Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Read 1

A long time ago I realized reading was going to be a struggle for me.  It is not something that I love doing.  As I began to sort out the discipleship model in my life, I knew that staying connected to God’s Word was important.  I also knew that since I don’t enjoy reading, I decided the only things I would read would be Christian books and the Bible.  This practice began on vicarage, through my internship, and has continued along this path ever since.  I have my Bible reading plan on my phone; I am reading a book for my Bible study on Tuesday nights; and trying to tack on some other books as well.  The staff and I are going through “Storyline”, and many at Mt. Calvary know I am rereading, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.”   Someone recently bought me a book called, “Intentional Walk”, and that is next on my list.
            Almost everyday I make a small inventory of the mistakes I made the day before, repent, and think through what I want to change today.  There are plenty of times I look at the list of things I need to read and find myself frustrated at the places where I missed the mark.
            This weekend we study a unique reading where Jesus quotes Scripture to the Pharisees.  Jesus does this multiple times, but pondering that He is the Word, and ultimately He is speaking the words connected to Him, sometimes the Word is substituted for Him, as it is in John; but the Pharisees would only understand and receive this through Scriptures.  Then after He spoke the words they memorized and claimed they lived, He responded with His words: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
             I will spend the next couple of days in Kansas City, attending the funeral of my Grandma Hanke.  Grandma loved to sing.  Hers was the story in last year’s Christmas sermon titled, “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”  Although Grandma was struggling with Alzheimer’s, my brother and sisters enjoyed one last visit with her.  We spent a day with her last Christmas, and afterwards hung out with my aunt and shared some memories.  Grandma has been ready for Jesus for a long time so this is a good thing.  I am not sad; rather, it is another reminder of someone who for many years taught me about eternal life, and now is living it.  What does sadden me is thinking about the legacy that is now gone.  Grandpa and Grandma Hanke taught us about faith.  Grandpa Hanke is the whole reason I often use the saying, “Holy Habits.”   He used to say, “Will, habits create sin.”  This got me thinking about habits and how they can be the opposite as well.  My grandparents taught me “Holy Habits” for a long time.   Now it is my turn to help disciple my family and my congregation, as I continue to struggle with the same thing.  I am constantly allowing God’s Holy Spirit to work those “Holy Habits” in me.
            The Gospel message comes ringing clear when I know Jesus is the Word. Because He comes to rescue me and love me, and as I ponder my mistakes, He gives me forgiveness and reminds me how He is working in my life.  This was so clearly evident the other night when Jacob and Gavin were watching the Cardinal game. Jacob said, “Dad I am so tired, can we just read the Bible tonight!”  Wow, the Gospel appears when I am in my weakest moment and doubting myself.  Jacob meant that we should skip the other reading, but not the Bible.   Why?  It’s because we try to read the Bible every night, and I am passionate about this.  I believe that for years the Church gave people outs, and we ultimately read the Bible for them at services on Wednesdays, Sundays, and so on.  Now I believe so strongly that is part, only part of the reason some of us struggle with reading daily.  I believe Read 1 speaks to that. We want to connect with God’s Word every day, not just with devotions, but through God’s actual Words.  The CECE hands out Bibles at age two.   Our Children’s Ministry will be handing out Bibles and worship bags this weekend.  We, as the people of Mt. Calvary, are creating a “Holy Habit.”  This is what Read 1 is all about.  It is a key piece to B1 disciple, which was what Jesus was teaching His disciples in the presence of the Pharisees.   Sunday we dive into it! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Love 1

