Service

14Dec

No Capes: Serving in Secret

The first time I heard Bob Goff speak in person he starting talking about Jesus and the Incredibles. I loved him from the get go.

He spoke about one of the opening scenes from the Incredibles, where Mr. Incredible needs a new suit. So he goes and sees this tiny little woman named Edna, seamtress to the superheroes. She explains that she has one stipulation for Mr. Incredible’s new suit, NO CAPES.

While Edna wanted a suitless cape for pragmatic reasons, Goff connected it to all the times in the New Testament where Jesus served someone and told them to keep it secret, like when Jesus heals the leper at the end of Mark 1.

Moved with pity, he [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to no one.’ – Mark 1:41-44

Jesus didn’t want to become famous for healing this man. It was compassion that moved him to act, not a desire for notoriety. No fame. No capes. Just serving people.

When did service become about us being recognized instead of simply loving our neighbor?

Some would have you believe this is a new development, a plague wrought on today’s society by the selfie generation.

But it takes no more than a cursory glance at the New Testament to see it starting to happen even as Jesus is showing his disciples a better way. They start making it about them, just like we do now.

In Luke 9, Jesus predicted his death again and the disciples didn’t understand again. Immediately after Jesus explained to them again that he was going to die the disciples launch into a discussion about which one of them will be the VP of Jesus’ new kingdom. Jesus tells them,

“He who is least among you all is the one who is great.” – Luke 9:48

Instead of humbling serving in secret, the disciples were fighting for recognition and power in a kingdom they fundamentally did not understand. When we do the same thing today, people see right through it, especially those outside the Church. It reeks of hypocrisy.

Companies are guilty of this.

Over the last few months, Gillette started a razor subscription plan to compete with Dollar Shave Club, a start-up company that risen to prominence with cheap razors sent right to your door. To try and squash this new competition, Gillette paid to promote ads on Twitter, not an unusual practice. But the tweets they chose to promote were from users who switched back to Gillette after trying Dollar Shave Club. Gillette ended up clogging up people’s Twitter feed, mine included, by promoting their “welcome back to a man’s best shave” and “2 million guys switched back to the best” tweets.

While the jury is still out, several advertising and marketing execs have estimated their shameless promotion may have cost the company more business than it created.

People, not just DSC customers, saw that type of advertisement as ingenuine and petty.

Pastors are guilty of this.

I really appreciate when people point out corruption or hypocrisy from within their own ranks. For example, the most powerful rebuke of radical Islamic terrorism is from mainstream Muslims. The most powerful rebuke of police brutality and corruption is from good, hard-working police officers. Likewise, the most powerful rebuke of pastors come from other pastors. Most Muslims are not terrorists;  most cops are not racists; most pastors are not embezzlers.

However, when it comes to serving in secret, no capes, most pastors struggle, myself included.

Most of the time it seems innocent enough. I think most pastors mean well. When they post things like, “So #blessed to baptize __ people today” or “Wow, we had ____ salvations this morning!” I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I want to think that they’re trying to give God the glory and spread the story of what God is doing in their midst…

but Jesus never does that.

And I think if they were honest, those pastors would admit that their intentions are not in fact 100% humble.. I know because I’ve done it before, at times accidentally and at times on purpose. The pastorate can be hard and a little validation can go a long way. But that’s not the way of no capes service.

The only reason numbers matter is because numbers are people and people matter.

I’m grateful to serve at a church that doesn’t do the “We served ____ people tonight” celebration messages. And honestly, it’s a hard thing to be great at and I’m sure we fail just as much as we succeed but I do know that we are a place that genuinely desires to serve without capes, without fanfare and without recognition.

Are you guilty of this?

It’s easy to point out companies and pastors/churches failing at this because it’s less personal than looking at your own life. Are you content to serve in secret or do you need to constantly document every good thing you do on Instagram?

Do you find yourself casually mentioning ways in which you helped someone else when that’s not necessary to the conversation, maybe just so someone takes notice and recognizes you?

Do you get frustrated when you do something nice for someone and it’s not reciprocated? Since when does service come with strings attached?

Friends, let’s take off the capes, serve in secret and point people away from us and toward Jesus because you and I make sorry excuses for Saviors.

5Jul

Spiritual Check-Up

July did it again. We underestimated its sneakiness and then out of nowhere BAM! out of nowhere we’re suddenly closer to 2016 than 2014.

 

 

July’s kind of a punk.

Remember January? You know…that month that felt like it was about 2 weeks ago?

I love January because everything feels so new. Resolutions, reflections, ways to improve, new dreams to begin, etc.

If January feels new, July feels like when you clean out the fridge but forget to take out the trash for a few days.

