ponder this.

I almost forgot to write me devotional thoughts this morning, and since I’m in a rush I’ll keep them super brief. I’ll expound on this more tomorrow but just think about what this might possibly mean in your life:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Credit Cards

I have credit cards. There where two reasons I’ve used a credit card since after high school. One, with online statements you can download it was the easiest way to track my finances. Two, the cards I have give cash back, about 5% on groceries and gas. I think I’ve made a couple hundred dollars in the past few years. The number one rule in having a credit card is: Don’t spend what you don’t have, and pay off your balance every month (okay that’s sort of two rules).

Now I know that credit cards are a horrible thing for most people, that millions are in debt on their credit cards and spend money they don’t have. The credit card companies always seem to win, though I’m convinced I’ve come out on top with my cards.

But, a good friend pointed out to me that Credit Card companies probably love people like me, cause I tell others about how I use a credit card and it’s a good thing, luring them into a life in debt. I also read somewhere that you spend 12% more with a credit card then you would with cash (I don’t know if that’ s true for me, but those are the stats).

All this to say, I’ve officially zeroed out any balance I had on our credit cards and I will no longer be using them. Here are some of the reasons I think this is a good thing.
1. I want to be a good example to others in being a wise steward of my finances, and for most that means NO credit cards.
2. It’s one less payment to have to do each month. And my wife and I will both be happy about that.
3. If it’s true we spend 12% with a credit card then with cash, then my bank accounts gonna be 12% fatter. nice.
4. I can use my bank debit card for any online transactions or other things I have to have a card for.
5. I’ll quit stealing from The Man (it’s not nice to steal, even if it’s from The Man).

I’d like to encourage others to do the same. Don’t need to cancel your cards. Just pay them off and put them away. Let’s try it for about 3-4 months and then we can re-evaluate.

good sermon’s draw a crowd.

One of the reason I’m an advocate for ditching church as we normally do it is because it avoids relationships. Most would say, well that is what a small group is for. In bigger churches I think your absolutely right, and that’s a good thing I guess.
I understand bigger churches, especially when there is a great preacher. There are a handful of sermons I download regularly to listen to during the week, and if I lived in those towns I’d probably check them out on Sunday. There is a church in my hometown that has grown immensly, and I think it is largely do to the head pastors wonderful preaching. So, don’t get me wrong I understand the appeal of a good sermon.

For me though, that just doesn’t seem what the church should centrally be about. One of the first things that is said about the early meetings of believers is “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Now, I’m not arguing we shouldn’t have teaching, I just think we’ve put far too much focus on it, and we lack the fellowship and the close knit community that is so necessary, or beneficial, to carrying out the teachings and the gospel itself.

I’m weary of going to church on Sunday, hearing a sermon, making a little small talk and then going home. There’s something missing.

This advances the gospel?!

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”*

The way I see it, Paul is either the ultimate optimist or he’s got some crazy view of the world we rarely hear of. The last time I was pulled over by a police officer I wasn’t exactly cheery about it. Paul visits Philippi, heals a lady, is arrested for it, severly flogged, and thrown into jail.* I’d be a little pessimistic at that point. Then there is an earthquake, the jailer freaks, then his whole family becomes believers, and then Paul and Silas are freed. And that’s his first time in Philippi. The list of other things that happens to Paul is way long, and now he’s sitting in some prison, probably in Rome and is writing to the folks back in Philippi. Paul is definitly an optimist.

What really set’s Paul apart though, what gives him the hope and joy that he has is that he has a worldview so different then anything we’ve encountered. I long for a perspective like this. Paul seems to relenquish all of his own power and trust fully in God’s hand in his life. Arrested? God has a plan for it. Flogged? God’s glory is revealed to others in that. I imagine Paul had ideas of what he wanted to do for God. I wonder how much he struggled with thinking God gave him a vision that he wasn’t able to carry out.

Today, try to be more optimistic, and do it because your worldview has changed. Trust fully in God and his hand in your life. See every situation and opportunity as placed there by God, and do your best to show the love of Christ in that place. That might mean relenquishing some of your own plans, even those you thought where God given.

This one’s for Zach.

To all my early morning readers,
This will hopefully be a regular post on devotional thoughts, but I could use an “Amen” here and there to keep me going.
(I’ll get started in one of my favorite books: Philippians).

