Monday, May 10, 2010

Life House Community blog moving...

You can now find the new blog for Life House Community here...
I may continue to blog for personal purposes here, but we'll see. :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

To Hold the Finger of God

Lately, I’ve been feeling disconnected from God. Today I went out on a walk during lunch because it was such a beautiful day and I couldn’t let that go to waste since the rest of my day was going to be spent inside. As I’m out on my walk I began to think about how disconnected I feel and why. Then I grab my phone and start to look at my facebook wall. Oops. I thought about reading my Bible, but didn’t really feel like it. Facebook opened and right as I began to read my wall, I felt prompted to exit the program. I did. I decided it’s time to try to connect with God again. I opened my Bible and picked up where I had left off, John 5.

Two thoughts were wondering through my mind as I walked. Eternal life is knowing God. This denotes relationship. The other thought was that of my counseling classes. The purpose of counseling is for the counselor to help a person overcome a place in life where they are stuck. This requires understanding. A counselor must first do his/her best to understand the client. This requires a genuine concern for the other person, communication skills, and the actual process of talking about the problem and getting to know the individual.

Knowing God. Understanding others. Knowing. Understanding.

A verse of scripture halfway through the chapter caught my attention. It is one I’ve heard before and understood from a perspective of ideal, but not too much, from one of experience. “The Son (Jesus) can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing, and in the same way.” Even Jesus only did what God was showing him to do. I imagine this requires a close personal connection to the Father. This requires knowing the Father. This requires understanding who God is and what He is doing. Knowing. Understanding.

As I read through the rest of the chapter, Jesus blasts the religious leaders because they don’t have life, they don’t believe Jesus was sent by God, and they don’t know God because they don’t have a clue as to what God is up to. (They think their rules are more important than healing people.) He reminds them how they should know God and Jesus as Messiah, but he makes it clear that they don’t. They would understand what he was about, if they knew Him.

Understanding. Knowing.

When parents raise their children with love, active involvement, the child’s best interest always in mind, selflessness and maturity, children grow in a safe environment where their needs are usually met. They mature with a real sense of trust in their parents because they’ve looked to them for support and they’ve received it. Their parents have demonstrated they can be trusted with their answers and guidance in life. This is not to say the parents have been perfect, but that they have been consistent and dependable. This environment and these relationships allow the child to grow and mature in ways that God intended and purposed. It doesn’t mean they never have problems or struggles, but that they can meet those challenges and overcome them.

When parents raise children and treat them as if they are a burden, look out for their own interests first, are not actively involved in their lives except when forced to be, continually put the kid’s needs aside because of their own desires, and act like children raising children, the child’s growth, maturity and general outlook on life will reflect such. They will often have severe emotional issues. They will struggle with learning to cope with even basic life problems. They may hoard food. They will often cry a lot. They will find whatever way they can to meet their need without regard to others. Additionally, they will most likely find it very difficult to ever develop a trusting relationship.

It’s sad, but true. I’ve seen the difference in kids. You can often see it in their actions and in their reactions. The differences in these two types of children and parents are great.

In these two scenarios I’ve described, the difference is the parents. In our biblical example, there is no difference. God is the same to both Jesus and those religious leaders. The difference is in understanding. The difference is in how they see their God. Do they see him as one who loves them and they can trust? Or do they seem him as one whose love is infinite and can always be trusted?

I imagined myself as a little child walking a path. When I see God as one who loves me completely and can always be trusted, I reach out my hand and HOLD THE FINGER OF GOD as we walk together along the path. I know He is the perfect Father. The last few weeks though, I’ve been a little five year old wandering a path by myself. Now mind you, I’m familiar with the path, but often become disoriented and distracted. Looking back, I know God has been there watching me, protecting me from harm, but I certainly wasn’t aware of it at the time.

When I reach out and HOLD THE FINGER OF GOD as a little child with complete faith and trust, I know I am walking in safe boundaries. I know God will lead me to better places. I am excited about the journey and not just the destination. All that I need will be provided. I have companionship that will never leave me.

I want to walk every day and HOLD THE FINGER OF GOD. Do you?

PS - As a parent, if you are struggling in your relationship with your son or daughter or they are wayward, my examples are not necessarily an indictment on your parenting. You may want to reflect and ask God what responsibility you hold, but in no way am I accusing parents for the wrongdoing of their children. I purposefully used the word "usually" because parenting is not a science. It is an art. And it involves the free will acting of more than one person. Besides, there is no perfect parent, except our heavenly Father.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feed me, Seymour!

A common conversation among pastors, when I was one, was the complaint from folks in our congregations that they weren't "getting fed" or they weren't "getting anything" from church. At that time, my response was simply, you are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking "What am I getting?" ask "What am I giving?" I'm not saying this is the right or only motivation, but I know from my own experience that you always "get more" when you give than when you sit back and receive. (Sounds like some advice from mom, huh?)

As we have moved into a new form of church, I thought we had the answer. After all, as I saw it, our previous conventional form of church encouraged people to be passive spectators by sitting back, listening, and receiving. Not just that, but we even asked people to give money each week so that the "professionals" could perform this sort of service for them. That whole system reaked of "What am I getting?"

Our new form of church, simple and organic, is face to face, interactive, and levels the playing field between "professionals" and regular folks since we have no professionals leading our churches. We have a system that gives great opportunity for EVERYONE EVERY WEEK to give, not just receive. We try to remind each other about 1 Corinthians 14:26 which gives us instruction for this "When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."

