Archive for the ‘Message Series’ category

Buried Treasure

October 26, 2008

I’m sitting in my office after leading worship in the last of the three services for today and I am incredibly excited about the future of Lifepoint and the plans that lay ahead. The main song for this series is “God of the City”. I love the fact that the song describes that “greater things are yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city”.

As each one of us listens to our own hearts and then follows the plans and ideas that we hear, greater things will be done. God doesn’t lead people to a life of mediocrity. Instead, He leads people to live a life full of greatness. Few decide to follow His lead, but those who do enjoy more than just the immediate benefits of being a part of something new, fresh and good.

The greatest benefit is in knowing yourself and following yourself – win or lose, gain or fail. The willingness to take a step of faith into an unknown arena is the willingness it takes to really live a life worth living. In fact, I wouldn’t want to have it any other way!

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Practices of a Generous Heart

October 5, 2008

Today we moved beyond the identification of the Pillars of Generosity, to the practices that accompany a generous heart. A lot was said, but I want to hone into an idea. Generosity, by definition, has to do with giving. Giving of time, money, effort, kindness, empathy, creativity, wisdom, love – and the list could go on. In the discussion today we are talking from a Christian point of view, and more precisely from a Christ/Jesus point of view.

Now, regardless of your take on Biblical interpretation, when the main character, Jesus, does anything, generosity is an integral part of it. There is always more than the original gift (which can certainly be an odd choice): mud leads to restored sight; shame leads to freedom; a happy meal feeds thousands more than it should. The point is not the supernatural healing or multiplying – the point is the modeling of generosity that Jesus exemplifies.

Jesus is speaking volumes with his actions. We can discount mud and fish as cheap, but the essence is not the original supposed value of the items, it is what happens when ordinary items become part of a pattern of giving. When giving becomes a part of your life, your life will change.

I’ve made a point to not become political in my posts – there are much better analysts to discuss such things, but through this election season we have seen something that has largely gone unnoticed. Barack Obama, from the onset, decided to enlist the “average Joe” to contribute five or ten dollars at a time to the campaign. In those small amounts people began to feel that they were a part of something. I don’t have numbers, but I would be willing to guess that if you added up the total contribution of an average Obama supporter, you would find a much larger amount than if they had given just one time. Here is what I think is interesting. Throughout the campaign season a habit of giving has been engendered by the Obama campaign. This is not a small thing.

Think about this – the truth is that the Bible promotes the idea of giving (whether rich or poor), and also promotes the concept of blessing associated with giving. The election will come and go, and someone will be the next President, but the combined effect of hundreds of thousands of people giving (some out of their overflow and some out of their poverty) will be, if we believe the Bible, historical in terms of economic effect.

The practices of a generous heart are not a “Christian only” or “Jewish only” concept. The idea of generosity is waiting for anyone who will embrace the giving of themselves and their “stuff” for someone else. The result of such giving is simply amazing!

Pillar of Generosity Part One

September 23, 2008

This Sunday we talked about the subject of generosity. This is a topic that is not mentioned in a lot of churches because too frequently we connect it only to money. Churches are afraid to talk about money even though we all have some and use it to live. That failure to connect generosity to a deeper spiritual need is compelling because of Jesus’ pervasive teaching on the subject.

At the essence of generosity is a willingness to give and a refusal to hoard. Love is essentially an act of generosity because we are giving our love to others. In the narrative of the Prodigal Son, the father exercises generosity by not extending wrath and throwing a party. At the heart of the practice of Christian spirituality is the generosity of the One who displays that generosity by giving Man the ability not only to be aware of his need for a more abundant life, but also the ability live out that abundant eternal life – not in the “by and by” but now.

How incredible to be a part of a spiritual discipline that emphasises giving of love and grace instead of the taking of lives and land. Several years ago, we in the established church couldn’t say that. The Crusades had been waged in an onslaught of taking, all in the name of God. Thankfully those times have past, but there are still some who view Christianity as a “war to fight” or a “battle to win”. Jesus told Peter when he tried to take from another that “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword”.

May we do all that we can to become a community of generous people who live generous lives in generous ways. Only then will people “know us by our love”.

What a Day!

September 14, 2008

First, I have to say thanks to those who responded and brought compact fluorescent light bulbs, we still could use a few more, but we got several thanks to you! Next, I have to say that the energy and interaction was off the chain today. I love what I get to do! You guys at Lifepoint are the reason that the meetings are so memorable. What you bring with you and how you chose to get involved always is the difference maker every time we get together.

I can’t wait to see how things continue to get better as we move forward to the end of this year and the beginning of another.

BTW – please comment with your favorite country song. The next song you hear might just be the one you suggest!