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”
Now that is a compliment. It’s verses like this that remind me that a bunch of these “books” in our Bible are actually letters written from one person to another (or another community). That they aren’t just instructions or directions for Christian living, but that there is relationship, meaning and purpose behind them.
Paul later says:
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Now that is a hope-filled statement. It’s one thing to be complimented by someone, but we have a tendency to write comments off (I know I do). “they’re just saying that. They don’t really mean it. I mean they know this and this that I’ve done wrong, that can’t possibly thank God for me.” and on and on. But then you read this verse and it negates your disagreement with out an arguement.
God knows you are not perfect! The thankfullness is not just for who you are right now, it is also for who you are becoming.
Let our thoughts and comments be showered with thankfulness when thinking about our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are works-in-progress. I shouldn’t be too stuck in my ways, I’m open to change, to seeing things differently, to being shaped and molded by the thoughts and prayers of others. God’s still working on me.

Well put again.

I wanted to accent again Brian’s comment cause it says so much about what I think the church should look like.
Basically the thing that was so radical about Jesus is he went and hung out with sinners on their turf. I’m in full agreement with Richard and Brian in regards to physical barriers to people hearing the gospel. And my arguement would be that our churches are physical barriers. Sharing the gospel of Jesus with others should happen on their turf.
Again, I’m not saying that big churches don’t get the job done. The comments I’ve gotten have been trying to make a case for bigger churches, and I’m not here to argue that. I’m simply trying to draw our attention to a different way (and maybe better), as well as point out the problems I see with the current structures (again, not negating the good).

fancy is the wrong message

Furthering my thoughts on my last post, I want to submit that there is a great danger to the big church building projects especially as it relates to non-Christians.
Take a look at your Bible. If it’s the same as mine the scriptures are full of a call for Christians to pour themselves out on behalf of others. It is a totally reversed idea from what culture says. We are called to sacrifice for the sake of others, to put others needs before our own, etc. And most non-Christians know that, at least some of it.
What message does our huge fancy buildings send to the world? It says that we are very interested in our own well being. It says that we some how reconcile the call to care for the poor, the poor on our streets, and our big building all together in this religion of ours. How does any of this make sense?
I’ll tell you, this is a struggle for me, and I guarantee you it is something non-Christians wonder too. Those who come to our comfortable, fancy churches and like it stay, not because of the radical call of Christianity, but because of the comfortable, country-club style church we’ve created (not everyone, but I would submit a lot of people). I’m gonna get in trouble for saying that.
I ran into this problem near the end of my time at the Christian college I attended. This is “fancy” place. They just spent $21 million on a new student center for the 2400 students that go there. In the classes we talked about the radical call to care for others, but we do it all the while with this underlying presumption that we can follow this radical call and at the same time maintain this extravagant lifestyle that we are offered at the college. Now, this is not to say my education was worthless, or the people there are horrible. I had an incredible education, and the people (staff, peers, admin) are wonderful, this does not take away from that.
What I am trying to say is that our buildings send a message about our values, and I think they send a message of values in the wrong places.

is “comfortable” what we are after?

Brian’s comment aroused a couple of thoughts in my mind and I’ll try and address it in the next two posts. The question it really brought up is: what do “unchurched people” or “non-Christians” really want in a church? From what I understood about what Brian said (and I think this is what a lot of people would say including myself at one point) is that non-Christians want a comfortable enviroment.
I think the reason we think non-Christians want “comfortable” is because that’s what we want. We want a comfortable place, so we build big churches, with fancy statues, waterfalls, game rooms, fireplaces and the list goes on. Sometimes we are honest and say it is for ourselves(“we simply need those extra rooms for Sunday school”), and other times we say it is for outreach (“we could have lots of concerts on this stage and people will get saved”). Now I’m not saying either of those things are true, or that they can’t be used for that, but I do question if that is really how we should be doing things. Or if Christianity is really about being comfortable in that way at all.

Hugo Chavez calls out the USA.

Now this is impressive. Chavez is interviewed on Nightline with Koppel. Chavez mentions during the interview that there are rumors circulating that are lies, and mentions Pat Robertson’s comment about his assissination. Koppel tries to write it off and say that no one in the government condoned it and the Robertson apologized. Chavez responds:

“Well, take a look at this.

The U.S. administration has to reject — should have rejected the term of terrorist that Robertson used. The U.S. administration seriously sinned with respect to international and national laws, because the call to murder a chief of state is, in accordance with international law, terrorism.

So this gentleman, Robertson, should be under arrest by the government of the United States — silence.

Consequently, harboring a terrorist,…”

How about that USA?

p.s. The interview is really good, and you can watch it on comcast.net if your a comcast customer, or just read the transcript.