According to Forbes, only 8% of people keep their New Year’s Resolutions.

While it’s great for us to want to lose weight and eat healthier every year, at some point we need to ask better questions, “Is this the best way to improve?”

As our preaching team was discussing this last year we decided to take a Sunday and try and ask better questions. While some of us made similar resolutions as many of you, we realized that the spiritual version of resolutions was not effective.

So we brain-stormed questions. We started with 50 different questions that were whittled down to 10. 10 questions to help you know where you are in your journey as a Christ-follower.

So if you made some spiritual resolutions back in January, it’s mid-year check-up time! If you didn’t make any, these questions can help you simply reflect on your faith, as Scripture commands us to…

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

 

10 Spiritual Check-Up Questions

  1. Do you have a growing awareness of God’s presence in your life?
  2. Are you increasingly aware of your own sin?
  3. Is there something in God’s Word you are struggling to understand?
  4. Are you pursuing God’s plan for your life and how you fit into God’s global purpose?
  5. Are you growing in love for those who have been difficult for you to love?
  6. Is there a discipline to your spiritual growth?
  7. Are you actively involved in a local church?
  8. Is your lifestyle noticeably different than your peers who do not know Jesus?
  9. Is your relationship with God a source of great delight?
  10. Do you live in an increasing gratitude because of what God has done for you?

If you’re looking to grow in your walk with Christ, but aren’t sure where to start, don’t hesitate to e-mail me. I’d love to help in any way I can or connect you with someone else who can.

14Jan

Louisville Sluggers & Spiritual Gifts

While many of you see the New Year as a time of renewal and a fresh start, I consistently find myself stuck in what some of you call “basketball season.” I just refer to it as those dark months between football season and baseball season.

I love baseball in just about every form but I hate college baseball. Don’t get me wrong, I love the purity of the competition at the collegiate level. I love that most of these guys never get a chance to play at the next level so this is their last stop. They’re giving it all they’ve got.

They don’t sign endorsement deals or get distracted by multi-million dollar contracts like in the pros.

But I hate the sound of college baseball. It’s anything but pure. It’s changed some over the years but there’s always been this unmistakable ping of some type of metal bat whereas any baseball purist can tell you you’re supposed to hear the crack of a wooden bat.

Louisville Slugger has been making bats since 1884. One day a young woodworking apprentice went to an amateur baseball game and watched one of his favorite players fail to get a hit as he broke several bats during the course of the game. The young apprentice approached the player after that game and invited him to come to his woodworking shop to receive a custom made bat to use in tomorrow’s game. The player went on to collect 3 hits the next day and then immediately sent all his teammates to the wood working shop for their own custom made bats and the legend of the Louisville Slugger was born.

Ever since then the company has almost exclusively made their bats for professional baseball players, each one custom made to the player’s exact specifications, even down to the type of wood used.

Up until 2002, each bat was hand carved. A skilled craftsman could take the seasoned log of wood used to create the bats and carve one in 15 minutes to the exact specifications of the player with expert, precision detail.

However, now the work is done by a computerized process yet the custom, precision work has never changed. The computerized carving machine is still only operated by the most skilled craftsmen and can carve a bat in 42 seconds.

Louisville Slugger makes almost 2 million bats a year and no two players have ever requested the exact same specifications. However, every Louisville Slugger bat comes with the exact same brand stamp burned into the wood.

The types of wood used to create the bats have changed over time. The weights and specifications have evolved too.

Yet one thing has never changed, the brand stamp unifies the bats Louisville Slugger has made in parts of three different centuries.

God has done an even greater work in creating you and me. We are each custom made by God, created with unique gifts and talents. Our gifts can very different from one another but they are given to us by the same God for the same reasons, to serve one another and to glorify God.

Even though our gifts are different from one another we too have been given a divine brand stamp that unifies us all. While we are indeed custom made, we are also made in the image of God. Our different gifts should serve as a constant reminder of all the different ways God has loved us and made himself known to us yet it is the source of our creation, God himself that holds us together.

Resources:

Our church is currently preaching a mini-series called “Custom Made” on spiritual gifts as we journey through 1 Corinthians.

You can watch the sermons here.

Click here to see the spiritual gifts assessment we used in our home groups to start discovering the ways God has custom made us.

1Dec

The One Where I Almost Killed My Wife in the Desert at 3 A.M.

I’ll never forget the time I almost killed my wife in the middle of the desert at 3 A.M.

It was our first Christmas as husband and wife and we were driving in a tiny Hyundai Accent (henceforth referred to as “Betsy” – may she rest in peace) from Waco, TX to San Diego, CA to visit my wife’s family.

We were too poor to afford a hotel room so we decided to make the 1,361 mile journey without stopping.