“That’s My Neighbor”

September 7, 2008

I can hear it now, echoing through the streets this week, “That’s my neighbor!” For this week, in the Pillars Series focusing on spiritual disciplines, we aimed the light on Service. Ah, that wonderful word! It is amazing how some words drip with feeling. When we hear the word service and couple it with the idea that the service being spoke about should be done to our neighbors – and “O by the way”…everybody is your neighbor, a collective gasp is heard. We have no problem talking about doing service to our neighbor as long as we get to pick who gets to be “my neighbor”.

We like the Mr. Rogers approach – “Please won’t you be my neighbor” which implies – please won’t you other people not be my neighbor. The scripture imperative is clear. We should live our lives as though we are in intimate contact with everyone. We should treat everyone, as the Golden Rule says, the way we would want to be treated.

These are great things to say, and even use as a platform when running for office. The quandary comes when we are faced with actually doing it. This is such an “in your face” moment. You find yourself in the presence of someone who is not acting in a very neighborly way, but suddenly you remember that they are in fact your neighbor. What to do?

It is in these moments of self observation that the most critical choices are made. It is simple to make the decision to treat your neighbor nice when put in front of a congregation of church people, the real determining actions are done when you are the only witness. These are the times when you build what was once called character. These are the times when you grow and “become”.

Determine beforehand your reactions and then follow through on your promise to yourself. This week can be an incredible week of triumph as together we look into every face and truly recognize it as that of our neighbor.

Pillars Part 5

August 31, 2008

This week the focus of our teaching was the discipline of the study of Scripture. One of the key verses mentioned was Prov. 4:20-22. This talked about the words being given to us equating to life for our bodies. This is an analogy echoed by Christ in the New Testament when He proclaimed that “Man cannot live by bread alone”, that man needed to also partake of “the Word of God”.

To me a perspective shift is in order for us to truly understand all that is taking place when we enter into the discipline of study. First, we have mental focus, much the same as during meditation. Our focus for a period of time is on a portion of scripture. Layer after layer we look at what the words mean to our current context in terms of description and action. Secondly, there is a sort of fast going on. Instead of indulging in something else we have chosen to spend time looking into scripture.

Thirdly, and most importantly, we are not on a search for answers to our questions. There is no promise in scripture that we will know every answer for every question. Yes, there are certainties, but these certainties are far fewer than the traditional fundamentalist would like to admit. Let’s face it, if the real answers to all of man’s problems were found in scripture don’t you think things might be just a bit better in the world? We generalize and say that Jesus is the answer, and to many questions He is, but not all.

Often I have been engaged in conversation with someone who has a file for every question and an answer for each question tucked neatly inside. Sometimes I want to be like Dr. Phil and ask, “So how’s that going for you?”.  Christianity is a journey, a process full of unknowns and questions. Somehow this is unsettling to people in church today.

Jesus never said He was the destination, He only said He was the Way. One of the key problems we have in scripture is that it is written in words. Words are concrete and definitive. Following Christ is anything but concrete and definitive. Following Christ is organic and fluid, spur of the moment and transcendent of words. The Buddhists in their search for truth are open and honest about not knowing. We demand a truth stated perfectly in words, but Jesus only said that He was the truth – His being, His presence.

We could go much further, but for now, embrace the path. Become enamored with the insignificant and fleeting. Read scripture and let it become living within you and show you what it is speaking to you. Let go and let the words fall to the ground like seeds and then wait – who knows what wonderful things may arise in your life!

Pillars Part 4

August 23, 2008

This week we talked about prayer as a discipline. For me, during the past few years I have run the gamut between prayer needing to be a fixed point in my schedule to wondering that if God is in control – what is the real point of prayer at all. I’m certain that you’ve thought about the idea of prayer and wondered if “you had it right” or whether you could “do it” at all. Prayer is such an enigmatic topic that many times we chose not to dive into it. We wait for priests, rabbis, imams, pastors or teachers to tell us “what it is”. Here is the interesting point, those guys you are waiting to tell you what prayer is often have the same struggle defining it and practicing it.

Loved the discussion about prayer we had Sunday. If you missed it you can hear it here. One of the aspects I want to just touch on is Centering Prayer. The idea was brought into prominence by Father Thomas Keating several decades ago. In a simple nutshell, centering prayer is about sitting and allowing the thoughts in your mind to pass by unattached to you. Think of sitting by a stream. Carried by the current of the stream are the thoughts that are passing through your mind. Consciously let them pass by. It takes effort. but eventually the number of thoughts will decrease and the static/noise level in your mind will subside.

Doing this for just twenty minutes can have a dramatic difference in your day. I know you may be saying that if I’m praying I should be saying something. This is one of the misconceptions we have with prayer. Think of a situation where you asked an opinion about something and your inner thought was your true feeling, but you said the opposite. Our true self resides within and can be heard when we sift through the myriad of brain chatter that vies for our attention each day.

Try each day to visualize yourself for a few moments at the streams edge and watch the thoughts go by and dissipate. This is the “centering” part of centering prayer. Just like everything else in our lives, practices that have the greatest amount of impact take time and effort to learn and become part of our daily rhythm.