So there you have it. New form of church = fixed problem of consumer/spectator Christianity, right?! Wrong.

I've heard it a few times in the past month or more from folks that enjoy and are great participants in our simple and organic house churches. "We're not getting anything out of our times together." "I'm not getting fed."



The writer of Hebrews is dealing with this problem in Hebrews 5:11-14. People are staying stuck in dependence on someone else to feed them simple truths. The Bible often uses an analogy of being a baby or infant in Christ for someone who is new to or young in the faith. The "I'm not getting fed" comment is interesting. In life, who needs someone else to feed them? Babies. Infants. How silly would it be if my mom at near 60 years of age started googoo gahhing me at 36 years of age while feeding me my mashed potatoes by a spoon to my mouth like a little baby?! How crazy is that picture?! As I matured, mom taught me how to use a fork and a spoon to feed myself. At first, of course, she fed me milk through a bottle. I even learned how to hold that myself for a while. But, once we moved on to solid food and I grew teeth, I eventually learned how to feed myself. So now when we come to dinner, I don't have to worry about getting fed. I already know how to do that for myself.

So does that mean we never teach anyone who has been a Christian for more than a couple of years? Of course not. Do you ever feed another adult food? Sure you do. But, not in the same way as you do a baby. You don't have to googoo gaga anymore. You don't have to spoon feed them. You don't have to force it down their throat the way you think is best. You simply offer them some.

Here's how we do it our house. "Would you like some bread?" "Yes, thank you. Could you pass the butter too?" It is a give and take proposition, where we offer some truth and the mature individual considers it, ingests what seems good to them (tested by the Holy Spirit, of course) and offers their own take. (I like that, but with butter too!) This is how healthy adults feed each other. We don't need to hire a professional chef to give us a great show and feed us way beyond what we could hope to do ourselves (though that might be nice on occasion, I love those Japanese Steakhouses!), but in our day to day, week to week meeting together and sharing life, we can feed each other in mature, adult appropriate ways. That way, when we come together, our thoughts and expectations are not on what am I going to get out of this today, but rather how am I serving and feeding others?


Do we "attend" church to get something out of it? (as in a consumer mindset) Or are we getting the family together to celebrate and share life together? A consumer goes places, buys things, and invests their time for a payoff. They want to see a reward for their payment. But, a family member gathering with the family to share life simply goes because they love the people, they enjoy their times together, they are committed to these people, and they know life is simply better together than apart. It is better for everyone. Our meeting together also gives us great opportunities to serve each other. The Bible talks a ton more about giving to each other than it does in meeting together. In fact, there are only a couple of places in the New Testament that even admonish us to meet together. I think this is because meeting together isn't the point. Loving each other, encouraging each other, confessing to each other, giving to each other, helping each other, praying for each other, teaching each other, all of these things are why we meet! We meet to give. Obviously, a by product of everyone meeting to give is that we also receive. But, that's not why we meet. We meet to give.

This blog has gone a little longer than I'd hoped. (Imagine that.)

What do you think about these concepts? Does the form of church even matter? Are you going to give or to receive? Does this challenge your previous ideas or thoughts about what church is or supposed to be? How do you plan to change something in your life?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Full-Body Functioning aka Team Work

The “Body of Christ” is a metaphor the Bible uses to describe the functioning of God’s people on earth. As Christians, we represent Christ to each other and to the world. Each of us have our own particular gifts, passions, and abilities which God has given us to equip each other and to impact the world in which we live. Full-Body Functioning refers to the value that everyone does their part. It is our vision that this happens both in our meetings, in our shared life together, and is taking place when we each go throughout our personal lives and interact with the rest of the world. The unique setting of simple and organic house churches, both allow for, and encourage participation by every member at every level.

The following lists contain some very practical examples of this idea in action.

During meetings…

* A leader may facilitate a meeting in such a way that maximizes participation by everyone.
* Teaching is discussion oriented so as to allow input from everyone.
* When seeking to make decisions, everyone’s input is requested and encouraged.
* We ask and expect the Holy Spirit to direct our meeting.
* Talkers listen. Listeners talk. Others ask questions.
* Different members may be asked to participate in leadership for bible discussion, children’s lesson, prayer times, or whatever need may arise.

Shared life…

* Everyone is free and encouraged to bring needs, questions, and ideas to the group.
* Anyone may request that the group consider a service project.
* Anyone may ask why we do or don’t do certain things.
* Anyone may bring an idea up for discussion.
* Everyone is encouraged to bring prayer needs, service project ideas, and event recommendations.
* Prayer-chain can be started by anyone at any time.
* Different service projects spark something different in everyone.
* Sometimes we want to do something out of the ordinary with our group.

Personal Lives…

* Express God’s love to everyone at work, school, community, family, and friends.
* Love their wives as Christ does the Church. Parent & disciple their own children.
* Bring Jesus and therefore hope to people through serving them and building relationships.
* Represent Christ to their community through their morals and upright relationships.
* Serve their boss as they would Christ. Help their co-workers. Lift others up

These are all things that we value much in working together as a team and each of us fulfilling our God-given roles in loving others.

What would you add to the list? What would you add to idea? How do you see things in relation to team work and/or full-body functioning?