things we can enjoy, and even use to perk us up for His service – like coffee!
  2. Do an idol check now and again by not having coffee for a time (a week, a month) to be sure that it is not controlling you, and you are not dependant on it.  (Here’s an infographic about caffeine.)
  3. Thank God for all the people, from harvest to processing to delivery to the store clerk, that worked hard to get that coffee into your hands.  You may want to (strongly) consider drinking only fair-trade coffee.
  4. Have coffee with your Father.  Capture the time you take drinking that first cup as a time to simply be with God.  Not rushing around, not dumping it into a to-go mug, not even during your bible-study time.  Just take that time to talk things over with your Father in Heaven.

What about you?  Have you ever worshipped at the altar of the great bean?  Can you think of ways you can connect coffee and worship?

Gossip Kills Fellowship

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English: Loose lips might sink ships -- a post...

I am compelled to write my first “Fellowship Wednesday” post about what I believe is the most poisonous thing to a fellowship of believers — gossip.

As pastor of a former church I spent time in the office meeting with people.  One day a man came in for a chat.  On the way out afterwords he said, “Oh, I probably shouldn’t tell you this but…”.  And I stopped him cold.  “Then don’t tell me.”, I said.  He persisted, “No really, I shouldn’t tell you this but…”.  So I said, “No really… don’t tell me.” and started to walk away.  He walked after me.  I started running.  He started running after me yelling, “I shouldn’t tell you this… but I want to tell you!!!”.  I literally ran him out the door trying to avoid gossip!

Gossip is deadly.  It destroys trust between people and therefore kills friendships.  If left alone it can cripple ministries and destroy good leaders.  I hate gossip, and so does God.

I’ve been around the effects of pervasive gossip among believers, and it breaks my heart.  Most of us know how much it hurts to be talked about behind our backs, the damage it can do to a community, and how much it grieves God, but so many still get caught up in it.  It’s like Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels…”  Sometimes we’re in the middle of the conversation, and half swallowed the morsel, before we even realize what we’re doing!

I think part of the reason is that we don’t know what gossip is.  Let’s take a look at what scripture says it is:

  • Proverbs 11:13 – “A gossip betrays a confidence…”  Anytime someone shares something they heard privately, it is gossip.
  • Proverbs 16:28 – “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”  Anyone sharing information to embarrass a person, cause division in a group, or harm a relationship is gossiping.
  • Proverbs 26:20 – “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” Anyone sharing a problem that is already being (or has been) dealt with is gossiping.

Romans 1:29 (among other places) says that gossip is evil.  A strong fellowship must be free of gossip.  If you find yourself around gossip, take a page out of Joseph’s book and just run away from it.  Let us all be careful with our words and to bring our concerns to God first, and then to the person we have an issue with. More info here. 

What about you?  Are you a gossip?  Have you been gossiped about?  How far have you gone to avoid gossiping?