We had an unusual experience in one of my previous ministries.  We heard a member’s name on the news.  This was not a story people typically want their name attached to: tax evasion and bank fraud.  And when you live in an affluent area it is even worse.  Because I knew the daughter of this person, I texted her and asked how she was doing.  We never talked about the issue, but she thanked me for contacting her.  Several years earlier, I had been on a youth trip with her, and she called me her biffle: best friend for life.  It was a running joke on the trip.  Now at this point in time, she was popular in high school and had many interesting things happening in her world, but she had not been to church.  So you can only imagine her reaction to this news when she found out it was her parent who did this.  She was going to have to process all of this.  There were some people who put a mark on her; some avoided her; some ended their friendship.  But who would embrace her?
            Recently, a friend of ours was sentenced to prison.  Now, a friend going to prison is like a shot to everything you expect in life.  We prefer to dream of white picket fences, 2.5 kids, jobs, and an awesome retirement.  When we found out that the friend’s crime was so horrible that it was almost unbelievable, we didn’t want to talk about it.  This friend’s life is potentially ruined now.  He will never be able to remove the mistake he made from his record.  It will follow him around for his whole life.  And, as in any crime, there are victims, and those victims had parts of their lives stolen from them.  The question Mindy and I have had to ask ourselves is, Who will love him?  Who will love our friend?  There was a powerful moment in court when he asked the whole court to forgive him, including the victims’ families.
            These are the stories nobody wants to talk about.  As I write this, I wonder if I will offend anyone by sharing them.  Sure, I have eliminated the names and even the specifics to the crimes, but these are peoples’ lives.  We want to believe we can make this world perfect, and we want to gloss over the bad stuff.  But here is the deal:  we can’t just deal with the so-called “little bad things”.  We are all just one foolish decision away from a rabbit trail that leads us to mistakes like this.
            This weekend we will discuss a story that contains many famous lines.  Probably the most famous is:   It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  Many people get stuck on this, and quote this line all the time.  They think about money and greed, and that is as far as they get, but they miss Jesus’ next line, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”
            This is what Love 1 is all about.  This is not about some part of a discipleship model that Mt. Calvary thinks is important to check off a list.  No, this is the reality of our lives.  When we come to Jesus, we find a love the world just can’t give.  Because of our sin, Jesus came to us when nobody else wanted us.  We often behave like the people in the story I just told you about-- a friend and her parent who needed Jesus. They needed someone to love them.  We could walk away like the rich man, or we could be what the Holy Spirit is calling us to be:  people that Love 1.  People that Love 1 person when nobody else will.
            As Mindy and I processed our friend’s situation, there was anger and hurt and sadness in our house.  We are pained for him, and we are pained for the victims, but we are strengthened in a new way.  Jesus’ mission is powerful.  As His disciples we have moments that remind us that we have work to do.  It is time to Love 1.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Worship 1

Before I understood my aversion to girls in middle school and early high school, which I believe had to do with my parents’ divorce, I had a few interesting encounters in high school.  Those mostly happened in science class.  Now let me give you some background.  I would come from Spanish 2, where for the majority of the hour, I was ridiculed by this group of guys who thought it was funny to make inappropriate jokes to me because I was a Christian.  I would head to this class where these two girls, Leah and Shannon, would talk to me almost every day.  I always considered this as friendship, and I would go about my business in class.  One day one of the girls asked to play with my watch.  It had one of those spin dials on it.  She was playing with it for a while, and I offered to take it off and let her play with it.  She did, but only for a little bit, and gave it back.  Was this a sign?  I think it was an obvious sign of flirting, but I was too caught up in my work to realize it.  I was also too destroyed from the last hour to see that intimacy didn’t have to be something exploited like the guys in Spanish class were doing, but could truly be something good and awesome.
            This story reveals a little about my insecurities, but I think it also demonstrates a big picture of our issues in worship.  Take for instance my struggle from the pain of the relationship I had observed between my parents.  This led to the possibility that relationships like that could also exist for me.  Then I watched several boys making inappropriate sexual jokes, a reflection of how society viewed relationships and intimacy.  They viewed love as sex, and anyone who didn’t see it that way was humiliated and embarrassed.  Finally this led to my inability to open myself up to the intended idea of love.  It was almost embarrassing that I couldn’t see the interest expressed to me by those girls.  This is a chain effect that obviously is just engulfed in sin.  Sin had in some ways blinded me to see the true purpose God had when He created relationships; how He had created us uniquely to enjoy those relationships.  If this is how messed up our human relationships are, think about how messed up our heavenly relationship can get.
            This weekend, we dive into the disciples’ first calling to worship and follow Christ.  I am often reminded that it is so easy to gloss over these stories without taking time to look at the depth of what is happening to the characters.  God was shaping the disciples back then like He fashions us today.  And like the disciples, our view of relationship and intimacy can be misconstrued. 
            Think about it.  Culture taught those guys to work and make money.  There is nothing wrong with this.  But they were engulfed in their work when Christ called them to follow Him.  While we don’t know the seconds or minutes it took them to leave their lives behind and follow Jesus, we do know this was not an easy choice. These men were taught to work.  They probably had seen the pains of those who didn’t work.  They probably saw this as the way to provide.  They probably even felt like God wanted them to work.  And then to have God, Jesus, call them to follow Him was a big deal--a relationship, an intimate trust in what He would provide. When He called them to Worship 1 it demanded a complete trust in their relationship with Jesus.
            As you began this blog you may have thought, Really, relationship and intimacy, what does that have to do with worship?  Worship requires a deep intimacy with God.  It becomes our relationship when we jump out of our own boats and follow Him.  It is different from the lives we are used to, because God’s definitions and actions are different from the world’s view.  As the disciples did in the beginning of their journey, we take our discipleship model to phase 1, and learn how to Worship 1 God who saved us, who desperately wants that relationship with us.