My wife had made the trek a few times with friends and assured me we could do it no problem…

As the hours ticked off we found ourselves on a long, remote section of highway in New Mexico in the middle of the night. It was snowing and my wife was fast asleep. I remember thinking how incredibly blessed I was, seriously. As a newlywed who had just completed my first semester of seminary and was working at my first real church job, life was good.

But then life wasn’t good.

As we were driving, I noticed the gas gauge needle had started to make some rather flirtatious advances toward the “E.” Much like Dorothy, I realized I was not home anymore and there was not a gas station at every exit. Not out in the desert.

I tried to stay calm but it just wasn’t working. As I thought about how my wife and I would be remembered once they found our frozen bodies (if they ever did), I only prayed my mother-in-law would somehow know it was never my intention to kill her daughter before we celebrated our 1st anniversary. That’s just inconsiderate.

So I white-knuckled the steering wheel and started to pray, “Lord, I really need to find a gas station.” When I looked down, much to my dismay, the gas needle was already bumping uglies with the “E.” It was not long until their relationship would be fully consummated.

I started to formulate a Plan B. If we couldn’t find a gas station, surely there must be a place for us to at least take cover from the cold. But I started to realize I hadn’t seen a diner, a store, or even a house in a long time. Looooong time.

I was popping Betsy in neutral any chance I could get as we rolled on to our imminent deaths. We had actually just rescued a beautiful Labrador, Zoe, from the humane society and she was on the journey with us as well. Now I would be remembered as a wife and a puppy killer. Great.

As I continued to pray and rack my mind for Plans C-X I kept having this one thought, “There’s no way I can make it over one more hill. There’s no way I can make it through one more valley.”

Until finally, the most glorious sight appeared. This was no ordinary gas station. No, at the bottom of the next hill I saw a 24-hour truck stop, blazing with light and food and clean restrooms and ultimately…gas!

As we pulled in my heart began to slowly exit my throat and descend back to its normal resting place. My wife slowly awoke, pet our sweet new dog, Zoe, and sleepily asked, “Everything going alright, sweetheart?”

“Yes, dear” I replied. “Go back to sleep.”

Imagine my dismay if, after coasting into the truck stop on the last bit of Betsy’s fumes, there was no gas. I knew this place was a gas station and not a Chuck E. Cheese because I had seen millions of other gas stations just like it. Imagine what it would be like to pull up and find it closed. No longer fit for service.

A lot of people in my part of the country look like Christians, at least on the outside. You can tell they’re not anarchists or brothel operators. We talked about this in depth in my home group tonight. There’s a cultural form of Christianity that is alive and well. I say this a lot in my church but I think it’s worth repeating:

Whatever it means to love Jesus has to be something categorically different than what it means to love college football and sweet tea.

Remember, I was never confused about what the gas station was; I just needed to make sure it could provide for me what it appeared to offer from the outside. Christians have the only real version of what the whole world needs, hope. If you’re celebrating the season of Advent you probably talked about hope yesterday. One of my big takeaways from yesterday was the responsibility each one of us have to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

Sometimes, Christians can get caught up in some form of cultural Christianity where they go to church because they think it helps them be good people or it makes them feel encouraged, which is all good but none of that’s Gospel. None of that’s hope. That would be like me coasting up to the station needing gasoline and only being offered a cup of coffee. It would make me feel good for a minute but it does not solve my fundamental problem.

Christians have a tremendous opportunity, especially during the Christmas season, to be stations of hope to people simply running on fumes.

Life is tough, no matter what belief system you adhere to. That feeling of being overwhelmed and beaten down is a universal one. People all around you are struggling through life, looking around for help, thinking there’s just no way they can make it through one more valley or over one more hill.

So how do we help? How exactly are we supposed to give hope to a hurting world?

This largely depends on the situation. Honestly, I don’t always know how to specifically help, but I know when I can never help. Imagine if we had coasted up to the pump, lights are on, workers are present, but the pump does not work. So one by one we check and none of the pumps work.

Why? They lost connection to the true source, to the reservoirs below the ground.I can never really help people find hope when I forsake my only connection to real hope.

This is incredibly encouraging, because it means we don’t have to be the hope people need. If someone were depending on me for that they would be mightily disappointed. No, we are simply called to point them to the hope we have found and to which we are connected. You can’t point people to a hope you don’t really have.

Stay connected to Jesus, the true source of hope. How? Lots of ways! I have friends that remind me how important things like prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, silence, and service are to staying connected to Jesus. There are lots of ways to stay connected but almost all of them require you slow down in a season where we feel we’re supposed to frantically hurry up.

How do you stay connected?

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